If you’re sick of hearing how awesome America’s, and in particular Utah’s National Parks are, you might want to skip the next few blogs. The parks just keep getting better. Once again totally different to the park before, Arches National Park’s big draw is it’s, you guessed it, arches! We’re not sure who’s job it is to count these but apparently there’s over 2,000 arches here, ranging from 306ft to pretty pathetic 3ft (in case you’re wondering you need to be at least 3ft to be classified as an arch, otherwise you’re just a hole in a rock). Arches also has the benefit of being situated right by the awesome little town of Moab. The biggest town in south east Utah, it mixes outdoors with religious ties to the Mormons and is a great place to spend some time.
After a long day driving you can probably guess what our first stop was. Yep, the Moab Brewery, and we have only three words to describe this place. Best Nachos Ever. Seriously big and loaded with everything from chicken, olives, tomatoes, capsicum, onion, yellow corn, refried beans, cheese, salsa, guacamole and sour cream there’s pretty much nothing missing from this plate of nacho heavenly goodness. If that isn’t enough to part you from your greenbacks, you can actually buy 5% beer here if you opt for the Rocket Bike American Lager in a can rather than from the tap (why wouldn’t you??).
On a busy night this places gets pretty packed and has a good sociable buzz in the bar, not to mention a continuous gang of people reading menus outside waiting for their table in the restaurant. Always a good sign! Deciding we weren’t ready to finish the evening just yet, we got Pedro and Jesus out of the van and went for a little ride into town. Having been here before, Sarah recalled a backstreet bar with a bit of a dive bar locals-vibe, pool tables, and on the right night, karaoke. Managing to recall roughly where it was we made our way down some back roads and finally came upon what feels a little like a scene out of ‘From Dusk til Dawn’. In the dark distance, bright neon signage and a giant lizard appear, drawing you into the stand alone Club Rio.
Thankfully it wasn’t karaoke night, but the place was still packed so we took a seat at the bar and joined in. By the end of the night we’d downed quite a few fireball and tabasco shots (don’t knock it til you try it) with a friendly local who worked in oil or mining (who knows but he had money to burn and didn’t mind shouting us) and Jon, a photographer travelling from California. Jon turned out to be an absolute legend, great conversation and excellent drinking buddy. A few too many shots later we managed to escape, promising to meet him again tomorrow night, before riding back to the van. Ok we walked back to the van, Sarah was so drunk she fell off her bike outside the bar, much to everybody’s amusement.
The next morning we grabbed some ingredients from the nearby Village Market for a hangover breakfast and made our way to the National Park for some hiking to sweat it out. Once through the gate, a steep, winding road takes you up a cliff side, before delivering you up and over into the vast expanse of petrified sand dunes and towering red peaks of Arches. As you wind further into the park, passing delicate rock formations that seem like they’ll break any minute (including the precarious looking Balanced Rock), you can’t help the now too often repeated ‘WOW’ escaping your lips. In fact we’d got so sick of saying ‘WOW’ in Utah that we tried to come up with something else but couldn’t. There just isn’t any other word to describe this place.
Our first stop was a long loop hike out to Landscape Arch (at 290ft it’s the longest in the park), Double O, Najavo and Partition arches, so while Matt cooked breakfast Sarah loaded up at the water station and we hit the trail. There used to be a trail that took visitors underneath Landscape Arch, but once you arrive you can easily see why it’s closed. Since 1991 three huge slabs of rock (the biggest measuring 21m long!) have tumbled from the under side of the arch, and the fragile state is obvious from the numerous large cracks you can see.
The hike to this point is easy, then it gets a bit more tricky, as you have to scramble and climb over boulders and along narrow steep ridges and the path is not always well defined. But it’s well worth it as the views across the Fiery Furnace and the surrounding areas of the park are spectacular. Having taken in the views over lunch, we headed back down taking a side trip to Navajo and Partition Arches. The latter is a great arch to climb up and sit in as it makes a perfect little window and is pretty easy to pose in. Never mind the drop off on the other side.
Delicate Arch from the viewpoint trail, taken with a 300mm lens at full zoom. In reality the arch is really far away
Hot and sweaty after another long day hiking, we made our way back to town via a quick hike to the Delicate Arch viewpoint. Having done this hike previously, Sarah was again disappointed with the view, as you’re so far from the arch itself. Finally convincing Matt that we couldn’t leave without seeing the most iconic arch in the entire park (if not the country!) we decided to stay another night and do it first thing in the morning.
We parked up on the main street and Matt whipped up his specialty campervan meal of tortilla pizzas (recipe to come!) before we headed to Peace Tree cafe for some blog time and a pint. We were lucky enough to enjoy some live acoustic music by folk rock musician MacAuthur Lloyd, who caused a debate when his last song as we left was ‘I’ll be your baby tonight’. Matt was convinced it was by UB40 and Sarah adamant it was Robert Palmer. We actually happened to run into Mac later on in the evening, who settled the argument by saying it’s actually a UB40/Robert Palmer collaboration, just so you know…(great song by the way, check it out here).
Making our way to meet our photographer friend Jon from the night before back at Club Rio, we found ourselves enjoying another good night of conversation, fireball and tabasco shots and beers until we again said our goodbye’s. Telling Jon where we were parked up on the street for the night, he left promising to meet us in the morning and take a photo of us on his large frame camera. For those of you who don’t know, this is an old school Ansel Adams style camera that is a pain in the arse to lug around as it’s so big, but takes photos so clear you can blow them up to ridiculous sizes without losing the quality. Being into photography like we are, we were stoked! So a big shout out to our mate Jon and here’s his website if you want to check out his work.