Below are the diary entries for September 19, 2012, with the newest entries added at the bottom. Also, check out today’s photos.
Well, this was an unexpected end to the day. We arrived in Moab, Utah, around 7 p.m., thinking we’d drive up to the first reasonably priced motel we saw and book a room. Uh, no. It seems all the world comes to Moab in September, because it’s much too hot here in the summer. The place is booked solid! After enquiring at just about every motel or hotel in town, we finally found a cabin at a local hostel. Not quite what we had in mind, but it’s OK. Someone is singing and playing the guitar as I’m writing this, people next to me are having a civilized discussion about politics, and someone else is watching Mythbusters on a tv in the corner.
I do wonder what we’ll do tomorrow, because after we’ve hiked Arches National Park - not the whole thing, of course, just a feasible hike for us old fogeys - and possibly Goblin State Park, that’s pretty much it out here. There aren’t cities to speak of. As we drove in, we wondered why we didn’t see any houses or even any cattle near the road, as we’ve seen in every other state we drove through. We were a little low on gas, or we would have taken one of the exits to check out the “towns” they point to, while also making clear that there’s nothing much there: no services from the Colorado line to just past the first Utah welcome center, 40 miles or so into the state. The lady at the welcome center explained that this is because these towns don't really exist anymore, they're just names. Most of the land over which I-70 runs is owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
Good thing we gorged ourselves on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Grand Junction, CO. We actually meant to find an ice cream store, but when that didn’t pan out, we were like “To heck with it, we’ll just buy some at a supermarket and eat it right then and there!” Which is exactly what we did. We have all our stuff with us, after all, so Eric got out the camp chairs and I dug up the spoons and we ate a pint of ice cream each. Eric had Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch and I tried Key Lime Pie. To be honest, it could have been a bit more lime-ish, but it was good all the same.
We deserved it because we had been so abstemious at dinner last night, and breakfast and lunch today. Lunch consisted of 3 rice crackers with cheese and a banana each, plus as much water as we could hold, because we’d just completed a hike of only 1.2 miles each way, but what it lacked in length it made up in height: it rose 1,020 feet! We went into it thinking that if it got to be too much, we’d just turn around and go down, but a family with two little kids - one a baby in a carrier and the other a three-year-old - started at about the same time we did, but overtook us seemingly effortlessly. After seeing that we had to complete the hike, no matter how strenuous! Having seen so many beautiful sights the last two weeks, we thought we were a bit jaded, but the goal of the hike, the hanging lake and waterfall were among the most gorgeous things I’ve seen so far.
Today was certainly a day for gorgeous sights. After a breakfast of wheat puffs and instant coffee - which I served Eric in bed because of his sweet status update yesterday - we drove 30 miles or so from Idaho Springs, CO, to the Eisenhower Tunnel. Zachary had warned us Monday not to swerve off the road once we cleared the tunnel, and he was absolutely right. It was spectacular, and it only got more spectacular the farther west we drove. The more we see of this country, the more amazed we are! When you’re in a national park, you expect to see beautiful vistas and things, but you don’t really need to go into a park. The pictures below were taken mostly through the windshield, and it’s what we saw driving along I-70.
We were close to I-70 where we slept (the Interstate almost ran through the backyard of the motel) so it was only 25 minutes before we got to the Eisenhower tunnel, one of the "wonders" of the Interstate system. The landscape was gorgeous both before and after the tunnel, so what can I say!
The Glenwood Canyon snook up on us before I knew it! I had been reading about it, and definitely wanted to do some hiking there (the Hanging Lake trail sounded interesting) but somehow I though it was somewhere beyond Grand Junction. Anyway, the canyon is so narrow that the two directions of I-70 are sometimes on top of each other! The scenery is beautiful (I feel I'm repeating myself).
So we did indeed hike the Hanging Lake Trail -- 1.2 miles each way, with a rise of 1020 feet. We just about averaged the record speed of a whole one mile per hour... we took it easy (after all, we're still a couple of thousand feet up in the mountains), moving slowly and taking plenty of breaks, but did make it. And fortunately, the trip down turned out to be not as hard as I feared. The trail, by the way, was advertised as "difficult" and that was no exaggeration!
After the two-and-a-half-hour round-trip we were back at the car and pretty exhausted. We had lunch in the parking lot and continued on I-70, through Western Colorado and into Utah. We were barely in time at the welcome center (40 miles into Utah) before they closed at 6:00.
By the time we got to Moab, it turned out that all of the gazillion of hotels / motels were either filled or only had 200-dollar rooms left. Now I understand that in a tourist area, you have to pay more than out in the middle of nowhere, but 200 dollar a night is still pretty steep. So we continued looking and found the Lazy Lizard Hostel where we got a cabin for under $40... when we were already starting to wonder if there was ANY place we would be able to get a bed...