Arches National Park is a landscape feast. It has the red cliffs of Marble Canyon, the weathered sandstone of Badlands NP and the majesty of Sion NP all rolled into one. If you think I liked it, you’re wrong – I loved it.
I visited it first late yesterday afternoon and stayed until after dark – and I was back again for another look just after dawn. Low light throws the shadows around and makes the rocks look the most spectacular.
The most famous formation is the Delicate Arch which features on signs as you enter Utah, on Utah state license plates and in all sorts of other ways. It’s quite nice, I suppose, and I prefer the nick-name of Cowboy’s Chaps to that of Ladies’ Bloomers, but there are plenty of other rock formations to make you gasp in this National Park.
Many of the rock formations have daft names: The Organ, The Courthouse and the Three Gossips. But the Three Gossips look very much like women in bonnets have a chinwag – once the idea is put into your head. I looked at what appears to be an unnamed column which looked exactly like a troll with a bag of gold. If only I had a working camera the ‘Troll Running Off with a Bag of Gold’ column would be born.
The views made me gasp. It was like nothing that I had ever quite seen before and words like majesty, beauty and grandeur came to mind.
It’s quite a drive through the landscape and I drove to the end and did some walking too. There were people about, it was Saturday evening, but not so many as to mar my enjoyment (and I can be pretty demanding on that count).
I looked at a rock face, which was red anyway, made redder still by the setting sun, and realised that no-one would ever see this rock face like this again. Only today would the sun be at this angle until another year and then the clouds would be different, or maybe it would be raining but this was it. So I tried to soak up the sights fully.
I stayed in the park until after dark to look at the stars. It was a clear-ish night, just bits of whispy cloud. My first spot, near the Balanced Stone, wasn’t a great success as other people kept coming and stopping for a while, with their engines running and their lights on. I was suffering from the fact that the National Parks (many at least) are open 24 hours a day – I couldn’t be star-gazing if they weren’t and other people is the price you have to pay. Fair enough.
But I did find another spot and the sky was very dark and there were lots of stars. I stood watching in the warm desert night for at least half an hour. I saw only one shooting star and made one wish.
I got back to my motel room in nearby Moab at 11pm and left it at 6am to go back to Arches. Everything would look different in the dawn light – isn’t it good that he sun sets on one side of the Earth and rises on the other – it makes rock-watching so much better.
There were even fewer people around at this time and I did a few walks and noticed some fantastic formations which had looked dull yesterday evening. The “Troll Running Off with a Bag of Gold’ column looked pretty good in any light.
I left at 730am feeling that I had seen some wonderful, memorable scenery on a scale that is like nothing we have in the UK. I wish I’d had a camera – and I don’t often say that.
They do say (well some do) that you should never go back. This is definitely true if you disgraced yourself last time but I think it is generally true of wildlife places which have excited you – they are rarely as good again. But what about cafes?
For some reason, Mom’s Cafe in Salina has stuck in my mind ever since I was there almost exactly two years go. I’m not exactly sure why. I think it was just a good breakfast in an interesting place at the right time – and I was pleased with the blog I wrote about it at the time.
Since planning, to some extent, this trip back in the winter, I had noticed that the route between Kansas and California went through Salina (which I now know is Sal – eye – na, not Sal – ee – na) and I planned to revisit. Was this wise?
As I entered Mom’s at 10am (I’d made good progress from Arches) it was slightly busier than on my last visit and I couldn’t take the seat I’d had last time. But the waitress was still Sharon with her sensible shoes and toothy grin. I told her I’d had breakfast here 2 years before and she had served me and she gave me a big smile and said ‘How lovely that you remember me. I love your accent!’.
I ordered the same breakfast (with sourdough toast – the only time it has been on offer I think) and enjoyed it as much as last time. I told Sharon that I’d really enjoyed my last visit and had somehow thought that I’d be back some time. And that she’d been part of that day so I was glad to see her again. She said ‘I’m going all fuzzy at the thought of it’.
There were some new pictures on the wall but many were as before, and there are still books on each table – mine had ‘The Bad Day Book’, ‘How to Make People Think You are Normal’ and ‘So you think you can ‘Geezer”. I didn’t need them – I was having a good day, I’m not normal and I can ‘English’ so I don’t need to ‘Geezer’.
This year’s Sorensen Electrics calendar is where the old one was before, and has a similar theme – a drawing of a man enjoying the outdoors (having a nap in a hammock) unaware of the bears playing around him. I’m pretty sure 2012’s was similar too.
The price of my breakfast had gone up to $8.32 from $7.84 but that’s not bad – the hash browns were as good as ever.
Outside, Bella’s has had the window fixed and looks quite prosperous. Lotsa Motsa Pizza looks like it is no longer in business but all the other firms are still there and a gym is opening soon. It was Sunday, Father’s Day here, so it was quiet but I think Salina is quiet.
When I’d said goodbye to Sharon she had smiled, wished me a good trip and said she hoped I’d be back again one day. I said that I doubted it – I’d just had a feeling that I would return on my last visit but I hadn’t got that feeling now. But it was good to see that all was just as it was at Mom’s.
So, if you are passing one day, pop in, give my regards to Sharon, have the two eggs, hash browns, sourdough toast and coffee and let me know what Sorensen’s calendar looks like when you are there.
Leaving Utah was easy – I just drove into Nevada.
I filled up with gas at Hinckley and headed west down Route 6 towards Nevada. This was the area of the Great Basin and the land was flat and the road was straight. Water falling here, and there isn’t much, doesn’t go anywhere. No rivers leave. It evaporates.
And so it’s hot here. The car said it was 94F outside which is warm, certainly.
I started counting western kingbirds, then I stopped and counted cars instead.
The road was dead straight and there was no traffic to speak of. In fact, I drove 83 miles to the Nevada border and only 25 cars and 5 motorbikes passed me on the other side of the road. One car overtook me, and one bike too.
That’s like driving from Bristol to Exeter and seeing 25 cars – I wish!
I set the cruise control to 56mph, the speed limit was 65mph but I wasn’t in that much of a hurry, and I didn’t touch a pedal for c55 miles when the road crossed a range of hills and some braking and accelerating were in order. All I had to do was steer – and that was only because the road wasn’t dead level as it was dead straight.
Fuel efficiency went up, for a while to 44mpg (52mpg Imperial, I think) but the hills brought it down again. You lose fuel efficiency on the up-slope which you never quite recapture on the down-slope. Is that someone’s law of thermodynamics? If not, it can be mine – I claim it.
I passed signs to places that I couldn’t see and didn’t feel like exploring – Death Canyon and Blind Valley were two, but more incongruously, Eskdale as well. I was heading for Ely, of all places, from Hinckley, of all places, and had passed a sign to Eskdale, of all places.
So it didn’t surprise me when I passed a sign for Outback Taxidermy which conjured up an Aussie in exile stuffing deer heads for hunters from western Utah.
The land was flat and dry. Scrubby vegetation prevailed. Dust blew up in little devils or just clouds – and it was dusty brown dust, not even red dust. I saw more western kingbirds than cars, and a few mockingbirds and a raven every 10 miles or so.
It was different. It let me think. And I listened to Hotel California several times as I am heading that way.
It wasn’t physically difficult leaving Utah, but it was a bit of a wrench. Before visiting, Utah meant Mormons and Osmonds to me, now it means great National Parks (all of Utah should be a National Park), friendly folk, roads with no traffic and wildlife. I didn’t want to go to Nevada.