Day Three on LoA Trip (Part Two) – Arches National Park – Canyonlands National Park

We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. —Native American proverb

Driving from Mesa Verde NP  

Day three was already full of adventuring. Ellie and I accomplished so much. Driving out of Durango, Colorado, which was a cool town. Our hike in Mesa Verde was productive, insomuch as giving me pause to reflect on the beauty before me. It gave me the perspective that an ancient civilization, ‘living their best lives’ to borrow some millennial verbiage, was preserved. It gave physicality to the concepts I had learned in school long ago. Pueblos, Anasazi, names I was already familiar with, and then to see their ancient society in front of me.   

Once Ellie and I left the park, with the trailer reconnected, I followed the directions on the phone to Destination: Arches National Park. I played the directions through the phone while finding a particular playlist to play. I would toggle between the playlist of individually added songs and the mixes I had done years prior. The music helps me get out of my head, most of the time, but in some cases, it gets me deeper into my head. So deep I must change it up to pull myself out of the thoughts.   

Leaving southwestern Colorado was enjoyable. Seeing the simple transition from trees, dark dirt to open spaces, high desert to red rocked formations. We drove into Utah around 1:00 p.m.’ish (Yes, Mountain Standard Time, when else?) I saw my first hive-looking formation in this high desert.   

One of the Bee Hive looking formations

The transition into fully bloomed red rocks was stark. It was as though if you blinked, took a cat nap, or sneezed too long, you would miss the very major change. And oddly enough, at this very moment, while compiling this days events, I am dealing with a solid source of déjà vu while watching a tv show, recalling the memories of this day. I am sitting here reveling in what happened over 5 weeks ago, and that just happens.  If only i had remembered what happened in the show from the genesis of the déjà vu…

The drive between the Colorado-Utah border to Moab

Back to the red rocks. They were everywhere. The soil was either red or had a red tinge. This is an oddity to a Midwesterner. Seeing the earth blanketed in the color red would normally indicate a mass murder may have transpired at these locations. It was gorgeous and inspiring.   

Beautiful red rock cliff from road

Enter Moab, Utah  

Ellie and I encountered Moab, Utah. Traffic was all kinds of fuckered up. Constructions, tourists, and regular people clogged all main arteries through the town. It’s the major pitstop before hitting the red-rocked parks. This town invites all types of enthusiasts. How can I say that without ever having been there? I am glad you didn’t ask that question, but I was able to on your behalf. Let me start another paragraph for that answer…  

Even before we entered the small ‘burb (of where, I have no fucking clue) of Moab, the signs all seemed to indicate open invites for people with all kinds of outdoorsy activities. Hiking, mountain biking, ATV’ing, off-roading, along with turning skin the same color as the rocks. Once Ellie and I hit the town, it was nothing short of exactly what those billboards purported. People hauling toy trailers, people with huge bike racks on their vehicles, people with stickers from all sorts of hiking parks.   

I was stunned by what I saw. I didn’t realize that Moab referred to a town. Then the puzzle pieces in my mind started coming together. The town was nothing more than an entry into the playground in Utah. I thought the place was an actual National Park. God, what an idiot I was. Well, lesson learned – and one I shan’t ever make again.   

Arches National Park  

We finally made it through the town. I didn’t see anything worthwhile for a visit, but introverts rarely do. Either businesses were closed or they were fully occupied, as the small parking lots suggested. There were so many people, just everywhere. This is precisely what I sought to escape. As soon as I could get through the reduced channels of bandwidth through the quaint town, we finally made it to Arches.   

I watched as the cliffs rose out of the earth, north of Moab. I determined before we got there, that it most likely was the park. Sure enough, we get there. Pull off the highway and into the little parking area next to the huge National Park sign, ‘cause Ellie gonna photobomb that shit.’  

Who’s that dapper doggie?

We grab the picture and then get into the rather lengthy line to get into the park. It’s a Thursday. It was warm outside. There were two lines, with well over 20 cars in each line. So many windows open, so much music freely filling the aural space, and so many out-of-state license plates, such as mine. I saw some other midwestern state license plates and hoped like hell they wouldn’t ask me to roll down my window so we could exchange the silly small talk conversations.  

Well, this was unexpected on the Thursday

We finally made it. Used my recently minted (or purchased, bare minimum) NPS (National Park Service) annual card. I showed it proudly, along with my driver’s license. Ellie barked at the staff member checking my credentials. Ellie let them know they were too close to our vehicle. I mean, the person was sitting in their chair very malevolently. Ellie is so in tune with this world and her domain. Essentially, EVERYONE IS A THREAT. That’s Ellie 101. You are welcome.   

I asked if having a trailer was ok in the park, we were recommended disconnecting it in the visitor parking lot, but otherwise, it was ok. We made the pitstop at the visitor center, found a parking spot next to a camper. I was getting the necessary practice of unhitching and hitching the trailer.   

Panoramic picture from visitor center parking lot

So off we scurried up the curvy hill, of which I observed the line of cars climbing. The road followed the curvature of the mountain. The road looked as epic as watching the Star Wars opening screen, outlining the plot. The rocks were jutting, majestic, and contrasted the deep blue sky so well. I was in awe of what I was prefaced with, which upped my expectations inside the park.   

Nothing phallic here, eh?

We passed via the same sheer cliff I easily saw from the Visitor Center. We were shaded from the sun passing by it. These rock formations were just grand. We passed this entry point and saw the grand scheme of the park. Lots of autonomous rock formations all over the place. Some of them looked like molten crayons placed in the freezer moments after the catalyst of heat was applied. Oddly, some of the other isolated standing formations looked more phallic. The backdrop of the high desert with these protruding stones was far more than I truly expected.   

In the park, exploring

Being from the Midwest, we don’t get access to this novelty with as much frequency. It can be found, but again, not in Costco bulk. Though I kept my lips pursed, to contain my inner drool, I was awestruck by the natural beauty. We traversed all over the park. As there is a common rule in National Parks, that pets are not allowed (excluding service animals) I had to strategically determine the best stops for me to capture pictures. I will not be that shitty parent that leaves a living entity in a vehicle while the sun beats down on their very life. I drove around with the front windows down and the moonroof cracked for Ellie. I also enjoyed the breeze and the smells of nature there.   

I love dead wood as a photo subject

There was plenty of congestion in the park for the super popular places that people sought taking selfies. All in the name of vanity, to prove they were somewhere they could just as easily have green-screened or photoshopped themselves into. Yes, I know how judgmental that sounds, but hey, if the shoe fits… As a burgeoning amateur photographer, you have to be very creative to obscure the people foisting themselves, unwittingly, into your photo opportunities. I stopped near one of the huge arches but determined by the traffic jam on the trail, itself, that it wasn’t worth trying to capture a picture. People would be mindlessly meandering around.   

Love shooting into the sun for the starburst effect

I bypassed the full parking lots. If I stopped, I would get out and be but a moment from the driver’s seat. Ellie wanted to get out, but I had to respect the rules. As much as it pained me, as she is my perfect pint-sized passenger, I want her by my side, exploring the world. It also worked in everyone else’s favor. She bit exactly zero people on our trip! YAY ELLIE!  

Creativity in blocking out a bunch of people partying at the base of that arch, UGHHHHHH

I stopped in safe spots to capture interesting formations. I tried to strategize the best places to park along with the greatest possible picture-taking options. There were so many. Even though I had only been to two other NP’s on this trip so far, this one was enthralling. I took so many pictures in the park. I took almost 700 in the park alone.   

Near Devil’s Garden

For those of you interested in seeing what the park has to offer, check THIS out. There were so many segments of the park with some diversity in topography. I cannot stress enough how cool it was. We traveled through all of the park. We completed driving out to Devil’s Garden. I could see how it would be an inferno in the middle of summer. I was there on the 8th of April. It was warm but tolerable. Again, the diversity was truly amazing.   

Beautiful, eh?

Once we had completed driving all over the park, capturing so many moments there, we drove to the visitor center to retrieve the trailer. We, which is primarily me, as Ellie knows jack-shit about hitching a trailer to a medium-sized SUV, got the trailer connected. I took a couple of minutes for Ellie and me to snack as well as use the lavatory. The visitor center had closed, so there was ample parking. Not that I needed that, but just making a passing comment. It was approximately 5:30 p.m.  

I believe this formation is called the Courthouse….

Leaving Arches NP  

Once we were set, I did a cursory search for some possible camp spots. I was NOT going to spend the night in Moab. Far too frenetic for my tastes, and it looked expensive. I saw some campgrounds there in town, but again, too many people. I saw something that looked very wilderness-y. I set my GPS app to that place. Attempted to drive to it, but it didn’t fully register, so I stopped driving. I put Canyonlands National Park into the GPS app, and off we went.   

Once we got onto the road where the park was, I noticed lots of signs for camping. Many signs denoted camping was only allowed in certain areas. As we drove toward the park, I saw one of the signs and decided to trek down the dirt road. It was so bumpy. I was constantly watching my side view and rearview mirrors. I was scared that my motorcycle was taking a beating back there.   

I drove down this road for about 5 miles. We stirred up so much dust. We followed people kicking up dust too. What I noticed here was, there were campers all along this road. It looked like access to camping was allowed on public lands. By the time I got to the purported campground, it was full. I drove so far for nothing. I turned around, frustrated. I had to drive down this road again, slow. I am allergic to slow.   

I got back to the main road to the NP again still frustrated. I saw more signs for other campsites, but again, noticed people were all over the place in the wilderness of this high desert. There so many campers with ATVs and dirt bikes all over the place. This was their nirvana, and rightly so. I ended up calling my friend in Seattle. He had been over here a year before. I asked for advice in finding an adequate camping spot. He told me to use the resources he had shared with me.   

He suggested IOverlander, which I had installed on my phone. I wasn’t having any luck in figuring out the app for where I was. I had pulled off the side of the road, as I had recently taken for granted having cell signal everywhere and being burned. He recommended another option too. This site didn’t have an app, but the site had data useful for NPs. THIS is the other option. My friend helped me with filters in IOverlander, to better look through the options. We both looked at possibilities.   

I informed my friend, that I thought I saw there was a campground in Canyonlands, and he didn’t think that was right. We kept parsing through the options, and it seemed a major crapshoot. Eventually, as the light was starting to diminish, I told my friend I just need to drive, so I can try to find something. He told me he would call me if he found a sure thing.   

Canyonlands National Park  

I just kept driving to Canyonlands, hoping that what I had in my memory cells was close to right. We pulled into the park entrance. Yup, we DID get a pic of Ellie next to the sign, Do I seem a heathen? I don’t really need to hear your response. Remember what your mother used to say: “if you ain’t got nuttin nice to say, don’t say nuttin at all.“  

What the motherfuck? How does this dog get so close to the signs? I am sensing a pattern…

Once that photoshoot was completed, I noticed there was a sign at the ranger check-in station about a campground. My hope was vindicated. I dashed that hope, expecting that on a Thursday night, I would find all the spots taken. If Moab was any indicator of how people flocked to the area, I let that sink in. I lowered my expectations. It took a few miles to get to the campgrounds.   

Lo and behold, there were plenty of sites open to set up our tent. What the fuck? All that frustration, after leaving Arches, all for naught? Oh well, lesson kind of learned, or bare minimum, accepted. I backed into a spot that seemed nice and was across from the loo.   

I set up our tent in record time. By the time I completed getting it all setup, there was virtually no light enough to justify driving through the park. We just relaxed. I chatted with the neighbors about a couple of commonalities in vehicles and states represented by the license plates of their vehicles. We had a nice chat. We bid each other adieu, as they went off for a hike.   

Just in the nick of time — awesome rustic campgrounds with great backdrop.

I made a sandwich from my cooler, fed Ellie her num-nums. We just chilled. What a gorgeous day AND we got our first campsite on the trip. It was beautiful and again, I had to reflect on my frustration which was just fear coming out erroneously. I wasn’t on a solid enough of a footing to associate that life lesson to my recent break-up.   

I did give little thought about the break-up, but only while driving. I was either listening to music and drifting off in morbid thoughts, or I was listening to trauma podcast episodes. While listening to the podcasts, I would reflect on my childhood, as that’s where the trauma came from. It’s what caused me to have knee-jerk reactions to rejection by important people in my life. All in all, though, I didn’t reflect much on the relationship.   

I was out in the wilderness, albeit, a different kind of wilderness than what I was accustomed to. My mind was so open to newness that I just absorbed the beauty. This was my once-in-a-lifetime trip to see so much more of the U.S.A. than I had before. Again, I wouldn’t have been able to have this opportunity without the ‘gift’ of the recent ex.   

Our comfy abode out in the wilderness…

I will close here. This was such a success. It was a full day. We traveled a good distance, saw much, and got a nice rustic campsite IN a National Park I had never heard of before this trip. I’d say a 1,000+ amassing of pictures from the travels was a fantastic day.   

As always, I welcome any constructive criticism, or complementary theories, analogies, anecdotes. I would love to hear if you find these edicts of challenge useful or utter horseshit. Similar to the ’90s when the catchphrase, ‘Be Kind, Rewind’ was hailed as a marketing genius. I need to come up with one that invites you to either subscribe, via WordPress or email, like posts, or even comment on posts. Immediate feedback is useful for anyone. Thank you very much for reading through all of this drivel. Be well, stay safe, AND stay sane! 

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