Debra and I ventured into the mountains. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay on the front range. Our first stop was in Vail. I have been to Vail about five times, but never in the winter… go figure. We essentially used the stop as a time to stretch our legs and grab a coffee.
Our next stop was in Grand Junction for lunch. Yet again, I am thankful for tripadvisor. We ate at Bin 707 Foodbar. If you’re ever visiting or passing through, it was delicious!
We drove just a few miles to the entrance of the Colorado National Monument. This was my second visit, after last year’s stop with Jackie. The pullouts are awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, this was a bonus stop and we didn’t really have much time to explore.
We continued westward and drove along a scenic road that eventually skirted the boundary of Arches NP and followed along the Colorado River’s path. What views!
Debra and I arrived to Arches National Park with much on our plate for the evening. After checking in at the Visitor Center for our tour the next morning, we drove as fast as the sightseeing tourists would allow to our campground in the far reaches of the park. Once there, we briskly made camp, got ready, and headed towards the Delicate Arch trailhead. With clouds in the area, determining if we had enough time to complete the hike within daylight hours was tricky. At seven o’clock, we began the consistently uphill climb along trails and slick rock to reach the most incredible sight in the park. There were throngs of other people waiting for the perfect photo. Debra and I took some of the obligatory photos, including some where Debra pretended to hold the arch up. At one point, I was navigating a section of region and I noticed that my feet were moving, even though I wasn’t trying. I was more concerned about my nice new camera that I allowed myself to slide down a few feet. (A little road burn on the leg will heal in a few days.)
We made it back to the car just as the sun was setting. The downhill trek is a nice treat after the difficult climb.
After making coffee on the stove and welcoming a visitor near our cool campsite, we drove around to build a charge on Debra’s phone. We observed Delicate Arch from the other side via a distant viewpoint.
At nine in the morning, we began our ranger guided tour of the Fiery Furnace section of the park. In order to hike there, one must have a permit. Imagine a maze of rock fins, spires, and arches that can look very similar. Add to that temperatures well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the potential for flash floods. Novice hikers are encouraged to join a tour. When my father and I took the tour several years ago, we were amazed at how the slot canyons can form so closely together. Debra was impressed, too. Our ranger guide was fantastic during the entire three hour tour. (More about that later.)
To beat the heat, we visited the Moab Brewery and then the Moab Aquatic Center. Both were refreshing, just in different ways. Shout out to the little girl who used my head as target practice with her watergun for 14 out of the 20 minutes Debra and I were actually in the pool. Where on Earth were your parents?!
Despite gnarly thunderheads in the area, we traveled to Canyonlands NP. Although we were there for less than two hours, we were able to visit several viewpoints and appreciate the power that rivers can have over time. Unfortunately, we chose to skip some of the walking paths, having seen lightning strikes within a few miles. (When you have a parent who was struck by lightning, you know not to take chances.)
Upon returning to Arches, we cooked dinner and attended a ranger talk about the significance of the names of several arches and locations.
I woke early, and decided to take a walk to watch the sunrise while the water was boiling. I’m glad I did.
Debra and I broke down camp, and headed towards the Devil’s Garden section of the park. (Interesting note: no more camping for about two weeks.) We took a short hike in flip flops to witness an arch that I suspect will collapse at some point in my lifetime. Stopped at Landscape a Arch and Pine Arch.
Meeting people and families along the way is always fun. You learn some pointers about where they are from, share connections about places you’re from, and help each other take group photos.
We left the park and made our way towards SLC, stopping in Price, UT. Having been there before with tour, I knew the prehistoric museum would be a good excuse to stretch. They are a small, but informative museum. The $6 admission is being used wisely.
Debra and I checked in to the hotel so she could get ready and pack for her flight home. I decided to swim and give her some room to do so. We set out to visit with our first cousin Sandy who lives about 30 minutes north of Salt Lake City. It was so very nice catching up with her, and meeting her husband, children, and granddaughter for the first time. The last time we saw each other was over twenty years ago when she lived with us after graduating high school. Time sure does fly, and hopefully it will be a much, much shorter time between visits. After big hugs, we drove to the airport so Debra could return to the Eastcoast.
I want to thank Debra for joining me on my adventure. We had many laughs and many memorable experiences. Thank you for allowing me to take quite a few photos together. We will appreciate those when we are much older.
I am currently sitting in the SLC airport waiting for Ali to arrive. We both have led several tours, with this very airport as our starting point. Seems strange to know that it’ll be just us without thirty plus teenagers in tow.
Twenty+ year reunion:
People are great. I would consider myself a people person. I try to see the good in everyone. I am not perfect, I have my moments with others, but genuinely like making connections. When we took our guided tour, our ranger impressed me very much. Ranger Kat (pronounced Kate) possessed such a passion about the park system, that it was hard not to share her enthusiasm. Kat visited the parks with her family at the age of twelve and fell in love immediately. After taking a different career path after college, she knew it wasn’t for her. Kat walked into Arches, asked about how to work there, and was brought on as volunteer. After six weeks, she was hired as seasonal ranger. After two years, she was hired as a full time ranger, which is an almost unheard of situation. Clearly, others saw in her what we saw within just a few hours.
Kat spent a great deal of her conversation with us about the “formative elements” within the park. She made many parallels between those forces and the formative elements in each of our lives. She did so in such an easy-going, yet powerful way. Several years ago, I began working on a project (book, probably) that had similar themes. It is still saved on an external hard drive waiting to be resurrected when the time is ready. One reason for this trip was to provide motivation to continue that work. It seems serendipitous that someone would share similar ideas along the way.