After leaving Boise, we dove into our familiar van-life: prepare a week of meals, drive 150-200 miles, find the best camping option. If the camping is dull, we stay a night. If camping is amazing – try to stay longer. Here’s what Passports & Postcards is up to!
Now, Utah’s red rocks have been on my radar the moment Woody gave a slight mention, it may fit on our itinerary. I didn’t give a thought to anything that may lie between me, and those wonderful arches I’ve seen on the commercials.
Castle Rocks and City of Rocks, Idaho
Boy, was I narrow minded. Idaho has rock formations which force you to walk a trail of fantasy. And, no kidding, I discovered I had a setting on my camera called “Fantasy”…. I think this is a perfect use for the setting!
Another fantasy was this “prairie village” would bounce to life, the moment we all turn our backs.
I could make up all sorts of stories, walking among these massive rocks. Marveling at the shapes, faces, and balancing acts:
By May 1st the campground is fully reserved and our drop-in ways would be totally sidelined. During our visit, the place was about a third occupied. Our surroundings were peaceful and powerfully inspiring.
We chose Moab over other Utah “hot spots” because it appeared to have many camping options for the spontaneous camper. Even so, it took driving through the mountains of SEVEN campgrounds, before finding one with any sort of availability. That was A LOT of work for our loaded -manual transmission – Vanagon. YES, this is when fuses get short, and the dialogue ridiculous:
Woody, “If we have to drive this far out, we may as well just go to Denver. “ (Not even a possibility at this hour of afternoon, and distance.)
Hali, “If we can’t find camping, we’ll start heading to Denver.”
Woody, “I didn’t come all the way out to Moab, to not see Moab!”
Hali, “Then you better start looking!”
Ridiculous, only AFTER the frustration passes.
Ultimately, we landed at Onion Creek Campground. Doesn’t that sound fantastic?
Turns out, it was awesome. Onion Creek, 20 miles outside Moab, was not like the cramped, close-in campsites. Situated on the Colorado River, these premium sites are up against canyon walls, where cool shade comes early. But with seasonally cool weather, our shadeless campsite was ideal. We welcomed as much sun, the cloudy weather would allow break through.
We had a 360 view of varying landscapes. Steep, snaking, canyon walls, stone carved “castles”, snowy mountains, and on top: every spectrum of weather would dance on this dramatic terrain.
Sometimes we’d admire the weather from a distance. Other times, we were in the thick of it: warm sunshine, bolts of lightening… and crashing thunder, noisy hail and violent wind gusts. None of it stuck around long enough to get too excited about. But, we did any way!
Downside to Moab
The touristic clamor is everywhere. Somehow, when I’m in a famous city, I “get it,” and forgive the horrendous crowd factor. However, in these vast, natural destinations – which beg for solitude and a level of reverence– encountering the masses simply reduces the impact of the visit.
Moab is crowded. We waited 40 minutes, just to get our rig through the park gates. We had to patiently wait for parking at trailheads and would enjoy the conversation of other people, while hiking. Regardless, Arches National Park is worthy of a visit. These arches are on the move, the slow, archeological sort of “move”. What we see today, likely will not be here tomorrow.
The Key to Moab
When I come back to Moab, I will own a few more keys that will make the visit even better:
- I will have narrowed down at least a few 5 mile hikes outside the tourist zone (we did find a couple of our own on this visit.);
- I would aim for the “outskirt” camping immediately – or be within early morning striking distance, in order to attempt a close-in site;
- I’d plan for having lots of water on hand (BLM land provides a biffy, picnic tables and fire rings only); and
- I’d bring my own source of shade – or shelter from the crazy weather!
One More Rock Stop before the Rockies
We got a little closer to the Rocky Mountains, before climbing the 11K elevation of Loveland Pass and stayed at Rifle Falls State Park in Colorado. Here we saw water falls and rocks, on a much smaller scale. A little 3/4 mile hike to see it all.
Next Week: The Rockies Will Be in Our Rearview Mirror!