Photographer Jon, whom we’d met in Moab, gave us a good tip of photographing Mesa Arch at sunrise, and the shots he showed us encouraged us to be there super early so we wouldn’t miss it. Arriving while it was still dark and cold, we made the short hike, arriving to discover we’d still been beaten by a half dozen people with tripods already setup. Jostling in Matt secured a good spot and we sat in silence drinking our mugs of green tea (best thing about having a van on a morning like this!) whilst the place got busier and busier, space becoming even more limited.
Eventually a hush settled over the crowd, as everybody waited with chilly breathes for the sun to make its first real appearance above the layer of cloud which obscured the horizon. The silence was only broken by the occasional shuffling of feet or click of a shutter as people became restless or attempted to find a better position underneath the arch. Eventually rays began to show, and the crowd went wild! Ok not really but there was so much rushing around and shutters going off, the people who arrived too late were relegated to the back, forever to remember this moment by their photographs of a dozen scrabbling photographers silouhetted under the arch.
Some sick shots scored, Porkchop took us along to Dead Horse Point, a short 20 minute drive down the road. As this is a State Park rather than a National Park, we had to pay the $10 entry fee so decided we’d park up here for breakfast and get our money’s worth. Supposedly the name was derived from the cowboys who used to herd wild horses onto the point then corral them in with branches across the narrow neck. After they’d chosen the horses they wanted they let the other horses go free, however for some unknown reason, one time they were left imprisoned where they died of thirst, in view of the Colorado River below them. The views here are made famous not just for the beauty of the canyons and almost 180 degree curving river below, but because it was used in the final scenes of Thelma and Louise, the opening scenes of Mission Impossible II, along with many other big budget films. The views really are breathtaking, but you still can’t help wanting to see some crazy women in a convertible drive over the edge.
Another 30 minutes down the road from Canyonlands is the intriguing Newspaper Rock petroglyphs. With images dating from 1,500 years ago to last century it’s a crazy mish mash of people, animals and things you can’t quite figure out. It’s actually pretty fun to stand here and scour the images, trying to make sense of what was probably some prehistoric high school kids doodling and wasting time on their way to pick berries or something. Or you can try to picture how alien believers interpret some images to be spacemen sent down to earth to communicate with humans thousands of years ago.
Crossing our next state line we entered Colorado’s south western tip, where we were slightly tempted, but not tempted enough, to stop at one of the dirty, shack looking ‘bars’ that seem to be scattered along the 491 highway on the way to Cortez. As most people probably know, in 2012 Colorado became one of only four US state to legalise possession of weed, and in Colorado you can actually legally grow up to six plants and give it away to your mates, as long as they’re over 21. We’re pretty sure these ‘bars’ were quickly thrown together close to the border to make the most of the Utah/Arizona crowd crossing over to get their 4:20 fix.
Arriving late afternoon, and deciding we’d go for a bit of luxury, pulling into the A&A RV park (complete with pool and spa, mini golf and decent WIFI) as the rain started to pour down. The lovely lady at reception took pity on us, and offered us one of the sheltered camp sites which had a covered picnic table, and allowed us to use the power from the uncovered site next door. With a cozy recreation room and hot showers to boot, we couldn’t say no.
As the rain cleared we whipped out the electric BBQ, making the most of the power to cook up a feast of meet and veg washed down with some local beers. This was our 1st Wedding present, received from Sean and Myriah in Buffalo. Introducing ourselves to our new Dutch neighbours in their Jucy camper (you see these everywhere in south west USA, a bit like their version of the Aussie/UK Wicked campers), we were treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets we’ve seen, with one horizon full of bright amber and pink clouds, while the other had dark grey clouds scattered with red that made the entire horizon appear to be on fire.
After the rain reappeared, we spent a great evening holed up in the rec room with the owner, her daughter and son-in-law, their three young children and our new Dutch friends, entertaining the kids with our road map and taking them outside to prove there were no monsters. Turns out the son-in-law was a police officer, and after we told him about some of our positive run ins with the America police, he told us some of his not so positive run ins with tourists, including our favourite about the three Italians guys he pulled over for driving with their lights off in the middle of the night…and didn’t realise it was illegal.
Having had enough of entertaining other peoples kids, we retired with the Dutchies to make a campfire, drink some more beers over grown up chat and toast some marshmallows before hitting the hay when the rain made a reappearance and put the fire out for tomorrow we turn back time.