Day Fourteen: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park

Well, we didn’t get a jeep; however, they brought us our SUV which saved us time in the morning. Our RV resort was perfectly positioned between the town of Moab and Arches National Park (we were only four miles from the entrance to Arches).

We started our day by visiting Arches first. From the moment we left the entrance and started our climb up, we kept saying “Wow”! We were truly awe struck by the beauty all around us! Stunning. Breathtaking. Amazing. And the sky was the most perfect shade of blue!

We are here!

We took the 18 mile Arches Scenic Road throughout the park and branched off the main drag to see Delicate Arch toward the end of our drive. Throughout the main road there were dozens of pull off areas with viewpoints to get all the pictures you can imagine. According to the Arches National Park pamphlet: The park lies atop an underground salt bed that is responsible for the arches, spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins and eroded monoliths of this mecca. This salt bed was deposited across the Colorado Plateau million years ago when a sea flowed into the region and eventually evaporated. Over millions of years, residue from floods, winds, and the oceans that came and went blanketed the salt bed. The debris was compressed as rock, at one time possibly a mile thick.

Salt under pressure is unstable and the salt bed lying below Arches was no match for the weight of this thick cover of rock. The salt layer shifted, buckled, liquefied, and repositioned itself, thrusting the rock layers upward as domes, and whole sections fell into the cavities. Faults deep in the Earth made the surface even more unstable. You see the result of one 2,500 foot displacement, the Moab Fault, from the visitor center. Fault-caused vertical cracks later contributed to the development of arches. As the salt’s subsurface shifting shaped the Earth, surface erosion stripped off younger rock layer. Except for isolated remnants, today’s major formations are salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone, in which most arches form, and buff colored Navajo Sandstone. They stand like a cake layer over most of the park. Over time water seeped into crack, joints, and folds. Ice formed in the fissures, expanding and pressuring the rock, breaking off bits and pieces. Wind later cleaned out the loose particles, leaving a series of freestanding fins. Wind and water then attacked these fins until the cementing material in some gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out. Many of these damaged fins collapsed. Others, harder and better balanced, survived despite missing sections. These became the famous arches. Pothole arches are formed by chemical weathering as water collects in natural depressions and then eventually cuts through to the layer below.

Nowhere in the world has as large an array or quantity of natural arches and more than one million visitors come to Arches each year to take in the 2,000 plus sandstone arches that frame horizons.

The drive up
And up
And up
And up

The first place we pulled off to take in the beauty was at the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint. From here we had great views of both Three Gossips and Sheep Rock. We seemed so small compared to the vast greatness all around us! Every person we met in Arches was extremely friendly and it helped when we wanted someone to take our picture (sometimes you want more than a selfie and YES, I cleaned my phone and hand each time!).

Made it Courthouse Towers Viewpoint (Three Sisters and Sheep Rock in the middle).
Anna Cate and Will walking over for our picture
Anna Cate and Pawley were not having it!

As we continued on our scenic drive we passed by the Balanced Rock, which looks exactly as named. The whole formation is 128 feet, with the huge balanced rock rising 55 feet above the pedestal. We turned right at this point to head towards The Windows. We all got out of the car to head up the “easy” path to view our first arch up close. As soon as we hit the path entrance we noticed a sign that said “no pets”. Given it was very hot (95 degrees….and we should have left the dog a the RV park) we decided Pawley was going to be our “therapy dog in training” (luckily no one said anything all day!). The path was relatively easy as we could still push Anna Cate in her wheelchair, until we hit a certain point where you turn to go up to the arch. Betsie and Eli headed up first to check it out and called me on the phone to say it was definitely not wheelchair accessible. If there is a will (and for us there literally was a Will) there is a way.

Continuing our drive
Balancing Rock
Getting ready to walk the path up to The Windows
Getting ready to roll
And here is where the trail ends for the wheelchair
AC and Will going up!

I stayed at the bottom of the steps with the wheelchair and Pawley as Will took Anna Cate to the top. Go big or go home! As I waited for them to come back down a mother and daughter stopped as Pawley grabbed their attention (because he is so cute!). They asked me if it was my husband who was walking and carrying our daughter to the top and I said yes; to which they replied, “we cried walking back down as it was incredibly moving to watch”. Good thing I had on my sunglasses as they made me tear up too! I enjoyed chatting with the Powell Family who were vacationing out West from Annapolis, Maryland. As we were wrapping up our conversation, Anna Cate and Will were walking back down and she had a huge smile on her face, as did I! Being a parent to a child with different needs, I can’t express enough how much you want them to be able to go and do. Since day one of Anna Cate’s diagnosis we promised her we would do all we could to make sure her life with Rett Syndrome is the best it can be!

Pawley the “therapy dog in training” keeping an eye of them
Can you spot AC and Will?!? Or Betsie and Eli!?!?
They made it!!!
Take that Rett Syndrome!
Will, Anna Cate and Eli (Betsie is taking the photo)
Here she comes!!!! Mission accomplished!

Will, Anna Cate and Pawley headed back to the car for some air conditioning and water while I made the hike up to the arch to meet Betsie and Eli. From the bottom where I was standing it didn’t seem “too bad” of a walk to the top; however, it wasn’t until I rounded the corner and saw the level of pure love Will endured to take Anna Cae to the top. The views were breathtaking!

My turn!
I can’t believe AC just did this!
What a view
More views
Betsie and Eli
Eli, Emilie and Betsie

From here we continued down the scenic road another three miles to Delicate Arch. Anna Cate, Will, Pawley and I went to the lower viewpoint, while Betsie and Eli walked a rocky, uphill half a mile to the upper viewpoint. Both area had amazing views and you truly can’t go wrong when picking which one you want to go to. There simply is no such thing as a bad view in any part of Arches! I want you to remember the size of the arch from this perspective for tomorrow’s post.

Delicate Arch from lower viewpoint
Delicate Arch from the upper viewpoint
Pawley’s viewpoint

From here we made our way back toward the entrance making a stop on the way at the Park Avenue Viewpoint. Another fantastic place to stop and take in the wonder of all around.

More views on the way to Park Avenue
And more
Walking to Park Avenue Viewpoint
Simply stunning!

I have to say, overall Arches was very wheelchair accessible with many paved or easily walkable paths to points for a picture, without having to hike any trails.

After spending the morning at Arches, we were ready for lunch! We headed back to the RV to relax and eat, before heading into the little town of Moab, while Will worked. It will be easy to tell when we return home what towns we liked the most by the number of apparel items we will have a certain location! My outdoor loving, adventure seeking daughter, Betsie is ready to move here!

Afternoon in town
Main Street
Such a cute town

When Will was finished he texted so we could pick him up and bring him into town to explore with us. We ate an early dinner as we wanted to drive 30 miles to Canyonlands National Park to see the sunset. Dinner was delicious at Spoke and the soft serve ice cream was a nice refreshing dessert to top it off!

Dinner time!
Lemon Chicken for Anna Cate and Emilie
Meatloaf for Will (it was amazing!)
BLT for Betsie
And wings for Eli

Before heading out to Canyonlands, we stopped by the RV to pick up Pawley. The drive out was easy and relatively flat until we passed through the entrance. Tip for future RVers or cross country adventurers: when the parks close, you can still drive through! What is crazy about this is we saw everything we wanted to see at this time of the day, including a sunset and didn’t have to pay (but as you know from our first National Park in Carlsbad, we actually get in free with Anna Cate’s new National Park Disability Pass).

The entrance

Canyonlands did not disappoint either. Breathtaking view after breathtaking view after breathtaking view as we drove the Island in the Sky Park Road which is a 15 mile drive after we drove around 21 miles to the park’s entrance. Unfortunately, I don’t have any extra information to give you as we didn’t get a pamphlet since we drove through after hours. However, I will tell you about each stop in a little more detail.

Our first viewpoint was a the Shafer Canyon Overlook. From here we were able to see the Shafer Trail’s treacherous descent as it hugs the canyon walls below. Only Will and I got out of the car at this point for pictures as were in a time crunch to make sure we made it to the point we wanted to watch the sunset. The kids could see everything from the car and it was a wheelchair accessible point as well. If we had more time, we would have gotten out as you could walk out on a finger of land extending out giving you views of the canyon from both sides.

Shafer Canyon
Shafer Canyon
Em and Will

Next we drove to the Green River Overlook giving you gorgeous views of the Green River to the south and west. Everyone got out of the car and it was a very flat easy walk to the viewpoint. I never have been afraid of heights and I love roller coasters; however, being so incredibly close to these steep drops and overlooks I was becoming fearful as you can see how easily and quickly one wrong step or two can be very dangerous. My children (Betsie and Eli) add an extra layer to my fear as they walk along so comfortably and a bit too close for my comfort level. Just for clarity, it wasn’t so close to the edge of anything, it was simply too close for what I am comfortable letting them go. And with this they call me Karen, as they think I’m being too overly protective and a fun sucker. To which I replied, I would rather them call me Karen, than not be able to call me anything at all!

Green River Overlook
More views
Party of five

Lastly, we drove to the Grand View Point Overlook. Grand View Point has a 360 degree view. Looking down on the deep canyons of the Colorado and Green rivers which have been carved by water and erosion over the millennia. This is where we watched the sunset. The views were simply amazing and the whole area was incredibly peaceful.

“Karen’s” kids off exploring
Will and Anna Cate
Anna Cate and Emilie
Betsie and Eli
Pawley and Will
Betsie and Eli
Last view

Our drive back home to the RV resort seemed quicker than it was getting to Canyonlands. The sunset wasn’t until 8:55 pm so the night was a bit later for all of us. Bedtime was around 11:00 and it was a very short night for three of us (leaving you a cliffhanger until tomorrow’s post!). It was one of the best days yet!

“Home” is where you park it

Adventure Awaits!

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