With the crowds of Moab behind us, we turned down UT 211 towards Canyonlands National Park just an hour south of the Arches National Park. The wide open spaces and remote location made the perfect time to unwind and unplug for a week. The spot we found I thought only happened to other people. Beautiful open with panoramic views! A small rock formation behind us helped block the relentless winds of the high desert. Lyra, our cat, was is heaven! She chased lizards, ate beetles, and rolled endlessly in the red sand. Even Stuart, our old boy cat, roamed in his slow swagger around the campsite. Claiming the only tree as his outhouse which slightly hindered Mike’s hammock experience. Being unplugged we realized how chained we are to technology. We had to give our family our grid coordinates! We arrived on Sunday by Tuesday we were making the 45 mile drive down to Monticello, Utah. The Peace Tree Juice Café makes great sandwiches and juice. A very relaxing place to check in with work, family, and post a few of our experiences. For a small town they had everything we needed. I dropped a few postcards in the mail and we headed back out to our oasis of solitude.
Canyonlands is a hiking and mountain climbing mecca, so we “Jeeped” it as much as we could. Lyra, the fearless adventurer, hung halfway out of the Jeep window as we drove through Lavender Canyon. The canyon trail wound through Indian Creek Recreation Area for about 12 miles until it reaches the border of Canyonlands. After entering the code, we opened the gate into the park. Traversing 2 fast flowing creeks we came to our picnic spot. Sitting under the Cleft Arch with utter silence and beauty of nature all around us.
By Wednesday, I could not take the boot and crutches anymore. 3 weeks limping around was just too much for me. I slipped on my hiking boots. I began to limp around the campsite. Determined to rebuild the fire pit, I began my rehabilitation of my wounded limb. For my first ever fire pit, I think it looked awesome! We cooked a chicken in our cast iron pot. Wow! I don’t think chicken ever tasted so good.
Hail! In May! In the desert! What?! When we returned from our second trip into civilization, we were welcomed home by a massive storm fully equipped with hail! Well, at least we don’t have to wash the red mud off the Jeep now.
Next to Canyonlands is the Manti-LaSal National Forest. The center attraction is the Abajos Mountains. The paved road wound up the mountain to 8800 ft. with plenty of off roading trails for further exploration. Nestled in the forest is Buckhead campground surrounded by Aspen trees.
On our last day we ran out of water in our tank! Being Sunday the Needles Outpost was closed. With our water filter pitcher full and a case of sparkling water, we managed.
As we stood out under the sparkling night sky, we knew a piece of this place would always remain with us.
The scenic byway of 128 chased the twists and turns of the Colorado River to Moab. The howling wind blowing through the canyon passes shuttered our home as we careened down the road. Rocks hanging over the road taunted and dared us to go under them. Lucky for us we were heading South and the low jagged rocks were on the other side of the road. “HA! Not today!” I thought as we maneuvered away from them. Campsites littered the Colorado river’s bank as we approached Moab. With hawk eyes we quickly scoured for open sites. Nothing! Then Hurling down UT 191 South to more campsites. Full! There has to be one left?! Driving down UT 313 we found nothing! After 3 hours of chasing a campsite, we gave up and started calling RV parks. Nothing, Nothing, Nothing! Finally, one RV park had a place in their overflow parking lot. We took it! No hook-ups but they let us run the generator. Phew! Much wine was consumed that night.
Moab is a mecca for OHV. Rock crawlers, side-by-sides, 4 wheelers, dirt bikes, and, of course, Jeeps. Lots and lots of Jeeps! ATV Trails everywhere going everywhere! And after all that off roading, we had to stop in at the Moab Brewery to quench our thirst and fill our bellies.
Driving into the entrance of the Arches National Park we noticed a lot of Class C rental RV’s. The parks of Utah would be a perfect trip to rent an RV. Stopping where we could, we did see a few arches from the road. Oh, how I wanted to hike out to them but my broken foot wouldn't allow it and neither would Mike. As we drove to see Delicate Arch, I knew I wouldn’t be able to crutch my way down the path but to our delight there was a 4WD trail at the end of the loop. We took it! I was never more thankful to have a Jeep. We were able to catch a view from a distance. We were not so lucky when we entered Devil’s Garden. Hike in to see the arches or dream about it. Next time!
As we ascended the mountains of the San Juan National forest in Colorado the wet snow speckled the large windshield of our motor coach. We were on the Million Dollar Highway. The narrow winding road hugged the edge of the mountains like its clinging on for its life. Fear could be heard in my breath and deep sighs as I glanced out my passenger window. Mike’s eyes were fiercely affixed to the road. Just before we reached Silverton, road workers were blasting. Blasting what, I don’t know. We sat for 20 minutes as traffic built up behind us. We could read their thoughts “We’re going to be stuck behind that bus!” Probably too their surprise, we let them all go through the construction zone before us. With elevation of over 9,000 ft on a snowy mountain road, no one wants to be stuck behind an RV. We slowly pressed on trying to make it to our Harvest Host, St. Katheryn’s Winery in Palisade near Grand Junction.
They were closed by the time we arrived so the wine tasting would have to wait until morning. That didn’t stop us from opening a bottle of our own! Exhausted but happy to have arrived the in the wine region of Colorado.
The next morning, we explored a few of the wineries. St. Katheryn wines are fruit wines; their sister winery Talon makes wine more to liking. A few bottles made their way into our wine cabinet. Just down the street is the Mead-ery of the Rockies which makes, well, mead! As we stepped into the tasting room, we were greeted with a warm smile and some light honey wine. The fermented honey slid down my throat like silk. Our first mead experience will not be our last. With our palates satisfied we packed up our home and headed for Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction.
As we pulled into the park entrance a big yellow sign read that the Tunnel Height 10’8”. Our hearts sank. We couldn’t make it through that. Now what?! The hunt for a place commenced with a fury. This time we found a little gem, the James Robb Colorado River State Park, located just outside the Monument. The stress of the previous day faded as we watched the sun set over the ridge.
No one plans to break a bone but breaking one in my foot just days before our journey to some of the best hiking in the country was just frustrating. The drive through the Colorado Monument was surprisingly beautiful. The stay was short but well worth it.
Mike & Kat
Kat left teaching after 18 years to travel throughout the USA with her husband, Mike, who is an engineer for a Power generation company.