Timeline: September 7-11
With four nights and three full days in Moab, we decided to dedicate Friday to bike riding, relaxing and shopping. We’d inquired about road bike routes around town (there are hundreds of miles of dirt biking trails close by) and with information in hand took off from camp heading north out of town on the main road. About five miles out we hit the Colorado River and a turnoff for Highway 128 and the path that runs along it for some number of miles.
The smooth pavement path follows the river for about two miles, then requires that you ride on the highway for some distance, an option we decided not to take as the road is narrow and there was heavy RV traffic. We doubled back to the start and then continued on the Moab Canyon Parkway all the way up to Highway 313 and the turnoff for Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands.
The path parallels Highway 191 throughout its length and we enjoyed the safety of traffic free riding. Pretty soon we hit the beginning of a long steep climb, a seven percent or more grade up to a summit that then dropped us at a trailhead for many of the dirt bike trails that surround the area.
Moab’s elevation is a shade over 4,000 feet and the additional climbing brought more altitude. Much like on the Mickelson Trail, I found myself troubled by the lack of oxygen, feeling more tired than I should have been given the good conditioning we brought to the ride. I also found myself bothered by the very dry air, having grown used to the humid conditions that envelop us in Charlotte.
We rode up to the junction at Highway 313, turned around and rode back to town. The backside of the big climb was short and led to a pretty fun descent, then a fast ride back for a total of almost 30 miles.
We stopped for a snack at Sweet Cravings, a highly regarded bakery and bistro, splitting a lemon bar and a large coffee. From there we checked out Poison Spider Bikes, one of many shops of this type in town, a wide array of mountain bikes for purchase and rental and a host of logo gear to choose from. I purchased a pair of socks (which would get stolen later, but that is for another post).
We headed for Up the Creek, locked up the bikes upon arrival and got cleaned up, then jumped in the car to hit the ABC store for some higher gravity beer and a couple bottles of wine.
We stopped at the Gearheads Outdoor Store where I picked up a pair of Ex-Officio pants on sale and then stopped at the market for ingredients for dinner in camp. We cooked chicken and prosciutto ravioli with a jar of alfredo sauce and added chopped Portobello mushrooms and a bag of fresh mixed vegetables for color and taste. It made for a fine meal.
Later, as we were sitting around camp reading, we heard a marching band playing and the unmistakable sound of a crowd cheering. The nearby high school was hosting a football game and drawn by the noise, we walked on the greenway next to us to the field to catch the last quarter of play. There is something about a high school football game that can’t be replicated; young men playing a game, some for fun, some for real. Cheerleaders doing routines to either pump up the crowd or improve their dance moves. Friends and family watching the game or getting caught up on gossip. And hordes of younger siblings, hanging out trying to impress each other.
It was a good way to end the night as we looked forward to a full day at Arches National Park, our last of the stay, and to accommodate it we started early, arriving at the park just after it opened. We toured the Visitors Center (I bought a cool 100th anniversary long sleeve t-shirt of breathable fabric) and then drove into the park, stopping at the first pullout for a hike at Park Avenue.
This would be a two mile hike out and back at a perfect time of day, not yet warm and the sun not all the way up, providing optimal lighting for breathtaking contrast and striking pictures.
We returned to the car and resumed our tour, stopping at the Courthouse Towers viewpoint (the put out for some folks who hiked straight out from Park Avenue, walking down the road a bit to take a picture of the knife blade angle of one of the towers.
Our next stop was one of the more famous views in the park, that of Balanced Rock. The parking lot was crowded, forcing us to park down the road a bit; we then walked the circumference of the base, taking pictures as we went, the rock topped column standing out against the pure blue sky.
Next Up was the Windows Section. Again the parking lots were crowded and we waited quite some time for a tour bus to park and free up room for cars to move. We walked up to the North Window, then took the mile-long path around the back, pretty much free of other visitors to view the Windows from the rear, the two arches side by side creating the view known as the Spectacles.
This path did require some scrambling and while I was trying to scale a large boulder, I slipped and banged up my shin, another souvenir of a memorable hike.
We returned to the car and ate lunch out of the back, ham sandwiches, and while doing so watched a Tundra Pickup back out of its stall right into another car doing the same. A bit of a kerfuffle transpired, tensions smoothed over by the on duty ranger.
Leaving the Windows Section behind we made way for Wolfe Ranch to walk to the Delicate Arch viewpoint. This is a compromise view, the real view requiring a nearly three-hour hike to get close, time we didn’t have. This is one of the parks more famous arches and yet seen from a distance it is less than inspiring.
We also make the short trek out to the Wolfe Ranch home site, a beat up one room wooden shack from the late 1800’s that was a graphic reminder of just how hard life was in this area in those days, and a look at the Petroglyphs nearby. Thought to have been created after the mid 1600s as the figures on horseback show that this art was done after the native people in this area acquired horses.
It was getting later in the day and we knew that we had one more stop to do, a three-mile roundtrip hike out to Landscape Arch, the fifth longest natural arch in the world at 290.1 feet. In 1991, three slabs of sandstone measuring 30, 47, and 70 feet long fell from the thinnest section of the arch, prompting the Park Service to close the trail that once passed beneath it. Thus we could only view it from a distance, but even then it is an impressive sight.
Finished with our hike, giving us almost 8 miles for the day, we drove out of the park and back to camp. Knowing we had a fairly long drive the next day to tackle, we did some pre-packing of our gear for the next morning and headed out to Main Street and one block down to Fiesta Mexicana, a highly rated southwestern chain where we hoped to get the first of the type of Mexican food we love. We ordered a couple of house margaritas which came in large glasses, big enough so that only one was needed but good enough tasting that I had two.
We ordered the two item combo (Fiesta Mediana) with Chile Relleno and Tamale for Joanna and for I, the Tostada Deluxe. Both choices were excellent, the Relleno, lightly battered and covered in the right amount of sauce, the Tostada the way it should be, crisp fried corn tortilla as the base with beef, beans lettuce, cheese, guacamole, and tomatoes piled on top. At a total of $67.19 ($30 worth of margaritas) it was the perfect way to end our stay in Moab and begin our journey further west.
Moab had been everything we could have hoped for and more. Good camping, more than satisfactory dining and drinking, great hiking and biking, and to top it all off, spectacular scenery. In the end, four nights wasn’t nearly enough to make us feel like we had done all that we could do. Moab will see us again one day.
Moab Canyon Parkway: http://discovermoab.com/moab_canyon.htm
Sweet Cravings: https://www.yelp.com/biz/sweet-cravings-bakery-bistro-moab-2
Poison Spider Bikes: http://poisonspiderbicycles.com/
Gearheads Outdoor Store: http://www.moabgear.com/
Arches National Park: https://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm
Fiesta Mexicana: http://www.fiestamexicanarestaurants.com/index.php