Sunday, March 26, 2006

Moab and Arches National Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Had to seal up the tent last night after I discovered the wind was depositing a layer of sand on everything inside.

Another chilly morning. I was eager to get moving before any officials discovered me.

A few miles from the camp, I came to the turn-off for the dramatic Fisher Towers. It took some effort to overcome the tendency to take all this in from the comfort of my motorcycle. For a change, I got off and went for a walk.

At the trailhead, I learned about the use of "cairns", small stacks of stones that mark trails. They're especially helpful in this "slickrock" country, where trails may traverse expanses of rock and there are no foot tracks to follow.

Group of climbers ascend Fisher Towers (left pinnacle)

"The Priest and Nuns"

The "Richardson Amphitheater" along Utah's Colorado Riverway

The Colorado River and Fisher Towers, Utah

Fisher Towers

I didn't intend to hike the entire 4.5-mile loop, but once I got out there, it was easy to just keep going. It took about three hours.

Along the river, I again took a look at the Red Cliffs Lodge and Sorrel River Ranch Resort. Just for fun, I inquired about a room. There were no vacancies. But if there were, they would be in the "over $150" range. Ouch.

Red Cliffs Lodge (and vineyard!) near Moab, Utah

Driving in towards Moab, there seemed to be more traffic heading away, than towards the town. This offered hope that I'd have better luck finding a hotel room today.

Went to the Peace Tree Juice Cafe for lunch: a "Club Wrap", smoothie and pumpkin bread. It felt "healthy" (at least compared to my usual diet.)

There were many rooms available in town, so I wandered around, comparing prices and viewing rooms. Eventually decided on the Silver Sage, which seems to be constructed of modular units. It advertises "affordable rates".

It wasn't the cheapest room, but in talking with the owner, Ben, who immigrated from Pakistan, I felt a sympathetic soul. He had given up the corporate life to follow his dream, in this case, of owning his own small business. He said he loves it.

Decided to visit Arches National Park, just north of Moab. With only about three hours until the park closed, it would be a push, but at least I could get in, look around, and see if I wanted to return tomorrow.

The ranger at the entrance told me to drive carefully. "There are a lot of cars up there!" Indeed, the park is so accessible from Interstate 70 and Moab, it must be one of the more heavily-visited National Parks.

The hike earlier today tempered my enthusiasm for any further exploration afoot, so when I reached the parking area for Delicate Arch, perhaps the park's most-recognized icon, and learned it was a three-mile round-trip hike, I was not too thrilled.

Classified as an easy-to-moderate walk, by this time I was finding it anything but easy, my feet complaining loudly. But, yes, it was worth it. Such landscapes are truly unique and powerful. And getting out for a walk in the fresh air is always rewarding. In fact, I stayed longer than I expected, leaving only as the sun was setting behind western mountains.

Arches National Park, with the La Sal Mountains in the background. The tall peak in the right center is Mt. Tukuhnikivats, mentioned often in Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire.

Back at the motel, I checked in with Fox News to get all the latest on Debra La Fave, Natalee Holloway and the Duke University lacrosse team suspected of gang rape.

I asked Ben to recommend a restaurant for dinner. He suggested the Moab Brewery, "within walking distance." It was perhaps half a mile, and in the cold evening air I caught myself grumbling, as I walked along the busy highway "this is 'just up the street'?"

This has to be the most popular restaurant in town. Both the restaurant and bar were full, with a 30- to 45-minute wait for a table. Inside it was rather like dining at an R.E.I. retail store, many of Moab's outfitters having set up displays in the restaurant: a cut-in-half Jeep in the entryway, a hang-glider suspended from the ceiling, mountain bikes, rafts and kayaks. ("Jeez! You gotta stop this negativity. You're always so critical!") Guess I was hungry.

I was able to "belly up to the bar" and enjoy a "Deadhorse Ale" while waiting for my name to be called. It was perhaps an hour later, and the evening was dying down, when I was finally seated. I think I may have been the last to be seated. There were numerous tables open now. The food, typical brew-pub fare, was not at all remarkable. Not worth the long wait.

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