Treasures of the Southwest: Part 2.
- **Moab…..town of red cliffs and Arches National Park.
- **The best hiking trail near Moab.
- **Needles Overlook, plus golden eagle, plus arrowhead.
IT WAS LATE IN THE DAY WHEN I ARRIVED IN MOAB. Near the south-eastern border of Utah with Colorado, Moab was named by Mormon settlers in the 1800s. The biblical Moab was a verdant valley set in the middle of a severe desert…..like an emerald in the sand. Mid-summer in the red-rock desert, and with a temperature of 93F at 3 pm, I anticipated an empty town. Wrong! Moab was inundated by tourists from Europe, Japan, China, and even Brazil.
I have hiked in Arches National Park more than six times, but never tire of the fins and arches and bluffs of the Entrada sandstone formation, laid down about 200 million years ago. At the entrance you drive along a huge fault that uplifted the rock layers on your left a half mile higher than the layers on your right. This is the infamous Moab Fault. I hope it doesn’t slip any further while I’m driving on it, because the resulting earthquake could be totally destructive.
IN THE COOL OF THE AFTERNOON, AT 5 PM AND 91F, I took off on the trail to the Double-O arch. Setting a good pace to test out my arthritic hip, I bypassed lots of young 50- and 60-year olds.
I’m not too proud to admit there was some bum-sliding in a few places, consistent with the “Primitive trail” warning posted. However, as the sun drifted lower, my joy rose higher. As my friend Don says, you can find joy anywhere (its an internal state) — you just have to release it. I had been praying a lot for my step-daughter Staci, and spontaneous praise came up from my spirit…..praise to God who created the heavens and the earth and Arches National Park!
Darkness fell as I returned, and headed for the Moab Brewery, where they served the best black-bean soup followed by smoked-salmon salad that I’ve ever had.
NEXT MORNING IT WAS PROPERLY COOL: ABOUT 65F, so I drove 22 miles to a place called Needles Overlook. I knew what the Needles were: spires of sandstone jutting up in all shapes and sizes, like an army of marching men. These Needles are located in Canyonlands National Park…..another desert beauty.
The view at the Overlook rivaled the Grand Canyon. You can see for 30 miles at least. And the structures…..I was perched on great cliffs of Wingate sandstone that fell away 1000 feet, to colorful ribbons and spires of shale and sandstone which stretched all the way to the Colorado river. And this mighty river had cut its own super-canyon by relentlessly grinding away the rock for 5 million years.
The silence was deafening, since I owned the Overlook for 30 minutes before other cars pulled in. Reluctantly I said goodbye to this special location of joy and peace. On the drive back I stopped to walk up to a couple of caves in a sandstone bluff. But no petroglyphs! I was disappointed until I looked closer at the trail, and discovered several flinty “scrapers” which the Anasazi people used to scrape clean the hides of animals they had speared. And speaking of spears, I found two flint arrowheads which were carved by a flint-knapper maybe 700 years ago, although the tip of one was missing. Over the years I have uncovered lots of pottery shards of this vintage, but never an arrowhead.
BACK IN THE CAR, I ROUNDED A BEND AND SAW A GOLDEN EAGLE right next to the road, chewing on a rabbit. I was traveling too fast to stop, but stored the impressive image in my brain. The bird is similar to a wedge-tailed eagle in Australia. Only the second one I have ever seen in the USA – in the wild.
On the way home, about 40 miles down the road lies the tiny town of Monticello, and the Peace-Tree café, a health-food place. I ordered a chocolate goddess smoothie, which contained almond milk, cacao, carob powder, avocado, strawberries, hemp seed, and honey. Magnifique! There is a Peace-Tree café in Moab too.
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THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO STACI CLUBINE, who is as strong and resilient as the red rocks of Moab. In fact she once hiked the Arches trail called the Fiery Furnace, when she had a bad knee, but she never gave up. Staci, we pray that your light will break forth, and your healing will quickly appear, as we appropriate for you what the great prophet Isaiah wrote 2,500 years ago (see below).
The Gray Nomad
Probing the practices of Christian faith
PS: to read Treasures of the Southwest: Part 1, click here.
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. [Book of Isaiah, chapter 58].
Thank you Ian for your beautiful photos and descriptions of an amazing part of the world. Each of your hiking blogs is a ‘visit’ to another National Park that inspires joy and inspiration. You have amazing national parks in America. ..would be a good reason to live there….how many are there and how many have you hiked in? PS:I would love to eat black bean soup and wild salmon salad as well.
Lyn, there are 58 National Parks in the USA. I have maybe been to 15-20 of these, although I haven’t done a count. California has the most (nine), followed by Alaska (eight), Utah (five), and Colorado (four). Living in New Mexico gives me quick access to Utah and Colorado, which are neighboring states.
Good to see this! I will soon be in Arizona for 10 days and then Utah for 10 days with my youngest daughter Lyndall. Moab is on the list. She wants to mountain bike, I want to hike. Any suggestions welcome. We intend to visit The Arches, Bryce and Zion NPs, also Monument Valley and the Painted Desert. Can’t wait!
Bev, your list of parks in Utah and Arizona is marvelous. I never tried mountain biking, but always wanted to. There are terrific biking trails around Moab. There are also super hiking trails around Moab, not all in the National Parks. Ask at the Travel Center for a brochure with trail maps when you get there. One I remember is the Crack Trail in Canyonlands South (which in my opinion is a better park than the other Canyonlands to the north). In Arches, the Fiery Furnace is the most interesting hike (a guided hike) but books up fast (suggest you call ahead). Klondike hike in Arches was special to me since it’s remote. Delicate arch hike is the most popular and shouldn’t be missed.
Thanks again for a perfectly outstanding blog, that inspires in me the appreciation for our beautiful earth and the wonderful gift it is from God, our Heavenly Father. As always you make me want to get on my hiking boots and hit the trail. Arches NP is for me an all-inspiring place of peace, serenity and beauty. Thanks for your painting the landscape in words and pictures for our enjoyment. Keep up the good work and keep us posted on your travels.
Thanks Don for your feedback…..always encouraging to me. The word you used “Inspiring” captures the essence of Arches. To some folks the desert is hostile, but this has never been the case for me (perhaps because I’m from Australia, where half the country is desert). And like you, I see the hand of God everywhere in Arches.
I think this blog article has the most awesome scenery of all. Those formations and their shapes, colors, the remoteness of their locations are most beautiful and enjoyable. I’d like to go to some of those places one of these days. I remember as a kid, traveling Route 66 every year with my parents, I would spend much of my time glued to the side windows seeing what I could see from the highway off in the distance and thinking; what’s it like to wander out there, to climb those rocks, to dig in the sandy and in the red soil, to see the variety of plant and animal and insect life, to know who lives in the few small dwellings that sometimes appear and know what their life is like. Also, by chance you mentioning Monticello brought back remembrance of a Morman friend I had in California way back. Remembering that he was from there and last I knew of him, he drove to the post office in Sacramento, and while his wife went in the post office to mail something, he took off and no one knew where he was until years later he was said to be in Monticello. I think I will do a search for him, now that I remember something about where he may be. Thanks for all your blog work. Its a good thing.