Rafting the Colorado and Exploring Moab

Rafting the Colorado and Exploring Moab

Booked in with MOAB Adventures today and we enjoyed a very lovely, peaceful and scenic few hours on the Colorado River.  Steve was disappointed because it was pretty tame, only three actual rapids on this section of the river, all Class 1-2, but a nice take anyways.

Checked out the Moab Brewery later, a really cool place, excellent craft beer and they also distill their own vodka.  Food is good as well, and Steve finally met his match with the hottest chicken wings he had ever sampled. We bought a 6-pack to take home, then back to the campground to hide out from the sun.

It should be noted that Moab has no art galleries, gift shops or museums in the immediate area, or none that we could find, so if that is your thing and you are not an adventurous outdoor type, you may be dissatisfied with a visit.

The next day we decided to check out another national park – this time Arches National Park, just a short drive outside of Moab.

Our RV snaked up the entrance road and waited patiently to get into the park at 11 am in the morning.  In line for the entry gate, you can see entsy, weensy cars crisscrossing the walls of the cliffs ahead of you as you approach this dramatic entrance to Arches National Park.

This is a very beautiful park with lots of pull-outs for viewing the sights. We hiked the .8 mile “easy” hike to Landscape Arch, but never got to the end of it (that we know of) because we left without water, or a hat for Steve.  Next time, we learned to be prepared for even so-called easy hikes, especially in the desert.

And talk about not being prepared, we nearly ran out of gas during this trip to Arches, so we coasted as much of the descent as we could and eventually made it to a gas station in Moab, five miles from the park’s exit.

Our day ended well though, once we found Rick’s Glass, not far from our campground and the friendly, professional owner quickly repaired the small ding in our windshield, before it became a big problem. 

We found three days to be plenty in Moab and we are glad to be hitting the road again tomorrow!

Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah

After a good night’s sleep and breakfast at Ruby’s we fueled up, washed our windows and headed out toward Moab. We drive on Scenic Byway 12 – an “All American Highway” – the highest designation of US scenic byway system and soon enter The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

We traveled past many small towns where most families are alfalfa farmers or ranchers. It was interesting to me that the growing season is only 120 days, just three months long!

All of a sudden, we dropped into incredible switchback turns over high white cliffs. The landscape shifted from red to white in a second as we took a turn in the road. Drive some more, and now it’s red again as we fly through Capitol Reef National Park.  Sheer red cliffs and azure blue skies!  Who knew?  An unexpected treat on the road!  Now, finally left on Route 24 and we are traversing flat, wide open expanses of nothingness.  Utah goes on forever!

Capitol Reef National Park, Double Rock Arch Formation. Photo by Ray Bilcliff of Pexels

Finally, we are crossing over the Colorado River and literally flying (80 MPH is the speed limit) toward Moab. It’s warm and dry and amazingly beautiful!

We are booked at the ACT Campground and Environmental Learning Center, a green powered sustainable campground in Moab. Moab is surrounded by the La Sal Mountains, and we travel through a long busy retail area that is chock full of outfitters.  Here you’ll find someone to take you kayaking, hiking, white-water rafting, climbing, mountain biking, hang-gliding, scenic helicopter tours and lots more.  The entire town caters to the adventure seekers among us with retail shops for their gear and lots of restaurants to feed the hungry after a day’s adventuring. Moab also has lots of chain motels with busy pools, designed to cool you off after time in the desert sun.

Our campground is geared to the environmentalist, so there is no pool. There are yurts, and lots of tents and a smallish section for RV’s. It featured a communal indoor kitchen and an outdoor kitchen.

The big disappointment is the lack of a pool, but they advertise the “Ol’ Swimming Hole” a short distance away. It’s a Bureau of Land Management property, and sounded great, an earth friendly way to cool off in the hot desert sun and would make up for the lack of a pool.  What a bust!  We gave it a try but RV’s cannot make it down the road to access this swimming hole, there wasn’t even a place to park an RV and hike in.  No points for “truth in advertising” for this RV Park.

Off to Bryce Canyon!

Off to Bryce Canyon!

Started our day as we headed out to Bryce by stopping at the River Rock Roasting Company in La Verkin, Utah for coffee, smoothies, and quiche, everything was so good! It’s a cool place with big outdoor deck overlooking an awesome view of the Virgin River.

River Rock Roasters

Heading out to Bryce Canyon we climbed to 8,000 to 9,000 feet. This will be the highest elevation on our trip to date. Steep 8% grade descents and sharp curves opened up to expansive vistas with more trees and more alpine-like landscapes. I was inspired during this drive to come up with as many adjectives as I could to describe the beauty of the country we are traveling across. Here are just a few to illuminate the majesty of America (see how I snuck a couple in right there): exquisite, dazzling and transcendent! 

A little warning to anyone planning to stay in or near Bryce – there are several lodges with similar sounding names, including one that is located in the National Park. After realizing that our reservations were not in the aforementioned lodge (our only planned hotel stay during our six-week trip) we settled in at Ruby’s RV Park in their overflow lot. Ruby’s seems to own Bryce Canyon City with a hotel, RV park, several restaurants, and multiple outfitting businesses i.e. horseback riding and kayaking.

The next morning, by 8:30 am we were saddled up for a three-hour horseback ride through the Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest. Our personable and knowledgeable guide and well-trained horses made this a delightful, but cold ride. I wore my winter gloves, and wool headband with a fleece jacket and snow was intermittently spitting during the ride. Our small group consisted of me and Steve and five visiting Germans.

After warming up and grabbing a quick lunch we took the 18-mile scenic drive through Bryce Canyon National Park. We drove to the end and then re-traced our drive, stopping at multiple overlooks to enjoy the views and take photos.

Steve napped after the drive, while I took a walk and visited Ruby’s General Store, which is huge, includes a large grocery section and serves every need that a visitor could have. There is also an adjacent Native American Art Gallery with a large selection of quality (although pricey) native art.

As mentioned before, Ruby’s has the entire town wrapped up with the hotel – a Best Western – with a rustic lodge-like lobby and an expensive, but very efficient restaurant designed to handle crowds of visitors. This is a manufactured town which serves as the gateway to Bryce Canyon, and offers lots of amenities but is not a charming as Springdale (Zion National Park) and Estes Park (Rocky Mountain National Park) which we were to visit later in the trip.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

This is a very popular and busy park and I can see why.  Because of its small size and popularity, access to this national park is limited and is through the town of Springdale Utah, a really lovely town that has sprung up as the gateway to Zion. It is chock full of hotels, restaurants and art galleries and provides a convenient launching spot for trip to Zion.

We parked the RV is a convenient parking lot and took the free shuttle from Springdale to the entrance of Zion, then waited in a long line to board the Zion shuttle. There was also a long wait just to get to the Visitor Information Desk, so my suggestion is to make sure you get all of your information on-line before you arrive.

Early Mormon pioneers named the area “Zion”, from the Biblical Hebrew word meaning refuge or sanctuary. We quickly saw the significance of the name when applied to this beautiful national park!

Zion is gorgeous with steep red cliffs and trails, and lush, green valleys with hanging gardens. We hiked the Kayeta Trail to the lower Emerald Pools.  Beautiful, refreshing and wet after the hot, dusty trails!

The road to Hurricane

The road to Hurricane

Heading out of Williams, Arizona we take Route 89N (through Flagstaff) towards Page, passing by beautiful painted desert scenery bordered on the east by a huge Navajo reservation. We’re heading to Hurricane, Utah and eventually to Zion National Park.

Photo by Nextvoyage from Pexels

Today we pass by completely deserted towns and extremely flat landscapes, as we venture into the “painted desert”.  According to Britannica.com the name “painted desert” was coined in the late 1850s by a government explorer to describe the vivid bands of red, yellow, blue, white and lavender that mark the various deposits of minerals in the area. The Painted Dessert covers 160 miles and encompasses 93,500 acres in the Four Corners region of the USA, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah share a common border.

Photo by Elena Blessing from Pexels

Following 89N we headed towards Navajo Bridge which rises over the Marble Canyon. The bridge was a great place to stop and get out, stretch our legs and take some photos. The Colorado River flowed emerald green below us. A small interpretive center and gift shop beckoned us, very nice.  We pulled over for a roadside lunch outside of Marble Canyon, one of the many perks of traveling with our kitchen on our back.

View from the Navajo Bridge with the Colorado River below.

Traveling now through Kaibab National Forest we pulled over for another photo break. There we met some folks from Wickford, Rhode Island who live half a year in Tucson and half a year in Wickford.  He’s a photographer who shows his work at the annual Art Festival in Wickford…maybe we’ve seen his work during one of our many trips to the Festival?

We saw fires on the sides of the road – are they naturally occurring? Or are they managed by the Park Service authorities?  Reaching Fredonia at around 3:30 pm (4:30 Utah time) we decided to soldier on for one more hour to reach Hurricane, Utah and the Willow Wind RV Park, a day ahead of schedule.