Wednesday, September 25, 2013

long weekend in moab, pt. 2

When I said we were getting a "very early start in the morning," I meant we got up at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, planning to see the sun rise, and were driving up to Canyonlands National Park by 5:30.  We got to the Mesa Arch trail head around 6:15 a.m. and were unsurprised to see a fair number of other cars in the parking lot with more rolling in as we watched.  We walked in on the easy, wide and well-marked trail a quarter mile to the arch, not needing our headlamps because the near-full moon was still up.

Sunrise over the La Sal Mountains 

There were already people stationed in front of the arch - which perfectly frames the sun coming up over the La Sal mountains - so we climbed up the rocks to the left and settled in there.  There was enough moonlight to reflect in dozens of small pools and puddles down on the White Rim plateau in Buck Canyon, 1200 feet below.  As the sky got brighter and brighter, more and more people (including a Japanese bus tour) showed up and when the sun finally got above the La Sals, you couldn't hear anything but cameras clicking and whirring for about three minutes.

Sunrise glowing under Mesa Arch

Bathed in the stunning morning light (clear skies and 50s), we ate some store-bought mini muffins of dubious flavor and nutrition before heading over to Whale Rock, near Upheaval Dome (1 mi. RT).  We had the Rock all to ourselves and the 360-degree views were glorious, the air probably the clearest we'd ever seen.  At this point, it was only about 9 a.m., so we decided to do another short hike, this time out to Murphy Point (4 mi. RT).  Most of the length of trail used to be an old road, so the surface was pretty flat and sandy, segueing to slickrock for the last little bit.  Out on the point we had views of the White Rim, Green River and Junction Butte.

Big Chief loop, La Sals in the distance

Our next stop was the MTBing trails at Dead Horse State Park.  There are three loops - the small Intrepid (approx. 1 mi.), the medium Great Pyramid (approx. 4 mi.) and the large Big Chief (approx. 9 mi.) - and we did them all, in that order.  These are great trails with a mix of surfaces (hard pack, slickrock, gravel, sand); there were a couple of places we had to get off and walk, but not that many, and the surrounding scenery is killer.  We passed a couple of 30-somethings on the Big Chief loop; they caught up with us afterwards in the parking lot and the woman told me I was a "badass."  I'm choosing to feel complimented by that - I did pass her going up a hill, after all.

There's a very tiny H (green shirt) 
under the arch for perspective

It was only around 3 p.m. when we finished, still too early to go back to the motel; even though we'd only planned on Mesa Arch and the Dead Horse MTBing, we decided to tack on another short hike: to Corona Arch (3 mi. RT), which H had not yet done.  It was pretty hot crossing the sun-baked sand and slickrock but we had the arch all to ourselves up there.  It's ginormous and quite impressive.

Boy, were we stinky and sweaty at this point in the day

After that, it was clearly time for a beer.  We'd packed the cooler before leaving the room ... but then left it there in a total rookie move.  So we went back to the motel to have our beers on the bench outside the room and rehash the day: 14+ miles on the MTBs, 8+ miles by foot and amazingly clear views.  At the desk clerk's suggestion, we walked to Paradox Pizza where we quickly devoured a large pepperoni and kalamata olive pie, washing it down with Johnnie's American IPAs.  We were pretty tired at this point and managed just one more drink back at the room, calling it quits for the day just before 10 p.m.

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