Monday, November 18, 2013

On the road, again... Utah & Arches National Park

We had intended to stay in Idaho Falls for only one week, figuring that would be plenty of time to do some work on the bikes, catch-up on correspondence and enjoy life with Anita and Rajiv... Well, we were wrong. Not only did we wind up needing to wait an additional 4 days for a part to arrive, we had thousands of photographs to go through to create space on our hard drives and our bodies needed more rest, as well. So, after a week and a half in the lap of luxury, complete with delicious Indian meals, we hit the road in the direction of Moab, Utah. 

The first day back on the road, we had planned to get a decent amount of highway out of the way by dark, but after spending such a long time indoors, our blood had thinned again, and we were freezing. But, as luck would have it, we found an incredible rest stop just along the highway... Well-lit with picnic tables, heated restrooms and warm water... and a 16 hour maximum stay - yippee! We warmed up our yummy leftover Indian rice, courtesy of Anita, and pitched the tent just behind the parking lot. Although it was cold, we slept pretty well until the sun rose up high the next morning. High enough that when we heard footsteps coming up the path next to our tent, we could see the obvious silhouette of a police officer as he approached. 

Of course, there was no problem with us being there, but the caretaker of the rest stop had apparently never seen anyone set up like us. Sure, if we were to sleep uncomfortably in the front seat of a car, bed of a truck or cab of a tractor trailer, that would be normal... But travel by motorcycle and set up a tent!?!?! Serious cause for alarm there. The cop was more interested in hearing about our trip than anything (he rides his V-Strom into the mountains on his days off), and the caretaker of the facility later told us he called the cops so they could come out and make sure we hadn't frozen to death overnight. (Because he surely couldn't have just given us a shout on his own. Right.)

On we went, making a short stop in Salt Lake City to pick up more minor parts for my bike. We rode through the afternoon,
witnessing an incredible sunset that colored all of the little puffs of clouds in the sky cotton-candy pink. Once it got too cold to continue riding, we found a small National Forrest Campground and set up camp, again, making sure to take everything that would invite bears, off of the bikes. 

We slept in the next morning, giving the sun plenty of time to rise up onto the mountain top we were camped on, before taking off in the direction of Arches National Park. As we rode South, it got warmer and warmer, and by the time we got to Arches, we were ready to strip off some layers, for the first time in a few weeks! 

We only had a couple of hours before sunset, so we found place to camp within the park. At first, we were dubious of the park campsite and it's $20 fee that didn't even offer showers. But after seeing what an amazing setting the campground was in, there was no doubt we had found an excellent home for the evening. We reserved our site and rode off in search of a wonderful place to watch the sun set, but in a park like Arches, I don't think we could have found a bad spot.
The way the setting sun transformed the colors of the rock was amazing and reminded us of some of our most favorite spots in Australia. However, even our most favorite park in Australia couldn't rival the magnitude of the Arches, canyons and spires in Arches National Park. 

Our dinner that evening took place under a brilliant array of stars and a slow-rising crescent moon that lit up the entire campsite like day-light. 
Camping in Arches National Park
We were up before sunrise the next morning to see how the colors of the arches would transform at daybreak, and it did not disappoint. We met one photographer that morning who was in the midst of a long-exposure project... he'd crawled out of his tent at 3am to capture the starry sky behind one of the arches... I aspire to have his will power, one day. 
Skyline Arch at Sunrise
Our plan for that day was to do two of the parks most strenuous walks, and stop off to do a few of the shorter, less strenuous ones along the way. During the first walk, however, Roel and I got separated, as I stopped to take pictures and he carried on walking, figuring I would eventually catch up. Well, I never did, and the farther I got the more frustrated and annoyed I got that Roel hadn't stopped and waited for me to catch up.

But when I made it to the Double O Arch at the end of the trail, the reason I had been hiking for an hour, and there was no Roel, I began to worry. It was not a loop, and so at some point, I should have caught up to him, at least by the very end. I raced back to the beginning of the trail at the car park, and sure enough, there he was!
Relieved, I wondered how I had missed him... apparently, he managed to take a side trail off of the not-well-marked main trail, wound up in the middle of nowhere, and simply returned to the car park to be safe. He too, had experienced the same annoyance with me (but at my slowness) and then conversely, concern, until he realized that he'd taken the wrong trail. Oh well - we learned our lesson but at least one of us has pictures of the Double O Arch to share ;)

Having not had much exercise in the past couple of months, we were already sore and tired after the first of our planned walks of the day. Briefly, we contemplated missing out on the second, but after going to to overlook of Delicate Arch, we knew that whatever hike we had to do to get closer would be well worth the effort to get a closer look as such a magnificent miracle of nature. 
Delicate Arch
The Delicate Arch is not the tallest arch. It's not the highest arch. But I think after making our way up a 1.5mi strenuous trail to get to Delicate Arch, we agree with the thousands of professional photographers and the State of Utah, for making this Arch the most photographed and most widely seen Arch in the world (as it graces the Utah license plate). True, our out-of-shape bodies needed a bit of rest after the hike, but I think we easily could have sat and gazed at the arch for the remainder of the afternoon and on into the evening. The way this arch of sandstone sits perched on the cliffs edge, perfectly framing the snowcapped mountains in the distance was mesmerizing. As we hadn't quite figured out where we were going to camp that evening, we tore ourselves away from the Delicate Arch so that we could make it back to the bikes and out of the park by sunset. 

On the way down the trail, we met several hikers racing up the trail to catch the sunset. One of whom, I noticed was wearing bike pants. I greeted her and mentioned her pants, implying a question that she was on a bike... She faltered for a moment but then responded in Dutch, (thoroughly confusing me) but Roel of course understood that she had seen his bike in the lot, and was curious about him... She is from The Netherlands and is taking several months to ride from Alaska to Florida. Not wanting her to miss the sunset, we sent her up the hill and agreed to break our "no beer" rule (based on $$ conservation, alone), and planned to meet her at the local brewery later. 

Riding out of the park with the sun making everything in our rear-view mirrors a beautiful distraction from the road was difficult, but we were excited for cold beers and to see how this chance meeting with another over-landing Dutchie would unfold. 

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