April 13, Thursday
It’s another travel day, goodbye Valley of the Gods! Before noon I’m passing through Bluff, UT, the cute little town that I’ve been utilizing for laundry and showers while in the area. If you get the chance, stop at the Twin Rocks Trading Post – neat scenery and the Navajo Taco at the cafe next door is quite good.
191 curves to the north and climbs in elevation. To the west, a group of peaks stand covered in snow. I stop in Monticello, UT at 7,000 feet to make lunch and have to put on a hoodie. It’s colder than it was when I left in the morning and the wind is strong.
Okay, have you ever felt that on driving days the wind is always blowing against you, no matter which direction you’re headed? It sure seems that way to me, and so I’m noting the wind here because it’s coming from the south, meaning it’s helping rather than hindering me. I just want this written reminder as proof to myself that the wind is not always out to thwart me! Alright, moving on…
Utah is so beautiful. The redrock sandstone formations continue to impress, I haven’t grown tired of them yet. As the turnoff for Canyonlands NP approaches, carved bluffs, pillars, and mounds become more numerous again. Construction forces 191 down to one lane and I’m stuck waiting for a while, but with scenery like this, who can complain?
Sometime after the construction ends, traffic starts increasing, and a large number of the vehicles are Jeeps.
I have friends who work at the KOA in Moab and they’ve managed to secure a site for me for two nights despite the huge Jeep Safari rally happening in town. It’s one of the big events of the year and most campgrounds, RV parks, and boondocking locations are completely packed with off-roaders.
There’s another Casita in the row ahead of me (a 2001 I find out from the owner), and a bunch of unique and rugged trailers meant to be towed into the backcountry. The rig next to the Casita is mostly open to the elements and carries gear, but the owners have put one of those pop-up roof tents on top of the trailer part to sleep in. I always thought those tents were pretty cool but they cost a lot of money.
There’s a lot of activity in the campground and in the evening conversation and grilling smells from multiple directions combine to make a unique tapestry of life. It seems a lot of these people know each other, or maybe it’s just a camaraderie forged from a common interest in Jeeping. I worry about what the noise level will be like overnight, but it’s surprisingly quiet both nights, and I sleep just fine.
April 15, Saturday
Back to the boonies! I continue north on 191 out of Moab past the entrance for Arches National Park. Near Canyonlands Field Airport is the turnoff for Klondike Bluffs road.
Remember last post how I mentioned that the dirt road in Monument Valley was rougher than any road I’d camped down? Well, Klondike Bluffs gives that road a run for it’s money.
There’s little wash-boarding and no ruts, but a whole lot of bumps and dips. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have come down it to camp if I hadn’t been enticed by the company of Kelly and Marshall, who assured me it was less crowded than other boondocks closer to Moab (I think I can see why given the road quality). Four and a half miles (and 40 minutes) later I arrive at their camp, and because I went at a snail’s pace the Casita is still in good working order.
The mountains in the distance to the southeast are nice and a bit of Arches NP is visible from this site (including an arch, but with rock behind it and at a distance of a couple miles it’s not obvious), but the more immediate surroundings… well they’re not bad, but it’s not like Valley of the Gods.
The real beauty of this camp can be seen when you walk up a side road towards the park. A couple hours after I arrive, a Jeep tour comes past camp on the road.
Later in the evening, the three of us take a walk with Kelly’s dogs in tow. Maybe half a mile in you get this view of the park, I’m looking forward to having this in my extended backyard:
Kelly sets up her phone to catch pictures of us jumping on the ledge, like the goof-balls we are.
April 16, Sunday
Today, we’re hiking to that arch that’s visible from camp. It’s called Tower Arch and we’re estimating it’ll be six miles round-trip out and back, but it’s hard to say for sure because there isn’t a trail that leads all the way there from where we are. We start on the Jeep trail to the overlook from last night, and then cut across the slick-rock that looked like loaves of bread from above. There’s a lot of up and down.
Then we meet up with a 4×4 road inside the park that goes to the arch. We see a single Jeep on this road, and that’s the only people we see all day. This being the last day of the big Jeep event AND a free admission day for the park, this is a pretty incredible feat. It probably helps that Tower Arch is 22 miles from the park entrance – getting off the beaten path pays off.
At the arch, great fins of sandstone stand in rows. It’s clear that the arch formed when the innards of one of these fins collapsed. Behind the fins are pillars of rock with knobby hats. The site looked neat from a distance, but is much more impressive close up.
It’s big! There’s a sign from 2014 saying that there’s been rock fall activity at the arch and visitors are encouraged to keep a safe distance. So naturally we go right on in.
The lighting is not ideal right now with everything back-lit, but that means that turning around to get a picture through the arch looking back the way we came works quite well. Cas and Bertha appear as a speck of white in the distance, too small to show up at all in a photo. We sit under the arch and have a snack. Swallows chase each other around the rocky obstacle coarse, but otherwise it’s quiet. Another great day of adventure.
There’s another tiny arch nearby, and several other formations that we scope out. The Marching Men is the name given to a group of spires standing in a row, rather like the Three Sisters in Monument Valley. Also like at Monument Valley they’re back-lit and not very photo-worthy. The 4×4 road continues northeast back to the main road, but we need to retrace our route to get back to camp. We arrive back shortly after noon and at exactly six miles walked, along with something like 60 flights of stairs.
* * *
Other Articles You Might Enjoy
My first couple days back in the US, I’m sick. This doesn’t come as a surprise, it’s pretty common to catch a cold in an airport. But the timing leads me to believe that I probably caught this particular bug in one of the hostels in Costa Rica before flying. Either way, my first weekend…Read More
In the last week, I have added a whopping twenty miles to my hiking total for this season. For newcomers to IO, Yellowstone National Park puts on this little competition called the 100 mile Hiking Club. Employees have the summer season to hike 100 miles within the greater Yellowstone ecosystem (includes the national forests and…Read More
I arrive back to Cas Friday afternoon utterly exhausted, but deeply satisfied. My class at the Institute exceeded expectations, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain the program a little more. As everyone who’s been following me this summer already knows, I’m working as a sales associate for the Yellowstone Association (YA). The…Read More