Now where were we? Oh yeah – Moab, UT!

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It’s been several weeks since I returned from the Philippines, and just like my previous visit I came home coughing and sick, with about a week required to deal with jet lag.  But I had a grand time with family, former high school classmates, coworkers and friends in the sweltering heat and humidity.  I survived that journey, and I’m sure glad to be back home!

So where were we?  Oh yeah, having a blast with friends in Moab a few weeks ago!

We stayed in Moab for two weeks, exploring and hiking trails we had missed during our first visit.  Although it’s been a few weeks, the photos I took then are bringing it all back to me now…

Beautiful freestanding Delicate Arch sits on the edge of a natural sandstone bowl, as seen through Frame Arch

We revisited Arches National Park to see a few new-to-us arches, and to get up close to Delicate Arch which is a widely recognized symbol of Utah.  It’s described as “the most delicately chiseled arch in the entire area.”  Although sunset is said to be the best time to photograph it, we are morning people so we hiked out to it at sunrise before the crowds arrived.

Delicate Arch

Depicted on Utah vehicle license plates, Delicate Arch is 60′ tall

We then continued our explorations, checking out Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch and Tapestry Arch, all of which we hiked in one big loop.

Sand Dune Arch

The base of Sand Dune Arch is covered by wind-driven sand and is hidden within a slot canyon created by two massive, adjacent sandstone fins

Broken Arch

Broken Arch is not really broken, although it is wearing a bit thin at the top with a crack running through the middle of the span

Tapestry Arch

Tapestry Arch shares a sandstone fin with two “proto-arches”

The La Sal mountains were covered in snow during our visit, a gorgeous contrast to the nearby formations

Here is more information on the other popular arches we visited at Arches NP.

The small resort town of Moab is surrounded by stunning red rock landscapes, making it a huge playground for outdoor enthusiasts.  We tackled as many hikes and activities as we could during our stay.

Rock climbers along Potash Road

Hidden Valley Trail

A thunderstorm with hail made us turn around during our first attempt on this trail a couple of years ago.  The first part of the hike is a steep uphill climb, then at the top we reached a low divide to the valley as it traversed between awesome towering cliffs.  We were rewarded with scenic views, solitude, and a fine rock art panel.

Hidden Valley was a beautiful surprise

Looking down at a rock wilderness

Overlooking the south end of Moab

Colorful lichens brightened some of the rocks

Long Bow Arch

One of the many trails along Potash Road, this trek is known for the dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs that can be seen along the way.  Wildflowers had already started showing off blooms while we were there.

Tracks of theropod dinosaurs left behind some 190 million years ago

Petroglyphs on the walls

Long Bow Arch

Long Bow Arch has a span of 60′

La Sal mountains peek through gigantic sandstone fins

Jeep Arch Trail

This trail is also accessed from Potash Road and leads to a photogenic, jeep-shaped arch situated in a large sandstone cul-de-sac.  On our way in we followed the trail along the canyon ridge, then climbed high above the side of the wash.  On the way back we wandered through the canyon bottom for some variety.  The views here are wonderful and impressive, with multi-hued sandstone walls lining both sides of the canyon.

The trail begins with a walk through a large culvert

Can I climb up there?

Steve “driving” the Jeep Arch, although he didn’t think it looked like a jeep at all

Pondering how to get to the bottom of the canyon

Water in the desert canyon – we really enjoyed this route less taken

Water marks on the canyon floor

In sandy areas we got a whiff of fragrant yellow Desert Holly flowers

Stair Master Trail

This trail lived up to its name, gaining over 900′ in the first mile on slick rock.  After catching our breath at the top, the reward was excellent views of the Colorado River, Moab Valley, La Sal mountains and even part of Arches NP in the distance.

Window Arch in Arches NP was visible from this trail

Looking down at the Colorado River and towering cliffs along Potash Road

We had some fun with friends Dave and Sue during this hike.  We could see our RV park from the summit, so Steve called them to see if they could spot us with their binoculars.  After we waved frantically like a couple of maniacs, they finally did see us!

Portal RV Resort was waaaaaaaay down there!

Zooming in on Dave and Sue as they zoomed in on us

The trail runs along a ledge of purplish sandstone on an anticline rising next to the Colorado River.  It forms the cliffs that define the western side of Moab Valley, and also a gnarly jeep trail for “extreme jeepers”.

The trail runs parallel to the Moab Rim Jeep Trail

The guy in the pickup didn’t do so well!

Taking it all in – Moab Valley and the La Sal mountains in the background

Heading back down the Stairmaster Trail – this one didn’t disappoint!


Next Up:  Enjoying Moab sights with friends


Bird’s-eye view of arches and canyons – Moab, UT

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confluence of the Green River and Colorado River

2016-04-23-UT-1200572.jpgOne activity that always gets Steve’s blood flowing is airplane tours.   Since he stopped flying several years ago so we could pursue our travels, he has missed it but he always jumps at a chance to watch a pro when we take an air tour.  So I knew there would be no argument from him when I commented about how cool it would be to see the arches and canyons we had been visiting from the air.

We booked the Arches and Canyonlands tour through Redwing Aviation at Moab airport. On our tour day, winds were particularly high, over 40mph, and we knew it would be a bumpy ride.  However, the pilots were ready to go so we could hardly back out.  After all, we had been through many bumps during our flying years!

Moab Plane Tour

Off we go into the wild (and windy) blue yonder

Capturing the arches, fins and other intriguing rock formations below as the plane jumped around was very challenging.  But in hindsight I think keeping busy taking pictures alleviated any motion sickness we may have felt.  The other couple with us didn’t fare so well; the poor woman was sick throughout the flight and she got no pictures, relying on her husband to get them all – and he was looking a bit green himself!

We first flew over Arches NP, then Canyonlands NP during our hour and fifteen minute flight.  We gained a new perspective of both Parks’ awe-inspiring landscape, and seeing the geology of the area from above really showed how large areas were created in their own unique ways.

Because of the bouncy ride my aerial photos are not the best.  I included some pictures taken at ground level to show how some formations looked from both perspectives.

Arches National Park

Approaching Arches NP

Devils Garden

This section of fins is called the Devils Garden

According to geologists, Arches National Park  lies atop an underground salt bed that is responsible for the sandstone arches, spires, balanced rocks, fins and eroded monoliths.

Arches National Park

A closer view of the massive fins in the Devil’s Garden

To show the sheer walls of just one of those sandstone fins, here’s Steve gawking at Private Arch up-close:

Private Arch

Private Arch – one of several arches within Devil’s Garden

Tower Arch

Tower Arch within Klondike Bluffs


Tower Arch is impressive from the ground

Windows Arch

At the Windows area, trails can be seen leading to the Spectacles and the Turrett


Here’s little ol’ me at North and South Windows – AKA the Spectacles

When we headed over Canyonlands NP, it felt like we were looking down at another planet with all its interesting patterns and textures:

Long Canyon

John and Pam drove us out here through Long Canyon in their Jeep

Canyonlands is home to a scenic mosaic of mesas, plateaus, and canyons with profound geologic and archeological significance.  Its centerpiece is the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers.

The Y-shaped river system dissects the park into three equally enchanting and distinct sections:

confluence of the Green River and Colorado River

Confluence of the Green River and Colorado River.  On the right is the Needles district, in the top middle of the “Y” is the Island in the Sky district and at the lower left is the Maze district

To the west of the rivers is known as the Maze – rugged, remote and the least accessible. And because of its remoteness the Maze made a great hideout for the notorious Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch.  It has been called one of the most remote and unreachable regions in the U.S.  You don’t want to get lost out here!

Chocolate Drops

Chocolate drops and maze canyons

From the air one can see a tangled web of dry stream beds and passages between spires, knobs and canyons described as the “30-square-mile puzzle in sandstone”:

The Maze District

What an amazing maze!

In the southeast corner are spires, pinnacles, and grabens that formed the Needles district. The dominant landforms are the “needles”, rock pinnacles banded in red and white that stand upright in a tangled formation:

Needles District, Canyonlandss

The Needles district

Island in the Sky is the highest and northernmost section of Canyonlands.  As the most accessible, we visited here twice – first with John and Pam, and then with our friends Vic and Pam.

Dead Horse Point Overlook

Dead Horse Point overlook and along the rim is where we hiked

Monument Basin, Canyonlands NP

Looking down at Monument Basin

On the ground, an enigmatic 1.6 mile-wide circular depression known as Upheaval Dome can be viewed by taking a short hike from an overlook:

Upheaval Dome

Canyonlands is a wild and rugged showcase of sedimentary geology.

For a geologic explanation of Canyonlands NP, click here.

To learn why there are so many arches in Arches NP, click here.

Moab, Utah

The hub of all outdoor adventures in the area – Moab

After what seemed like endless jarring and bumping around, we were glad to get back on the ground.  Steve said the turbulence was light to moderate, but it seemed pretty severe to me!  Despite the feeling of discomfort during the flight, it was worth it and we enjoyed our new perspective of this amazing place.

Lowes Travels

Steve was a happy passenger, despite a slightly upset tummy!


Next up:  Hiking and Socializing in the Land of Moab


Our turn to be tour guides – Moab, UT

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After catching a ride over Moab’s famous red rock fins and being chauffeured on dirt roads by friends, it was our turn to be tour guides for our BFF’s from California.  Vic and Pam made a road trip to Moab to hang out with us for a few days, and since we’d explored the area prior to their arrival we were confident we could show them around.

Just down the road from Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and surrounded by stunning scenery, Moab offers so many outdoor activities that it was only a matter of prioritizing the “must-see” items on their list.

Like many tour guides, we met our guests early to beat the crowds – especially since it was Centennial Week (here are the free national park entrance dates for 2016).  Arriving early allowed us to get good parking spots and to avoid some of the obnoxious folks who seem to think they own the place.

Arches National Park

Pam, Vic and Steve at the Park Avenue viewpoint in Arches NP

First up was a visit to Arches National Park.  It has the largest concentration of natural sandstone arches in the world, 2,000 and counting.  Complementing the arches are mind-blowing arrays of towering spires, fins and balanced rocks.  This was our friends’ first visit to the park, and we gladly took them on an end-to-end scenic drive.  After all, this is definitely a place we never get tired of!

Arches National Park

Approaching Courthouse Towers

Salt Valley- Arches NP

Free-standing fins formed by erosion created a scenic backdrop at Salt Valley

We drove to several of the most accessible arches, and hiked among others as we continued along the scenic route:

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch – the one on Utah’s license plates

Windows Arch

At Windows Arch

Landscape Arch

A friendly conversation near Landscape Arch, which at 306′ long is the longest natural rock arch in the park

Our next destination was Canyonlands National Park.  This park is so huge and diverse that it’s carved naturally into three districts; Island in the Sky, The Maze and The Needles.  We took the scenic route into Island in the Sky, which is the most accessible and easiest to visit from Moab.


We viewed multiple canyons stretching across the horizon, about a hundred miles distant. Being a clear day, we caught a glimpse of the Needles and Maze districts in the distance. What a fantastic place to enjoy with our friends!


Each viewpoint afforded us different perspectives of the stunning landscape, and capturing their scale in photos is totally impossible.

Monument Basin

Vertical fractures in the sandstone have caused these rocks to erode into step-sided walls, columns and pinnacles

Island in the Sky is a broad mesa wedged between the Colorado River and Green River, both of which have deep, excavated canyons.


Taking in an almost incomprehensible vista


Close to the mesa’s edge is White Rim, a continuous sandstone bench 1,200′ below.  It’s a hard layer of white sandstone that forms a sharply-defined rim above the lower level canyons.  Another 1,000′ beneath that rim are the Colorado and Green rivers.  The views are quite striking:

Green River

The meandering of the Green River in the distance

We ended our day at Dead Horse Point State Park, watching the sun cast shadows into the canyons and onto the La Sal mountains:

Dead Horse Point State Point

The late afternoon sun casts my shadow as three weary travelers enjoy the view

On our way home we captured a pink cast over the La Sal mountains:

La Sal Mountains

One of the must-do activities for Vic and Pam was a rafting trip on the Colorado River.  We arrived on a chilly morning to float along a 13-mile stretch that paralleled scenic Hwy 128.

Colorado River

Colorado River on a gray day

We cruised past Fisher Tower and Castle Valley as our guide Richard gave a geography lesson and entertained us with stories about the river.  He told us about a 60-pound redbone hound dog named Blender that lived on a ranch alongside the river.  Blender sat on the shore and watched the river all day, and when he spotted a raft of tourists floating by he would jump in the water and swim to the raft, hoping to get a snack for his efforts.

Rafting the Colorado River

The happy rafters


On a short hike by the river, Richard educated us about Moab’s Monument Valley

Moab's Monument Valley

Moab’s Monument Valley

On another day we completed two hikes on the list, Negro Bill Canyon and Corona Arch.

The boys went on their own to hike the 4-mile Negro Bill Canyon Trail.  According to Steve, the trail winds along a stream and through an oasis of Cottonwood and Willow trees that are cut off from the desert above by towering sandstone cliffs.  The reward at the end of their hike was the sixth-largest natural bridge in the U.S., Morning Glory Natural Bridge which spans 243′.

They stopped to watch folks rappelling down behind the bridge:

Morning Glory Arch

Hanging out at the bridge

Steve got a great butterfly capture during their journey:


While the boys hiked, Pam and I went into Moab for a little shopping and breakfast at the local cafe, Love Muffin.  I had a healthy (and pricey) breakfast – warm Quinoa!

Warm Quinoa

Organic Rainbow Quinoa served warm with agave, fresh fruit, almonds and almond milk

Finally, we drove to Corona Arch and hiked over slickrock to see the awesome formations and landscape:

Corona Arch

Slickrock landscape

Corona is a partial free-standing arch connected to a sandstone cliff on one side, while the other end stands freely upon the slickrock:

Corona Arch

Steve and Vic under the 140′ x 105′ foot opening of Corona Arch

Bowtie Arch

Bowtie Arch was an added treat on our hike

Best Buds

Best buds take a break

We tried to make sure Vic and Pam’s short visit was fun without being too harried.  With so much to see and do in the Moab area, the choices can be overwhelming on a short visit. Regardless, it was great to see them again and we enjoyed spending time together and being their tour guides.


Next up:  Arches and canyons from a birds-eye view