I will preface this by saying that Moab, UT is one of my favorite places on the planet. And likely for any forthcoming blog post that involves Moab, I will surely remind you of this love again and again. It may, in fact, be tied for my #1 spot with Lake Tahoe – because I’m not sure I can form an allegiance or favoritism to one over the other (the Sierras and the high desert both equally have my heart). Fortunately, I’ve been making the drive back to California fairly frequently since moving here – so it’s a great excuse to stop in Moab for the night, and wake up at sunrise to explore a bit before finishing the 800 mile drive.
The drive to Moab from Denver also happens to be one of my favorite drives as well – winding through the Rockies, and driving alongside the Colorado River from it’s infancy on the western side of the Continental Divide and watching it grow and grow as it approaches Utah, becoming wider and redder with every mile. I-70 eventually veers away to the west, leaving the river to meander it’s way to the south through McInnis Canyon National Conservation Area and Rabbit Valley to where I meet up with river again, along State Route 128, as it strolls and lulls its way toward Moab and onto the Canyonlands.
The day had been rainy and cold, and after a brief layover to hike the Trail Through Time, I got back in the car to finish the rest of the haul for the day. My hope was to snag a camping spot along the river. In all the times I have been there the campgrounds along the river have been booked up solid, but I was hoping for some small miracle. Turning off onto 128, grey threatening clouds still lingered over the desert in front of me. The last time I was there the landscape was framed by storm clouds as well – and I love their contrast against the desert and cliffs.
It quickly became apparent after driving by the first couple campgrounds that finding a spot would not be an issue – the campgrounds were a ghost town. My best guess is that the rain drove the crowds away. I claimed a beautiful spot right next to the river at the far end of the campground where the night would surely be quiet. I then drove into town and grabbed some dinner, made some phone calls while I had service (phone service in the area is largely non-existant outside of town), and quickly realized I was completely exhausted and would likely be in bed before sunset. By the time I got back to the campsite the sun was setting, and out of laziness I decided to just fold down the backseat of the Prius and sleep in the car. The mosquitos were also out in full-effect, so I quickly sealed myself in the back of the car, wrote in my journal a bit, and fell asleep not long after. The rain started up again about an hour later, and continued all night which made me very happy that I wasn’t sleeping in my tent – yet by the time I woke up around 6am, the skies had cleared for a beautiful sunrise over the river.
I jetted out of camp after sunrise to partake in my morning tradition of coffee and breakfast at Eklectica, before taking off to explore for a few hours.
I had two places in mind to explore – one was a set of dinosaur tracks off Potash Road, and the other was the hike to Corona Arch. The drive down Potash Road is beautiful, it follows the Colorado River south and winds through canyons that were once home to the Ancestral Puebloans. Evidence of their lives are in many places along the road – and there are sites where you can just pull off to the site of road and view petroglyphs on the sheer cliff around you. I found myself wondering how much was destroyed when they came in with their bulldozers and built this road – and sadly I found a great example at one of the turn-offs where a structure built by the Fremont people was dismantled and removed so they could run the road where it was – the holes in the rock that were once used to support the structure are still clearly visible. Of course, it should not surprise me that the needs and dollars of a mining operation are incredibly more valuable that preserving history and sacred spaces. I find myself sadly pondering of a place like Moab, that is overflowing with sacred places and priceless prehistoric secrets, how much has been carelessly destroyed in the name of progress….and it’s nothing more than depressing, so I’ll move on…
I spent some time admiring the petroglyphs along the road, and then drove south to the spot where the dinosaur tracks were found.
There are tracks from 10 different meat-eating dinosaurs at this spot. I find this to be incredible. An exact moment that has been preserved for an amount of time that isn’t even truly comprehensible to humans. We hear 150 million years and think “Wow. That is a lot of time.” – but I’m not sure we humans with our miniscule sense of time are even equipped to truly understand time on that scale. To consider that the perfect conditions not only came together to preserve the tracks in the first place, but that nothing in the millions and millions of years since has destroyed them is truly almost a miracle. I looked around online to find the ages of these tracks, and I found numbers ranging from 150-155 million years. Even the amount of time within that span (5 million years) blows my mind – and to think that 5 million years can even be a variable. It was a bit of a scramble up to the tracks, and after gawking at them for a bit, I scrambled off-trail around the base of the cliffs in search of petroglyphs (to which there were a bunch). I think it so neat that the Anasazi were living amongst these dinosaur tracks that are in clear view, and side by side with their art – did they know what they were seeing?
Next stop was the 3 mile hike to Corona Arch – fortunately, it was still early, the heat hadn’t kicked in yet, and everything was still fresh and sweet-smelling from the rain the day before. I was running out of time though before I had to hit the road, so I definitely had to hustle on the hike. There were beautiful views of the Colorado River climbing up to the top of the plateau, and the scenery for the rest of the hike on the plateau did not disappoint. The arch was much larger than I imagined (photos never do justice to the scale of the arches), and the lighting was perfect. Sadly, I didn’t any time at all to bask at the end of the trail, and instead had to get back to my car.
Before I left, I stopped at the river to take a little dip. I find this river so captivating – it’s it’s presence I’m always in complete awe, thinking of the history of the river and the beyond-magnificent landscapes that it has shaped, and how the water that I am looking at at that very moment will eventually make it’s way to the grand canyon and beyond (and then I think about all of the shitty dams we have built along the river and get pissed off…so again, moving on…)
Back in the car I was Santa Barbara-bound with 850 miles in front of me, 12 hours of music and Game of Thrones Book 3, and some of the most beautiful landscape off any interstate through my windshield.