I have been saying to a lot of people that I feel “comfortable” here in the parks of Southern Utah. I feel like I have been in these parks quite a bit. It is very easy to navigate. I know where we can camp. I know the “fun spots”. I’m really glad that we started this way. It has been a “safe” environment to introduce the new element of the RV. I can learn all the tricks of the RV without having to stress out about where to go in the parks and how to get from point A to point B. It’s good to introduce one thing at a time, you know?
One of my favorite views of all time is of the the red Moab desert with the LaSal Mountains in the background.
Before we hit the adventures, we stopped at the Matrimony Springs right off of River Road (route 128). I have heard that the legend is that the spring was found by early settlers of the area that happened to be recently married. They made the vow then and there to never leave Moab. People say that if you drink from the spring, you will never be able to leave Moab. I don’t think this is true, however, I do believe that Moab will never be able to leave you. This place has a special pull. I find that every year, sometime in the spring or perhaps the fall, I find myself needing to get back to Moab. I blame Matrimony Springs for this.
We try to get the kitty out as much as we can. He isn’t allowed on most of the trails, but we let him run around the paved sidewalks and parking areas. This was Little Vlad’s silent protest of not letting pets on the trail to Balanced Rock. In his defense, the “no pets” sign only depicts a dog…
Balanced Rock is pretty cool. I really hope that I am there for the day that it does finally come down. What an epic thing to see. Yeah, it would be sad if it did tumble, but man, I would pay big bucks for a front row seat.
Turns out that Landscape Arch is officially the longest arch in the world. Who knew? Apparently, there used to be a nice trail that let you go and walk around the base of it, but a couple of big chunks fell a few years ago and they don’t let you get too close anymore. If there was one takeaway from my years studying geology, is that if you bump the timescale up enough, everything becomes fluid. Rocks seem to be really solid, but really, they are always moving.
Delicate Arch is a classic symbol of the area and of Utah. This is the arch that all Utahns have on their license plate. It really is quite spectacular. The weather was pretty insane when we were there! The winds were CRAZY as we walked down to the arch. There was one point when I looked over and Madison was leaning into the wind and trying to move, but wasn’t making much progress. It was pretty hysterical how windy it was.
I think that most of the beauty of these sedimentary structures come from the layers. The lines in the landscape and the actual arch are what really keep your eyes locked on these natural wonders. Madison captured a cool angle of the arch here with four different varying levels of terrain behind it.
There is a book at my grandma’s cabin that had the main message of “modern day gear is taking the pain and inconvenience out of camping – and that is a bad thing.” I wish I could remember what the book was called – I searched and searched on google to no avail. But I would have to admit that in the RV we don’t get the classic camping experience. We don’t set up tents, roll out sleeping bags, or make fires every day. We have a normal little home on wheels. I love camping, but I am glad that we don’t camp every night on our trip! After the day’s activities, it is really nice to come back to our tiny house.
However, after our day in Arches, our cousins wanted to get the full experience of camping in Moab. So, we took off toward Willow Springs road on the north end of town. Willow Springs is on BLM land and has a ton of places to camp – and it is all free. We pulled into one of the spots and began to set up.
When we were setting up, we saw a REALLY big spider. I have camped in Moab quite a bit and I have never seen a spider. It wasn’t a tarantula, but it was big. Here is the photo I snapped on my phone really quick:
I am ashamed to admit that even though we were the ones invading this guys home, I killed it. It is a hard moral battle when your wife is screaming bloody murder and swearing that if I don’t kill it, that she will catch the next flight to Hawaii where “evil things” like this don’t exist. So, I squished the little (big) guy.
We moved on with dinner preparations and dismissed the spider. While dinner was cooking, Chase (Madison’s cousin) and I started to set up the tent. Right as we got most everything set up, all hell broke loose. The heinous winds from earlier returned. The instantaneous gale sent our outside cooking station flying and took the partially staked-down tent into the air.
As we were trying to wrangle the flying tent, there was a coordinated spider retaliation. It must have been the King Spider’s favorite cousin that I stomped earlier because he sent all of his minions! Multiple spiders of the same size came scurrying out from underneath the tarp and others closed in on us from the bushes. They waited until we were most distracted with the elements and struck. (I know you think I am making this up, or at least exaggerating, but I am DEAD SERIOUS.) There were spiders everywhere. I was literally holding the tent in the air like a kite and trying to simultaneously stomp this army of spiders. It was chaos. All the while Madison was standing in the RV door half laughing at us with the tent and half losing her mind about the encroaching arachnid army.
To make a long and dramatic story short, we abandoned the tent idea and the cousins slept with us in the RV. The tally at the end of the night was in the double digits; we killed 18 spiders and who knows how many got away.
The worst part of this story is that as Madison was brushing her teeth, I saw a spider on her pillow! Luckily, it wasn’t the same size as the warriors outside – it was probably a little scout spider sent to spy on us. But just after I killed it, Madison asked, “you don’t think any of the spiders could get inside the RV, do you?” And of course, like any good husband would do in a crisis like this, I lied, “No way. We’re totally safe in here.”
Our cousins wanted the classic camping experience, and boy oh boy, they got it. And that is how it is supposed to be. We live every night in our comfortable homes and beds. It is healthy every once and a while to brave the elements and the wild to see what we are really made of. It helps us realize how vulnerable we really are.
We actually got a pretty restful nights sleep, despite the terrifying circumstances and got up and met the day with plans to climb a desert tower!
This day we met up with more cousins, this time on my side, to climb ‘Off Balanced Rock’. It is a fat little tower just east of Balanced Rock.
It is a multi-pitch route and with four of us it took a little coordination to get everyone up.
The second pitch has a really cool chimney climb. You squeeze into a little crack in the wall, and press on both sides as you work your way up. It sounds crazy, but it felt really safe because you can’t really see how high you are. The exposure doesn’t really hit you until the top.
This is the view looking over to Balanced Rock. It was interesting to have seen it from the ground the day before and then to look at it from the top.
The kitty was so happy when we all made it down safely. Actually, I think he just really wanted to chase the chipmunks around and on his short little leash, he couldn’t reach.
We took a little lunch break and got some quesadillas in town and then hit the new Klonzo mountain biking trail system. The trails are just north of Arches and are really well put together. There are maps at every trail intersection making it almost impossible to get lost. It was a really cool place to ride!
Rainclouds had threatened when we were climbing and during lunch, but they finally struck out on the trail. It wasn’t terrible though. In fact, it was quite pleasant. A wet desert is a happy desert. You could almost feel the ground’s excitement. The smell of a desert storm is probably one of the best smells ever! It is hard to explain to someone who has never smelled it – it’s just one of those things you have to experience for yourself.
On top of all this feel-good, the desert further showed its gratitude with a double rainbow. It really felt like we were riding our bikes in a fairy tale.
We got back to the RV and rested. The cat went out to explore the campsite and make sure that we would be free of spiders.
The next day on our way out of town, we stopped by the dinosaur tracks off of the highway. The kitty had a really good time helping us find these giant lizards.
“Wait, where are the dinosaur tracks guys?”
Between the spiders and dinosaurs, the climbing and cycling, and the rain and rainbows, Arches showed us a good time. I am convinced that Moab is one of the more special places on the planet. Yeah the desert is harsh, and hot, and most of the living things there are trying to kill you with their thorns and poison – but there are gems to be found. Just like anything good in life – you have to get through the hard and nasty parts to enjoy the real sweetness that living has to offer.