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Colorado National Monument Arches National Park

20th June 2010

From Man Made Sculptures in Grand Junction to Nature's Sculptures in Arches National Park

Grand Junction Main Street
    Up until now I had slept inside an absolutely freezing or chilly van, which I overcame with layers. Now I have gone to the other extreme, trying to keep cool. Mustn't grumble though.
    Since the campsite had a laundry, I made use of the facilities before heading to downtown Grand Junction, i.e. Main Street. This was a delightful leafy avenue, with cafes spilling out onto the pavements, eating establishments, and an assortment of 'touristy' shops, 95% of which were closed because it was both Sunday and Father's Day. This limited the number of people on the streets. What I did particularly enjoy about this street were the dozens of sculptures scattered along the way. They were very varied with styles to suit all tastes.
    But I couldn't dally, I needed to press on to Moab and find a campsite there. The journey was only 125 miles, but the dramatic shift from well irrigated Grand Junction to the scorched land of Utah was startling. I stopped at a rest area in Utah and the energy sapping strong, hot wind was a hint of things to come. The journey was uneventful, but I once again became aware of the huge empty spaces in America. Even the I70 I drove along had a central reservation that varied in width from 20m to well over 200m. I overtook one juggernaut, with a trailer, and another trailer attached to that. Imagine trying to reverse that into a tight space.
A Sculpture in Main Street
Another Sculpture
Yet Another Sculpture
Once Again, Another Sculpture
Final One
    The final sweep down into Moab was quite something. The road actually travels down the middle of the Moab fault. Just a few hundred million years ago, the earth's crust was under such tremendous pressure here that it cracked, and one side of the crack dropped 2500'. The road followed that same crack.
    Moab had been a town of dramatic ups and downs, but it was once again booming. In 1952 a local prospector discovered the first of several major uranium deposits outside town. Overnight, Moab became one of the wealthiest communities in America (rings a bell with Butte, Montana). When the uranium market declined in the 1970s, the town was saved by tourism and its proximity to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Today, Moab is one of the top destinations for lovers of the outdoors.
Moab Main Street - Looks Better at Night
    Within a few minutes of arriving at Moab, I had found a campsite. Because the site was heavily booked, and I was going to base myself here for quite a few days, they put me on the hill in the tent compound. If you ever wondered what happened to the great American dustbowls, well they ended up on the hill. The three portaloos that served the hill were completely disgusting, almost overflowing. But I could cross the ford and use the ample washroom, toilet, shower and laundry facilities that the rest of the site enjoyed. The site had a pool, for midgets, and WiFi access, that was handy. This all made for a change from what I had become accustomed to; spacious well laid out campsites usually next to a pristine lake in fragrant forests. Variety is the spice of life, I thought.
    I also inquired as to whether it was possible for me to receive mail here. It was, so I immediately sent a text to Don and asked him to send the Title (proof of ownership) of the van down to me. For good measure I also emailed him. Whilst checking my emails, I had received one from my kids which sent me over the moon. They had sent me a very touching Happy Father's Day message. I don't mind admitting it brought a tear to my eyes. They were pleased that I was spending it doing something I had dreamt about for a long time.
Park Avenue
    I took a walk up and down Moab Main Street, basically the only street worth walking down. It had its assortment of eating establishments, bars, tourist shops, and a host of companies trying to tempt me into rafting on the Colorado river, mountain biking, 4x4 treks in the National Parks etc etc.
    Today was meant to be a chill out day, but I soon got bored of Moab's main street, and decided to head up into Arches National Park to see if I could get any good sunset photographs.
Me on My Harley Davidson
    Arches National Park contains the highest number of natural stone arches found anywhere in the world. More than 80 of these natural wonders have formed over millions of years. The park lies atop an underground salt bed that is basically responsible for the arches, spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins and eroded monoliths of this sightseer's Mecca. Thousands of feet thick in places, this salt bed was deposited across the Colorado Plateau 300 million years ago when a sea flowed into the region and eventually evaporated. Over millions of years, residue from floods, winds, and the oceans that came and went blanketed the salt bed. The debris was compressed as rock, at one time possibly a mile thick.
Balanced Rock, the Top Rock is
55' High, 3,500 Tons in Weight
    Salt under pressure is unstable, and the salt bed lying below Arches was no match for the weight of this thick cover of rock. The salt layer shifted, buckled, liquefied, and repositioned itself, cracking and thrusting the rock layers upward as domes, and whole sections fell into the cavities. Over time the cracks eroded, leaving long "fins" of rock. As these fins eroded, the hard overhead rock formed arches, which range today from the solid looking Turret Arch to the graceful Delicate and Landscape arches.
Double Arch - the White specks are People Clambering About
    Back to my initial explore of Arches. At one of the viewing points I was marveling from, a group of motorcyclists pulled up on their Harley Davidsons. The National Parks seem to be full of Harley Davidsons. I asked the chap, who appeared to be the leader, if I could take a photo of their bikes. He insisted I sit on any of the bikes and he would take my photo. All the blokes warned me not to burn my bare legs on the bike, and as I mounted the machine, I could feel the heat being radiated from the exhaust pipe. "That's why we ride at 90 m.p.h.", he joked, "to keep the bikes cool". One of the fellows was from New Mexico, and the others had driven from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to meet him; a three day trip.
North and South Windows
    I made an intelligent comment to the leader about Pennsylvania being the coal supplier for the rest of America. He retorted that almost all the mines were closed now; pressure groups had brought this about on the grounds of pollution. It made me think about the pollution coming from the millions of gas guzzling cars. We gingerly discussed this, and then moved on to today's political climate in America. He was not a fan of Obama, who he regarded as trying to turn America into a socialist state. As far as he could see, normal hard working people were having to work harder to support others on benefits. I could see parallels with my own country. The debate was becoming rather heavy, but fortunately the guys needed to move on, so we shook hands and they drove off into the impending sunset.
Turret Arch at Sunset
    Once the sun had gone down, there was nothing more I could do but return to Moab. I reached the campsite, pulled up outside the showers, had a refreshing douse, found my pitch and quickly changed. I walked into town for food, but I had spent so much time up in Arches that it was now after 10pm, and I was worried that restaurants might be shut. Indeed some were, but I found one and walked in to see if they were still serving food. The head waitress spotted me and asked if I needed the restroom. I replied that I was actually after some food. She laughed and said I looked as though I needed the restroom when I walked in, and she showed me to a table. I joked with her about me looking desperate for the toilet, and we laughed. Hmmm..... made me think, do I really look like that.
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Colorado National Monument Arches National Park

Uploaded from Canyonlands Campground, 555 South Main Street, Moab UT 84532 on 22/06/10 at 09:20

Last updated 22.6.2010