Tag Archives: Utah

Moab Museum

IMG_0550

Moab has a small museum that is run by volunteers and is open every day. Mondays are free admission. We spent about three hours looking at all the items and it was well worth our time. The museum has sections including this display of local dinosaur fossils. We spent the most time in this section. In addition to the fossils are several information maps showing the boundaries ancient oceans that inundated the region and created the stunning land forms. We enjoyed seeing that special local context.

There is also a fascinating three dimensional map made by a local from balsa wood.

IMG_0551

There was also a detailed section covering the history of mining in the area. The big item was uranium. There was a rush to find and mine uranium from WW2 through the cold war.

There was a very large selection of photographs showing the origin of the town and much of its history. Again it gave us much appreciated context for the fascinating town we had spent the previous week walking around. I particularly enjoyed a video and a section that listed all the movies that have been made into the Moab area. Some of my favourite old westerns were done right here in Moab with the Colorado doubling for other famous rivers like the Rio Grande.

IMG_0557

Finally in the upper floor was a series of works by local artists. Several of the pieces were for sale. The dinosaur pictures were our favourites.

IMG_0562

If you get to Moab I highly recommend taking in this little gem of a museum. We went on a cool windy day when other activities outdoors would have been problematic. Plus Mondays are free.

La Sal Mountain Loop is Not Good for Old Dogs and Asthmatics.

The La Sal mountain loop is one of those drives just everyone takes on the visit to Moab. The La Sal Mountains are a small row of high mountains that dominate the skyline around Moab. The first part of the trip is to follow the Colorado river through a long and spectacular canyon. You then drive through Castle Valley which climbs steadily upwards. You then turn into the Mahn La Sal National Forest. There are some lovely small lakes and alpine meadows, some campgrounds. You then travel a winding road back down. The high area is in the 11,000ft range. The top of the mountains reaches 12200ft above you. The first part of the drive along the Colorado is a story of its own I’ll post about next time.

la_sal_mtn

IMG_0271

We paused at the entrance to Castle Valley. The roads are being redone and they are closed on weekdays but they are open weekends for us tourists. Much of the Castle Valley road goes through private land including a huge vegetable farm run by the Seventh Days Adventists and there are many signs saying tourists are not welcome. Nonetheless the steep drive up was breathtaking, dominated by the Castle and needle formations. This is the valley many famous westerns were set in.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As we climbed my ears began to pop. I also became excited. it was fun to climb and climb and climb. We entered the drive into the National Forest and then we really started climb. The road was freshly paved but it had no guard rails and no lines. So it really was sheer cliffs off the side. Plus the climb was so steep the truck was working hard in low gear. These were steep, tight, narrow switch backs. My prairie girl heart was in my throat as I drove.

At last we reached the top and the pavement ran out for the last highest stretch where a dirt road twists past the best of the alpine sights and side roads go off to the lakes and trails. But I was in trouble.

I hate being reminded of my physical limitations but the La Sal mountain loop was once of those days. Honestly, I really should have known better because I have been here before but I was caught up in the excitement of the travel and I forgot I don’t do well at high altitude.The last time I was up at 11,000ft was back in 1993 when I attended a conference in Telluride Colorado. We went through the Rabbit Ears pass. Our car died and Dick went with a kind passerby to get help. I spent a horrible hour lying the car feeling like I was going to die. I was dizzy, nauseous, had a terrible headache, and felt so weak I couldn’t even sit up without forcing myself. When my husband returned with a tow truck rescue he had to half carry me to our ride back down the mountain. I should have remembered. I didn’t. At our conference in Telluride at 9000ft I wasn’t ready to pass out but I kept getting sicker and sicker which I attributed to a bad asthma flair. My asthma did not get better with my meds. It got worse and worse. I began to think I had developed pneumonia again and I needed an antibiotic. I couldn’t even walk up a few steps without dragging myself. The day before we were scheduled to leave when I felt so horrible I telephoned the hotel doctor. He was very blunt.

“You have mountain sickness. You have to get down to a lower altitude. Leave first thing in the morning and get off the mountain. Don’t stay on. This will kill you. There is no treatment but to get to a lower altitude.” He then went on to explain that people like me with lung issues are especially prone to mountain sickness. Exactly as he predicted, I soon felt perfectly fine once we got down to 5000ft.

Now, here I was at 11,000ft again. I had gone voluntarily and without preparation. Foolish me. My head was hurting so badly I felt like I was going to have a stroke. My heart was racing. I was dizzy, nauseous, my hands were numb and tingling and the nail beds looked blue. I was shaking and I felt panicky. To reinforce my nasty feeling, Fred, who is an elderly dog with his own health issues, had collapsed in the back of the truck and was lying there panting heavily his tongue hanging out as blue as my nail beds. Dick and I had a few quick words. Should we continue finish the loop, and then go down the other side? Or should we turn around and go back the way we came? My sensation of imminent death due to a blinding headache grew and grew as we talked and I began to wonder if I could even manage to drive down. We opted to turn around and go back down as that was the quickest way to get lower. While I carefully turned the truck around with Dick outside spotting to make sure I did not go over the edge, head reeling, Dick paused for a few shots.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ears popping, spinning dizzy, shaking all over, I carefully retraced our path downwards. I was grateful we had decided to turn around because this meant I remembered what was coming on the drive. We continued down with the truck in low gear to minimize breaking and with each curve down, ears popping all over again, I felt a little better. By the time we got out of the National Forest I no longer felt like my head was going to explode. Instead I just had the really weird sensation of being aware of pulsing in every major blood vessel in my head and neck. Fred was doing better as well. As we passed Castle Rock, Fred had quit the heavy panting and he was sitting up again. My nail beds looked pink and so did Fred’s tongue. The headache had diminished to the point I no longer felt like I was about to have a stroke. Dick was sympathetic but bewildered. He had only felt a bit short of breath. He does not have lung issues, lucky fellow.

We looked at the map once we got back. We had made it almost to the turnoff to geyser pass. Too bad my poor lungs were in no shape to finish the drive. It would have been wonderful. We made some jokes about getting an oxygen tank for Fred and I and going up the rest of the drive from the other side since that way was shorter but they were jokes. I am just no good at 11,000ft. The only way we could ever do it is if I spent weeks slowly acclimatizing at gradually higher altitudes. No alpine meadow is worth it. I am prairie girl with bad lungs and I’ll just live with it that way. The La Sal mountain loop is really lovely but those brochures and recommendations should come with a warning for those with health issues. Climb 7000ft in such a short drive at your own risk.

 

Canyonlands National Park’s Islands in the Sky

Our second day of staying in Moab we took in the northern part of Canyonlands National Park. This road and trail system is called Islands in the Sky. It is not just a fanciful name. As I stood on the overviews I kept thinking how this is really the northern end of the Grand Canyon and it is indeed grand.

Canyonlands is laid out much like Arches. There is a visitor’s centre and a long stretch of highway with many overlooks and trails from very long and difficult to short little walks. We had the dog issue to consider again so we didn’t do any long trails but we did do all the short ones. Unlike Arches, the distances between the various overlooks was quite far. The longest one being 35 miles, but the views are spectacular so I didn’t mind. For context, this portion of the park is on a triangle of land in between the Green and Colorado River (which runs through Moab on the right of the picture) and both rivers have their own canyons and the two eventually blend where the confluence is. The drives take you to various overlooks so you can see both rivers and their canyon and the last point is the grand view overlooking the confluence point. The rivers are so deep in the canyon that don’t really see them. You just get glimpses of bends. The canyon has two rims, the one we were on and a lower one about halfway that forms a secondary plateau. All around the lower rim of the two canyons is a 100 mile long trail for four wheel drives with higher clearance and power than my F150. It takes two full days to drive that 100 mile trip giving one the idea of how challenging such a drive is. We kept seeing glimpses of the road from every view point.

Islands

At each overlook we stopped and walked about taking in the grandeur. It is so beautiful I actually felt drained and in awe by the time we were finished. Everything about it is stark and potentially dangerous. It is easy to walk right up to the edges of the canyon. Dick and I both suffered vertigo, something we normally don’t. I was able to go closer than Dick. Prairie flatlanders that we are, the sheer cliffs and towering heights were overwhelming in their beauty.

I have to work on this whole selfie thing. I can’t seem to get a good shot. Dick took pictures of me while I tried to do a selfie and the result was amusing.

When you are accustomed to the lushness of green Manitoba in summer the desert seems a harsh and unwelcoming place, as barren as winter. The main feature and only bit of green is these tall twisted junipers. They smell heavenly. There are wide spaces with nothing but sand and dirt. Dick was delighted to find a single ant. I saw one grasshopper, just one. The only other living creatures we saw were ravens. The ravens liked to ride the thermals just off the cliff edges increasing my sense of vertigo watching them. I do wish I could fly.

IMG_0152

It took us several hours of go over all of the viewpoints and walk the trails we could where we felt safe leaving the dogs in the truck. Even though we only did short trails, by the end of the day we were both exhausted. The drive back from Canyonlands to our campground seemed to take forever. We both fell asleep early and slept soundly. Another item crossed off my personal bucket list. However as we gave the dogs a last walk before bed we both commented on how lovely the area is but how much it does not feel like home to us. We are both beginning to miss the open prairie sky. Our trip to Moab has made us appreciate our own home even more.

 

Arches National Park

IMG_0141

View back into the Moab canyon and main highway below as we climbed up into the park.

There are certain places in America that have been in so many movies and visited by so many people, that they become iconic symbols of eras and states. Arches National Park is one of those places. It is also almost required that if you are any kind of RVer you get to Arches. I have not read an RVer blog yet where someone did not get to Arches or planned on it. And so I arrived in Moab with a great sense of anticipation. Arches was our first destination. I was very glad we decided to stay in a nice campground in Moab and drive into the park leaving the trailer behind. The entrance into Arches is up several steep and winding curves. I’m not sure my truck would have made it pulling that trailer. There is also no room to pass so no crawling along in low gear. The drive was spectacular and breathtaking.

Visiting Arches means you can drive up to some of the major sites by this lovely freshly repaved road. You can park and then walk to overlooks or take the longer trails as you wish. The weather was absolutely perfect for us. It was clear, sunny, about 60F (10C) with a light breeze. We had to leave the dogs in the truck because dogs are not allowed on any trails. This restricted us to places where we could see the truck and be able to leave the windows open but it was cool enough that the dogs would not get overheated. I would very strongly advise not taking dogs along if you don’t have this kind of weather.

We started at the visitor centre which was very well done. There was a short movie about the geology and many displays of how the arches formed. We enjoyed the background information. We made sure our water bottles were full and that we used the washrooms. We were warned that due to the ongoing renovations there are no outhouses on the way. Also part the park where the campground is, was completely closed.

IMG_0126

The start of the drive included these stunning solid walls of rock. You have to stay on the roads and trails but these types of walls exist all around Moab including some outside the national parks. We saw rock climbers of various sorts outside the park walls. If I were younger and stronger I suspect I would be among them.

We first really spectacular site we saw was the balancing rock. There is a short trail that allows you to walk all the way around and see it from all sides. I couldn’t help but feel a certain affinity for the balancing rock. It kind of parallels certain parts of my life where a lot of deliberate balancing was required to stay upright. Life is much easier now, being retired with all the kids grown up.

IMG_0049

IMG_0061

And then there were arches! This might sound silly but in all the pictures I have seen of the arches I never got a proper perspective on how huge these things are! They are enormous several stories high and stunningly beautiful in person. No picture can convey the grandeur and beauty. There was one place where we could, after a short steep walk, get right up underneath the arches and still monitor the truck and dogs while we did. I was so drawn I almost ran.

IMG_0051

IMG_0059

Dick could not resist getting right under the arch and taking pictures of a precarious looking boulder as big as our truck that looked like it could fall out at any time.

IMG_0914

I took this picture of Dick and another man who were both photographing the underside of the arch for perspective. This allows you to get a feel for just how huge the arches are.

We spent about three and a half hours viewing the arches before making the trip back down to the visitor centre for an overdue bathroom break. I was very glad we did not chose to go on Thanksgiving Day itself. We drove by the gate to Arches on our way to our next adventure in Canyonlands Thanksgiving Day and we passed a long and slow moving line at the entrance gate going from the gate all the way back to the highway. I would strongly advise avoiding the place on any holiday.

I can now cross the Arches National Park in Utah off my bucket list. I am very glad I came and it was well worth the trip.

 

 

Traveling To Moab

Untitled

We left Scipio after getting our trailer repaired and stopped for the night in Salina. There was a neat little campground there called Butch Cassidy RV Park. The WIFI did not work beyond some very small tight pull through spots. Aside from that it was a good place. They had two pet goats wandering about and watching Misty see goats for the first time was hilarious. We left refreshed and ready for the road. Just in case you are every in the area Route 50 is a very easy drive with no surprises, steep hills or other issues.

The drive from Salina to Moab was another story. In spite of it being an interstate, there were several very steep hills going up between  valleys. Our truck was able to handle all but one. It was so steep that I had to pull over to let the tranny cool and then finish the last quarter mile of the climb with my truck in low, four wheel drive low and crawl along on the shoulder at a 3mph. Fortunately for us that seems to happen a lot because the shoulder was clear and a highway patrol whizzed by without a sideways glance at us. If I ever move to the mountains I’ll need to buy a more powerful truck. My poor F150 is perfectly fine out on the prairie but not on mountain roads. There was on really harrowing 6%, 6 miles of downhill grade with many sharp curves that required dropping to 40 mph and a lot of concentration for me. I did it, but with lots of time in low gear and my brake pads were gleaming and clean when we took a break at the bottom.

The trail has many rest stops and viewing areas. We stopped at Castle Valley. The view was spectacular and a welcome start to our Moab area look. We made some guesses about what might account for the spectacular formations. We later learned this had once been an ocean. In fact there have been 27 times this area has been inundated by an ocean.

IMG_0897

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We continued our trip in and arrived at Moab about 5:00pm. The first campground we were originally thinking of staying at was gone. We found another Spanish Trail RV Park nearby that was very reasonable for Moab at $30/night. We registered for a week and settled in. What a spectacular view we have!