Monthly Archives: September 2016


Today was supposed to be a ‘laundry, library, get-ready-to-leave’ kind of day, but as chance would have it, I went for a much needed hair cut and picked this salon that appealed to my sense of ‘funkiness’. What a great choice of places to go!!! It was called “Laura’s Hair Safari.” Laura, the sole proprietor and hair dresser, has been a resident of Moab since she was in the 9th grade (she had to have been in her mid to late 60’s at least.) Not only was she a good talker, she had a friend visiting her so I was regaled by tales of death, doom, and destruction as well as some little – known history of Moab and its residents and by advice of what I MUST absolutely see before leaving. The result? A trip to Dead Horse State Park, close to Canyonlands. They call it the “Grand Canyon of Utah”, a well-deserved name. “Dead Horse Point” is a natural canyon where wild horses were herded across a narrow, so-called ‘bridge, onto a wide plateau overlooking the Colorado River canyon. The horses couldn’t escape and legend has it that when they were left there without water and they smelled the water of the river below, they jumped to their deaths! It’s a great story….but….like many stories, not quite accurate.

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20 Miles – 2 Days Paddling the Colorado River

1st day – 1st paddle – 1st rapids

We began 10 miles up river from Moab UT.



Tilly got her initiation to running rapids at the Big Bend Rapids.


I had not told her there was any kind of rough(er) water on this paddle.


Tilly – “I AM SOAKED… a wave rolled over the cockpit! You didn’t tell me there were RAPIDS on this trip!”

Reply – fearing I might be in a bit of trouble – “What did you think it would be like?”

Tilly -“Calm and placid like the South Thompson.”

Reply – hoping to extract myself from blame – “Would you have come IF I had told you?”

Tilly -“Thankfully you didn’t tell me… I didn’t have time to worry or even be scared… that was neat! But I’m soaked”

It was only a class 2 at best … but still a confidence builder

A few days before we had decided to kayak the Colorado River and made arrangements, with Kathryn at Wild West Adventures in Moab (a most excellent choice, as she turned out to be a wealth of information and assistance), to shuttle ourselves and kayaks 10 miles up river from Moab and then the next day shuttle our truck 10 miles down river from Moab. That way we could leave our truck on the river at our end point(s) each day. Once dropped off, we could proceed at our haste or leisure… again we were unscheduled.

I have to admit, I was a tiny bit apprehensive. It had been at least two decades since I had last floated a river and/or rowed (an inflatable raft) through any type of rapids. Still being a novice kayaker I was unsure of technique for navigating rapids – even small ones. Turns out that much of what I knew about rowing a raft through rapids returned quickly and strategy with a kayak was pretty much the same. I was able to pass along a variety of hints and suggestions to Tilly that helped her navigate the river.

You have to be aware of the currents/eddies when rowing a raft, but vigilant when kayaking. I had forgotten that how powerful the current and eddies can be, so the first time the front of my kayak entered an eddy I was almost tipped over as I spun around my center of gravity. Even so after that first encounter it became a delight to circle back upriver to see Tilly following along.


Tilly ran 3-4 more sets of small rapids with hardly a hitch. UNTIL

dscn4040“I HIT A ROCK!”


Despite her scare Tilly made it through like a trooper!




Our Day one paddle was spectacular drifting along the canyon walls

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We disturbed a number of Candians (geese) and a duck or two.

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and our day 1 adventure ended as  we pulled out at the boat ramp next to Lions Park in Moab. We looked forward to the next day’s events.


2nd day – 2nd paddle – 1st mishap:

Experience Gained – Lessons [Re-] Learned.

Day 2 paddle began where day 1 left off- the boat ramp on the edge of Moab. Another 10 miles of river to explore. Plus we were going to float through the wetlands preserve. We were hoping to see a variety of wild birds, but our excitement was to come from a very different angle. It was a day for important lessons. It is said -”Good Judgement comes from Experience (lessons learned) AND Experience comes from Bad Judgement”. I need to add “Refresher Experience comes from forgotten lessons.”

The entrance to the channel through the preserve was mostly blocked by a variety of logs, branches and driftwood; making the turn from the main river channel challenging. But I did not think it more challenging than the rapids of the day before.


I counted on my athletic ability to push my was through it – and it was challenging. However I did not think about Tilly… critical to steering rapids is setting up your angles. Tilly tried to cut too sharp around a rock and hung up sideways to the current mid kayak AND over she went, dumped out. I watched and as she rolled over I paddled hard to intercept her and her kayak.  She responded perfectly, hanging on to the kayak AND putting her feet down river. Reaching the shore, she lifted the front of the kayak – draining the water from the cockpit and flipped the kayak back upright. She was back in shortly after I rafted up with her kayak. But she was soaking wet. The worst case had happened and she had handled it all magnificently


AFTER it was all over, I remembered a (forgotten) basic, most helpful and important hint left out of my variety of hints and suggestions for navigating rapids and river currents.. LEAN INTO the rock NOT away. If Tilly had known she most likely, having leaned into the rock, would have spun backwards around it. But, she did what normal people do – leaned away and the force of the water turned her over. I felt a bit guilty. Lesson 1  learned by Tilly and re-learned by me.

 We paddled through the wetlands and back into the main channel of the Colorado. I looked back at a no-longer smiling Tilly. I asked how she was doing and she said, ‘OK, but I’m shivering all over.’ We had wrung out her clothes, but she had not put on anything dry. Once again I had forgotten a BASIC outdoors lesson. Hypothermia can happen even at 50-70 degrees IF there is wind and wet.

Quickly, I spotted a beach and we paddled to it. I dug out my pair of dry pants and wind jacket from my dry bag. Tilly quickly got out of her wet clothes and into her dry fleece shirt, my pants and put the wind coat on. After 30 minutes of soaking up the sunshine Tilly was warmed up enough to continue.  Lesson 2 – specifically: get out of cold wet clothes and into dry ones, say something when you are cold and shivering AND watch your partner closely after a dunking… learned by Tilly and re-learned by me.


Lunch was served a few miles down the river. After that the wind came up and we paddled a not as much fun as the day before- uneventful slog- final section to our take-out point. We had gotten our taste of river kayaking – the Colorado River, learned (and relearned) some important lessons.

Definitely – We’ll be back!


This past week we have been staying at Granstaff Campground, about 5 miles up the canyon along HWY 128, from Moab. I had to include some of the pics we’ve taken. The first few days were cloudy…no sunrises or sunsets until the past few days.

We’ve taken pics from above….


….from the water…..



….from our windows…..

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….in the evening…..

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….at night when they lit up the cliffs for the ‘river-going-canyon-watchers’….


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…and inside eating dinner!



After a beautiful sunrise at Arches, the day deteriorated into a rainstorm. Busily writing a blog in the Moab Library, we missed the fact that it was raining outside. Exiting the library, seeing the storm raging around Arches, another spontaneous decision was made to go and see the cloudburst in Arches,  (which normally gets very little rain). We were on the hunt for waterfalls on high….so up we went again. Just as we had chased the sunrise earlier that day, we now chased the cloudbursts.

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We waited for the sunset and were rewarded with some beautifully highlighted formations: rock and cloud formations.

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That night we had a very late supper ….in the rain….well, we were nice and dry inside. During the night, the wind came up so hard, it shook the camper.…think hurricane thoughts! Our thoughts?? We were supposed to be on the river kayaking at 9am….but….we are fair weather kayakers….the weather was not even close to fair. What to do? The only thing possible. Drive into Moab, have breakfast and wait to see what developed. The weather continued to be windy and rainy so we rescheduled our paddle for the next day. Searching for an alternative activity, we decided to go and investigate Canyonlands National Park. It was only a 37 km drive to the visitor center. It turned out to be a spectacular day…the sun came out and we were off exploring again…..what we love to do.

Our first stop: Monitor and Merrimac, two rock formations..




Arriving at the Visitor Center, we spent some time watching a short video and chatting to one of the rangers there about hikes. Then headed out for a walk about and encountered another ranger giving a talk about the history and geology of the area, so we stopped to listen.



We liked Canyonlands. Mike’s cousin Margaret and husband Dave had told us they wanted to investigate Canyonlands. They had spent a bit of time there and were interested in spending more. The same thing happened to us. The energy of the place was less frenetic than that of Arches. At Arches, there were cars everywhere, zooming here and there like bees on the hunt for nectar. At Canyonlands, there were fewer people and fewer cars. It was also much more open….lots of wide-open spaces amid the mesa tops…..a much more relaxed pace.

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We spent the day driving, stopping at overlooks, walking and finally, at Upheaval Dome, we did a hike of a few miles, walking up and down solid rock faces…..a good workout which we needed after all that sitting.


We also discovered a 100 km road called “White Rim” which is a track for 4 wheel drives and bicycles which piqued our interest.


Coming home late afternoon, we were dazzled by the new snow on the distant mountains.



Sunrise at Arches!

EARLY this morning – GROAN… “what time is it”

Reply – “05:46”

“Should we get up?”

Reply – “I suppose… what do you think?”

“It’s cloudy… maybe rain…”

Reply – ‘as someone’s mother once said-”you can’t be a FAIR-WEATHER skier” ‘

“We aren’t GOING skiing

Reply- “Right- up we get then!”


And so it started – shakily but after a cup of coffee we were out the door and on the way to sunrise at Arches National Park. Arriving at the entrance we could see the lights of a half dozen cars ahead of us. Guess we weren’t the only ‘brilliant’ ones.

Yesterday, we scouted out the most likely place to get excellect sunrise photos. Problem was, neither of us was quite sure where it was, exactly. LESSON: When you have a GPS, mark where you want to go AND then you can follow it back! Much more reliable than 60+ old memories. However, we found a suitable spot with 25 minutes to spare; allowing us each to pick vantage point.




We don’t know what the official NPS name was/is but I wanted to focus my efforts on a formation that we named “ Three Maidens” (I wanted to name it ‘the 3 wenches’ but was outvoted 2 to 0 – unanimously).


As the sun slowly began its rise, temptation to shift focus was intense.

p1010968I managed to stay focused on the Three Maidens as we reaped a wealth of beauty. And the pictures are a poor approximation of the intensity of visual stimulation. Our hearts, soared with the power of the morning.2wallsnrise4blog

Then the 3 Maidens blessed us for our patience with a mini-rainbow…


The rest of the valley glowed.


And then it was morning.





Today was our introduction to Arches National Park. We got there at 9 and had to wait in line but it wasn’t long before we were inside the Visitor Center, checking things out and making a plan for the day. It was a bit of a rainy day so we decided that our best plan would be to go as far as possible, to the end of the road and work our way back. We were also interested in the “not improved” gravel road, thinking that maybe there wouldn’t be so many people there. We filled our camelbacks with water, packed our lunches, put on our hikers and set of, full of anticipation. It was one wondrous sight after another. Here is a pic of the start of the ride up.

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In the beginning, Mike was stopping every few miles so I could take pics. We soon realized that we wouldn’t get very far doing that and I was so busy looking through the lens, I was missing all of those first, awe-inspiring impressions. Everywhere I looked there was a another rock formation, each one more beautiful than the last. The feeling I had was strongly visceral….I was feeling the ancientness of the place….the millions of years that had passed, making this such a special place.

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The road ended at Devil’s Garden. There were so many people and cars and motorhomes, it was hard to find parking spaces. We lucked out just as someone was leaving. The first arch we saw was Tunnel Arch….


….followed by Pine Tree Arch.

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The hiking was easy at this point on well groomed sand and gravel paths. We continued on to see Landscape Arch which is one of the longest arches.

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After this arch, the path became too difficult for me to scramble up and over so we headed back to drive the Salt Valley Road which was a sand and gravel road leading to Tower Arch. We got there too late in the day to hike it and the weather was turning worse. looked like we were in for a major shower and we’d been warned not to drive on this road in the rain as it would get washed out.

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The rest of the day we spent visiting the various viewpoints and arches. By the time we drove back down, we were joking that we didn’t need to see anymore arches. They are indeed spectacular but so are all of the many other landforms, the pinnacles, spires, and balanced rocks that towered into the sky. We ended the day at the Fiery Furnace.
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But then it really started to rain so we headed back down to find the library.


Super-sized in terms of scenery, emotions and ….. challenges….!

Leaving Rifle, we traveled in ‘losing elevation’ mode which the truck thanked us for. It worked splendidly. Why on earth, we asked ourselves, would we want another stronger, more powerful truck when the one we have did so well??? From an elevation of around 6,000 feet in Rifle, we dropped to 5,000 feet in Grand Junction, decreasing to 4,000 feet by the time we arrived in Moab. No surprise the truck did so well. As did I….celebrating the disappearance of my constant companion, an ’altitude headache’ – Mike says it’s the wine every night… but I refuse to believe him. From Rifle onwards, we drove downwards, through a steep canyon, leveling off as we reached Grand Junction. From thereon in, until we turned off the I70 onto the US Hwy 191 to Moab, it was flat with miles and miles of sagebrush and desert-like terrain.

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Turning off the I70 is when my excitement started to build. We started seeing beautiful, red rock formations, canyons and, of course, lots more traffic.


We saw the turn-off to Arches but we were focused on finding a place to camp and continued on. That’s when the “CHALLENGES’ kicked in. Up to this point, all was calm and peaceful. We traveled along the Colorado River where there were numerous campsites. However, they were not well-marked and they were not very specific as to where the tent sites were, when there were dead-ends….well, suffice it to say, after coming across a lot of ‘occupied’ sites and feeling a bit blue, we thought we spotted an available site and enthusiastically turned down one, narrow gravel road. To my MY HORROR, it turned out to be a dead-end… worst nightmare. Michael had to back our 24 foot fifth wheel out of a very tight spot. He was magnificent….I was a total wreck….a nervous, bloody basket case. But still, I managed to direct him out with no mishaps. The problem with these campgrounds was that they were all marked “FULL” and they were not well signed so by the time we saw the entrance, we were already too far past it to enter. Finally, we’d both had enough and decided to head into Moab and pay the exorbitant rates at one of the RV parks (of which there were many). Returning the way we’d come, we passed one of the campsites we’d missed and saw some available sites but, once again, too late….we’d passed it. This time though, there was a pull-off. Due to the ‘rush for sites’, after we found a suitable, available site, I sat and held it while Michael adroitly turned around the fifth wheel, kayaks and all, in the middle of the secondary highway he was parked on and just as adroitly backed into our site. Hugs and kisses were in order for my Michael.

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Soon, we were unhitched and settled in, ready for some exploring. We headed to Arches to get Mike’s GOLDEN AGE/SENIORS PASS which reduced our camping fee to half – always welcome. From there to search out how to realize our plan of kayaking down the Colorado River. We found Katherine at WILD WEST VOYAGES who completed the arrangements for us to do two, 10 mile sections of the river. She would assist us in dropping the truck at our end point, and taking us and our equipment to the starting point. When we asked about drinking water, she told us about the “MATRIMONIAL SPRING’, a natural spring where the water comes out of the rock, very pure. She said the story is that once you drink the water from this spring, you will be ‘married’ to Moab, and always return. We found it, drank from it, and yes, this may well become our new playground!

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Tomorrow, we are off to explore Arches National Park.