Category Archives: vehicles

Moab- An Active Destination

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Some trips are restful, while others are more active.  There are some destinations that lend themselves to more restful trips; cottages in the woods near quaint towns, tropical beaches, and resorts.  Moab, is a place where it is nearly impossible to imagine anything other than an active itinerary, with a variety of activities, and a lot of places to see.  Situated in East Central Utah, several hours from the nearest major city, this popular tourist destination is surrounded by too much natural beauty to picture anyone coming here and spending large amounts of time sitting in one place.

First of all, Moab is surrounded by two National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands.

Both National Parks are, as National Parks tend to be, filled with tons of natural beauty and unique places.  At both National Parks, while it is possible to see a lot of interesting natural features without straying too far from the road, the best features at both parks require hiking.

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Getting to the signature feature of Arches National Park, Delicate Arch, requires a 1.5 mile hike from the Delicate Arch Trailhead.  Interestingly enough, this trail starts near the historic Wolfe Ranch, and traverses by some other unique features including some Ute Indian Rock art.

It is also quite difficult to imagine making a trip to Arches National Park and not viewing some of the other arches (Yes, it’s Arches National Park, not Arch National Park).  There is a section of the park known as Devil’s Garden, with somewhat of a network of trails taking visitors to all kinds of other arches.

The most famous of these arches is Landscape Arch, a long and wide arch whose name provides a clear recommendation as to how to orient any photograph of this particular feature (for those familiar with landscape vs. portrait  ).

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To get to most of the remaining arches requires a bit of a steep climb, which starts pretty much right after Landscape Arch.

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The hiking in the entire Moab area, not just at Arches National Park, is considerably different from the typical hiking experience.  Much of the hiking I’ve experienced, is on trails covered in dirt, gravel, and sometimes small to medium sized rocks at places such as the top of Quandry Peak.  All around Moab, I found myself on surfaces such as this one, on top of solid rock, sometimes for nearly the entire duration of the trail.  Traversing these trails required me to use my upper body more, and even do a little bit of jumping, from one rock to another.

At the top of this Mesa, there are arches with multiple partitions, arches people can hike under, and even one arch with an opening that lends itself to laying inside it to soak up the sun, the surroundings, and the experience!

The entire loop, including all the side trips in the trail network, is a total of 7.2 miles.  So, if a visitor desires to see all of these features, as well as Delicate Arch, a total of 10.2 miles of hiking is required.

And some people decide to add even more activities to their day.  In a shaded off-shoot of the Devil’s Garden Trail, I witnessed a sizable group of people playing a game of Frisbee, using the walls of this tiny canyon to make trick shots.

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Since immersing oneself in the here and now, and contributing to the local culture of a place creates a more enriching travel experience, I decided to play my part.

First, I decided to bring my own arches into the park..

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Disclaimer: I did properly dispose of that cup

Then, when the opportunity presented itself, I decided it was time that we started making our own arches, contributing to the park’s plethora of natural beauty.

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Canyonlands National Park is even bigger than Arches, broken up into three sections by the Colorado and Green rivers, whose confluence is right in the center of the park.  Without any bridges connecting over either river, and with the entrances to each section over an hour apart, it is all but impossible to visit more than one section in a day.

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The most common image of Canyonlands National Park is an almost Grand Canyon-like overlook into a deep river valley, sometimes with one of the two isolated mountain ranges in the background.  However, at the scenic overlooks in the parks’ Island In The Sky region, it is actually quite difficult to see the rivers themselves.  The canyons that make up Canyonlands National Park are quite expansive, with multiple tiers.  To see these canyons from the best vantage points requires a bit of hiking.  The hike to the Confluence Overlook (an overlook of the confluence between the Green and Colorado Rivers) is 10 miles round trip, something that could require the better part of a day!

Canyons are not the only interesting feature to Canyonlands National Park.  Being only roughly 20 miles away from Arches (as the crow flies), Canyonlands has some arches of its’ own.  The most interesting one is an arch called Mesa Arch, where one can see both the peaks of the nearby La Sal Mountain range, and actually another arch by looking through the arch at the right angle!

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And some features are random, like Upheaval Dome.

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Scientists still do not know whether or not this particular salt deposit is a remanat of a meteorite that would have theoretically collided with the earth roughly 20 million years ago.

The two National Parks are not even close to all that Moab has to offer, all of which is “active” in one way or another.  Dead Horse Point State Park, located between the two National Parks, is a place where one can hike to one of Moab’s most picturesque locations: Goose Neck.

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The entire region, regardless of what any spot is named, or whether it contains a state or federal distinction, is rich with abundant natural beauty, and places to hike, bike, jeep, climb, or even just explore.

Anyone driving into Moab from the East (from Colorado), would be well advised to take the additional time it takes to follow the windy State Highway 128 through Professor Valley, essentially following the Colorado River into town.

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We set up camp at a place called Hunter Canyon.

Twenty minutes from town, Hunter Canyon is a place where each part of the day, from sunrise to sunset, lights up a different rock formation.  It felt almost as if nature was putting on a show, with lighting, stage props, and characters coming on and off the stage for different scenes.

I also saw bike trails nearly everywhere I went.  Moab is known as a mecca for mountain biking, an activity we did not get around to (is is… really… impossible to do EVERYTHING in Moab without something like two weeks).  But, with trails like these, Moab is also a phenomenal place for road biking.

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And, everywhere I went red rock formations, each one distinct from the next, would pop up, in and out of view.

It was next to impossible not to imagine these rock formations as something else.  While driving around, I would often point out to the rest of the group what each individual rock formation looked like, or what I perceived it to look like.  Some, I said looked like specific animals, some looked like people, others, still, looked like various specific objects, such as hammers, cooking utensils, or even a turkey wishbone (by the way, the following image is an arch, residing in neither National Park, they really are everywhere)!

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And, what amazed me was how often others in my group would actually see the exact same thing when they look at a rock formation and say, yes, I also saw an octopus.  This means that either my imagination is quite accurate, or, I have managed to surround myself only with similar minded people.  Both are very much a possibility!

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But, the analogy I came to in my head most frequently, throughout the trip, is between the rock formations and the ruins of an ancient city.  Every time I saw a structure such as this one, I would imagine what is would be like if, for some unknown reason, there actually was a civilization here, many thousands of years ago.  And each one of these rock formation was actually the remnant of an ancient skyscraper, or even a larger building like Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, weathered down by thousands of years of natural erosion.  I imagined what this ancient city would have been like, in an Atlantis-like scene that would play through my mind.

Since Samantha Brown’s presentation at last month’s Travel and Adventure Show, I had been trying to live in the here and now, and experience the current culture of a place, as she had advised.

For me, this included another new activity (for me)- Jeeping!

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And, I got to experience some crazy roads and some crazy places.

But, as I find in many of my travels, there is no way to truly avoid thinking about the past, and imagining another setting.  A video at the Canyonlands Visitors Center explained the actual process in which these rocks came to be formed, which took place over the course of 200 million years, back to a time when much of Utah and Colorado were near sea level, with some sections underwater and others above.  In fact, that is part of the reason why there is so much small scale variance in the color of the rocks throughout this region.

Everywhere I went, everywhere I looked, there were echoes of the past, both real and imaginary, and both ancient and more recent.

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The experience of visiting Moab for a long weekend is as jam-packed as I have made this aritcle.  Around every corner, something new, something exciting, and something unique.  While there are some travel destinations, like Miami, one can make as active or as restful as they would desire, Moab is one destination that requires one to be active, at least in some way, to truly experience.  To come to Moab, and not wander, not explore, not do a little bit of hiking, biking, or jeeping, one would miss out on so much of what is around every corner in this region.

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to a Travel Partner

This week, it is with great sadness that I say goodbye to a travel partner that has been with me for over a decade; my 1997 Chevrolet Malibu.  After showing signs of weakness for several years, it’s performance just recently started declining rapidly, to the point where it can no longer be driven with any degree of confidence.  At its age, it would be quite difficult to justify spending any more money on repairs.  After holding on to this vehicle, potentially longer than I should have, it is finally time to say goodbye, and time to move on.

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To some people, a car is just a car.  It is just simply a tool for one to get from place to place, just like any of the other pieces of machinery they own.  Obviously, those that lease new cars every three years do not get attached to their vehicles, preferring to always have the latest in technology.  And, there is no clear reason to have any kind of emotional attachment to a mechanical object with no thoughts or emotions of its own.

However, as someone who loves to travel (and is addicted to being in motion), I cannot help but be extremely sad to know that I have taken my last drive inside this vehicle.  The feeling of being inside this car, and being behind the wheel is one that I had become so accustomed to, it almost felt like second nature.  For some time, it felt like a place I really belonged, and there was definitely a year or two in there when I felt more at home inside this car than the places where I actually lived.

When I purchased this vehicle, I was still in college, and longing for the independence associated with having a car of my own that I can drive at will, at any time I wish, and to any place I wish.  Like any guy that has not turned 21 yet (and even many who have), I thought that having my own car would make me more interesting, more popular, and more desirable.  I had somehow thought that having my own car would help fill one of the missing pieces of my life.

The year before I bought my own car, I had been using many different cars to get places.  Some belonged to family members, some belonged to friends at college.  But, all were different.  None were mine.  I did not really become particularly accustomed to the specific dimensions, specific quirks, and optimal use of any of those vehicles.  That, of course, changed when I bought my first car.  It was my first major purchase as a young adult.  For the first time in my life, I could call something major my own!

In a way, the story of my first car is the story of my own coming of age.  However, coming of age also means a fairly rapid rate of change and significant turmoil.  Most young adults experience a significant amount of turmoil in their lives as they go through college, start their careers, try to establish themselves as adults, and determine kind of person they were destined to be.

My vehicle saw me through the transition to graduate school, several career related disappointments (or setbacks), numerous relationship related fumbles, lots of really crazy travel, lots of adventures, and even some lewd behaviors I am not proud of.  It was also the setting of some of the more significant discussions I had with trusted friends, in which we would attempt to navigate some of the situations that puzzle young adults, and ponder our futures as they were unfolding in front of us.

Traveling not only provides adventures, stories, places to be, things to do, and ways in which to see the people I care about, and take part in activities I love, but it also provides an outlet.  Often when I feel frustrated, disappointed, or short-changed by life, I just need to go somewhere, get a change of scenery, and get a fresh perspective.  I did a significant amount of traveling well before I decided to start writing this blog, and took some major road trips.  In a way, I did exactly as the commercials at the time told me, I saw the U.S.A. in my Chevrolet.

I knew this day would eventually come.  In fact, it came significantly later than I had expected.  Over the years, I became increasingly interested in bicycling, and subsequently moved to the City of Chicago, where significantly less miles are driven in day-to-day life.  So, despite my car being 17 years old, it reached 150,000 miles only a few months ago (now at 151K).

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Still, as I struggled to get this car started for it’s last spin, I felt a sadness that was tough to explain.  I’d look at the car, and think of all of these memories, all that I had done, all that I had gone through, and how my years of coming of age shaped me into who I am, for better or for worse.

Life should never stop being an adventure.  I shared many of my adventures in the Midwest with my Mailbu.  There was no better car for all of those nights cruising on Dundee Road, those days passing people on the right on the Chicago Skyway, racing down I-65, or looking for tornadoes in Iowa.  Now that I live in Colorado, I am having completely different kinds of adventures.  And, although I am sad to have lost a travel partner that suited me well for a long time, I have been provided with an opportunity to find a new travel partner that is quite suited for the adventures I am destined to have in this part of the world.

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This morning I purchased a brand new Mazda CX-5, which may just be my travel partner for the next decade to come (or more).  With high clearance and all wheel drive, it is well suited for the State of Colorado.  With a little more pep to the engine than many of the other vehicles in it’s class, it also suits who I am.

Maybe these vehicles are just simply vehicles, inanimate objects built by humans.  Or maybe I had a loyal travel companion that selflessly determined that it had become time to step aside for another- one that suits where I now am a bit better.