Thursday, October 5, 2017

Playing in Red Dirt - Rocks, Roads and Arches

September 26-27. 2017
Moab, Utah

Some places are more "expected" than others. Moab, Utah, for example. I've read numerous blog posts from this red-rock beauty, by several bloggers, over many years. They all espouse its beauty, its diversity of nature, its seemingly never-ending opportunities for fun.

Of course they're right (it's why I read you guys).

Our first morning we wake to sun on the Moab Ridge towering over our heads. We're up and out early for us - 9 AM - to meet up with Gay and Joe who have been in Moab since March and are therefore "nearly locals". To see just how much heart-stopping one can have in a Jeep in Moab, be sure to check out her blog!

It's so wonderful to see them again (we first caught up with them in Tucson in February), and we enjoy a tasty pre-outing breakfast at the Moab Diner.

Not long after turning off Highway 191 we pull over to enjoy a large panel of Fremont petroglyphs on Potash Road. The art is several feet above the road, which is several feet above the Colorado River. I thought the river must have eroded really fast, but read that the removal of talus slope to make the road had the additional advantage of putting the art out of reach of human hands.

The art is found in the dark varnish high above the road.
The triangle people and rectangle animals are common among the Fremont rock art.

First time we've seen the round people.
Not far from the panels we turn onto a dirt road. Our goal is the Shaffer Switchbacks, but en route we cross over, under and beside gorgeous colors and amazing geology.

We follow our intrepid leaders for a day of playing in the dirt.

A large lion head watches as we pass below.

Interesting that the "head" is different rock - like it was just set up there.

No less than seven "walls" reach out from the river valley.

This lone tower is stunning with it's many colors.

Water and wind will eventually eliminate the small base.

We pass acres of potash ponds - bright blue from the added chemicals to speed evaporation. Ironically potash is used in fertilizer to retain moisture in the soil.

The Colorado River meanders below the layers.

Pearl and Piper hang out. Piper has major shoe envy!

After warning us about the danger of the fragile edges.....come back Gay!!

There's a road up there :-)

Where we were.
Borrowed from the Internet.....I can do this :-)))

I don't actually look down, I hang the camera out the window and click.
Nearly to the top - a view worth the road.
It flattens out at the top, and we stop near Hwy 313 to say our good-byes-for-now as we all return to town for errands. We're so grateful to Joe and Gay for this day. With my "height issues" I wouldn't have been comfortable on the switchbacks without someone to follow, and we would have missed all this beauty.

We have limited days here without the luxury of sitting out cloudy skies, so Wednesday morning we head out to see Arches National Park. First stop is the small Visitors' Center where we enjoy the very good video. Great information on the formation of the arches with several reminders that the ones we see today will be gone some day, while new ones are slowly forming each season. "Man-made bridges are the process of construction, while natural arches are the process of destruction." I remember this quote throughout our visit.

Even on an overcast, mid-week, post Labor Day morning, it's very busy. Easy access to most arches is the good and bad news of this park. The parking lots, trails and arch bases are nearly full. People are lined up for photos. We walk to a few of the viewpoints, but leave the more crowded spots to others. 

Although the namesake arches are spectacular throughout the park, the monuments in the Park Avenue area are my favorite.

Looking like a bust of Nefertiti, the top of this pillar seems to have "moved over".

The Three Gossips overlook The Sheep

Wonderful geology around every corner.

Road construction has closed the parking area for Balanced Rock, but we get a good view while waiting for the flagger to release our side of traffic.

Turret Arch

Window Arch

Half a dozen of these rental RVs brought Landscape Arch with them.
I paid attention to the informational video, and am an instant arch-expert. Let me share the basics here:

Used to be an arch.

Is now an arch. In this case Double Arch.

Will be an arch.

Was never an arch.
You're welcome :-))))

Still beautiful, but lacks the real fire of a sunny day.

We like these crowds much better!

I love "sliced bread" fins.

Broken Arch

Skyline Arch
The La Sal Mountains getting a nice snow dusting.

Delicate Arch
On our way out of the park, we stop to admire these dramatic walls.
Our reservations at OK RV Park end tonight and there are no vacancies. We stop at ACT Campground, and, although we'll have to move sites to get two nights, they can take us! I let Gay know the good news and we plan another play day for Thursday.

It's a good one!!


  1. Your pictures are awesome Jodee! We haven't ridden through Arches since last April when it snowed there. Need to put that on the list before we leave. It has also been a couple of years since we have driven Potash Road and Schaffer Switchbacks... it was great fun being there with you, Bill and Tessa!

    P.S. I totally agree with you about the Park Ave section in Arches!

    1. Thanks Gay, we had such a wonderful time - on both play days!

      The enormity of those monuments in Park Ave. blew my mind!!

  2. Utah is sure a beautiful place and your photos captured so much of it. Very nice.

    1. Thanks! We're sure enjoying seeing all the beauty.

  3. Gay and Joe took it easy on you, leaving Wile E at home and taking the daily driver. I've sat on top watching the Jeeps negotiate the switchbacks but have never done them. Thanks for taking us along.

    1. Definitely not their usual crawls and scrambles! But we sure had a great time :-)

  4. Such an exquisite area...but so, so, so crowded! You had good guides for your Jeep ride.

  5. Too many wonderful pictures to even count. Love the La Sals in the background. We headed out WAY early in the morning at Arches to try to be "finished" with whatever hike we were doing before the crowds. It also worked some days to go out at 4:00 when everyone else headed back. We did Park Avenue at dusk and watched the sun set. It was fantastic. I like Piper's tires better. Your arch expertise was outstanding and you did such a clear job of explaining. Well done!!

    1. We thought about going back out later in the afternoon but ran out of time. I want to do the Park Avenue hike down to Observation Pt and sunset sounds wonderful!

      I tried not to get too technical on the life of the arch :-))))

  6. Great photos!!! Your photos made us miss Moab--we LOVE it there!

    1. I know you and the ATV crew have a ball on all those trails!

  7. Awesome photos! Even with the clouds Arches is still a spectacular place. Too bad so many others feel the same way. So glad you got to drive the Shaffer Road. It is beautiful from above and heading up. Nice that Gay and Joe were able to take you touring. Piper looks right at home with the rocks matching her color.

    1. I'm really glad I went for it on the switchbacks - the views really are the best. We laughed that in Moab she doesn't even look dirty :-)))))

  8. Your photos tease me and I so want to return and explore Arches but I dread the crowds. You did great on the Schaffer Road, something I'd like to drive but think not with my truck camper.

    1. I imagine if the road is open, there are crowds there no matter the time of year :-(

      Oh no, just the thought of the big camper on that road makes me cringe!

  9. What a wonderful photo tour of Arches! We so love it there, but it's been several years since we've been. We're trying to figure out when to go when we won't be hiking in a herd. Not sure it's possible anymore. :-( Loved your tutorial on the arches. (Seriously, it was really good!) And Piper's shoe envy, hahaha!! She wins best dressed for her red rock tour.

    1. I imagine some of the longer, more difficult trails don't have the crowds we saw, but with some of the vans unloading a dozen at a time, they might be :-( At least there are numerous boondocking options.

      Paying attention to the details in the videos is really key!