Get­aways

Don your cow­boy hat and head to Moab, Utah, for ad­ven­tures John Wayne-style

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY ROBERTA SOTONOFF

Head Out West

Gaz­ing down from the over­looks of Utah’s rugged ter­rain, it seems as if a gi­ant knife cut out chunks of rock to form rivers and ser­rat­ed­edged canyons. The odd stone for­ma­tions and arches that stretch for miles are tinged in orangey red. One can’t help but won­der: How could such nat­u­ral beauty have been cre­ated? The ar­chi­tects were the sand, wa­ter and wind.

Lo­cated in the south­east cor­ner of Utah, Moab may be small with a pop­u­la­tion of only 9,000, but sur­round­ing this tiny town are na­tional and state parks, where ad­ven­ture seek­ers find rock climb­ing and river raft­ing, hik­ing and moun­tain bik­ing. Those with a pen­chant for ex­treme thrills head to the dar­ing jeep trails, like Hell’s Re­venge, with its 90-de­gree slopes. And if you just want to re­lax, a sight­see­ing drive will leave you gap­ing at the stun­ning for­ma­tions as you scour the land­scape for bighorn sheep. South­ern Cal­i­for­nia visi­tor La­nee Lee sums up her visit to this part of the coun­try: “Moab, with its sci-fi rock sculp­tures and red dirt play­ground, is like the Dis­ney­land of the out­doors.”

Cany­on­lands Na­tional Park

Deep, re­ally deep, canyons are the at­trac­tion at Cany­on­lands Na­tional Park. Your first stop should be the Is­land in the Sky, a 1,000- foot mesa with a grand view­ing pull­out, from which a panorama of red rock pin­na­cles and flat­lands in­ter­rupted by jagged-edge canyons mes­mer­izes vis­i­tors. “Peo­ple like this more than the Grand Canyon be­cause it is small enough to get your head around it,” says Mar­ian De­Lay, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Moab Area Travel Coun­cil.

For hik­ers, the most pic­turesque trail (½ 1/2- mile round trip) is to Mesa Arch. Sit­ting on the edge of a cliff, the low arch stretches about 50 feet. At sun­rise, flashes of light ap­pear, turn­ing the cres­cent-shaped rock a shim­mer­ing, golden red. A breath­tak­ing scene, the ar­ray of pin­na­cles and buttes in the blaz­ing, morn­ing sky is the re­ward for ear­lier ris­ers. “Sit­ting un­der the Mesa Arch in the Is­land of the Sky Dis­trict and look­ing out at the strange and won­der­ful

rockscape is noth­ing short of a re­li­gious ex­pe­ri­ence,” De­Lay elab­o­rates.

Sand Flats Recreation Area

Dare­dev­ils head to the Sand Flats Recreation Area, home to the Hell’s Re­venge Trail—a roller coaster ex­pe­ri­ence that’s more a thrill ride than a leisurely scenic out­ing. The best way to do Hell’s Re­venge is in a Hum­mer with a guide and driver who can safely nav­i­gate around the sand flats, over bumpy roads and through canyons. They have a wealth of in­for­ma­tion to share about the area’s plants and ge­ol­ogy, in­clud­ing di­nosaur tracks, and are al­ways forth­com­ing with tips. “Never drive on an an­gle un­less you know what you are do­ing and even then you should ques­tion your­self,” says guide/ driver Eric Thomp­son about the chal­lenges, like rock ledges and steep climbs that mo­torists face on this trail. Even though he likes to rev the en­gine when tak­ing the sharp curves, al­most as if he were a teenager, he preaches safety first.

Rather than fly­ing up rugged crags in a Hum­mer, many folks pre­fer check­ing out the mem­o­ra­bilia at the movie mu­seum

SIT­TING UN­DER THE MESA ARCH IN THE IS­LAND OF THE SKY DIS­TRICT AND LOOK­ING OUT AT THE STRANGE AND WON­DER­FUL ROCKSCAPE IS NOTH­ING SHORT OF A RE­LI­GIOUS EX­PE­RI­ENCE.

—MAR­IAN DE­LAY, EX­EC­U­TIVE DI­REC­TOR OF THE MOAB AREA TRAVEL COUN­CIL

tucked in the Red Cliffs Lodge, lo­cated out­side the park. Years ago film­mak­ers dis­cov­ered the Moab area, which has been used as a back­drop for many movies, in­clud­ing John Carter, 127 Hours, Star Trek, Stage­coach and City Slick­ers. John Wayne came here so of­ten to film West­erns, the Apache Ho­tel’s Room 20 be­came his Moab home. And re­mem­ber, the Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble ghost pro­to­col scene when Tom Cruise was T-boned (tied to the side of a canyon wall) and when Su­san Saran­don drove over the Grand Canyon in Thelma and Louise? Those scenes were shot in the area.

Dead Horse Point State Park

This park got its name from the wild mus­tangs that once roamed the mesa. Le­gend has it that around the turn of the 20th cen­tury, cow­boys used to cor­ral them on the neck of the point. One time, they left the horses there. The mus­tangs died of thirst, which was ironic be­cause 2,000 feet be­low, the mighty Colorado River slith­ers like a gi­ant snake around sculp­tured, laven­der and pink bluffs. No doubt the park was named Dead Horse Point State Park af­ter the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent.

Views of the river, where raft­ing is a fa­vorite pas­time, are rea­son enough to visit this park. You can book a raft­ing trip with out­fit­ters in Moab.

Arches Na­tional Park

Some 2,000 arches stand tall in Arches Na­tional Park. Rock con­fig­u­ra­tions re­sem­ble win­dows, a pa­rade of ele­phants and even peo­ple, such as the Three Gos­sips for­ma­tion that looks like three talk­ing heads. Bal­anced Rock ap­pears as if some gi­ant lifted up a boul­der and su­per-glued it atop a hoodoo

(odd-shaped rock left by ero­sion). How­ever, most peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with the iconic Del­i­cate Arch, shaped so that it frames the scenic canyons be­yond.

The hike to Del­i­cate Arch, even for non­hik­ers, is worth the grunt. Take wa­ter and a jacket be­fore start­ing out on the three-mile, round-trip jour­ney to the park’s su­per­star. Weather can quickly change from very hot to chilly, and winds are some­times wicked. The trail starts at Wolfe Ranch, now just an old shack. Pet­ro­glyphs, bighorn sheep rock art, dec­o­rate the walls just ahead. The hike con­tin­ues over smooth rock as it as­cends 480 feet. You’ll find your­self huff­ing and puff­ing your way up the steeper climbs, but the sur­round­ing beauty makes it all worth­while. The winds blow stronger near the top. Then, af­ter round­ing a cor­ner, the 287-foot-high Del­i­cate Arch looms. Height, soli­tary stance and the way it frames the La Sal Moun­tains makes on­look­ers just stop in their tracks. “Due to its im­mense size and stun­ning beauty, when you see the Del­i­cate Arch for the first time, ex­pect to gasp or gig­gle—or both,” says De­Lay.

Most vis­i­tors only spend about two days in Moab; how­ever a five-day trip is rec­om­mended if you plan to ex­plore the area’s dif­fer­ent parks. Each day in the Moab area be­comes more amaz­ing.

For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact: Moab Area Travel Coun­cil, 800- 635- 6622, dis­cover moab.com. A travel junkie, Roberta Sotonoff writes to sup­port her habit. Her work has been pub­lished in more than 80 do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines, Web sites and guides.

MOAB, WITH ITS SCI-FI ROCK SCULP­TURES AND RED DIRT PLAY­GROUND, IS LIKE THE DIS­NEY­LAND OF THE OUT­DOORS.

De­posits of sed­i­ments by oceans, lakes, streams and wind-blown sand dunes over mil­lions of years have cre­ated the lay­ers of rock in Dead Horse Point State Park.

Sun­set-gaz­ing look­out points in Cany­on­lands Na­tional Park, just out­side Moab, are eas­ily reached by car via scenic paved roads or by foot on hik­ing trails.

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From top: Sand Flats Recreation Area boasts al­most 40 miles of jeep trails; with a lit­tle imag­i­na­tion you can see why this rock for­ma­tion in Arches Na­tional Park is called a pa­rade of ele­phants.

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