Arches Epic and New Friends

Arches National Park, May 27, 2007
We were at the park visitors center at 6:30am to make sure we got one of the few remaining campground sites. There were seven available, and we were number three. We drove to the end and picked the site we wanted, it was still occupied by three people in two tents. Their car looked nearly loaded, so we parked to wait for them to leave, not wanting to hurry them. After a few minutes we walked to the site to put our daily reservation on the post, so someone else wouldn’t get the really spectacular view site. We talked to the people there, who turned out to be from the south of France. They had arrived at 2am and slept in their rental car (filled with camping gear and food) They were very disappointed to learn of the system, and that they would loose their site. We offered to share our site with them, and enjoyed talking to them both days they were with us. They tried to share the cost of the site, but we refused; we have been on the receiving end of the kindness of strangers (sometimes very poor strangers who didn’t speak our language and we had been told wanted to kill us) that we could not take money from them. They have nearly a month in the States, and are going to see more of the West than most Americans will ever see. Their English is fantastic, and we had some interesting political and social discussions. They like Americans despite the anti French press they have been hearing the past few years. One thing we all agreed on was that people who travel are much less likely to harbor hate for other peoples and cultures; once you have looked in a stranger’s eyes, and broken bread with him/her, it’s hard to hate him or his kind.
Nancy, Pasqual and Daniele (forgive our spelling)
We had a long and enjoyable visit with the campground hosts, Gary and Francoise who are looking to move out of Phoenix; she has asthma and can’t take the air anymore. I can relate, and attest to Tucson’s clean air. They had heard about Far Horizons, and we gave them our pitch. I think they will visit in the fall and maybe move there. They would be a great addition to the park; they are full of energy and social.
Our first day in Arches we took a short hike, enjoying at least one, new to us, arch and the beautiful wildflowers and cactus arrayed against the coral pink sand. Sunday we took, what we thought would be a moderately strenuous mountain bike ride of about 30 miles. The first seven miles were easy, showing us lots of different wildflowers and only a few corrugations. Then the —- hit the fan. First it got steep, then the steep turned to sand. We thought we might have a couple of miles of pushing our bikes, but it turned out to be an epic of seven plus miles of deep sand and hills.
A bicycle is an awful burden to push through sand, and we couldn’t even pedal the downhills the sand was so deep. Good thing the flowers were blooming.
We ran out of water and food near the end and felt the big bonk:
To bonk is to run out of glycogen in one’s muscles from exertion and not have food to replace it. It is very unpleasant, particularly when you do not have any choice except push on. Each step is a struggle to force your muscle to do work it is really incapable of doing, and every muscle in your body makes you pay in pain for making it move when it only wants rest and food.
We finally made it out of the sand and to a motorhome parked in an unusual place. The very pleasant young man from California, was the “mo ho” (California speak for motorhome) manager for a company that supports film and still photo shoots. The photographer, assistants and model were off doing their shoot. He gave us water and that made a big difference; we only had to push our muscles without food for another nine miles.
The photo shoot was for French Vogue magazine and the model was wearing Pocahontas, and other Native American inspired dresses. Claire thought they came to the red rocks of Arches, and not the more famous Monument Valley because of the fake Indian theme. I can imagine the Navajo would not be angry, but only too glad to take their money, and laugh at their absurd vision of Native Americans.
The light was lovely at sunset and we clambered over the slickrock taking pictures and enjoying the truly spectacular location. Arches never disappoints, though this time we could have done without the epic part of our mountain ride!
Claire against the sky long after sunset

Dinosaur Tracks and Hoodos in Southern Utah

Looking into Arches NP

Dino tracks and New Balance size 7

Friday May 25: Back in the Moab library working all day again today. Yesterday we took a moderate mountain bike ride to the edge of Arches National Park. We added a few dinosaur track pictures to our growing collection; there will be a story in that someday, and we’ll be able to provide the illustrations. We’re out here farming, harvesting photos that may someday be useful for Claire’s (and my) magazine writing.

We met two couples, one young from California, and the other older from Ontario, Canada. Both were interested in talking about our lifestyle, and how we manage it. Both had more money than we do, but considerable less time, and both wanted more time to explore together. Today I sent out query letters to a hundred or so literary agents for a book proposal we have tentatively set at It’s A Wonderful Life. We think there is a market for it, we just have to convince an agent and then a publisher. We have been working on one chapter and a tentative chapter list, but we’ll have a lot more work to do if we get a request for a full-blown proposal. Don’t know how we’ll do that on the road, but we’d find a way.

Growth is a big deal in Moab. Claire wrote a story about our mountain bike tour of the White Rim for the Zephyr, a local monthly and she got paid with a five-year subscription. Jim Stiles, the editor is very against change, and fighting a loosing battle, but there seems to be positive change coming with the growth. There is now a nice trail system all over town for walkers and bikers, and there are bike racks full of bikes everywhere. I understand Jim wanting to close the door behind him after he got here, but it’s a lost cause; best to focus on directing the growth than blindly fighting it. From the looks of the new library we have been using for the past week, there are a lot of progressive folks here willing to pay for infrastructure. The library has tables with plugs for laptops everywhere and free wi fi; we can even pick it up in Turtle across the street. We find the people very friendly, though they might be a little tired of tourists come October. This corner of the country, SE Utah, N. Arizona, SW Colorado and NW New Mexico is the best of the U.S. for beauty and variety, and SE Utah is the best of the best. But, Shhhh

Hollywood Jack and his driver.

Needles Overlook and Windwhistle Rock: It’s A Wonderful Life

Prince’s Plume and wind.
May 20: After a night in Blanding (because we had a cell signal for the first time in several days) we drove to the Needles Overlook on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land between Monticello and Moab, a place we had never been. On the drive out, our well-trained bush camp eyes saw what looked a likely spot near the overlook. At the overlook we reminisced about our White Rim bicycle tour, and a wonderful hike with Jack and Mary Lange in Needles District of Canyonlands, and a two day stay in the Maze District of Canyonlands; we could see them all from the overlook. Then we drove a few hundred metres down back down the road, plunged onto a bush track with our amazingly off-road-capable View and found another cliff-top bush camp for the night. The weather put on a show for us, varying light for the junipers and spring flowers, yet giving passable long distance views over our canyon country.

We keep coming back here. It remains among the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, place in the world, or at least the world as we have seen it, and that’s a fair bit.

We sat up, as usual so we could have a reasonable chance of driving off quickly during the night, if need arise; though the drop-off to the cliff was pretty close, Turtle has a good turning radius.

Darkness arrived with the fading of the rainbow; the wind is up and the lightning announced the odd thunderstorm somewhere to the South. We could get more weather during the night; if it clears we’ll have stars since the moon is still a sliver. Another billion-dollar view bought with the price of a little adventure. It’s a wonderful life.

May 21: Drove to Wind Whistle Rock and struggled along a double sandy track to find a bush camp with beautiful view of La Salle Mountains and red sandstone capped with white Navajo sandstone and vast expanses of grass, sagebrush and Utah juniper. We were expecting (courtesy our weather radio) high winds and perhaps rain in the afternoon, so we hunkered down, only to find reasonable, if breezy weather. We hiked around Wind Whistle Rock instead, of the planned mountain bike. Our walk gave us a close up reminder of what is so special about this part of America; you can be within a mile of a road, and never see or hear another human all day. We threaded slickrock, and drainages to avoid damaging cryptobiotic soil, saw several delicate spring flowers and a new (to us) blooming cactus.

We went in and out of sun and cloud shade, napped on a rock ledge and came back to Turtle for a warm shower. Then we took a walk, had a-little-something under a juniper, and came back to Turtle for another short nap.

Dinner was pasta with garlic, olive oil, onions, yellow and zucchini squash, and the second half of a bottle of Chilean Cab/Sav/Merlot (better after some mellowing). Evening is coming slowly under high thin clouds and the breeze is dying, unlike last night when Turtle shook until after midnight, unsettling when parked on the edge of a cliff. Tonight there is no cliff, and no wind and the temperature should be cool.

Had someone suggested to me when I was 25, that life could be so good past 60, I would have thought they were crazy. No more. It’s a wonderful life.

Sego Lilly

A Visit to Monument Valley, Arizona in our Motorhome

Bob and Claire's motorhome Turtle's campsite at Monument Valley, AZ

Three photo panorama from our campsite.

May 18. Monument Valley is a tribal park, and more reasonable with a $5 per person entry and $5 to dry camp in a spectacular spot. Late today we hiked the one trail open to unguided hikes, 3.5 miles around one of the Mitten buttes and arrived back at Turtle just before sunset. Took much of a 512 card of photos, and will probably do it again tomorrow when we bike the 18 mile loop tomorrow. With this park, it at least is fully within the control of the Dine; at least we are allowed to bike the same loop the guided tourists take.

We got a fantastic place to park Turtle (check the photo) though I had to make him/her act like a 4 wheel drive to get there and out, the sunset view was worth it. Had one of us been prone to sleepwalking, it would have been about a dozen steps to the edge.

May 19 Bicycling Monument Valley. We had a great mountain bike ride on a good dirt road today through some wonderful scenery. We left at sunrise and managed to do the loop at an easy pace, with lots of photo stops, and finish just as the loads of tourists began the loop, so we had no dust and we could hear the birds and smell the vegetation.