Moab & Arches National Park
Now, off to Moab for a recharge! As we entered the town, we noticed the town seemed especially busy. We learned that not only was it a Friday but there was some sort of mountain bike convention going on that weekend. We quickly discovered that our dreams of staying a night in a real hotel bed were not going to come true. Every hotel was booked solid, up and down Moab's main strip.
Hungry and tired, we were ignored by a rude young woman behind the desk Slickrock RV Park (don't go there!), and ended up at the friendly Portal RV Park next door. Despite the "no vacancy" sign on Portal RV's door, we found that they were happy to let us "dry camp" out in their field. You mean we can use your showers, your free WiFi and camp way out in a big field away from everyone else... and it's cheaper? Uh, we'll take that, please! After some hot luxurious showers, we were off to Moab Brewery for pub food and beers.
The following day we headed off to explore Arches National Park. A new visitor center had opened only a few weeks earlier, so we checked it out for a while, learning about erosion timelines and feeling with our hands samples of the various types of rock layers.
Hungry again, we drove up to Double Arch to make lunch. As we ate and wandered through the crowds of tourists, exploring the various arches in the area, the wind started picking up, and we could see that a storm was heading towards us.
We then headed north to the Devil's Garden Trailhead at the end of the paved park road. Laura had read about an interesting hike beyond Landscape Arch that was described as a "primitive", but we were uncertain as to whether we'd have the time to complete it before dark (or rain).
As we approached the Landscape Arch, a man hiking back from the arch whispered excitedly to us that there were some mule deer near the arch. Woo. Excitement. Deer. Well, we arrived at the viewpoint, and sure enough, there were three deer up near the arch, a considerable distance from us. A mother and a couple little ones. Every once in awhile, one of the deer would make an odd bleating sound. A family of four (humans) soon joined us, and were thrilled by these deer. The human dad pulled out his camera sporting an enormous telephoto lens, and the mother had a digital camera that emitted loud electronic chirps as she took photo after photo. Then, something set the mother deer off (the chirps? The human children?) and she turned in our direction and began loudly screaming with her ears raised, and ran with her fawns downhill towards us. Uncertain as to what was going to happen next (a charging deer!?), we watched and waited. I think the mother deer thought it had an opportunity to be on the cover of National Geographic, seeing the guy and his fancy camera and decided to take her big chance while she had it. Next thing we knew, the deer were within petting distance, quiet again, coyly eating branches and batting their long eyelashes. After a few minutes of watching them (and the human family shooting thousands of deer photos) we left to continue on our hike.
As we headed north, we were treated to a stunning scene. As sunset approached, the stormy weather was gathering all around us — dark clouds, lightening off in the distance and little bit of rain. The red rock contrasted beautifully with the dark clouds and the eerie lighting. Following a cairn-marked trail over the slickrock, we were led up onto a long rock "fin". Now looking over this less traveled part of the park, we could see out onto rows and rows of other fins - a gorgeous sight!
At Double O Arch, we clambered down into the fins, onto the "primitive trail", following cairn after cairn. We wished we had more time to explore, but we were unprepared for darkness and so sped over fins, into washes, and back up again. A stunning hike! When we came out of the fin area, the thunderclouds pulled around us and started pouring rain as we got into the car. We couldn't have had better timing!
We returned for another night at Portal RV Park, and we had a yummy Mexican dinner at Fiesta Mexicana. Before heading in, we were very lucky to notice the Moab liquor store next door. It was 9:00 Saturday night, and with liquor stores closed on Sundays, and it happened to be a holiday the day after that, we would have been out of luck with our wine resupply if we hadn't stumbled into this store!