Blue Sky

Springdale, Utah is aptly named. Entering Zion Canyon and seeing the Virgin River, clear and blue with cottonwoods lining its banks, was a sight for sore eyes after spending two days in Moab and driving over the San Rafael Swell and across the Wasatch Plateau. Although we fueled up before beginning the climb, we nearly ran out of gas in the mountains. I remember coasting down every hill and using our flashers a LOT, and distracting ourselves with downloaded episodes of Criminal, our favorite podcast–there was no cell service. We rolled into Salina with approximately 10 more miles of gas in our tank. I practically had to pry my fingers from the wheel.

 

I later found out that this 110 mile stretch of road is the longest in the Interstate system without any motorist services, which somewhat explained our dilemma. It more than makes up for the lack of human landmarks by providing a multitude of natural ones. The rock formations are colossal and unlike anything we had seen so far–the former geology student in me was drooling. This was one of the most spectacular sections of driving, but it was a little eerie feeling so small in the landscape and knowing if we had trouble with the car, we would be stranded.  As we approached Springdale, the landscape opened up. Zion Canyon was like an oasis after all this desert. It was still oppressively hot and dry, but dipping into the Virgin River was the ultimate thirst quencher. It helped that we hadn’t showered since we left Colorado.

 

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Hot Rocks

Driving into Utah from western Colorado was pretty unimpressive. Steep canyons and rocky mesas gave way to flat, barren land devoid of life. But as we drove further, huge buttes rose up in the distance, and as we turned south, we traveled through more canyons into Moab. A dusty brown and red palette was the backdrop to this hub of rangy, leathery people, adrenaline-pumping tour companies, and too many outdoor outfitters to choose from.

 

We drove up highway 313 that afternoon towards Dead Horse Point State Park and made camp at a jump-off point for a network of mountain bike trails, on the edge of a mesa. This was one of my favorite boondocking spots, and the heat lightning storm we got to see in wide-screen that evening was otherworldly. Also otherworldly was the drive through Arches National Park the next day to our campsite in the Devil’s Garden. It felt like we were on Mars. As bizarre as this setting was, I can’t wait to go back.

 

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