Goal was hiking and photography. We were there for a full moon and an amazing show of wildflowers.
What we did: 10, SAT - Arrived Denver in the late afternoon. Stopped to look for bighorn sheep at Georgetown, CO (unsuccessful, but a beautiful stop, and good pizza from Mountainbuzz Cafe!). Drove on to Grand Junction, arriving ahead of the winter storm that hit the mountains early Sunday.
11 SUN - Colorado National Monument. Cold and rainy! Drove through Colorado National Monument. Hiked to Devils Kitchen and a bit beyond. Also hiked a bit of Serpent’s trail, but turned around when the rain started. Drove the rest of Rim Rock Drive, partly in the fog/clouds but the views cleared just as we reached Artist’s Point – beautiful! We found a ledge to enjoy leftover pizza for lunch. Another wave of showers came through later, so we left the park and headed to Moab via Hwy 128, exit 214. We checked into our condo, picked up groceries at City Marekt, and headed into Arches in hopes of a sunset. The sun never made it through the clouds, but we had some fun looking for reflection shots in the pools near Park Avenue Trail/Courthouse Towers.
12 MON – Arches. Got up early for sunrise at Windows section, but the clouds were still too thick. Still enjoyed a quiet morning in the Windows area. Hiked around via the primitive loop and the short trail to Double Arch. Went up to Landscape Arch and hiked to Devil’s Garden around via the primitive trail -- I highly recommend the offshoots at Partition and Navajo Arches - nice to have those all to ourselves. Found a nice picnic area for lunch a couple hundred yards up the dirt road across from Balanced Rock. That afternoon we did the Fiery Furnace ‘tour’. We went back to the condo for dinner, and for sunset we headed out to the Windows section, exploring around Turret Arch.
13 TUES – Needles. Stopped to see petroglyphs on the way to Needles: Newspaper Rock was okay, but being able to ‘discover’ the petroglyphs at Shay Canyon just up the road was fantastic! We stopped at the visitor’s center for tips on the Chesler Park/Joint Trail hike. This hike was one of the best we’ve ever done – amazing! Went to back to Moab and straight to Milt’s Stop and Eat for dinner -- it was very popular that evening, taking about 25 minutes for our burger order. They were great, and it’s a fun, local scene. We chilled out at the condo for the evening.
14 WED - Island in the Sky. Headed out early for sunrise at Mesa Arch – beautiful. Probably 20 people there, but they were all respectful and it seemed that everyone had a chance to get a nice shot. Hiked to the granaries/Aztec Butte. Found an amazing spot to enjoy some breakfast out on the rocks partway down the White Rim Trail. Hiked to Grandview Point, the 2nd overlook at Upheaval Dome, then hiked to False Kiva. (We went in the long way, but found the ‘real’ path on the way out!) Back in Moab, we grabbed some amazing steaks and home-made jerky Ol’ Geezer Meat shop – wow! For sunset we went out near the picnic area we ‘discovered’ near Balanced Rock, where we got some great panorama photos and watched the moonrise.
15 THUR – Dead Horse Point, Mill Creek. Went out to Dead Horse Point for a beautiful sunrise. I loved watching the colors in the rocks ‘come to life’ as the shadows receded into the canyon. We hiked the east/west rim hikes with all the overlooks, making a loop. Back to Moab, we had a fun brunch at Moab Diner (I’m a sucker for all things green chili, and the chorizo breakfast burrito didn’t disappoint!). It was hating up in the afternoon, so we hiked up Mill Creek Canyon past the main swimming hole to the second pool up. Later that afternoon we chilled out at the condo, did laundry, and enjoyed our steaks on the grill. We did an evening hike to Corona Arch. Before the actual sunset, the arch was in the shade due to the sun angle, but it was still a nice setting as we watched some folks rappelling.
16 FRI - Morning – We headed out to Windows section for the sunrise Turret Arch shot, but turned around when an entire bus of tourists arrived at the same time, around 0545! We went over to the Garden of Eden, which we had completely to ourselves. It was a magical way to spend a morning, and we enjoyed it for over an hour. We eventually headed back to the North Window for pictures. Next we decided head out to Delicate Arch. As the day was heating up, we drove up to Sand Dune Arch. Being so close to the road, I was amazed that we had the place to ourselves for quite awhile. Others came, but only stayed long enough for a quick picture. If you come here, enjoy it with your shoes off! We also did the short walk up to Skyline Arch – had planned to climb up the back, but the knees were feeling a bit wobbly after our previous slickrock hikes. That afternoon, we walked around Moab a bit and grabbed a beer at Moab Brewery.
17 SAT – We left Moab early to go back and enjoy Colorado National Monument, since it was rainy on our last trip through. We were hoping to see some bighorn, so we took the Wedding Canyon/Lower Monument Canyon Trail loop. (5 mi). According to some other folks we saw on the trail, we just missed the big horn sheep, but we did see a few collared lizards! Down the road (outside the park) we hit the Liberty Cap/Corkscrew Trail loop. The amazing wildflowers in the meadow on the initial part of the path were really the highlight here. Drove to Palisade, CO where we enjoyed a charcuterie plate and amazing Pinot Noir on the patio at Maison LaBelle winery. We drove on to Glenwood Springs, where we relaxed in the motel a bit before enjoying a couple hours at the public springs. We had great lamb-burgers at the Grind downtown.
18 SUN - Early morning we hiked to Hanging Lake. It was so beautiful and quiet on the way up and at the lake, though the trail was getting quite busy on the way back down. We showered, checked out, and headed back to Denver. Along the way, we took taking Hwy 6 exit 216 over Loveland Pass, and enjoyed lunch at Arapahoe Cafe by Dillon Lake. The food was amazing and our table had an amazing view. We stopped at Georgetown again for a last search for bighorn sheep. This time, with only hours to spare in our vacation, we finally spotted one! We arrived in Denver early, so we checked out Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR. The bison were on the other side of a fence, not great for pictures, but the prairie dogs were everywhere and so much fun to watch. We walked on one of the trails for about 20 minutes before it was time to head on to return the rental car. Back at the airport, we had time for a dinner at Mesa Verde in Terminal A (some of my favorite US airport food) before our late flight back home.
Next post will be my terrible attempt to "rate" our hikes...