So the tumbleweeds in Colorado evidently haven’t heard that they are small, puny, and lack the numbers to do real harm. Not like the Utah tumbleweeds that are so thick on the highway south to Moab that there are signs saying, “Dust Storm Area. Do Not Stop or Swerve for Tumbleweeds.” We were lucky. The car in front of us, a sporty, red Mustang caught one full on and had to pull over and remove it after passing through the labeled dust storm area. I commented to Mr. T. that it was so incredible that Utah knew that there was going to be a dust storm right there, right then. I was being funny, but Mr. T, ever the straight man said, “I’m sure it has something to do with wind, weather, and geographical patterns…” 😀
While the wind continued to wreack havoc all around we decided to forge on and make our planned expedition to Canyonlands National Park. Outside of Canyonlands there are several pull off areas to view interesting things. Our first pull off was to look at the Merrimac and Monitor mesas. Mr. T. said, “Huh, why are they named that?” I said, “Look at them.” He said, “Oh. I get it.” Molly took off down the trail and I followed. Shortly, I remembered Mr. T. is not afraid of heights but he is uncomfortable around ledges, edges, and shear drops into dismal abysses. As the trip has progressed he has become slightly less terrified but on the first go round he would hardly venture within 30 feet of the edge. Molly just seemed confused. (Please see following post RE: Molly)
We toured through Canyonlands bracing ourselves against the frigid wind. We attempted the first mile of one of the rim roads but not wanting to wreck the undercarriage of my car nor strand us in a remote section of the National Park we turned around once it became questionable. Canyonlands is filled with gorgeous vistas of mesas and canyons. Some of the canyons contain canyons themselves which have no visible bottoms. It is spectacular.
We decided that due to the high wind and the 60% probability of rain we would get a room for the night rather then camp at the Bureau of Land Management free area just outside the park. Thankfully, Mr. T. brought Claire along and scamming wi-fi we secured a room for a reasonable sum despite the fact that every Spring Break family in the world seemed to be visiting Moab. Before we checked into our room we stopped for dinner at a pizza place I had eaten at my last time in Moab. It wasn’t any thing special but it was 10pm, it was dinner, it was hot, and it was quick. Our room was a little creepy but there weren’t any blood stains on the sheets and as long as I wore my flipflops I could ignore the nasty carpet. The nasty carpet nullified any guilt I felt about sneaking Molly into our room. She liked the kingsize bed too.
Since we were in a hotel and not in the car we got to see the season finale of Big Love. Too bad the volume and color kept cutting in and out. Overall, it was okay. I think it reminded me too much of the previous season finale with all the “the family has fallen and been lead astray here let me fix it.” I’m hoping it comes back for a 3rd season though. Gotta love intrigue, murder, and mystery all set in a polygamous, religious context.
The next morning after wearing said flipflops in the shower and eatting breakfast we headed back north to Arches National Park. One of the great sources of amazement for me is that Canyonlands and Arches are across the street from one another. One side of the street’s geography and climate resulted in canyons and mesas, the other in rock formations, pillars, and arches. Crazy.
We saw the elephants and delicate arch. I missed the Wolfe Ranch (Wolfe was the original rancher back in the late 1800’s who “founded” the area) but Mr. T. said I could see it next time we were there. 🙂 He also said I needed to be more observant as *he* hadn’t missed it. 😀 I was too busy saying, “Look at that arch. Oooh, see that?” I think the most awesome ones are the windows and little tiny ones which aren’t even labeled which are clearly “new”. I remembered hearing that an arch had recently fallen but couldn’t identify which one (ah, here it is! http://www.nps.gov/arch/parknews/news080808.htm). The Ranger said dogs couldn’t be out of the parking lots so we drove around and saw what we could from the car aside from a 100 yard stroll to see Delicate Arch. The park was really crowded with aforementioned spring break families and I wasn’t sad to go.
We headed back into Moab to grab lunch and steal more wi-fi to find a camping spot for the night. Lunch was a shared cheeseburger which was sublime. Mr. T. and I had a brief discussion about whether it was a really good burger or just the fact that we were hungry and really wanted it. I forget the behavior analytic principle involved…but I digress. We selected a few spots for free camping in northern Arizona and southern Utah and began driving. Our first selection turned out to be right, dead on magnificent.
But before we got there we stopped at the San Juan Mormon Mission. It was flagged and looked old so we pulled off the road to investigate. I find the old Mormon stuff (pre-denouncing of polygamy) interesting because most of the polygamous stuff has been reimagined by the current church. For instance the picture of a man, several women, and several children refers to “Mr. and Mrs. Blank, friends, and Mr. and Mrs. Blank’s children. Since the picture was taken in the 1870s/1880s and the “principle” wasn’t denounced until the 1890s I’m skeptical that the “friends” aren’t in fact wives. I think it is interesting how the civil law and pressure shaped and changed Mormonism. I also think it is interesting that in history classes most kids don’t learn about the riots, killings, and armed conflicts between Mormons and the US. The reason the Mormons came to Utah was kind of a “go west and we’ll leave you alone” thing. ANYWAY…
One of the free camping/boondogging rolls listed Gooseneck State Park as a free place for camping with pit toilets, picnic tables, and grills. Boy, that just doesn’t even scratch the surface. Gooseneck is a good 20 miles from the highway down a paved road. I said, “Why is this road paved? We are out in the middle of nowhere. This makes no sense.” Mr. T. said, “Because people drive on it?” Just when I think we have been lead astray by the interwebs again we see the sign for the park. Then we see the canyon. Wow. Just wow. Directly in front of us is a 1,200 foot drop down to the San Juan River. I guess the term “goose neck” refers to the rapid going back and forth in an “s” shape of a river. We pull up in front of a sheltered picnic table with a grill right on the edge of the canyon and across from the toilets (an important location consideration in the middle of the night!) and let Molly out. She immediately begins darting around scaring me to death. We decide to walk down the canyon rim a little ways towards some RVs. We are surrounded by a 360 degree view of mesas, rock formations (castles, candles, monuments), hills, valleys, and then the river gooseneck. Words do not do it justice. Mr. T. and I deliberated even about taking pictures as we are both fairly sure that a photo can’t do it justice either. I stood in one spot and took picture after picture rotating all the way around. Maybe it will translate a little.
Dinner took forever to grill because the grill plate was too far from the coals. The steak was tasty and so were the cooked apples. The potatoes I had taken from Mr. T’s apartment (which he couldn’t remember having bought) tasted horrible but I don’t think that had anything to do with my cooking ability and more reflected that they probably expired in 2005. The semi-warm, semi-frozen broccoli was interesting for its temperate and texture inconsistencies but the view more than made up for any short comings. It was still better than another peanut butter sandwich or handful of gorp.
Due to the being in the middle of nowhere and the clear sky boy did the universe put on a starry display for us. Just looking out the window of the car thousands of stars were visible. Despite the hollering wind all night, we were snug (although I did wear both sets of pajamas I had brought and my wool shirt) and felt like the luckiest people on earth to have found that spot.
If you are ever within 300 miles of Mexican Hat (so name for a prominent rock formation), Utah, see Goose Neck State Park. Hands down, no question, you will love it!