The original route for travel did not include a stop off in Utah, but rather this was one that happened on a whim after some conversations shared throughout my stay in Colorado and continuous posts shared on social media of the red tinted landscapes and breathtaking formations created by nature. Finishing up my days in Salida and making a day stop to camp out in the mountains of Crested Butte led to me cross the state board into Utah with Moab in mind.
Knowing nothing of the city or what to expect, I did much of what I’ve done along the road, getting into town, turned to yelp for other’s perspectives on the best of things to do, eat and stay and found a place to call home for the night at the gonzo inn. The investigating that I had done about Moab led me to know that this was a great place to explore the outdoors and every possible activity that you could think of. The city thrived on tourism and guided services that revolved around emerging into the great outdoors of Moab and the parks close by. My first morning was spent sipping coffee in my hotel and looking into things to do, where to explore for the day and eventually landed on making plans to float the river with Ean, a local guide.
I met up with Ean, loaded up the essentials for a good day drift down the Colorado, and then we headed off to the launch point to get into the river for a few hours. Since I had arrived in Moab after dark the night before, the views had been a bit of a mystery up to this point. Hopping into the raft, I was able to enjoy the first real looks of what this place was made of from the water; a perspective that made you feel the size and magic of this place and worth every second. Contrasting to rafting the Arkansas in Colorado a few days prior, this river held beauty and forced a calm and collected vibe that allowed you to escape from any concerns that might have been taking over your days. Coasting with the flow of the water tucked in between the canyon walls, time seemed to stand still in this place for moments like these.
I took a go at rowing, assisting in moving the raft at the speed of a tortoise towards the direction we were heading, but mostly, I sat and observed the variations in the formations and thought a lot about how they came to be. The river water was a white shade of red created by runoff from the rocks surrounding, warmed by the afternoon desert sun with a muddy floor that encouraged me not to sink my toes in but rather stay afloat when I jumped in.
A little exploring led me to find the spot to pitch my tent for the evening, I settled into a site at Kane Creek, close to the water’s edge, just before the sun fully tucked behind the mountains. This night, there was not a cloud in the sky, the stars were out shining brightly in the sky above, and there was a small buzz in the air from the life unseen out in the darkness. I stared up for as long as my eyes would stay open, head full of nothing and a heart full of love for this exact moment.
Awake before sunrise, I laid still, watching the skyline slowly grow brighter and listening to the rustling of my nearby neighbors who had also camped out getting ready to take their four wheels out on the trails nearby. I spent some time here, observing the sun creep in and overtake the night, encouraging movement and exploration as it kissed the creek’s surface and brought a glow to the mountains peaks. I packed up my campsite and headed off for an easy breakfast in town at Jailhouse Cafe before making my way down the road and off to Arches National Park.
Pulling into the gate at Arches, I planned to buy an area pass so I could visit a couple parks surrounding but through a brief chat with the park ranger at entry, she convinced me to buy the National pass for $80 and was good for a year for as many uses as I could fit in at any and every National Park around the country. Arches a rather popular park, was filled with every area heavily populated and serene views. Tourists from all over the world to come and view the colorful landscapes, giant balancing rocks and surreally crafted sculptures made over time by elements of the lands.
I made my way through the park, stopping at various points along the way to peer out at the views and get as close as I could to the formations without disturbing. For me, the crowds were a bit overwhelming and distracting, detouring me from tackling every trail, but did not manage to overtake the enjoyment experienced in this place. This park was filled with trails for hiking, routes for biking, areas for camping and paths for walking and viewing. Down each path, there was an end to something new and, entirely unexpected for me not knowing the variations possible within this desert landscape. I was surprised at the transformations of formations, the resilience of the vegetation, craftsmanship of the trees created by the weather and the consistency of beauty.
Arches was a contained and somewhat curated experience representing only a fraction of possibilities available within the city limits of Moab, a place impossible to be in without a deep-set love for nature and the beauty it can create. This beauty stretches far beyond what your eyes can see and even deeper once into the feelings that overtake you when you’re emerged into gazing out at the canyons, dipping into the warm river water or just laying back, staring at the desert night skies, thoughtless and at peace.