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 > Holiday trip to Moab UT area (many photos!)

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GoinThisAway

middle TN

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Posted: 01/23/10 07:44pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The DH and I traveled to UT to spend the holidays with my folks who were spending the winter in Moab. This 3 week trip was to be our longest and our first winter trip since purchasing the TC this past spring. After 3 days of steady interstate driving we were finally able to set up camp in the mostly empty OK RV Park where we had a beautiful view of the Moab valley in either direction.

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The December weather in Moab had been unusually cold and snowy but with a bright sun shining we soon set out exploring. The folks took us just a few miles from camp to the Steelbender jeep trail where we parked the truck and went for a short hike. Along the way we stopped at this diversion structure where some of the runoff is diverted to Ken’s Lake where it is stored for use by residents in the Moab valley.

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After our hike, we drive back towards camp, stopping on the way at Ken’s Lake to view an odd sight, people ice skating in the desert. Note the bands of thinner ice at the edge where the lake fills during the day and freezes at night.

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It snowed for the next two days so we visited with the folks and browsed through a few shops in Moab. When the snow finally stopped, we decided to go up to the Island in the Sky unit of Canyonlands NP. Driving across this flat mesa it’s hard to believe that a huge canyon is nearby.

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We arrive at the visitor center only to find that the park is closed as their snowplow had broken down. We take a peek at the canyon from the nearby trail. I’ve been here several times before but this is the first time in winter. The way the snow accents the sweeps and curves of the canyon make it even more beautiful than ever!

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With the NP closed, we decide to go to the nearby Dead Horse Point SP. After a short stop at the visitor center to pay and peruse the exhibits, we step outside to see the canyon. The late afternoon sun and snow worked together to create an awesome view as captured in the following 3-photo panorama. You can see the LaSal Mtns in the distance and the Colorado River down below.

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The ominous sounding name “Dead Horse Point SP” supposedly arises from the legend that cowboys who used to trap mustangs on this rugged point of land to separate out the ones they wanted once forgot to turn loose the remaining horses. Imagine being trapped on this high dry land with the cool Colorado River waters in clear view 2000 feet below. Driving on from the visitor center, we pass across the narrow 30 yard wide neck where the cowboys put their fence and on to the end of the point. We arrive shortly before sunset and watch as the rocks and even the snow begin to glow in the fading light then slowly slip into shadow.

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One of the really neat things about Moab is the great variety of terrain in the area. We saw canyons yesterday. Today it’s on to Arches NP where instead of looking down at rock eroded by water one looks up at rock eroded by wind. This is Turret Arch in the Windows area.

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This twisted tree is a testament to the harsh weather which it has survived on this rocky slope.

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Further down the road we stop to hike the Delicate Arch Viewpoint trail. At this point the arch looks like the eye of a needle on the distant horizon.

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From the trail we can see not only the arch but also the broken country around it.

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After catching this closer look thanks to the short hike and a telephoto lens, we head back to the camper for some lunch.

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For our next outing we head to an area SE of Moab called Behind the Rocks. To get there we drove through open range ranchland where these cows were taking it easy.

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We cross the rocky, juniper strewn landscape aiming for what is supposed to be a great view of the Colorado River canyon.

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The road gets smaller and rougher until we finally come to a rock shelf that is too slick with snow for us to safely navigate in our long wheel-base truck. The trail book says this road is navigable by standard SUVs but I think it may have deteriorated some since it was last evaluated!

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After turning the truck around, we set off down the road on foot. Unfortunately, the road goes on and on until we finally decide that there is not enough daylight on this short winter day to make it to the end. We did get far enough to be tantalized by a distant glimpse of the canyon beyond. Ah well, maybe next time!

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On our next outing we set out to navigate the LaSal Mtn Loop Rd. In less than an hour we have left the mostly bare red rocks behind and are deep in a forest. It too is mostly bare but only for the winter.

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These 12,000+ foot high mountains provide quite a contrast to the red rock canyons just a few dozen miles away.

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Half way around the loop we get our first look at Castle Valley into which the road will descend before ending at Hwy 128 that follows along the Colorado River gorge back to Moab.

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Uh oh! Just past the Castle Valley overlook we find that the road is closed. It looks like this is another trek that we’ll have to complete another time.

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We awake to snow again the next day but my Dad and I head out to see what we can see anyway. We turn onto the gravel Blue Hills Rd planning to take a side road into a canyon. We find however that while Blue Hills Rd was in relatively good shape with some plowing and packing of the snow, the side road has not been plowed or traveled and is nearly invisible. We opt to stay on Blue Hills Rd which runs from the Canyonlands Airport area west of Moab up to the town of Green River. At times it was hard to tell where the snowy white earth ended and the snowy white sky began.

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We found that the side road to Crystal Geyser was open so we ventured that way for a look. This geyser (far right, at middle) is situated next to the Green River which we found to be completely frozen over.

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This is a rare cold water CO2 geyser that erupts with either 7 or 22 hours between eruptions. We arrived when it was in a buildup stage where it alternately bubbles, blows up a few feet, and then settles back down.

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We ate some lunch and poked around the area a little where I found the closest thing to a flowering plant that you’ll see this time of year but eventually we had to depart without seeing a full eruption.

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On the drive out from the geyser however we had the good luck to see a herd of graceful antelopes grazing near the road.

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It was nice to return to a warm dry camper at the end of a cold day in the snow. Temperatures were typically in the single digits at night and the 20s during the day. We did have one glitch when a pair of waterlines that run under the LP compartment froze but this was temporarily resolved by putting a piece of foam board in the bottom of the LP compartment and using a 6-inch fan to blow air through the interior space underneath it. I had already insulated the top and sides of the LP compartment but couldn’t get any insulation in underneath it. Guess I’ll have to work on that again later!

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There was no snow the next day but low clouds had settled in. We drove through Moab and turned north up Hwy 128. This scenic highway follows the Colorado River through a narrow gorge. Much of the river was covered with ice and snow.

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In an area where the gorge widens out, we stopped in at Red Cliffs Lodge. We had planned on coming here for supper one evening where one can gaze out over the beautiful view below while eating but the restaurant closes for a few weeks at this time of year.

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We did get to investigate the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage housed in the basement of the Lodge while we were there. This free museum has a lot of interesting information on all of the movies that have been filmed in the area … and of course a cardboard cutout where you can have your picture taken with the Duke!

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The clouds continued to hang over the Moab valley the next day. We headed up into the Castle Valley area hoping to get above it but no luck. Next we tried Arches where we found a beautiful blue hole in the clouds.

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As we proceeded further into the park we found ourselves climbing back into the clouds. Ice, snow, and clouds combined to create an ethereal beauty.

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We took a short hike into these rocky fins to see the hidden Sandstone Arch.

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Later we checked out the campground where we saw one hardy tent camper set up in the snow then we drove down through Devils Garden. It was tempting to take off on a hike through this interesting area but the short day was going by fast so we drove back towards the entrance instead. The clouds thinned again and it looked like there was a hole over the Windows area so on a hunch we headed over that way. Boy am I glad we did as the views were stunning!

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We spend the first half of our last day in Moab reloading the camper and readying it for the trip home. Then, with only a few hours of the day left, we decided to try the Island in the Sky area one more time. The clouds continued to hang around Moab but we climbed out of them as we drove up onto the plateau. When we got to the edge we found the canyon below full of clouds making us feel like we truly were on an island in the sky.

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I guess that would make these rocks islets.

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As the sun set on our last day in the Moab area I reflected on everything we had seen. Despite the cold, snow, and clouds … no, because of the cold, snow, and clouds … it was a wondrous trip.

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* This post was edited 02/09/10 07:04pm by GoinThisAway *


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Bionic Man

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Posted: 01/23/10 08:12pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Those are some impressive photos. Thanks for sharing. We are heading to Moab with the ATVs over Memorial Day this year. Can't wait.


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USAFBILL

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Posted: 01/23/10 08:25pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for sharing

RockyRoadCamper

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Posted: 01/23/10 08:37pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

WOW, all of the photos were great but those last three were out of this world.

We have been to Moab 5 or 6 times but never in the winter.

Thanks for the winter tour.

Beautiful.

mainlandernow

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Posted: 01/23/10 09:59pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I really enjoyed those!


Thanks so much


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junmy3

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Posted: 01/24/10 03:35am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If it were not for the cold and snow, I would want to go back in winter. Thanks for sharing.


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weymard

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Posted: 01/24/10 04:02am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Awesome pics . What a wonderful landscapes ! Thanks for sharing .


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kohldad

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Posted: 01/24/10 04:52am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice to see some of those wonderful photos you kept teasing me about when you were out there. It does look like a glorious trip and I sometime wish I had drug the family out there to see the folks with you.

Great writeup by the way.


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silversand

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Posted: 01/24/10 06:36am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Whoa! You've made some ***fabulous photographs*** there, and put together a nice photo-essay!

Many, many thanks for the dedication and time you put into this Report!

I will post it to Trip Reports later today.

Cheers,
Sand & Dunes


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Wanderin fool

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Posted: 01/23/10 10:47pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Awesome pics and sounds like a great trip in the winter! I bet that was a blast now that you survived everything! My wife has been dogging me bad to go to Moab for about 10 years. Im only a day away. I think your post will motivate me to do it this year and make her a bit happier.


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