Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mount Rushmore and Devil's Tower

by James Walker

Day 6 - Sunday, June 24th, 2012

It's a long drive from Denver to Mount Rushmore and then to Devil's Tower in Wyoming. It was also another day of dramatic landscape changes and three different states. We left Colorado, took a quick drive through South Dakota, and camped out in Wyoming. It was pretty great.

After a few hours we made it across the border to Wyoming and stopped in Cheyenne to take a quick break. It surprised me how small the town was, considering it is the state capital. My expectations for such a place is based on cities like Sacramento and recently Denver and it doesn't really compare. While Cheyenne is the capital and the most populous city in Wyoming, at 56,466 people, it is tiny compared to Sacramento's 472,000. Nevertheless, Cheyenne is quite charming. The buildings are understandable older and have a lot of character. Probably because it was Sunday and all the government buildings were closed, there weren't many people downtown and it was easy for us to drive around and take in the scenery.

We had quite a ways to drive that day, so we didn't stay for too long. At this point, we were basically sitting on the northwest edge of the America's Great Plains, so most of our views consisted of vast expanses of flat farmland, with a barn and a windmill here and there and the faint suggestion of mountains in the distant north. We came across what looked like a rodeo, a fake cowboy sitting on top of a bluff, and lots and lots of big, blue sky.

After many hours of driving, we turned east and began our adventure in South Dakota where we finally started seeing more hills and eventually the farmland of Wyoming turned into the Black Hills of South Dakota. Our route to Mount Rushmore took us past the Crazy Horse Memorial, which you can spy from the highway, but we weren't planning on stopping. We kept on driving through more mountainous roads and only got a little lost. I remember neither of us being too excited about Mount Rushmore. It was really just an item to check off our list of things to see in America. It seemed silly to not to see it if we were going to drive thousands of miles across America anyway, so we put it on our list. However, as we got closer to the mountain and could almost see the tips of their noses through the trees, we began to get excited. I had to focus on the road, but Erinn would say things like "Ooh! I just saw George Washington!" and I would try to sneak a peek. The next thing I knew, we had turned the corner to park and there it was, one of the most famous American landmarks: Mount Rushmore! There's something truly grand about the place that simply cannot be conveyed through the countless pictures, postcards, calendars, and whatnot that I had seen before. It's a place that has to be experienced firsthand to really understand why it remains such a popular work of art. Put simply, it's a large stone sculpture of four American presidents, and that doesn't sound impressive by itself. But sit yourself in front of it and you can feel the sheer magnitude of the place. It was impressive.

There's a long walkway from the parking lot to the observation area with gift shops and bathrooms and the walkway itself is called the Avenue of Flags and each state and the year it was admitted into the United States is etched into a pillar along this walkway. The observation area provides the view most people are familiar with. It's a perfect spot to see all the presidents from, but there is a path that goes much closer to the base. From here you can see up the presidents' noses and appreciate even more how large the sculpture is. The path to the base also leads to the Lincoln Borglum Museum and sculptor's studio, which has a number of different small versions of the presidents that were used to aid in the carving of the mountain.

After taking lots of pictures, we popped into the gift shop to find a Mount Rushmore t-shirt. Our plan for the trip had been to get a shirt for each state we visited and we even had extra money set aside so we could do this, but it was just too hard to find a shirt that wasn't horrible. I was even prepared for my shirts to be super touristy and silly, but most of the ones we came across on our trip were horrible. When it came to Mount Rushmore, we were both determined to get something, but we were again disappointed. The gift shop had hundreds of different shirts, but we just couldn't get ourselves to buy any of them. If you wanted Dale Earnhardt Junior driving on top of Mount Rushmore with the American flag waving in the background, they probably had it, but if you were looking for something simple like a picture of the mountain with "Mount Rushmore" written underneath it, you would be out of luck. I settled on a sweet pocket knife with Mount Rushmore carved into it and we got back on the road.

Although we had already driven six and a half hours, we still had a while to go, but we quickly got lost again. We were following directions from our car's GPS and it was determined to take us on some sort of short cut through the woods. From Mount Rushmore we were supposed to go back the way we came and then go north through Rapid City, SD, but the GPS first took us to a parking lot for a campground/trailhead which definitely had no road going through it. Next it tried to get us to go through a Kampground Of America, insisting there was a road that went directly through the center of it. While the GPS was wrong, it was still fun to come across this KOA. It was massive; certainly the biggest one I had ever seen. There were several stores in a sort of Disneylandish old-country style, a pool, a huge park, bike rentals, a small water park with water slides and kiddie pools, and acres of land for RVs and tents. We stopped for a while, picked up some beef jerky, and continued to Devil's Tower.

The land slowly changed from small mountains to hills to sloping farmland and it was quite beautiful. Some of the hills reminded me of those Charles Wysocki puzzles you can buy from Target with iconic country houses, barns, and farmland all over the place.

The sun was close to setting by the time we finally made it to Devil's Tower, Wyoming. If you've seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you'll know the place. If you haven't seen that movie, you'll probably recognize it anyway. Devil's Tower was almost as big of a surprise to us as Mount Rushmore. Our stop at Devil's Tower came more from a need to find a place to sleep that night than it did from of a desire to see the place, but once we got there, we were sure glad we picked it. We were still many miles out when we first spotted Devil's Tower and we got pretty excited. We were coming up over a big hill and there was Devil's Tower, rising up from the mist of the farmland. Over the next few miles we watched as the rock disappeared beneath another hill and then reappeared even larger over the next hill. This continued for the next fifteen minutes or so until we reached our KOA, which was almost at the foot of the tower. This particular KOA wasn't nearly as much of an amusement park as the KOA we passed outside Mount Rushmore, but it had tons of room for camping and the view was fantastic. We set up camp in the shadow of Devil's Tower, made a dinner of sausages, squash, and soup, and enjoyed sunset beneath the massive rock. Aside from the bugs, we had an easy night of camping and I really enjoyed being so close to Devil's Tower.

Our route:

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Denver, Boulder, and a Heat Wave

by James Walker

Day 5 - Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

There were fires all over Colorado, and even Utah. During our trip it seemed like we were bringing bad luck with us. Everywhere we went seemed to be affected by fires. Later on in our trip, driving from Yellowstone to Salt Lake City, there were fires behind us, one popped up to the east as we were driving, and there were a few more in southern Utah that were threatening to close the road ahead of us. We did our best to avoid them, but we had to make a few major changes to our plan. Initially, we were going to be staying inside Rocky Mountain National Park, camping there for two days after our night in Denver. But there was a massive fire just east of the park, so we stayed an extra day in Denver and added another day to Salt Lake City. It all worked out quite nicely.

So that Saturday we awoke in our hotel, ready for another day in the mile-high city. We headed downtown to see the Capitol Building and City Hall, but quickly realized they were closed for the weekend. The buildings were beautiful and were built in that same neoclassic American style that many federal buildings are built in. The Capitol has a large, gold dome at its top and faces a long, green park with City Hall at the other end. While we were walking to City Hall to look around, we ran into some hobos who were a bit feisty for 10 in the morning, so we didn't stay long. We decided to head to Boulder.

Boulder, CO is a beautiful city with a very cool downtown area featuring the Pearl Street Mall and Central Park which runs along Boulder Creek. Pearl Street Mall is a pedestrian mall with lots of trees, mini parks for kids, sculptures, and lots of local shops and restaurants. About halfway down, there was a big street fair with lots of shops, a big tent full of dancing people, and tasty smelling food. One thing I love about street fairs and farmers markets is that there's always someone selling beef jerky and they're always giving away free samples. Don't mind if I do, sir! Well, we walked up and down, checked out a few shops, bought a frisbee, and finally got a gluten-free pizza, this time at BJ's Brewhouse! At BJ's we picked up a map of the local area and used it to find somewhere else to go. This is how we found Central Park and Boulder Creek.

Central Park is a long strip of land with lots of trees, hidden pathways, Boulder Creek running down the middle, and a big library at the end. People were everywhere that day, no doubt trying to get some relief from the heat by jumping in the creek. Despite my hope that we would be able to enjoy cooler climes as we drove north, we were in the middle of a heat wave and Colorado was pushing above 100 degrees while we were there. Everyone at Central Park was either splashing around on the banks of the creek or riding down on inner-tubes. The library sits on the south side of the creek, but has an indoor bridge that connects it to an art gallery on the north side. The bridge had windows along its entire length with chairs and tables where you could sit and enjoy the view. It was a very nice library. They had a self-checkout! On the way back to our car, we took a secret-looking path along the creek, got a little lost and ended up a bit past our car, but we made it out safely. We popped a few postcards in a nearby mailbox, and drove back to Denver.

We made a quick stop at our hotel for that night, a TownePlace Suites in Aurora. After staying at the Burnsley the night before, we hadn't anticipated having another nice hotel, but this one was pretty great. The Burnsley might have been swankier, but the TownePlace Suites was much more appropriate for our needs. The Burnsley was more like a luxurious studio apartment, whereas TownePlace was the perfect hotel room. Whenever I'm in a hotel room that's too big, I always feel like I'm wasting my money. "Look at all this space!  We could fit four more people in here," I think to myself. But this hotel was nice, clean, comfortable, and exactly the amount of space we needed. I think I liked it better than the swanky Burnsley. Anyway, we threw our bags in the room and went to 16th Street, downtown Denver.

It was yet another pedestrian mall, but on a massive scale. It's about 1.25 miles, but feels even longer than that. There are hundreds of shops and restaurants, big and small, and there's a free shuttle that runs the span of it. I still haven't gotten the hang of finding parking in big cities like this. It's always a challenge and this time I managed to turn the wrong way down a one-way street in search of proper parking. Thank goodness the cars were still far away! I quickly turned down another street. Well, we eventually paid way too much for parking and began walking. The whole place has lots of character with big old buildings and tons of local restaurants. There were street performers here and there and some guy dressed up sort of like Iron Man with a giant afro. About every hundred yards there was an upright piano it seemed like anyone could use if they wanted to and usually someone was on there playing pop songs or rocking out on Rachmaninoff. I started getting a bit cranky from the heat and it was getting late, so we jumped on a shuttle and took it to a park at the bottom of the mall. It was a beautiful area with a big green field and lots of expensive apartments around it. In the distance, you could see the tops of the rollercoasters in Elitch Gardens Theme Park just a mile away.

We were always torn between wanting to see everything and wanting to enjoy the few things that we could realistically see. I was usually the one pushing for more and Erinn was the one keeping us balanced. There are so many different neighborhoods I wanted to check out, but we limited ourselves to 16th Street. Even then, there's way too much to see. Before leaving downtown, we stopped at Larimer Square, which is just off of 16th street, accessible from one of the shuttle stops. It's a very pretty street, this time with cars running down it, but also with strings of lights hung across the street giving it a cozy feel. It's a bit upscale and the cafes and restaurants were definitely out of our price range, so we just got a drink from Starbucks and went back to our car.

For dinner we found a Chipotle near our hotel and took it back to the room. We rented Thor from the hotel lobby and settled in for the night. It had been a very hot day and we were both pretty worn out, but we had a lot of fun and were dreaming of a time when we could live in a place like this.

Our route:

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Monday, August 13, 2012

San Francisco, A Few Months Ago

We went to San Francisco back in May and I had been planning on making a video for it. Well, I finally did it! Here's a snippet of our fun. For more info, go to the post called San Francisco, May 11-13, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Grand Junction to Denver

by James Walker

Day 4 - Friday, June 22nd, 2012

     At this point, we were flying by the seat of our pants and didn't know where exactly to go. We knew we had to get to Denver, but because we left Arches NP early, we had a little more time to mess around than we had anticipated. We decided to see Aspen and Vail, CO. They had been on our list early in the planning of the trip, but we cut out Aspen due to time constraints. But now we had time!

We left Grand Junction early and got back on I-70, crossing the Colorado River many times and following it through the Rocky Mountains. Something about the Colorado River is so exciting and we took lots of pictures from the car as we drove next to it. It's such a famous river, one that I had seen many times before down at the Hoover Dam and once from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. But here we were in Colorado, driving next to it as it winds its way through the mountains.

We continued to Aspen, turning south from Glenwood Springs. At some point on the drive that morning, we had decided to see the old ghost town of Ashcroft, about ten miles outside of Aspen. Erinn had never been to a ghost town before and I love seeing them, so we were both excited to check it out. We were using our phones to find cool places to go to and plugged an address for Ashcroft that we found online into the GPS. That, combined with the occasional goofiness of navigation systems, made us a little worried when we took a turn down a lonely road with no signs telling us whether or not Ashcroft was ahead.

(I really do like road signs.)

However, the drive was beautiful and our concern was drowned out by the green mountainsides, tall birch trees, and flowing creek beside the road. There were bicyclists everywhere! Some were riding faster than we were driving. Just as we were about to get really worried (is it really that hard to say "Ashcroft ahead!") we found a tiny, little shack that said Ashcroft on it. Hooray! We had found the Visitor's Center and inside was a girl manning her post inside this little room, selling trinkets and postcards. When we walked in I remember the wind rattling the tin roof and the girl said she liked my Doctor Who shirt. We paid her a few bucks for entrance into the ghost town and walked down a wood-lined path.

From the Visitor's Center, we couldn't see much of anything; trees block most of the town from view, but then we turned a corner and found ourselves walking down main street. It was such a beautiful area. The buildings were so small compared to today's houses, bars, and hotels. At this ghost town, there were only about ten buildings left, but it still gave us an idea of what life was like in this area. There was a store, a number of houses, a saloon, and at the end of the road there was a hotel, which was certainly the grandest of the remaining buildings. Each building had a marker with some information on it telling a story of the area. One of them mentioned that a common practice was to plant berry bushes next to the houses for people to eat. While many of the buildings had been demolished, you could still see many berry bushes scattered throughout the valley, indicating how many houses there used to be.

We followed the trail past the hotel and into a field of trees next to the creek. There were flowers and butterflies everywhere! We walked back through the town and back to the Visitor's Center where we bought a couple of postcards to add to our collection. We were about to make sandwiches when one of the park rangers, an older guy, came and talked to us about the place. He said they don't have running water or electricity so he usually takes a dip in the creek to wash off. I asked him if it was cold, but he said he used to live on one of the islands next to Seattle and he used to do the same thing there. Seemed a bit too cold for me, though!

We then drove to downtown Aspen. I have to be honest, my expectations for Aspen were a little skewed. Whenever I hear about Aspen, I immediately think of Dumb and Dumber and I picture Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels on a tiny moped, driving down a snowy road. Aspen, in real life, in the summer, is much more beautiful than I had imagined. We stopped at a park on Main St. called Paepcke Park and walked around, took a few pictures at the gazebo, and jumped back in the car in search of the downtown area. We probably should have stayed at that park, but there was a big sign that said "Parking for park users only" so we drove around in search of appropriate parking. But it did not exist. We found downtown, saw the gondolas that go up Aspen Mountain, drove around those buildings way too many times, and ended up at another park that also said "Don't Park Here", but we parked anyway. Don't tell anyone! We were both a bit worried and walked through the park hoping no one would get wise to our act and realize we weren't there for park use! "Oh, these tables are nice" we said to each other. "This park is very pretty" I said, just in case the trees were listening. We snuck out the back of the park and walked to downtown.

One of the things on my list was to ride a gondola up a mountain at some point on our trip and since we had made it all the way to Aspen, we decided to do it here. It was so much fun! I mean, it's really just a fancy ski lift, but to be able to ride it up the mountain and take in all the views was so cool. The gondola we were in had a radio that played some playlist with pretty good music or we could plug in our iPods or phones to listen to our own music. It was fun watching people as they came down the mountain in their gondolas. Most were couples, like us, but for whatever reason there was one lady who was juggling bowling pins on her way down. It was so unexpected! After that I remember holding my camera out, hoping I'd catch another strange gondola rider, but no luck. We continued on our ride. The elevation of the city is around 8,000 feet and we rode the gondola up to about 11,000 feet! At the top of the mountain there is a fancy-looking restaurant, some outdoorsy things for kids to do, and an amazing lookout point. We snapped some pictures and hopped back on the gondola to go down the mountain.

Soon after, we got back in the car and continued our drive to Denver. We weren't too far past Glenwood Springs when we saw a sign that said "Hanging Lake Next Exit". Somewhere in the whirlwind of information I went through in preparing for this trip, I had come across a suggestion that Hanging Lake in Colorado was a cool place to see. So in that moment, not remembering anything about the trail, how long it was, or how high it goes, I said "Hey, Erinn. I hear this Hanging Lake place is a delight! Why don't we take a gander?" So we took the exit not knowing what was in store for us. We were both a bit worn out from the previous two days of hiking in the heat so neither of us wanted to hike very far, but for some reason I was sure the hike was short. We got to the visitor's center, but there didn't seem to be any information on how far the hike was so we still weren't sure, but kept on. We walked about a mile from there down a paved path to the point where the hike goes up into the mountains and we still weren't sure, but kept on. We started walking up into the mountains and still weren't sure, but there were so many kids and old people on the trail so we thought it must be a pretty short hike. But half an hour later we were still hiking upwards and were getting very tired and we were just about to give up when someone near us started talking about how much further it was to the lake. The trail follows a creek up the mountain and occasionally we crossed over a bridge. A lady nearby said that the lake is just past the seventh bridge and when we realized we had only crossed four bridges, we both knew it was time to turn around. Too much!

I think we were both pretty bummed. We had never turned around on a hike before, but we were just too tired and we hadn't planned on hiking that day and still had many miles to drive. Defeated, we walked down the mountain. We did see a snake on the path back to the car, though. Wooo!

Our next stop was Vail, CO, but it was a very quick stop. The city of Vail is right off the highway and, while it is beautiful because it's in the Rocky Mountains and there are trees everywhere, it's kind of a boring town. It's a ski resort town and we were there neither to ski nor to resort, so we didn't know what to do with ourselves. Erinn was driving and we ran into our constant enemy: parking. We somehow went down a tiny street that ended abruptly at a pedestrian walkway and we had to do a 50 point U-turn to get out. We kept getting frustrated trying to find someplace to park so we just left.

About an hour or so later we finally made it to Denver. It's such a big city with a lot of suburbs and other smaller towns all mixed in to the general area. Around 8 we made it to our hotel, had more trouble with parking, checked in, figured out where to park, and walked up to our room.

As Erinn puts it, our hotel was swanky. It's The Burnsley All-Suite Hotel and let me tell you, it is fancy. Looking at Hotels.com right now, it would be $209 if we were to stay this coming Friday night, but they were having a sale when we booked it, so we got it for less than half that. It's basically a large studio apartment being used as a hotel. For us, it was so much nicer than we expected and it was way bigger than anything we needed. The past two nights we had been sleeping in tents. We didn't even know what to do with a 600 sq. ft. apartment! But we loved it. It had a full bathroom, huge bed, dining area, small kitchen, and a balcony which looked out on downtown Denver. It was so cool! It was easily the nicest place we had ever stayed. We were super dorky and took lots of pictures and videos just so we could remember it.

We settled in and started thinking about what to do for dinner. Pizza! There's never a time when I don't want pizza and it's usually pretty easy to find a place that does gluten-free crust in a big city like Denver. It was getting pretty late, though, so we knew we had to hurry. We placed an order online asking for gluten free crust, but just as I was about to walk out the door to go pick it up, we got a phone call from the pizza place saying they had run out of their gluten-free crust.

At the end of such a long day and after getting excited for pizza, we were quite upset that we couldn't get it. The thing is, it's kind of tough to find a restaurant that serves food that doesn't have cheese or gluten in it and gluten-free, cheese-free pizza was our go-to order for restaurant food at this point. What was worse was that it was almost 10 o'clock and restaurants were closing up. Our options were getting slimmer by the minute. I thought we might be able to get something at Whole Foods, but they were closed too! The only thing that was open was a Safeway, but I was determined to have a tasty dinner. I got some chicken, corn tortillas, and salsa and we went back to the hotel and cooked up some tacos in our tiny kitchen. Thank goodness!

It was a very long day and we flopped down, watched Back to the Future, and fell asleep.

Our route:

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Arches National Park: Beauty in Utah, pt. 2

by James Walker

Day 3 - Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The next morning we packed up camp and drove north to I-70. I remember leaving Cedar City quite clearly, even a month from now. We had just completed the first major day of our trip and were headed toward another big day in Utah. We stopped at a gas station north of town and I remember the sense of excitement as we began our day. The plan was to drive to Arches, see the sights, and camp again in Moab, which is just south of the park. But, plans change. We'll get to that soon.

We stopped on the side of the road at a "vista" or "scenic view" or something after experiencing miles and miles of scenic views from the car. We figured it must be good if they built a parking lot just for taking in the views. So we stopped at this "vista" and took in the vast landscape of northern Utah, this part being dominated by miles of bluffs and canyons. At the turnout, there were a few people trying to sell jewelry laid out on blankets. We drove down the road a few more miles and came across another turnout and saw more beautiful landscape with more jewelry laden blankets. We stopped one more time at a rest area to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and it would have been a forgettable stop, but when I opened the peanut butter, the oil which had separated from the peanuts came flying out at me and got on my Star Wars shirt and my shorts. I smelled like peanut butter all day.

Eventually we got to the middle of nowhere, at which point we turned south toward Moab and the arches. We initially missed the entrance to Arches National Park because the sign was so inconspicuous. I suppose they don't need to advertise it too much since there's little else in the area, but it would be nice to have a slightly larger sign. The road into the park begins at the base of a hill which hides the rest of the park from view. To enter the park we drove up and around the hill and were treated to spectacular views of bright red rock formations. It was amazing coming around each corner to each new dramatic formation. The first few miles are full of these rocks, but soon levels out. Our visit here was similar to our experience in Zion in that we hadn't planned out specifics and only began putting together our afternoon once we got the brochure for the park. The map revealed how large the park really is and how spread out the main attractions are so we decided to drive as far out as possible before stopping and we would check out things on the way back out of the park. Our thinking was that we would get an idea of what's in the park and stop at the best bits on our way back out to our campsite in Moab. We would be very wrong.

Based on the map, we had decided to go to an area called Devil's Garden, which is at the furthest point in the park. This area has a lot of different hikes and a number of arches to see so it seemed like a good starting point. What we thought was interesting was that the Devil's Garden Campground which we had a reservation for that night had the same name as this dirty, very hot-looking campground we passed as we pulled into the Devil's Garden area. Go figure! That campground has the same name as ours, but we're down in Moab, right?


We had unintentionally booked a night of camping inside Arches National Park and it did not look very inviting. There was nothing terribly wrong with this campground, but it was bare, the weather was 100+ degrees, and we were still newbies to camping. We weren't ready for it.

Our first hike was to Landscape Arch. It's a relatively easy hike from the Devil's Garden parking lot. It's mostly flat and only about 2 miles, round-trip. Our mistake, though, was planning to visit some of the hottest parts of Utah in the middle of June. The rocks on this hike jut up from the ground like they've been buried underneath the earth and have been excavated like some gigantic dinosaur bones. The rock is an orangeish red and all the sharp edges have been smoothed down by years of strong winds. Sometimes the area reminded me of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Anyway, the rock radiates heat and we were feeling it.

Landscape Arch is the end of the road for one of the hikes and it is an amazing sight. Apparently visitors of the park used to be able to hike up underneath the arch and look at it from below, but a large chunk of the arch fell in 1991 and the area directly beneath it was closed to hikers. But the view is still amazing from 50 feet out. When we reached the viewpoint, another guy offered to take our picture. After the picture we chatted for a bit and he mentioned that he had a thermometer on him and right there, right then it was 102 degrees! It certainly felt that hot so we headed back down the trail in search of shade and eventually some air conditioning in the car. Before the hike, we were still talking about whether to stay at the campground. On the way back to the car we had decided for certain that we wanted to sleep somewhere else.

Enjoying the shade
One of my favorite parts about travelling is when we change plans on the go. It's always nice having a plan to follow, knowing that you'll have somewhere to sleep that night, but sometimes it's fun to just figure things out as you're going. We eventually settled on a KOA in Grand Junction, moving us into Colorado a day earlier than expected.

But for now, we still had more arches to see! I remember both of us being quite drained from that first hike, as short as it was. The sun really sucked the energy out of us, so we weren't planning on doing any trails longer than a mile. Our next stop was at Delicate Arch. On the map there are a couple of places to stop for this arch. One of them is a 3 mile hike to the base of the arch and the other is a half mile hike to a scenic view of the arch. Of course, we opted for the shorter hike. This one was a bit more strenuous than we had anticipated, because it goes up a large hill for the whole hike, but we made it.

The hills around this area are a beautiful mix of colors. The base of the hill is a grayish blue, the middle is orange, and the top is a mix of deep red and brown rock. The viewpoint for Delicate Arch is some distance from the arch, but it is still quite a sight. It's easily the most famous of the arches here and I can see why.

Heading down the trail, back to our car, we were both getting hot and tired, but every spot that had even a sliver of shade was occupied by people, so we kept moving.

Our next stop was the best part of the park. We chose it mostly because of the number of arches in the area and the shortness of the hikes to those arches. This area is known as the Windows District and has short hikes to some very cool arches, such as Double Arch, Windows Arches, and Turret Arch. After seeing Landscape Arch and not being able to walk underneath the arch, I had assumed I wouldn't be able to walk under any of them, but here in the Windows District, the arches are pretty much free game. We first hiked up to the North Window. I was so excited to be able to walk underneath it!

We walked up to the base of the arch and snapped a few pictures, but I wanted to get as far up the arch as I could. Looking up into the arch, there is a section on the right that has a gradual slope that can be climbed fairly easily. Erinn didn't feel like climbing rocks so she was planning on taking pictures of me, but she said an old man offered to take a picture of the both of us so she got tricked into climbing up the rocks with me! It was great. The view was wonderful and it was exciting just to be underneath the arch, looking out into the valley, looking at the other arches in the area. From underneath the North Window, you can see both the Double Arch and Turret Arch. It was amazing.

By now, we had been sweating for hours and were covered in red dust, but we couldn't just look at Double Arch from a distance, so we hiked just a bit further. Double Arch is even more dramatic than the North Window. It has a short trail leading to the base and an area of rock underneath the arch that is easy to walk around on, but I really wanted to get as far up the arch as I could, so I climbed up into the second arch. It was so cool! It wasn't too hard of a climb up the rocks, but it was an area that no one else was going to, so it felt like a unique spot to be in. It was a great feeling.

This would be our last hike of the day. We got back in the car, blasted the AC, and settled in for a long drive. We were both covered in dust. Erinn took off her shoes and, looking at her feet, thought she had gotten a nice tan from the day's hike, but we realized it was just a thick layer of red dust.

On the drive out of the park we tried looking up the names of some of the larger formations as we drove past them. Some of them were easy to spot, but others weren't very distinct. We ended up giving silly names to the rocks we drove by.

The road north from Moab back to I-70 is pretty boring and heading west on I-70 is equally as boring until you get into Colorado, but then the mountains begin to take shape. We reached Grand Junction in the early evening, set up camp at the KOA, and headed for downtown, where we found a cool little farmer's market. There were lots of booths with tasty-looking fruits and veggies, mini playgrounds for kids at every block, and a statue of Dalton Trumbo sitting in a bath tub. It was a very cool downtown. We got a big cup of lemonade and wandered the street a while. Around 8pm, we went back to our campsite, cooked some veggies and sausages, and went to bed.

It was another grand adventure in Utah.

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