More Moab, More Problems

October 30, 2013

Wait I already came this way. Those are my footprints. And this just deadends into a sheer drop off. Maybe if I climb up here? Nope. “I really need to get out of my head” I tell myself as I begin backtracking to the last trail maker I passed, hitting a tree in the meanwhile.

You know those westerns you see where the heroes gallop through a pristine open plain with beautiful rock formations on all sides? Maybe it’s just my Hollywood bias but I always assumed such settings were fake or exaggerations. Let me tell you: they’re real, they’re gorgeous, and they’re in Utah’s national parks.

Utah’s a funny state. At first glance it seems like your typical suburban landscape, just with a stunning desert. But then, when you least expect it, something reminds you it’s the Mormon homeland. These signs are benign yet striking. Listening to the radio and suddenly realizing its a Mormon talk show about finding the right soulmate. Spotting a quai-Amish looking family in the local Walmart and only later being informed that this is in fact the traditional Mormon uniform (for the curious imagine a modernized Amish family: plaid button downs and chin beards for the men, modest but contemporary ankle-length dresses and simple bonnets for the women). Or even landmarks being named after characters from the Book of Mormon. Every time it caught me by surprise cause otherwise, the state feels so…ordinary.

I started my Utah tour in earnest when I arrived in Moab, checking into one of the state’s few youth hostels. It’s a real shame such establishments aren’t more prevalent in the US. They’re not only affordable places to stay but a great way to make new friends on the road (see most other countries). After a pleasant breakfast and conversation the following morning, I head out for Arches National Park just north of the town. This park’s name indicates exactly what it contains: beautiful natural arches of sandstone formed from a miracle of erosion. Like most national parks, its huge and there’s too much for me to possibly do in the few hours I have before I must head on.

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I decide to do the main big hike of the park through Devil’s Garden, a complex of sandstone formations at the end of the park’s main access road. I take my water bottle and camera before I hit the trail. I shoot some wonderful photos and proceed onto the “rough” hike of ungraded paths that clamber over the stone itself to some even better scenes of rock and sky. However, after about mile four I realize I’ve forgotten a hiking necessity, I should’ve brought a snack! The trail seems to go on and on, only occasionally marked by piles of rock (cairns). Half the time I’m not even sure if I’m on the path or a run off trail from the rain. After getting stuck for some time I manage to find my way back to the entrance, only too glad to snack on my supplies.

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Before I leave I quickly stop by a couple more of the park’s attractions, all much closer to the road. At the splendid Windows section, two connected arches that look onto a marvelous valley landscape, I meet a fellow traveller who tells me I must see Bryce and Mount Zion National Park which I’d been mulling over. My route now decided, I jet out of the park and make my way toward the southwestern corner of the state.

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