Ok. We’ve not done a blog post series under one title that’s lasted more than 2 posts except for the Stories Behind the Pictures. But, as I mentioned in Utah Rocks: Part 2, there was a TON of things to do in Utah. So here we are at the beginning of a third post about Utah.
It might seem odd that I am starting off a blog post about Utah with our stop off at Grand Junction, Colorado, but it was a necessary detour. And we didn’t regret it. We stopped at Grand Junction because we couldn’t stay at an RV park in Moab, Utah for the amount of time that we wanted. So, we headed to Grand Junction. Grand Junction, Colorado was the largest city we’d been to since St. George, about a month previous, and it had 2 National Parks within 1 1/2 hours from where we were staying: Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nat’l Park, and Colorado Nat’l Monument. Colorado National Monument is a massive plateau, providing views of the surrounding area, and of huge monoliths protruding from the ground. We did the 26 mile loop drive around the Monument, and we really enjoyed our whole experience there. Plus, Nate was able to get a Junior Ranger badge. He had to fill out a booklet asking questions about the National Monument, complete activities, and then meet with a Ranger. The Ranger asked him questions to see what he had learned during his time in the park, and then had Nate repeat the Junior Ranger oath. After all this, Nate received his Jr. Ranger Badge.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is home to a very deep, very thin canyon. Here we were provided with amazing views of landscape stretching for miles, then a small (or so it looked) fissure in the ground, which turned out to be a great depth down. Black Canyon has the world’s 3rd largest vertical cliff, the Painted Dragons. We also really enjoyed hiking a little ways into and around the canyon. Nate completed a Junior Ranger Badge here as well.
After our time in Grand Junction, we traveled to Moab, Utah. Moab is a tourist town, and is close to both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Canyonlands National Park has 3 sections to it: Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. We visited only the Island in the Sky part due to our shortened time in Moab. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and were able to see some amazing views of the vast canyon. It was here that we were able to hike to an amazing arch, Mesa Arch, which you can get within about 5 feet. The reason you can’t get all the way to it is because of a drop straight down of about 1500 feet (with no railing!) under the arch. Another hike we did was Upheaval Dome trail, which gave us some amazing views of what scientist believe is a crater. This was a fairly moderate hike that involved us climbing a few hundred feet to get to the overlook. This is a hike that I’d definitely recommend. The last hike that we did was the Whale Rock trail. This was a fairly easy 1 mile round-trip hike that took you to the top of a dome shaped rock that looked uncannily like a whale. We enjoyed scrambling up the whale’s back, and had a good time on this hike as well.
Arches National Park also had a lot of hikes to choose from. One of our favorites was the Balanced Rock Trail, which was a very short (0.3 mile round trip) hike. It took you around a tall thin structure of rock that is holding up an even larger chunk of rock. This Balanced Rock will likely not be around for much longer because of erosion. So, if you’re going soon, be sure to check out the Balanced Rock! Another great hike at Arches was the Windows trail. There are 2 “window” arches, the North and the South. We saw the North one, which was stunning, and also hiked to some other lesser known arches in that same area.
While in Moab, we rented a Jeep. Yes. A Jeep. We took what was supposed to be an “easy” trail, and we really enjoyed it. Except for one part. It wasn’t an easy trail. It turns out, the people who rated the trail had the definition of easy being that there were no uneven surfaces where you car frame would bend and contort to the surfaces. Nope. There was nothing that said "Major Drops Ahead". We had heard that there were switchbacks on this trail going into the canyon, and didn’t really think much about it. Let me tell you this. Don’t ever underestimate the power of switchbacks. We got to the edge of the canyon where the switchbacks began. In the course of about 20 switchbacks, we descended over 1500 feet. And of course, we did end up passing people. And it was on a 20 foot wide road with serious consequences if you go off of it. If all that I’ve told you isn’t enough, this trail made it on “dangerousroads.org”. And we made it! It was really fun, and we had a whale of a time. However, I’d like to warn anyone that is wanting to try it that I would not at all recommend it for anyone with a fear of heights, a distrust of their car, a car without a 4-wheel drive, rowdy kids who can hijack the “kid lock” on your car door, or anything that may be designated under “phobia”. This is a dangerous trail!
After having visited Moab, we traveled to Heber City, about 1 hour away from Salt Lake City. We met up with my paternal grandparents and really enjoyed our time catching up and hanging out with them. We're missing them already! While staying in Salt Lake City we visited the Museum of Natural Curiosity. This was an amazing museum with things for all ages. It was obvious that it was a kids museum, however many small exhibits were for older visitors, including one bigger exhibit called “American Adventure”. It puts you in the place of an early American settler, and gives you multiple choices of survival as you navigate a maze. We all enjoyed this one, and learned some cool things about the early settlers as well. Also while in Heber City, we took a day to visit Salt Lake City. Here we visited the Mormon Temple Square. We were able to learn more about Mormon culture, and see their world in a new light. The last place we visited while in Heber City was the Winter Olympic Training Center, where the 2002 Winter Olympics were held, and where the American team practices in the off seasons. We saw where they do the ski jump. If you don't think that the ramp that they ski down is steep, then you should go to the Olympic Training Center to look at it. It's almost a sheer drop. You can see the picture of it below. Our campground in Heber City was a very nice one, and I personally enjoyed playing ping-pong with my grandfather in the game room. We all enjoyed the nice sites and clean facilities.
Overall, our time in Utah was absolutely incredible, and was definitely one of our favorite states so far. We are looking forward to seeing friends, family and home again, but will definitely miss the experiences that we’re having today.
Will is 14, and enjoys running track, writing,