The road to Arches

Me and Dad hadn’t really planned our trip properly past Zion National Park. I was keen to drive further up into Utah to Arches but we only had a week on the road together and were undecided as to whether we’d be better off making the big drive up to Moab, or chilling out a bit more in Arizona. While on the Emerald Pools trail though, we overheard a guy raving about amazing scenic highways around the country and decided we’d better check our map to see where some of them were. Sure enough, Highway 12 would take us most of the way up to Moab and from there we’d have a clear run through Monument Valley back into Arizona. Decision made. We were Moab bound!

We start our day (after coffee of course) with a trip up to Bryce Canyon. It’s pretty much on the way and I have a National Park pass, so why the hell not. The park ranger takes the pass, hands us the visitor information and exclaims: “is that a big bowl of cereal?!” Yes. Yes it is. We haven’t had our breakfast yet and I am nursing Dad’s large bowl of soaking muesli in my lap. Since we’re stopping to look at the canyon anyway, it makes sense to eat now too, so we spend the morning viewing the strange rock formations like everyone else, but I notice we’re the only ones wandering around with large breakfast bowls. I’d say it’s the coolest spot I’ve ever breakfasted, except we did the same thing in Zion the day before. Bryce’s hoodoos definitely have their own otherworldly charm, but they don’t pack quite the same punch as Zion’s main canyon.

Bryce Canyon - Utah

Breakfast views overs Bryce Canyon

Bryced and breakfasted, we begin our long drive up Highway 12. It’s a stunning trek, with many highlights but it’s the contrasts that make it truly spectacular. The scenery is constantly impressive and the elevation changes mean the landscape can change starkly in very short timeframes. It’s a strange feeling to be perched up in the aspen in the mountains and looking down at the red rocks of Capitol Reef. The  downside is the weird little towns the road passes through don’t boast a single supermarket between them, so we give up on buying supplies. I don’t know where the people that live here get their groceries.

Highway 12 - Utah

Aspen with views down into the red rocks

Capitol Reef National Park - Utah

The drive through Capitol Reef National Park. One of many highlights along Highway 12

It’s getting late by the time we make it to Moab, so rather than push our luck trying to find a campsite in the National Park, we set up on the banks of the Colorado River, with red cliffs towering over us on either side. We’re relaxing with a beer in the dark when we’re treated to a strange lightning storm that flashes across the cliffs around us. The sky above us is clear, so it must be coming from somewhere off in the distance, but when we watch the cliffs for a while trying to figure out where it’s coming from, we conclude that it’s in…every direction. Hmmm. A mystery to mull over in my tent.

Highway 12 - Utah

Rising on the banks of the Colorado River

We start the next day by stocking up on supplies (Moab has a supermarket! Go Moab!) and then head up to Arches National Park. Arches must have some of the strangest rock formations in the world. I don’t know why they call it Arches in fact, because the arches are relatively normal looking compared to some of the other stuff around. The drive in is something straight out of the Flintstones. If I’d seen a dinosaur cruising around, it wouldn’t have surprised me one jot.

Arches National Park - Utah

Making our entrance into Arches National Park

We’re not far in before we start to notice that A LOT of the rocks look like people. I mean, I’m pretty good at finding faces in inanimate objects, but this place is just ridiculous. The first ones are a group of three that we decide are the three wise men. I check the map and it turns out their proper name is ‘The Three Gossips’, but I don’t see why we can’t both be right, so I like to think of them as ‘The Three Gossiping Wise Men’.

Arches National Park - Utah

The Three Gossips

We park up at the Devil’s Garden Trailhead for a short trek up to Landscape Arch. After so much driving the day before it’s wonderful just to out of the car for a bit. The trail is busy but Landscape Arch is very pretty and the people watching kind of makes up for getting stuck behind slow-coaches all the time. We keep passing people coming the other way that look extremely grumpy, like they’re pissed off that they HAD to come to such a beautiful place. I don’t know where these people come from, but National Parks always seem to have a surprising number of them. Seriously guys, you’re in one of the most amazing places on the planet. If you can’t turn that frown upside down here then there really is no hope for you.

Arches National Park - Utah

Landscape Arch

We save the drive down to the Windows for last, and a good thing too because it’s by far the most impressive section in my opinion. Balanced Rock marks the entranceway and continues the variety of people-shaped rocks. There’s a wonderful little section near here as well, where the rocks don’t just look like people, they look like people that are having conversations. Seriously, this place is weird.

Arches National Park - Utah

Balanced Rock having a chat to some sort of elephant formation

Arches National Park - Utah

“Well Jane, I think it’s time for us to leave this planet”

Further down the road there are more arches, and more rock people, and arches that look like rock people. It all gets steadily more bizarre. I don’t even have words for how strange everything is. It’s awesome. Go there, and be amazed. Who needs drugs when the world already looks like that?

Arches National Park - Utah

Double Arch

Arches National Park - Utah

Those windows look surprisingly troll-like from afar…

Arches National Park - Utah

Okay, this one even has a face. This is just getting silly

As much as we’ve enjoyed our visit, all good things must end. We’re aiming to be camped at Monument Valley before it gets dark so we hit the road again, bound for the badlands.

Listening to: I Wanna Make It Wit Chu – Desert Sessions

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