I'll try to sum it up in one post…
Friday Jessica and I had breakfast at The Jailhouse Diner - an old turn-of-the-century jailhouse turned diner (of course). Shared an omelet and Swedish pancakes. Then we went to Arches National Park. Amazing! The park is enormous and we drove a lot. At each designated site we would take a hike to see particular marked arches or windows. For those who don't know, Arches is named for all these rock formations that resulted in arches of red rock. Apparently they formed from salt dissolving from under rock. Jessie and I saw a documentary on how all the canyons, cliffs, arches and such were created. It was really interesting (if somewhat cheesy) and described how water really was responsible for shaping most of what we were seeing. Everything there was under water once, and throughout the entire day in the park I kept thinking how it really did feel like I was standing at the bottom of some ancient ocean (just without the foliage). I liked finding shapes in the rocks, recognizing them as people and animals. Jessie was particularly fond of what geologists call “fins” these huge narrow fin-shaped rock formations that were splits from seismic shifting (if I remember correctly) and smoothed out by rushing water.
We visited places with names that were obvious like Balanced Rock, Windows and Fragile Arch (the one that is on the UT license plate). Other names required more explanation, like Fiery Furnace, a collection of needles and fins that, when the sun's low, light up a fiery red.
The weather was here and there Friday. One moment we were rained on, the next we were stripped to our tanktops, sweltering under the heat. One part of the park was gloomy gray while the next was blue with white fluffy clouds.
Saturday we hiked a little more hardcore, going to Canyonlands National Park. We debated rafting but it was way too cold for watersport. We started the day with breakfast at a place called Eklectic Café where we met an earthy couple and their two tow-headed little boys as well as two men and their two playful dogs.
Canyonlands is divided into several parts, each with their own features, each spanning vast distances (a good few hours drive from one part to another). We stuck to the part that was closest to Moab, Island in the Sky, a huge Mesa surrounded by rippling canyons and remnants of bodies of water. There are several points where you can see the Green River and the Colorado and where they connect at one point, beneath a mesa that Anasazi once called home. (Anasazi, I believe, are predecessors to the Zuni who also call themselves A'shiwi).
Jessie and I hiked across a huge open field that eventually turned sandy, like dunes, and turned into solid rock with pools of water trapped in little divots. It was windy and cold but the hike kept us warm. We trekked across the rock until we hit more vegetation and then the cliffs. The hike took us around the edge of the mesa and we walked to what felt like the end of the world. It was really beautiful and we agreed that we both loved the vastness of the landscape and fantasized about building homes on the mesas or buttes.
Sidebar: Mesa is a structure wider than it is tall. A Butte is about the same wide as tall. A spire is thinner than a butte, taller than it is wide. A mesa over time becomes a butte becomes a spire. (fins, needles, canyons, arches and other structures are made by water, mesas, buttes and spires are made by erosion).
Our hike lasted a few hours. Then we drove around the park visiting designated sites and taking shorter hikes to various landmarks. One of these landmarks is a huge crater that they theorize might have been created by a meteor. Another theory is that a big salt bubbled kind of popped and created the hole. Scientists apparently can't decide. I prefer the meteor idea, it's much more intergalactic and romantic than a big bubble of NaCl.
We were totally and completely exhausted after the hiking (we were at Canyonlands for around 6 hours) however once we got back to the hotel we splashed some water on our faces and head off to see a cute town outside of Moab called Castle Valley. Jessica had written an article about this town and it's eclectic mix of inhabitants. From the shamaness who lives in a cave to the woman in the Styrofoam house, the gay couple who run a vineyard, the guy with the junkyard, the former Midwesterners with their cookie-cutter mansion. There were a spattering of yurts (domed tents that you can now buy pre-made but that originally were used by Turkish nomads), a teepee, an octagon house and many other spectacles. The valley is nestled in between fiery red rocks and distinctive structures on two sides. On the third side sis the way in near the river. There are mountains on the other side. We decided to take the mountainous way home.
Probably not the smartest thing as it was soon dark and we were weaving up and up with what appeared to be sheer drop-offs one side and walls of trees to the other. We drove through the national forest on the mountain. We ran into an older couple in a pick up who asked if we were lost. They told us to stop a few miles into the forest and listen for the elk bugling. Then, near the top, probably an hour now into the long, dark, winding drive, right around where we were supposed to stop and listen for elk we saw a huge creature crossing the road. Elk? Not quite. Cow. On the top of a mountain in a national forest. The sight was so unexpected we found ourselves laughing
Last day. No hiking today but we hung out at Mondo coffee shop (it became a hang out of ours over the few days as it had wireless access, good coffee, and was open late and early). We did al little shopping and then parted ways.
The drive back to Zuni was via Colorado and then into New Mexico. After the grasses of Colorado, the mountain ranges in the distance, I hit the top of New Mexico, drive through more Navajo land, it was desolate with the occasional rock formation shooting into he sky, the sandy landscape dotted by rare trailers and scrubby bushes. I drove through sandstorms. Passed a handful of gas stations and ultimately made it back to Zuni in between 5 and 6 hours.
My first night back, shortly after greeting the five dogs and two cats I finally sat and tried to relax. Suddenly coyotes started howling - all of them! It was remarkable. I wish I could have recorded it. I fell asleep like a dead woman and woke to barking dogs. Not sure if it was the five I'm sitting for r another but I tired to wrangle all the dogs in the house and makes rue they were all accounted for. It was harder than I imagined so I found my earplugs and managed to sleep through the cacophony.
Labels: Vacation, Zuni