We awoke Saturday morning in St George rather sluggishly. The motel room’s heater was on the fritz, having only two modes: off and full heat blast.
We took our time getting out the door, recouping after the long traverse across Nevada the day before. That afternoon, we took a nice 10 mile off-road drive from the corner of town into the Dixie National Forest and set out on a short hike to Yant flats and the Candy Cliffs. Pale orange and red striations cut through the sandstone around us, as we leisurely climbed a few hundred feet over a couple miles through the sagebrush and juniper trees. Ground-hugging cacti spotted the trail along the way, and we were sure to be mindful of Charley wandering about so as to avoid any needle sticks.
Arriving at the Flats, we stopped briefly to take in the enormity of the landscape in front of us. An ongoing difficulty in the West is conceptualizing the scale of the cliffs, peaks and formations strewn about in the vast wilderness. The Candy Cliffs, farther along the same trail, offered a stillness that was lacking at the Flats, as most folks don’t continue on after that.
Thursday morning arrived rather frigidly, as the thermometer refused to bump over 40F. With stiff, cold fingers, we started the campsite cleanup. We’d decided it was time to move on from Colorado, despite having an excellent time. Nothing gold can stay.
Becoming increasingly efficient at loading up the car, we methodically put everything in its place and set our bearings towards Page, Arizona and Lake Powell. A stop-off at Mesa Verde National Park, just east of Cortez, CO, was a consideration as we set out.
Leaving Moab was bittersweet. We were excited to reach our destination after 2 weeks of constant “go-bag” living, but sad to leave such a beautiful place. Gas for the car, coffee for our bodies, and onward we pushed. Our route would take us just under 400 miles SSW through Monument Valley, across the Arizona border and into the mountains of Tonto National Forest and Strawberry, Arizona.
By the final morning of our stay in Moab, the hotel breakfast was barely cutting it. There’s only so many days in a row you can eat Golden Malted Waffles at the complimentary La Quinta lobby breakfast. After eating just enough to sustain us and not much more, we head out to the Moab Visitors’ Center to inquire about a dog friendly hike nearby that was relatively mild and sent us exploring a different part of canyon country. We were directed up Kane’s Creek Road, opposite the Colorado River from Potash Rd, to a dirt road that hooked and whirled down countless switchbacks to the canyon floor. We stopped at Hunter Canyon and walked a little less than a mile in, side to side straddling a stream. Again, we were enveloped in a stillness, save for the chilly but unfrozen stream’s babbling white noise.. We returned the way we came after exploring the canyon for a bit over an hour: Up the dirt road switchbacks, past the mountain bike trailheads and more petroglyph figures etched in rock, and back to Moab valley to our room.
Morning Glory Arch hangs in a cavelike culdesac at the terminus of the Grandstaff trail. William Grandstaff was one of the early settlers (post-Native American) of the Moab area, and to see the twisting canyon with its perennial stream cutting through it, I’d say it must’ve been a pretty neat place to call home. The hike was maybe 4 miles roundtrip and not too taxing, with the occasional stream crossing and boulder hopping. Spots of ice still remained in areas of the canyon floor not lucky enough to receive more than an hour of sunlight a day, if that. The trail and the arch were solely ours to enjoy for as long as we pleased; there wasn’t another car in the trailhead parking lot when we arrived. We were surrounded by noiseless wonder- the only sounds being the bubbling stream, the occasional rustle of leaves in the lazy wind, a raven calling from above, or our own labored breaths as we climbed up over a ridge. After spending some time under the arch, examining the quiet spring that seemed to pop arbitrarily through a crack in the sandstone just past ol’ Morning Glory, we retraced our steps back to the trailhead and hopped in the car.
The La Sal Mountains lie about 20 miles ESE from Moab valley, rising around 13,000 ft above sea level. Stillness and wonder accompanied us as we took in the snowcapped background to Moab’s rusted canyons. This stillness would become the principal realization of our stay in Moab. The Colorado river turned and wagged back and forth through the canyons, and provided our introduction into the heart of the desert as we cruised alongside it on a state highway toward our first hike of the stay in Utah.
After almost a week on the road, feeling a little tired and run down, we decided to take it easy on Saturday and sleep in before hitting the road. Joey and Bijan made a delicious breakfast of French toast and well-done bacon, and we hit the road at around 11am. We had hopes of leaving after the ski traffic out west had ended. However, this was not the case. We got stuck in back to back traffic as soon as we hit I-70 going through the mountains. Once we made it through this, it was smooth sailing to our destination Moab, Utah.