Arches National Park
Cathedrals of Geological History
After an amazing weekend in Mesa Verde National Park, we hitched Camelia to the 4Runner (aka Emilio) and started the short 2 hour drive to Moab, the gateway city to the iconic red rock formations in Arches National Park. Our jaws completely dropped as we were driving up highway US-191 and started to see the monumental red rocks in Spanish Valley and around Moab. Having never seen landscapes like these, felt like we were in a different planet. Upon arrival at the Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground, we embarrassed ourselves trying to back into an RV site for the fist time and failed miserably in front of a large family gathering throwing a bbq, until one of them saved us from misery and took the wheel to back into our slot. We eventually became experts at these types of trailer maneuvers.
Since we arrived on a Sunday late afternoon, we used our free time throughout the week after work hours to check out the city and and small nearby outdoor attractions before checking out the park on Saturday. Moab is a beautiful small city of roughly 5,300 people that resembles the town from an old western movie, but with lots of gift shops, local coffee shops, mural art, and plenty of outdoor gear and equipment stores. For several days, we’d log off from work and take our bikes to ride around downtown with our masks on to be as safe as possible during pandemic times. Other days we would take the short .5 mile ride over to the Moab Bridge boat launch to take a dip or a paddle on the Colorado River. Taking out my Paddleboard there was an amazing experience, surrounded by giant red rock formations on both sides of the river. While many people paddle here, it does have a bit of a current so make sure you do it carefully and have your paddleboard tied to your ankle if you decide to do this. You can experience the same scenery on a nice run or bike ride along the Lions Park Bike Path toward the Goose Island Campground.
Arches National Park
Its really hard to describe and express the monumental beauty of this park with words, photos, or videos, but I’ll give it a try. Only 4 miles north of Moab, Arches National Park earns our label “festival of perfection,” due to its 2,000 + natural sandstone arches and other majestic geological formations. Not surprisingly, this park has the highest density of natural arches in the world. As you stroll through the park with your jaw on the ground, you may ask yourself how the heck those gigantic rock arches formed. According to the Utah Geological Survey and several layman-termed Youtube videos I watched, these arches formed through a 300 million year process that involved a layer of sandstone bedrock forming over a thick salt bed. Later on, this sandstone layer cracked due to tectonic plate movements and allowed water to flow through and dissolve much of the salt underneath, causing the bedrock to collapse and erode into thin sandstone walls called fins. Over the last 65 million years, water has melted and frozen on cracks in the middle of these fins multiple times, creating holes in them and turning them into arches.
We strongly recommend spending at least 2 full days to explore the park. Alejandro Ramirez and I only had Saturday to check it out before making our way to Yellowstone and thus had to skip a few iconic spots. Among the ones we saw, the following stood out:
Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trailhead: Beautiful trail surrounded my majestic thin walls (or “fins”) that might someday become arches (see image on the very top with title).
Double Arch: Gigantic set of connected arches creating a cathedral of geological history.
Delicate Arch: This is probably the most famous arch you see in most photos and adds. We saw this thin and grand single arch from the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint. However, if you have time, you should definitely do the longer 3-mile/2hour hike to get to the actual arch!
Sand Dune Arch: Probably my favorite site at the park, this arch is located inside a narrow red rock wall wonderland full of fine sand. You can go past the arch and climb over a few boulders to explore more of this beauty.
Pine Tree Arch: Located in the northern edge of the park, this is the last site we saw when it was completely dark. The silhouette of the arch was made visible by the bright stars around it. Never before have I seen such amazing view of the stars, so make sure you bring your “cucha summoner” (head lamp) and stay late enough for some epic star gazing.
Landscape Arch: The longest arch in the world. Unfortunately we did not make it to this one, but will be checking it out next time!
Moonflower Canyon: Closer to Moab and not in the park, we discovered this amazing site through word of mouth from a local dude we met in town. Worth checking it out!
You can find all of these in this official NPS map!
RV/Van Camping Near the Arches National Park
After doing some research on nearby campsite, we chose the Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground as Camelia’s home due to its good reviews, proximity to town and the park, and easy access to the Colorado River’s Lions Park. On top of that, this site offers multiple amenities like regular Wifi (fast Wifi for little additional cost was needed for my conference calls), clean bathroom facilities, a swimming pool, dish washing stations, and laundry. This site also houses multiple cabins, and sites to pitch a tent. Our experience there was great; the staff were very friendly and the costs were reasonable at $35 per night for one of their smaller back-in partial hookup sites (if I remember the cost correctly). If you want to be in a more secluded spot closer to nature and don’t need Wifi/phone signal, or access and amenities like showers and laundry, you should stay at a Goose Island BLM site on the river and right by Moab, or the Devils Garden Campground right inside the park. If it wasn’t for work, we would have probably picked one of those.
On our first Moab afternoon, we went down for a swim at the Moab Bridge boat launch. There we saw a shirtless 65 year old man with white long hair chilling on the side of the river while pulling BPR beers out of his aluminum canoe. A short and casual conversation with him rapidly turned into an hour-long hangout listening to his adventures canoeing 120 miles of the Colorado River while drinking his canoe-PBRs. We were so amazed by his stories that we asked to interview him the following day. He agreed to do it with the condition that we sent the video to a woman from Oklahoma he had a crush on. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get this woman’s (or even his) contact information as he always changed topics on us when we asked for it. The next day we came back to find him in the same spot, where he had been camping for a few days before he continued on his long canoe journey. By the name of Bob Phillips, he was a retired scientist at FEMA who had been engaging in long outdoor adventures for about a year after loosing his wife to cancer. In the interview, he shared this fascinating story that we shortened into a 15 minute video (out of 60 minutes of footage), and which touches on the subjects of death, grief, outdoor adventures, spirituality, religion, faith, and some displays of his hilarious sense of humor.
This park was a great site for musical creativity. While hiking around Sand Dune Arch, we came up with the music and some of the lyrics of one of our favorite Camelia Comets productions called “Reloj de Arena.” This one was later finished in Yellowstone, but we have yet to film its most recent version. We also filmed the below cover of Jarabe de Palo’s “Agua.”