This was sort of a climactic week for me, as I have been looking forward to Utah since the early days of planning this trip. Even with the bar set high, Utah did not disappoint and at times flat out assaulted me with its unbridled beauty.
Our campground was about 10 miles north of Moab, and offered a spectacular “Utah” view:
There was this cool old church building nearby:
…and a Western kitschiness that I found rather charming:
After dinner on Tuesday, we took a hike in Arches National Park to see the famous Delicate Arch.
This improbable geological wonder was magnificent. I loved being there and seeing something I had previously only seen on postcards. I also loved that this was simply something we did on a Tuesday after dinner.
There’s a lot to see in Arches National Park, so we went back on Wednesday to hike some different trails.
This is Landscape Arch, the longest natural arch in the world at 290 feet. It just doesn’t seem possible (and indeed, it’s only a matter of time before erosion and gravity prevail):
The Double O arch at the end of our Wednesday hike:
The sun was setting fast, and we still had a good 2 miles to go before we’d get back to the car:
Emily was not very happy to still be hiking at dark:
On Thursday we hiked around Island In The Sky, one of the areas of Canyonlands National Park:
These overlooks make one understand how Island In The Sky got its name. It’s like a view from an airplane:
Our dinner with a view:
More hiking and amazing overlooks:
This is me after taking a little 1.5 mile trail-running experiment. It about killed me. I blame the thin air and not the fact that I’ve not exercised for 3 months.
We ended the day with a stop at an overlook at Dead Horse State Park:
On Friday we hit The Needles area of Canyonlands, which is 65 miles south of Island in the Sky:
I didn’t think Friday’s hike was quite as spectacular as the previous nights’ hikes, but it was still a beautiful walk, lovely weather, an we practically had the whole place to ourselves.
That night we boondocked at a BLM campground called Windwhistle, just north of the The Needles where we hiked that day. There was no light pollution anywhere; the sky was filled with stars.
Click the image here for a larger 180-degree view of the sky that night (this was done using 30-second exposures):
On Saturday, we headed for Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Ever since playing Red Dead Redemption back when we were just planning this trip, I have dreamed of seeing this place. I was so excited to finally be there!
This is Felix, our awesome Navajo guide who took us on a 2.5 hour Jeep tour of the park and backcountry:
This girls were initially apprehensive about riding around with a stranger…
…but they warmed right up when they realized they could stick their heads out while we drove around:
I should have arranged my girls to mirror the respective heights of the 3 sisters rock formation off in the distance. Oh well.
Our guide Felix grew up on these lands; he took us to all of his favorite spots:
Felix showing us some ancient petroglyphs:
…and more caves and arches:
Here’s a 180-degree panorama from the end of our tour (click for a larger version). It was amazing.
Know what else is amazing? Jeeps. We want one now. (Seriously, the “roads” that Felix took us down would have been impassable in a regular car, but his Wrangler handled them with ease.)
After dinner that evening, we took a hike around one of the “mittens” (the one on the left):
Our hike took a little longer than expected; I had to hustle back in time to snap another panaroma before the sun got too low. Click the image for a larger view:
Amy and girls caught up with me a few minutes later and we watched the sun set on Monument Valley. For me this was a high point of the day and of this entire trip:
We boondocked last night in the Monument Valley parking lot:
It was chilly and windy this morning (note the dust blowing off in the distance), but Amy and I got up early to watch the sun rise:
During the day, this little hut is bustling with Navajo booking their horseback riding tours. I just liked how serene it looked in the morning light:
We left early this morning and headed a couple hours south to Canyon de Chelly, one of the longest continuously inhabited areas in this region. Currently, the Navajos live and farm on the canyon floor.
It was a beautiful place and a great hike, but it’s also the setting of a sad story of most of the Navajo being forcibly removed in the 1860’s.
This afternoon we arrived at Homolovi Ruins State Park, standing on the corner of Winslow Arizona (ohh I’ve just been dying to use that line!) Contrary to what I’ve been told my whole life, it’s not really such a fine sight to see. The town is small and forgettable, and this state park is smack dab in the middle of nothingness. I would do another panorama, but it’s literally this in all directions:
The sunset was nice though. We’ve not yet decided how long we’ll stay in Winslow, but we’re not leaving until we see that huge meteor crater.
This past week was pretty action-packed — our hikes totalled over 20 miles! — so I think everyone is ready for a little rest. It’ll be a temporary break though, as we’ll be hiking at the Grand Canyon by week’s end.