This website uses Cookies to offer you an enhanced browsing experience. Find out more about how we use Cookies.

USA Radio
August 23, 2010

Exploring Arches National Park

Arches National Park

After only two days of driving, our world was transformed. The hot and dry climate in southwest Utah was nothing like the dense rainforest of the Pacific Northwest. There were vast, open spaces and sandstone was everywhere. It was surreal at first. I had never been to the desert, so I needed a couple of dips in the hotel pool and a plate of nachos for lunch to realise just how much I wanted to get outside and explore. We took a quick drive through Arches National Park, and at a spot that had a lot of small sandstone arches, I stopped the car. I got out and stood there, surrounded by the glowing sandstone illuminated by the setting sun. Quiet. I hadn’t known the real reason why we chose this spot on Earth to explore up until this moment. It was the exact opposite of the land we call home, and it was awesome. The idea to come to the southwest had been Christine’s, so I thanked her with a smile.

We drove uphill a bit, in order to get a view of the park. I parked and unpacked the guacamole from our cooler and we chowed down as the sun set. Tomorrow, we would come back to the park and explore it more in the daylight.

As the name implies, Arches National Park in Utah is home to countless sandstone arches. Delicate Arch (above) is one of the larger arches. Climbing is not allowed on any of the named arches nowadays, but Delicate Arch has been climbed—there are mysterious rope marks near the top of it. Christine was not a fan of the idea, but I managed to sneak around the narrow basin to the base of the arch for this photo. I’m glad that I did. The photo she snapped was the closest I got to climbing it.

As I say, this was my first desert travel experience. At first, I thought the heat was going to kill me, but in the end I learned to love it (and now I miss it!). Just make sure your hotel has a pool and air conditioning.

August 25, 2010

Rock-Climbing Outside Moab

Climbing Moab

I'm into rock climbing, so I couldn’t resist the endless sandstone in Utah. The spot pictured above is the world famous Big Bend Boulders, about 10 minutes out of Moab. The sandstone took a little getting used to, because it varies from near-granite hard to fall-apart-in-your-hand soft. The climbing community in Moab is friendly and enthusiastic. We met another climber—I think his name was Ben—who drew us a map of all the spots to check out. Some of the spots he sent us to turned out to be among the best views of the trip.

August 27, 2010

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado was a real highlight for Christine. Any history or art history student should visit it. The UNESCO World Heritage Site holds the ancient ruins of a highly advanced society that lived in houses carved and built right into the sides of the cliffs. The ancestral Puebloan people lived on the sides of these cliffs and worked the fertile mesas above from around A.D. 550 to 1300. For anyone interested in the Southwest’s indigenous peoples and cultures, this is a must-see.

August 30, 2010

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon was, of course, spectacular. My parents had told us that in order to really ‘see’ the canyon, you have to go inside it. They were right! We allowed some time for a short day hike, but it wasn’t enough. The canyon is really, really big, with lots to see and do. In fact, our visit inspired us to return in May to walk from the South Rim to the North Rim and back—‛rim to rim to rim,’ as local hikers say. The trip will take us six days (plus three days resting and relaxing in Las Vegas).

When you go

The top highlight:

Drinking wine and telling ghost stories around the campfire, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park.

The funniest moment:

When a father of three accidentally grabbed my upper thigh as we splashed through Class III rapids on a river-rafting trip. I think it was the funniest moment of their trip, too.

A delightful surprise:

The monsoon. Almost every night there would be dramatic thunder and lightning for about an hour, hard rain and then stillness. Everything dried out in about 30 minutes and was back to normal.

Where I’d like to go next:

Besides our return to the Grand Canyon? Well, I am a rock climber so Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower is calling me. And New York would be amazing—a complete 180-degree turn from the desert (and more shopping for Christine...).

Start exploring

Start exploring

Start exploring