A Tale of Two Utahs (Part 1 of 2)

Double Arch in Arches National Park Utah

Watching the subtle transition from desert to mountains as I drove from southern Utah to northern Utah was fascinating. Southern Utah is a desert with canyons. Northern Utah is a landscape dominated by the Wasatch Mountain Range. While the grandeur of the canyons was magnificent, I felt excited to finally be entering mountains.

Note: The Utah blog post got so long that I split the post into two. Utah felt like two different lands to me. The south, with the canyons and desert, and the north, with the mountains and abundant water.

My foray into Utah got off to a shaky start. The drive from the Grand Canyon was spectacular. The east entrance to the Grand Canyon is a beautiful drive, much nicer than the southern entrance. The first part of the drive the canyon was visible from the road. The road continues east and leads away from the northeast direction of the canyon. The rest of road was a beautiful drive through a forest.

After reaching Cameron I refueled. I am careful to refuel where the gas stations look new and modern, especially out west where refueling opportunities are not as frequent as other parts of the country. Trying to prevent getting a bad load of diesel, I also look for locations where the fuel station looks like a lot of pumping of fuel occurs. After refueling I turned north towards Utah. My destination was Monument Valley, a small area just north of the Arizona/Utah border. The area is famous for being a filming location for many western Hollywood movies.

The RV campground in Monument Valley was right off the main highway at mile marker 3 according to Google Maps. The site was so remote that there was no cell signal so I couldn’t check the on-line map. The place was brand new so it didn’t show up on my RV NAV system. I couldn’t find the park. I went off on several side roads, even stopping at an Indian Reservation to ask for directions. I did see one RV place on the side of the road, but it was just a red dirt field. I thought there was no way could this be the RV park I saw in the internet. I passed this field three times before stopping, and sure enough, the red dirt field was the place I found through Google Maps that boasted about its deluxe sites and fabulous views. This was a painful lesson about not believing everything you read on the internet.

The campground had no office, no facilities, the place was just a series of closely spaced sites. The place was brand new. I think I might have been the first customer. Taken aback by the desolate grounds, I didn’t want to stay here. Tired from a long day of driving, and near the end of the day, I decided to stay. I also was meeting the couple from Germany here. We had met each other the day before at the Grand Canyon campground, and I didn’t want to not be here when they arrived. I met the owner of the campground, and he said, “Well, are you impressed.” I said nothing. He was a nice guy and worked hard to get his campground up and running. Probably within a few years, the campground will return to being a red dirt field, a field with a lot of pipes, plumbing, and electrical wires covered by more red dirt from 70 mile an hour wind storms. After all, the high winds over millions of years carved out the incredible spires and rock formations of Monument Valley. I’m pretty sure that no traces of the campground will be around after just a few years.

Forty dollars for just for a hook up for water, electricity and sewage was way overpriced. Worse than that, was this fine red dirt blowing fiercely from the southwest. A fine layer of red dirt was getting into my RV and covering the outside. I closed up the RV to prevent more dirt from getting into the coach, but the outside was still being pummeled by the windswept red dirt. Luckily the wind tapered down a few hours later. I spent a lot of time cleaning up from that fiasco. The effect of the dirt on the heat pump and other parts of the coach exposed to the outside especially concerned me. I didn’t run the heat pump that night. I planned to drive the next day and hopefully blow whatever dirt was on the outside of the coach away. I cleaned all the parts I could reach including the slide mechanism rails and gears. Everything is now working okay.

The couple from Germany did arrive. We were they only guests here. The Germans were eight months into a 10 month world-wide tour. They had been to Africa, New Zealand, Fuji, among other places. They also had a six year old son traveling with them. Now they were touring the western USA in a rented RV. We had interesting discussions about the differences between Germans and Americans. They were very interested in what my thoughts were about Germans. They made a very nice dinner for us for the second night in a row, and this night we did have the spectacular Monument Valley at sunset as a backdrop for dinner. Not too many restaurants have that kind of scenery.

The drive the next day to Moab Utah was incredible. The entire 180 mile drive could have been a National Park. Huge dramatic red bluffs rose on both sides, enveloping me the entire way. I had no reservations in Moab, but was not too concerned because there were four or five RV parks there. That was a mistake. Moab was far more popular than I realized. Vehicles and people mobbed the tiny small town. I stopped at a nice RV park in the middle of Moab, and the clerk was kind of rude to me when I asked about a spot. She must have thought I was some out of town yahoo who didn’t realize where I was and that it was so popular. Well, I was that yahoo, all the way from Florida. The next place I stopped the woman was very kind. I was kind of stressed from the place I stayed the previous night, and the thought of not getting a place this evening left me frazzled. She was very kind to me, and said she had one night available, Thursday night, before the busy weekend. I took the one night. I was grateful for a place to stay.

Now I could rest and go to Arches National Park the next day after a good nights sleep. I knew that not having a plan would cause problems with getting a place to stay in the more popular places, but I didn’t realize that Moab was so popular. The small town had way too many people and cars. The small town was totally over run with two constant lines of vehicles, one in each direction on the one street in the town. Like many nice places, too many people go there and ruin the place. Or as Yogi Berra said, “No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” That is how I felt about Moab. I was glad to get out of there.

The next morning when I woke up, I felt rejuvenated and excited about going to Arches National Park. I was kind of proud of my shiny new year-long National Park Pass that I paid $80 for at the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. The entrance to Arches National Park was just a mile away from the campground. A free National Park weekend was occurring this weekend where admittance to all National Parks in America was free, so I didn’t even get to use my stupid $80 National Park Pass. Wanting to seeing this park was the reason I came into southeast Utah. The exercise bicycle at the YMCA I work out has a video screen of beautiful places around the world to watch while you pedal away in place in a boring gym. Monument Valley and Arches were among the videos available on the exercise bicycle. I wanted to see the red stone arches I saw on the exercise bicycle video screen.

The Sunwapta easily climbed a steep narrow road entering the park. I’m so happy I got a diesel powered RV. The drive out to the end of the park disappointed me. The scenery was wonderful, but I didn’t see any arches. I thought maybe you had to hike to see arches. I looked at the park map, and saw I needed to take two side roads showing landmarks that seemed to show there would be arches there. Go figure, one should actually look at the $80 map I could have gotten for free. On the return trip, I found a road that had some of the many arches in the park. Although I started early in the morning, parking was now an issue, especially for a small RV. I just happened to get lucky as a RV pulled away from a parking spot, and I was able to ease the Sunwapta into a tight parking spot. I walked up a short trail to some arches, like the one shown in the picture above. I know what you are thinking, don’t be so lazy and get out and hike. Laziness has nothing to do with it, I would very much like to get out and hike. I just don’t like to leave the cats alone in the RV for long. That is the trade-off with bringing the cats. Having the cats along is worth the limitation for me.

After leaving Arches National Park I drove though Canyonlands NP, just 30 minutes away. Canyonlands NP was not as spectacular as Arches NP, but there weren’t many people there. The scenery was still incredible. On the way back some car passed me and I saw the passenger flip me the bird, the person probably thinking I was some fat old RV guy from Florida, uh, no comment there. The rude gesture didn’t even bother me at first, I was so chilled from the scenery I saw that day. When I got to the main road, the car containing the idiot was still there waiting to turn onto the main road. So even after passing me I still caught up to him. I thought about ramming his car with my RV and then realized I still have something like 216 payments left on the RV. I’ve been binge watching “The Sopranos” on my tablet this trip, having downloaded the last 3 seasons before I left. I will attribute my malicious thoughts to watching too many episodes of that show.

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks were full of places named like Lands of the Gods, Island in the Sky, the Garden of Eden and with good reason. The vistas were surrealistic. Filming for some of the scenes from the original Star Trek series took place here. I did feel like I was in a different world.

Although the canyons were beautiful, I was canyoned out and tired of the desert. I was ready for green landscapes, filled with trees and mountains. The incredible sheer rock bluffs canyons started to remind me of churches in Italy. Once you have seen one, you have seem them all.

After exiting Canyonlands NP, I made my way to Green River on I-70. Green River is famous for being where Wesley Powell started his expedition that eventually led him to the Colorado River and into the Grand Canyon. They were the first explorers of the region and floated all the way down to and through the Grand Canyon from there. Where I stayed in Green River was another scary park, just a field, with permanent residents screaming at each other. I was grateful however for this park, as it was a good stopping point before heading north towards Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City of course is famous for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Here is a classic song performed by them.

Theme from The Magnificent Seven


A Tale of Two Utahs (Part 1 of 2) — 2 Comments

  1. I enjoyed your blog and found the part about seeing the scenery on a video very funny, reminded me why I travel to allot of places after watching them on discovery channel. Sound like you and the cats are have a great time. I was happy to hear you have made some friends along the way…never pass up a free meal or good company. Take care

    • Sue,
      I’ve seen a lot on the Smithsonian Channel, called Ariel America. The have a one hour episode on each state, where they fly over each state in helicopter, and give a history of each state, as well as interesting an offbeat places of interests in each state. If you get a chance and have the Smithsonian Channel, check out the series. They repeat them often. The show gave me so many ideas on places I want to see.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.