Thursday, August 25, 2016

Utah: June 20, 2013

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben in the summer of 2003....

Day 13--Friday, June 20

I woke up first and took a long, hot shower.  Ben was shocked when I woke him up and told him it was almost 9:30!  With the blinds in the hotel room drawn, the morning sun just couldn't wake us up like it did at our campsites!

Our first stop of the morning was Hole 'N The Rock.  This bizarre structure was the home of two old and eccentric people.  They blasted out the inside of a mountain and built their home in it.  "And because of the irregularity of the walls, Gladys had plenty of places to store her knicknacks!"  The whole thing was kind of creepy because it had several large animals (such as a deer and a donkey) that Albert had stuffed himself.  Yep, those people were perfect for each other.  They were even buried on the grounds.  Scary.

After that, we had to drive back through Moab in order to get to Arches National Park.  This park was full of the huge red rocks that are famous to the area, all twisted into crazy shapes.  We saw Balancing Rock, the Three Gossips, and the Garden of Eden.  After driving through the amazing scenery, we decided to do the mile-plus Window Loop hike.  We took the "Primitive Trail" rather than the main one, and we were the only ones on it.  We had amazing views of the South and North Windows, as well as the Turret.  I think Arches National Park was my favorite so far--it was just so far from my previous experiences and so wild and beautiful all at the same time.  One brochure we picked up described it as "Tolkienesque."  I'm not sure I'd agree with that, but it was definitely a wild sort of beauty I had never seen before, somehow alien to all other experiences.

A crew was doing road construction on the road up to the trails, so we got held up on our way there and again on our way back.  We didn't mind so much, and on the way back, we got to sit and talk to a very friendly construction worker while waiting for the "lead car" to come and guide us down.

After Arches, we continued on to Canyonland National Park, where we stopped and had lunch at a picnic table near the trail we wanted to do.  Just walking to the picnic table and back, my shoes got covered with the soft red dirt.  The temperature was in the upper 80s, but our picnic site was shady and we had a nice relaxing break, eating chicken and rice while reading our books.

We then hiked the Upheaval Dome trail, 0.3 miles each way.  Basically, the overlook provides a view of a huge pit or valley.  No one knows how it was really formed, but one theory states that a meteor hit there millions of years ago and its effects were felt around the world.  Very interesting, but not very pretty.  We didn't feel the need to hike to the second overlook.  On our way back down, though, we did see the weirdest little yellow and black bug, as well as two lizards.

This was just the start of our wildlife adventures for the afternoon.  Our next drive took us to the Manti-lasol National Forest.  A National Forest, I learned, is NOT to be confused with a National Park, primarily because a National Forest doesn't have an entrance fee or an entrance booth, and also because Ben can't get National Forest stamps in his book.  However, he did manage to get two National Parks stamps today at Arches and Canyonlands.  It's not the five he was hoping for, but he'll try to get by.

Anyway, during our endless drive up the winding mountain roads to our campsite, we kept encountering cows and deer by the side of the road.  At one point, we saw three baby cows, which of course made me squeal that I want to have moo-cows at our house someday, which in turn made Ben roll his eyes heavenward.

During the hour-long drive, we created a rough draft of our guest list for our wedding and discussed the bridal party and other issues.  Ben got a little edgy toward the end, but he really did hold up better than I expected him to with all the "wedding talk."

When we got out of our car at our campsite, I had a couple of rude awakenings to face.  For one, it had dropped to 56 degrees, and I was freezing!  Secondly, there were no showers anywhere nearby.  Thirdly, the only bathroom facilities were pit toilets.  This did NOT make me a happy camper!

My flagging spirits were revived in two ways.  While I was sitting at the picnic table at our site, I heard Ben give a little gasp, and I looked up, only to discover a deer standing about four feet away from me.  This beauty was one of the three who visited us several times during the evening.  While Ben battled to prove his manhood by building us a fire, I followed the deer around the surrounding area with a camera.  "You can never have too many pictures of deer!" I told Ben.

The second excellent thing about our campsite was that it was surrounded by beautiful birch trees, most of which had carving in them from ages past.  There were names from the 1960s on up to the present.  Ben got out his pocketknife and carved "Amy + Ben '03" on one of the y ounger trees that didn't have any decorations yet.  I, of course, just melted.

We had real pasta and real sauce for dinner, plus marshmallows over a VERY smoky fire.  Afterwards, we sat on our camp chairs, staring into the flames and talking until late into the night, when we snuggled deep into our sleeping bags in an effort to stay warm.

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