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Moab, Conor and Will, Spring 2011 Day 2, Druid Arch

May 1, 2011

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Tuesday morning, day 2 of our trip to Moab, dawned with perfection.  I have not seen such clear air and blue skies for a long time.  Advance warning that there are a lot of photos here.  It was a long day, a long trail, and LOTS to see.

Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. The photos in the gallery are a quantum leap in size and quality compared to the little teaser photos I put in this site’s trip narrative (and there are more of them). In addition, I have two other links that will help locate the area if you are interested in making the hike yourself. A Google Earth map can be found here. You will need to use the scale bar on the left side of the Google map to help zoom in or out to help locate the area based on where you live. (If you want to see all my trips, this link will direct you to a Google map that shows ALL my trips.) In order to help you with the actual trail itself, you can use this link to view a road and trail map (care of the official Canyonlands Nat Park website) of the Druid Arch trail.  Please note that all links open a new browser window.

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In addition to the Google map link above, please see a Microsoft Live map below. The red tack shows the general location of the trail from my home in Fort Collins, CO. You can click on the map to bring it up in a “live” mode and zoom in or out (and move the map around) to get more detail. Just make sure you don’t close the Microsoft “My Places” editor that pops up with map. If you close the editor (it is small and you can use/scroll/zoom the map without the editor getting too much in the way) without first saving the new location, the location button will disappear. If that happens, just close the map and click on it again on my web page.

Map picture

And, of course, we were in Moab, Utah, so the scenery from our motel was nice.  Right across the street (on the left side of the photo below) is the Wicked Brew drive up java stop.  Great cup of java.

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Zoom.  That bike rack is right in front of the Love Muffin Cafe.  A really great place to eat breakfast.  Really great in just about every area you could think of.  Really.  Trust me.  Or, ask my sons.  And only about a one minute walk (50 yards maybe) from our motel, the Bowen Motel, door.  This is the second year we spent at the Bowen, and I’ll probably go there again.

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Will getting ready to hit the trail. (Photo by Conor)

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Oh, did I mention that just across the street from the Bowen is the the Wicked Brew drive up espresso bar?  So, if for some reason you didn’t want to go to the Love Muffin Cafe, or you were in your vehicle, the Wicked Brew is a great place for a very good quick cup of java (an Americano in my case).  Which I am drinking here as I wait on my sons (on the trail, of course, they had to wait on me : )  Photo by Conor.

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I forgot how long a drive (around 90 minutes) it was to the Squaw Flat trailhead from Moab.  But, Conor and Will caught a little more time of sleeping, so no big deal.  We got on the trail and we were happy.

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I had decided that we would do a loop hike to Druid Arch.  I’d never been there before and that seemed like a good reason to go.  The first 3-4 miles or so led us over some trails we had covered the year before.  But, it was still fun.  And the weather and scenery were perfect.

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This looked strangely familiar.  But, the needles are always imposing.

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Nice variety of hiking.

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Conor keeping himself amused as he, and Will, most likely wait for me to catch up.  The La Sal mountains in the background were a constant sight.

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The air, as I said, was very clear.

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Will taking it all in.  There was much to look at.

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Conor and Will doing a little off trail scrambling.  The rangers don’t mind if you go “off trail” (on most trails).  They do ask that you stay off of the sand and it’s biological soil covering (see this on the Canyonlands web site http://www.nps.gov/cany/naturescience/soils.htm) as much as possible.  Due to all the slickrock, it’s pretty easy to comply.

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Hmmm.  Another rim to look over?  How different : )

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Springtime wasn’t quite as advance as I had hoped, but there were a few flowers along the trail.  Mostly of the yellow variety, but I happened upon these Indian Paintbrush.

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We saw a lot of lizards this trip.  They are quite speedy.

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Nice views everywhere.  Photo by Conor.

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We got to go through the “slot” again.

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Inside the slot.  Photo by Conor.

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Exiting the slot.  As can be seen, we are getting pretty close to the needles.  Not far from here we hit an intersection of trails and turn to follow a canyon that runs parallel to the needles.  Photo by Conor.

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Conor taking a water break after we exited the slot.  Even though the air temperature was really nice and cool, it did get a little warm in the canyon bottoms.  And, it was dry.  Next time we will bring more to drink.  We didn’t really suffer, but if we had had more to drink, it would have been nice.  Of course, there was a reason we ran a bit short.  More on that later.

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We finally began a long trek (4 miles maybe) up the canyon.  While interesting, it did get a little tiresome.  Particularly as I said, it got a little warm.  Not hot, but warm.

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We had a little fun on some one taking the high road while the others took the low road.  The trail would normally follow the canyon bottom on the straight sections, but sometimes would cut across sections where the canyon took a loop or curved a little.  So, here are Will and I taking the “high road” while Conor took the low road (that is, he just stayed down in the canyon bottom).  Photo by Conor.

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Mostly it was easier to just stay low.  And, more interesting due to the strange rocks you might have to scramble around.  But, sometimes I’d take the high road just to add some variety (and to help ensure we didn’t miss the trail exiting the canyon).

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Zoom.

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View of a portion of the Low Road.  Photo by Conor.

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Eventually the canyon began to narrow and climb.  This made for a lot more interesting hiking.  And more variety.  Including the occasional pool of water.  This section of the canyon was actually quite spectacular.  Both in views, and in hiking/scrambling up it.

We did see several children along the trail.  As can be seen here, you would want to keep a close eye (or actually contact) on your smaller children at this point.  The trail, in this section goes right up to the edge of this cliff.  There are other places along the trail where you really need to watch the children.  That said, in general it is very easy walking with only few sections that are “tricky”.  You may need to carry extra water for them unless they are used to carrying packs themselves.   I would recommend talking to a ranger prior to taking children on a trail to learn of any specific issues for the trail you are considering hiking on.  Even then, caution never hurts.  Photo by Conor.

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There is a pool of water down there.  I leaned over the edge trying to get a shot of it.

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More pools.  Obviously, these pools of water are not extremely common.  This is a very dry and arid country.  So, seeing pools of water is kinda nice.

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Pool and variety.  Fun area.  Photo by Conor.

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Interesting little section.

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Will decided to run it.

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Slightly different view.  I decided NOT to run it : )  Photo by Conor.

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Will taking his own route around another pool.  Photo by Conor.

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I think this is the last steep pitch before we were able to see Druid Arch (as an arch).  It’s quite a bit more of a climb than it looks like in this photo.  Photo by Conor.

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Our first view of Druid Arch (where you could actually see that it was an arch).  To say the least, Druid Arch was spectacular.  An amazing sight and well worth the hike.  Actually, the hike itself was worth the hike.  Druid was the cherry topping.

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Will, Conor, and some strange old guy.  All quite pleased with themselves and the day.

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Ah yes.  Druid.  As in “Druid Arch”.  Well worth the hike.  Conor and Will decided to head for the base of it.  I hung back and just took photos.

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It’s a big area here at the head of the canyon.  There isn’t an “easy” way out of here, so you have to go back the way you came.  Might have to look into that next time.  Here is Conor heading back for a bit of lunch in the shade.

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Zoom.

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There isn’t much between him and the bottom of the canyon at the point where he is walking.  I think (maybe; there is one other location that they could have been) those people are standing in the place where we had our lunch break.  The “pipe” in the bottom of the photo is a little steeper than it looks and no one had any thoughts about going down it as a “short cut” back to the trail.  Photo by Conor.

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Had this raven out circling us.  Looking for some food, I would guess.  Probably hoping someone would walk over a cliff and provide a large tasty meal : )  Every time I go on a hike and take photos I learn something.  This hike I learned that 1/250 of a second is a nice general speed setting for scenery photos.  And, that’s normally what I do.  But, when you add people, or animals, you need to up the speed or it gets a little fuzzy.

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Conor and Will taking it easy in the shade.  It was almost too cool in the shade.  One reason being that there was a strong wind.  At our backs.

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Little bit of a self photo, plus arch, plus reflection of surrounding rocks.  Neat.  Photo by Conor.

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I got them to turn around for a group photo.

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But, we knew we had to head back.  The sun was going down (it was around 3pm) and we knew that we had to cover an additional mile (or more) on the way back due to taking a different trail most of the way back to the car.  Yeah, only a mile.  Or so.  This is looking back down the canyon (the trail is buried down in that twisting slot).  We had two miles to go back down the way we had come before we hit the intersection of the different trail back to the car.  Photo by Conor.

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Zoom down the canyon from a slightly different location.  Not exactly a “slot canyon”.  But the trail is definitely deep inside a winding corridor of rock.  Really a cool hike.

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I didn’t get a real good photo of the last steep pitch prior to the arch.  So, here is a photo as we head back down.  It was a whole lot nicer going down than climbing up.

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Here is another photo of a rather steep pitch (yes, I missed a LOT of interesting photos on the way up due to concentrating on keeping up with Will and Conor without falling : )

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Now, you might think “gee, big deal, they give you a handle to hold on to and a ladder, no problem….”.  And, you’d be wrong.  It’s all in the angle of attack.  And this one is just a tad bit trickier than it looks.  Particularly when going back down.  Everyone took these pitches “nice and easy”.  Be a tough hike out with a twisted ankle (or worse).

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One thing about this country, and a valid reason for going slow and looking around, is that you can pass by really interesting looking rock formations, views, etc., in the space of a few steps.  So, one minute you look up and around.  Put your eyes back on the trail as you cover a few yards, then take another glance around. If your eyes don’t happen to look around at just the right minute, you could miss views like this.  This is actually Druid Arch seen from down in the canyon before you can see that it is actually an arch.  I don’t remember seeing it, myself.  Photo by Conor.

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While we had been up enjoying Druid Arch, the weather had changed.  We knew that there was a forecast for rain the next day, but high clouds started blowing in from the west and the breeze had picked up.  I thought there might be a chance of rain, never a good thing when you are in the bottom of a canyon, but it never developed into much.  It did cool things off in the bottom of the canyon a bit.  That was acceptable by all.

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So, we were walking back down the canyon to the intersection with our next part of today’s loop (only a mile further than if we just headed back on the trail that we followed from the car) when we noticed this rock cairn.  Or, set of cairns.  Or, field of cairns.  Well, anyway, an interesting set of rocks.  Photo by Conor.

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Zoom.  Photo by Conor.

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Remember what I was saying about missing something by just not happening to look up at the correct time?  Yes.  We had all just walked up this exact same trail a couple of hours earlier.  And none of us could remember seeing this cairn art.  Anyway, a couple of us were drawn to add our work to the piles of rocks.  It’s just one of those things, really.
Each person approaches such an endeavor slightly different from another.  There is no “right” way.

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Will just decided to start his own pile from scratch.

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Conor decides to add to some pre-existing structures.  So, put the final touches to them, so to speak.  I think he ended up with grains of sand.  It’s quite possible that we could come back next year and find that their work had survived.  Or, we could find an entire city of cairns.  Hard to say.

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Eventually we continued on our way.
I think I have mentioned the variety of hiking.  Sometimes you are on top of a rim, along the edge of a cliff in a canyon, walking along a flat stretch of sand, deep in a slot big enough for only one person, or climbing under and around house sized boulders in middle of a streambed.  Here we encountered some large sandstone slabs of rock to add to the variety.

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We finally got to the trail intersection and headed up into the unknown (my true reason for hiking).  Unlike some of these other trails, I’d never been on this section and had absolutely no idea what was ahead.  This made things just a little tricky as far as making sure we stayed on the trail.  And, making sure we got back to the car before dark.
For one thing, I could tell that this trail was not nearly as well traveled as some of the other trails.
Another issue is that the “trail” was not really marked by any signs other than the occasional small rock cairn and some boot prints in the sand.
Also, while on the other trails we had seen the occasional group of people.  On this section we saw no one.  In fact, we saw no one from the time we started up the “unknown” trail until we reached the car.
The final, and most vexing, issue is that the trail had a habit of cutting across curves of the canyon.  “Well Geoff”, you might say, “just stay in the streambed and don’t worry about the little side trails that would cut across a curve and then end up back in the streambed” (we saw and encountered this literally hundreds of times).
The problem is, at some point, one of those little side trails may NOT come back to the streambed.  But, instead, the trail may take off away from the stream towards some crack in the cliffs, or distant rim.  And, we’d never know about it because there wouldn’t be a sign saying “Look dummies, this is actually a turn off.  Take this trail now or you will lose yourself in the never ending streambed.”  Or, something to that effect.  So, I took a lot of side trails “just to be sure”.

Some time after starting up this new section of trail we encountered a nice section of wet sand, pools of water, and even some meadow types of environment.

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Zoom

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In another week or two this will be a little patch of greenery surrounded by red cliffs.

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Another curve or two (or five or ten; hard to say) went by.  The canyon opened up a little.  I didn’t see any cairns and the boot imprints in the sand dwindled somewhat.  I decided to cut up the bank to see if the trail was somewhere above us.  My sons said they would continue along the streambed and look for any cairns up ahead.  Our standard trail blazing process.

Hmmm.  Yes, here is a trail.  Well, I’ll just follow it and see where it goes back down to the stream.  But…. it didn’t go back to the streambed.  Instead it continued to slant towards some distant rims.

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I scanned the rims and saw it.

“Hey Conor, Will, I think you should come up here to the trail.  It’s not going back to the stream this time.  It’s heading towards some rims.”
“Dad, just how sure are you?”
“Well, uhhhh, pretty sure.  I mean, how about if I told you I can see a ladder leading up to the edge of the rim.”

And, yes, off in the distance, was the small image of a ladder leaning up against the rim’s far wall. (the ladder is easier to see on my web site here http://geoffw.smugmug.com/Utah-Trail-Hiking/Moab-Conor-Will-Spring2011Day2/16702211_k9KKww#1263769813_NNsLrcn-X2-LB ).
Or, try this http://geoffw.smugmug.com/Utah-Trail-Hiking/Moab-Conor-Will-Spring2011Day2/i-NNsLrcn/0/X2/dsc_4292-X2.jpg

They didn’t answer, but I could see them start up the slope towards me.

Zoom.  This was just sooooo cool.  : )

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Will approaches “the ladder” (kinda still in the distance).

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Some old guy also approaches the ladder.  I was only able to keep ahead of them for about 3 minutes after telling them about the ladder.  Will had already passed me.  I was probably wondering if the parking lot was just on the other side.  “Hey Will, can you see the car yet?”  : )  Photo by Conor.

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Once they passed me by, I stopped long enough to catch a glimpse of the canyon that we had hike up to this point.  Nice clouds.

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Neat place.  And, we had it all to ourselves.

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They start up ………

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Zoom

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Conor goes up.

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And then, it was my turn.  Hmmm.  Just how sturdy is this thing?

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Ooookaaaaayyy then.  It’s been here a while.

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But, I made it up.  I have to admit, I didn’t step in the middle of the rungs.

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Then I turned around to face a nice little set of stone steps still going up.

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Zoom.

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Cool stuff.  One more look back at the way we came.

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Different view.  Photo by Conor.

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Uh, ready yet, dad?

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On the other side of the “pass”, there was another ladder going down.  This one was metal. That was nice.  But, it was a little loose.  Not nice.

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The rim walk.
For about the next 2 miles (I really don’t know exactly how long), the trail stayed high up on the rim. So, pretty nice walking (no sand), awesome views, but just about as straight a line as the letter z.

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But, just unbelievable views.

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In many ways, outside of getting to Druid Arch itself, to me this was the highlight of the hike.  An amazing rim walk.  Uh, well, a LONG amazing rim walk.  And it came to pass that during this section of the walk we discovered from a few signs (at intersections with trails that did not show up on my map) that our 5 mile hike back to the car turned into an 8 (or more) mile hike.  Since we had figured that 5 miles would get us back to the car just before dark, we quickly determined (calculus and advanced trig) that making it back to the car before dark was going to be, ummmm, difficult.  Oh well, these things happen.
Along the rim.

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And then we hit the crack in the wall.  At my web site the photo is large enough that you can see the notched log that Will used to get to the top of that rock.

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Will surveys the surroundings prior to entering “the crack”.

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Just how nice were the surroundings?  I mean, anything worthwhile to look at?

Yah.

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Will advances.  Photo by Conor.

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Then Conor enters the unknown.  I didn’t take time (well, didn’t really have time) to try and get the correct settings on my camera, so pretty poor quality.  But, shows what we saw.

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Zoom.  You had to watch where you put your feet.  There was a wide crack that ran up the floor.  It looked pretty deep.

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Conor takes a photo of me “thinking about it” : )  The footing and the crack in the floor is evident.  I thought I saw a dwarf peering back at me from deep inside the crack at one point.  I moved quite quickly through and out to the other side.  Photo by Conor.

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Here is our view on the other side.  Nothing looked too familiar.  But, it was pretty.  I tried not to think about the time.

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Eventually we dropped down into the canyon bottom.  Nice change in scenery.

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As can be seen, we lost the sun.  Hmmm.

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Then we entered a section (for approximately 30 miles : ) of flat sandy trail.  If it hadn’t been so late, and my feet hadn’t been quite so sore, it would have been more enjoyable.  That said, it was the magic time of day, so I ignored my feet and tried to grok my surroundings.

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Mmmmmm.  Awesomeness.

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Believe me, it was even more incredible than these photos can show.

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Photo by Conor

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We crossed over the last ridge prior to seeing the outline of the parking lot in the distance.  It was getting fairly “darkish”.  But, pretty.

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Needles.

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Sunset.

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Sunset photo by Conor.

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Well, we got back to Moab and found a great place to eat (and, it was open : )  Awesome Italian food.  And the beer was very good also.  Pasta Jays.  Great place.

No one had any trouble sleeping that night.

– Geoff Weatherford

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Al Butler permalink
    May 1, 2011 8:46 pm

    Geoff:
    Longingly looking back to Colorado and missing the upcoming hiking season. I viewed your Moab trip with your sons… looked like a wonderful trip! Looks like I will have to rely on your great photos to get me through this next hiking season! Looking forward to seeing your next post!

    Fond regards,

    Al B.

    • May 7, 2011 2:13 pm

      Well, hopefully there are some sort of trails close to where you live. I can’t get to Moab more than once a year, and wasn’t really sure I would make it this year. But, got out the credit card and made myself do it anyway. I’m not sure when the next time that I will be able to go hiking with my two sons. One is going into the military this month, so I grabbed the chance while it was available. Anyway, enjoy the outdoors where ever you live. We have some small trails in town that I enjoy getting out on. Although, they leave a lot to be desired compared to Moab : )

      Thanks,

      Geoff Weatherford

  2. May 4, 2011 1:15 pm

    Thanks for the great post. Our trip is closer than ever, 8 days from now we’ll be in the plane. And our currently planned route goes through Moab! 🙂

    I’ll post my photos of the trip after we return home to my Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/timokoo/
    and the daily photos of our trip on days that internet connection is found: http://www.blipfoto.com/timook

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