As we drove into Moab, a wall of red rock rose loomed on our left. I couldn’t help but think that if Game of Thrones was set in the desert, this was what The Wall would look like.
We pulled into the campsite and set up camp (including our camping mattress, which will become important later), and immediately headed for the pool. It was unbearably hot, and we spent the afternoon covered in the cool water, attempting to maintain normothermia.
As the sun went down and the weather cooled down, we headed back to the tent and parked ourselves in our camp chairs under a tree. Our neighbour passed by and asked if we’d heard about the storm the night before. We told him we had not. He explained that last night, a massive storm had come through, and although the rain wasn’t too bad, the wind blew the man’s tent away after he got up to sleep in his car at the urging of the campsite owners (due to lightning). Yikes. That didn’t sound good. We put the fly on the tent (which made us sad, because it was SO DAMN HOT), and tied the tent to the tent shelter, and crossed our fingers.
Not long after, the storm arrived. As the man suggested, there wasn’t any rain, but the wind was OUT OF CONTROL. We got in the tent to stop it from blowing away, and it was like being in a sandstorm in the Sahara. The sand was blowing up under the fly and into the tent, and it SUCKED. We were trapped, the incredible wind was doing nothing to lower the temperature, and the sand was everywhere.
After about an hour, it calmed down enough that we felt safe getting out of the tent to whip up a quick dinner, consisting mostly of sand. We then realised that, since it was so hot when we pumped up the camping mattress, it had deflated as the temperature cooled. We topped it up. Then we were back in the sweat box tent, being pummelled with sand as the wind picked up again. And so went our night…
Heading to Arches National Park
We woke up (insofar as either of us managed to get any sleep) on the floor. It turned out that our inflation of the air mattress in the stifling heat had caused it to develop a slow leak. On top of that, we thought it was safest to take the tent down during the day, in case the sandstorms blew it away without us in it. Ugh… So far, Moab was not treating us too well.
In search of redeeming characteristics, we jumped in the blissfully air conditioned car and headed to nearby Arches National Park. The 310km2 park contains over 2000 arches, formed over many years by erosion.
After our arrival, we decided the best thing to do was to head to Devil’s Garden at the far end of the park, and make our way back toward the entrance throughout the day.
We drove through the park, taking in the desolate desert scenery, parked in the Devil’s Garden carpark, and set out on a walk to check out some of the arches. As we walked through the paths closest to the carpark, it was pretty busy, but once we got a reasonable distance and the path disappeared, the crowds thinned considerably.
Soon, we were climbing over the rocks, and eventually, found ourselves climbing through an arch onto a rock shelf overlooking the path. The view was glorious.
Eventually, the heat got the better of us, so we made our way back to the car to bask in the air conditioning for a few magnificent minutes.
From Devil’s Garden, we stopped for a short detour to Sandstone Arch, and then continued to Delicate Arch, which famously appears on Utah licence plates. Sadly, I got what felt like it was turning into a migraine, so dosed up on medication and had a nap in the car. Meanwhile, Zev hiked to a nearby lookout, deciding that the long hike to the arch was inadvisable at 2pm.
By the time he returned, I had somewhat recovered, but was still feeling pretty spacey and wiped out. With that in mind, we stopped briefly at The Windows, and went on a short walk to Double Arch, and stopped on the way out of the park to check out Balancing Rock.
Back at the campsite, we again sought refuge in the swimming pool, which greatly improved our spirits after feeling pretty drained in the heat. After picking up a new mattress at the camp store (which we knew not to blow up until after sunset this time), we organised dinner. While Zev was cooking, I was organising some stuff in the car when I dropped a Coke can, which exploded ALL OVER the car. I was really hating on Moab…
As the sun went down and the wind started to pick up, we knew it was now or never for setting up the tent. We’d put it off in the hopes that we could avoid the tent filling up with sand, but no such luck. At one point during the assembly, the tent blew away, and we were forced to inflate the mattress in the crazy wind while getting pummelled with sand… Another sleepless night followed…
Island in the Sky
The next morning, we wearily repeated the routine of the morning before, shaking sand from every orifice and packing the tent back into the car to prevent it from blowing away. We piled ourselves back in the car and headed to the slightly further afield Canyonlands National Park.
About an hour away, the landscape of Canyonlands was quite different to that of Arches National Park. The Island in the Sky district is a broad and level mesa (tableland) between the Colorado and Green Rivers, and a sandstone bench 366m below. The park is actually split into two separate sections: Island in the Sky, and The Needles. While they both looked incredible, and very different, Island in the Sky was much closer to Moab, so that was all we had time to check out.
Following the previous day’s winning strategy, we made our way straight to the far end of the park, and elected to make all our stops on the way back to the entrance. Our first stop was Grand Viewpoint Overlook, which more than lived up to its name. A trail followed the rim of an overlook that really made you feel like you were standing on the edge of the world. Zev kept telling me off for getting too close to the edge, which of course only encouraged me. We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for a ranger talk, where we learnt about the geology of the area using cookies as props. While it was very interesting, it also made us very hungry. We stopped nearby for lunch (leftover pasta, more of which ended up on my clothes than in my mouth).
From there, we made our way to Upheaval Dome, with a stop at Buck Canyon Overlook on the way. Feeling pretty lazy after a long day in the sun the day before, we walked the short distance from the carpark to the overlook. Upheaval Dome is an impact structure, with multiple theories about how it came about. One suggestion is that is a meteor crater, and another is that it is a salt dome. By far the most interesting theory regarding the origin of the dome was not listed on the signage. Aliens. We couldn’t find any signs of them. But then they’re probably pretty good at hiding…
Next, we took a chance and pulled over at Whale Rock. This was absolutely the right decision. Ten minutes later we were completely alone, high on top of a rock with enormous views out over the park.
On the way out of the park, we took in a few more overlooks, but our time out in the heat the previous day had really wiped us out. We headed back to the campground, and took refuge in the swimming pool again.
Unable to face the thought of a third night of no sleep and eating sand, we decided to rearrange the campsite. We manouvered the car to try to block the wind, rearranged a picnic table, secured the tent to the table, and climbed in just as the sandstorm rolled in. It was better, but we had the brainwave to turn the tent 108deg so that the back wall (with no windows) was facing into the wind (obviously – if only we’d thought of that two nights earlier). We shot back out into the wind, flipped the tent while battling the elements and climbed back in. SO MUCH BETTER. Only handfuls of sand, rather than bucketfuls, flew into the tent with each gust. We settled in for the night.
Until midnight. Bear with me for an old lady rant. BLOODY CHILDREN had stolen the campground’s golf carts and were racing them down the driveway, skidding around corners and hooting and hollering. After about half an hour, most people (including us) had got up to yell at them, and they’d given up and gone to bed, but from then on, sleep was elusive…
Salt Lake City
Well overdue for a break from camping, we booked ourselves an Air BnB in Salt Lake City as a pitstop on our way to Yellowstone National Park. The drive was fairly short, and we arrived in early afternoon.
After unloading the car, our first stop was the laundry room. The situation was getting dire… What ensued was by far the highlight of our time in Salt Lake City. As we walked up to the door of the laundry room, a cat trotted over. But not just any cat – this cat was SUPER FLUFFY, but shaved! His head, paws, and tail were left untouched, but otherwise, he was bald. And the friendliest kitty we’ve met in ages! As we did the laundry throughout the afternoon, he came over for pats each time.
Our next chore was a visit to the most amazing supermarket I’ve ever been to, to restock our food supplies. Neither of us could stop talking about the supermarket. We’d consider returning to Salt Lake City just to go to that supermarket…
And the final highlight of our time in Salt Lake City involved a trip to the 7-11. We’d run out of coins for laundry, so were in search of change, and it happened to be the 11th of July (7/11 to americans, who inexplicably write their dates backwards…). To celebrate, 7-11 were giving away FREE SLURPIES!!! Salt Lake City, you’re alright by us…
Lots of love,
S & Z