We are trying to take in as many sights as we can as we journey back across the country to Atlanta. It seems such a shame to speed past so many amazing places.
However, we are on a tight schedule. We will be leaving to hike another portion of the Appallacian Trail shortly after we get back and less than a week that we get back from a week backpacking on the trail, I will be loading up a truck to help drive our crew of Funk Pirates back to the Black Rock Desert aka Burning Man.
After Alaska and California, which each have eight national parks and are both considerably bigger, Utah is third in regards to national parks with 5. I've been to two, Zion and Bryce. The other three were all more or less on the path we were taking home.
We certainly didn't have time to make it to all three, so we decided to visit Arches National Park. The scenery along the way was something to behold. In fact, we stopped at one view point that was on par with what I've seen at other National Parks.
We passed the turn-offs for Capitol Reefs and Canyonlands National Parks and finally got to Arches.
After studying the map, we decided on a game-plan that would have us touring the park for between 2-4 hours.
Our first stop would include a a very short hike to the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint, where we would get a "distant" view of the park's most famous arch.
It was distant, to say the least.
It was then that we started calculating what we were likely to see, how long it would take and began to realize that we were going to end up in the car even longer than if we had made one of our "long drives" which we were determined not to do; and that we would have a below mediocre experience.
So we turned around and left the park and charged on towards Colorado.
Mountains speak to me. As amazing and beautiful as the mesas, spires, and variety of spectacular rock formations might be, it is when I head towards the higher altitudes that I feel at home.
We figured we could make it to Vail, Colorado. We had spent several days there a few years back for the Teva Summer Games which was a great experience. I knew that there were great places to get in a trail run and that the town was quite lovely and ....expensive.
However, Skye scored us a great deal at a wonderful hotel and in no time we were checking in and settling down for a well deserved dinner and for me a local beer or two at the Altitude Bar and Grill.
Once we got back to the room, any possibility of me blogging or even taking a shower went down for the count, or rather I should say that I did.
I flopped across the bed still in my clothes and feel fast asleep.
I guess I was a bit more tired than I realized.
I woke up latter than I had planned, imagine that. But I was determined to get a run in so I headed out, with no idea, direction, or plan. I simply wanted to get out, get in a run and then get on the road. We had another big day ahead of us.
After a few dead-ends and such, I ended up on the very same trail that the Teva 10K had started out on. It climbed high above the town. It was an amazing trail run. Actually a lot more hiking and gingerly stepping around massive root tangles or carefully making my way down steep and treacherous mountain bike runs.
All in all it was a great 4 1/2 mile run.
Remember the no plan, no direction, no idea part of the story, well I had headed out with no hat, no sunscreen, (not good for my pale, cancer inviting complexion, not to mention my newly inked tattoo, which barely survived getting scratched up while making it through the narrow trails), no map (although I had passed by a great complimentary trail map in the hotel lobby), and a barely charged cell phone.
Right as my "run" ended, my phone went dead and I found myself lost in Vail, where all of the buildings look the same. After a bit of confusion, I decided to commit to going one direction and hopefully it would be the right one.
30 minutes later I was finally back at our hotel. I had managed to make it a good ways down the road while criss-crossing the slopes above the town.
After hastily getting our things together, we drove over the famous, Little Diner only to realize it would be easier to leave the car parked at the hotel and walk.
Only to find that the Little Diner was packed and had an approximate 20 minute wait just to get seated. We meandered through the village and found a lovely little crepes shop.
And then Skye stopped at a Starbuck’s, a new obsession.
We finally got on the road a bit after 12:00.
So much for an early start.
The drive was gorgeous and we were making great time and then we hit major road construction in the middle of nowhere and were set back practically an hour.
We made it Rocky Mountain National Park around 3 pm.
Or so we thought.
First we stopped at a lodge that was almost in the park. We had crossed into the park only to be lured out by a sign that certainly made it seem like the hotel was part of Rocky Mountain National Park.
When we stopped at the Visitor’s Center for maps and directions we were told we would get those at the park entrance.
Why the Visitor Center was situated before the park entrance was a bit perplexing, but the good thing was that we had made it to the park and had a game plan.
If after making the estimated hour and a half drive through the park, we felt like we needed to see more, we would get a hotel in the town just east of the park and hit it again in the morning.
All the camp sites were full or we could have opted to camp.
I’m not saying that we got bored or wouldn’t have wanted to stay a week or longer were time not an issue, rather we took in some breath taking views, climbed to the top of a 12,000 ft mountain top, saw an elk herd that numbered 50 strong, got up close and personal with a marmot, and played with snow in the middle of summer.
It was quite the opposite of our experience in Arches.
So quite happy, excited and feeling accomplished we headed towards Wyoming, our spring board for our second attempt at getting to Nebraska’s highest point, which ironically was around 7,000 feet lower than where we had just been and considerably harder to get to.