Day 13. A shaft of warm golden light pierced my slumber at sunrise, the door of the Yurt and bed placed perfectly so that you could see it. The stillness in the calm of dawn, particularly here in Dead Horse was remarkable. Peace that even the lightest of footsteps on the gravelly, sandy ground shattered. Magical.
After last night's failure to get into Arches National Park due to the construction on the entry road we headed there after a little snooze, blog writing and breakfast. We dutifully queued at the entry booth, picking the frustratingly half as slow queue of two, to pay our $25 entry fee (valid for 7 days). I had imagined quite a short drive once inside but despite Arches being the smallest of the National Parks it was still 30 minutes to the far end, where Delicate Arch resides.
First, we went to the lower and upper viewpoints, both kinda sucked. Yes, you could see the Delicate Arch but it was miles away and tiny. We therefore decided to take a look a bit more up close and personal hiking the 3 mile trail up to the Arch proper.
1.5 miles each way and 480ft ascent, doesn't sound much I thought. Especially when we did more than double that in Bryce a few days ago at higher altitude. The park warned the hike was 'strenuous' and you should take 2 litres of water per person. I had assumed this was an American 'strenuous' label and took only 500ml each.
We left the car park and soon were climbing across as sheer rock face. Reminding somewhat of the great green motorway on the side of Yewbarrow in the Lake District it was an unending gradient making even the fittest of people pause for breath every so often.
The park guide also warned this was not a hike for those without a head for heights. Like something out of a Tolkien novel there were steps carved out of the rock and a ledge rising steadily, higher and higher, for the final 180m of the trail. I didn't like it one bit but made it through (I get vertigo which can lead to a panic attack at times).
Wow. That was totally worth the effort. Up close and personal it's very cool indeed.
The Arch sits near somewhat of a bowl with sloping rock falling away to the bowl floor maybe 100m below. I could not shake the vertigo at this point and froze! Ugh, what a pain. Cat was there to help me back to the safe part of the viewing area but there are no railings or anything so if you go, be forewarned! I seem to have a propensity to pick things that set my vertigo off, probably because they are super cool - like Delicate Arch.
On the way out of the park we drove past Balanced Rock and headed to Moab for lunch, just down the road.
As we approached from the North down Highway 191 the spectres of the mesas loomed ever larger on the horizon. They are so vast you can see them from 60 miles away. Their shapes so familiar from imagery beamed all over the world for decades. Suddenly, we crested a rise in the road and there it was. The view you've seen 1000 times. A long, straight road gently falling away downhill before rising once more toward the horizon. I am of course, talking about Monument Valley.
There were a few other tourists all dodging the 65mph traffic to grab the famous shot. One french couple taking hundreds of pictures, I know because I waited for them to grab mine as they were always in the way!
The mesas were really impressive up close, around 400m high.
Approaching the valley from the North is the way to do it. At 5pm, the time we did, the sun is getting low in the sky and silhouettes the mesas against the sky making for quite dramatic images. At sunset proper I can imagine it was really spectacular.
I must admit to being more than a little tired from the relentless pace we set ourselves. Tonight we had no accomodation booked. The plan was to drive the road between Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon and stop at a motel.
We have seen countless Motels the last 2 weeks but we were in Navajo nation and there were none. Literally none to be seen. We drove the long and boring, very boring South towards the Grand Canyon hope fading with the sun of finding somewhere. Eventually under the cover of darkness we arrived in Grand Canyon village and took one of the last available rooms at Yavapai Lodge, for the princely sum for $203!, and fell into bed. Our attempts to be spontaneous backfiring a little!!
I pushed so hard to get here that I'd forgotten in my original plans I'd planned to stay near Monument Valley. What this means is that I'd missed a day out really! Oops!! The plus side is that we now have a full day at the Grand Canyon, possibly even time for a plane ride?!, before heading toward Vegas this evening. Toodle pip!