U is for Utah

Photo Credit

Welcome back, to the letter U of this year's A-Z challenge! 

From Toronto we fly all the way back West to Utah where I want to show you the beauty of this state's national parks.

The first highlight isn't technically part of a national park, however it's just outside of Arches N.P., and looking at the scenery I wonder how they even come up with a determination where regular landscape ends and where national park land begins?

Arriving in Moab we hit gold by trusting some online critics and going to Red Cliffs Lodge for dinner. It is located 14 miles up the Colorado River from downtown Moab. 

We have been to Arches N.P. a total of three times. Let me tell you about the first one. We had visited a number of other nations parks before so we knew that you don't have to hike to see the beauty of those national parks. Perfectly paved roads take you directly to convenient vista point turnouts.

Well, following the sing that said Delicate Arch brought us to a large parking lot - from where you could see... nothing!?! 

Of wait, there, in the distance! Whaaaaaat? That can't be right! There was a sign telling people it was a 45 minutes' strenuous hike to get up and close with the Delicate Arch. 

I was wearing flip-flops, but hey, we're Swiss, we practically invented the mountains, how strenuous could it be, right?

After the first five minutes I had to admit that I wanted to turn around and put on sneakers. Also we dug out hats, and off we went, carrying the one bottled water they gave us at the hotel.

Now if you've been to Utah you know there are a lot of rocks and not a lot of trees, and as soon as the clouds disappear you are merciless exposed to the sun. And let me tell you, Swiss or not, the hike is not only pretty steep, after a while there is no more trail. 

You just find your way following other people or rock marks.

Getting closer to the Delicate Arch there is a very narrow passage that requires you not to be afraid of heights because there is a ledge you need to traverse which is only about 3-4 feet wide, and the more people there are that you share the two-way foot traffic, the more difficult it gets.

To get directly under the Arch you have to keep going and walk around the huge bowl which slants toward a 400 foot drop-off, and depending on the weather, the wind can become pretty strong up there. So be safe!

As for me, I was exhausted. Breakfast had been a couple of hours ago, and all I had in my purse was a Tic Tac container. It was by far the worst travel fail in terms of our own health. The bottled water was long gone, and I felt dizzy and weak. 

The worst part was knowing that what goes up must come down. I needed to make my way back to the parking lot. My motivation was that I had seen restrooms by the parking lot. This was where I was going to fill my water bottle!

You know what, the bathroom? Pit toilets with no water, not to flush, not to wash your hand, and it goes without saying, not to fill your bottle. 

So while hubby stopped a couple of times to take these breathtakingly beautiful pictures, I barely held on in my passenger seat until we made it back into town to raid the supermarket.

The next time we visited Arches N.P. we came prepared. Hiking shoes, hats, lots of water, snacks, check. 

My favorite not so well known rationapark is Capitol Reef. It is full of spectacularly colourful canyons, ridges, buttes and monoliths, but see for yourself!

Utah's most popular national park is probably Bryce Canyon. Its rim sits at an elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 - 2,700 meters). I've never had an altitude sickness problem in any of the U.S. mountainous regions, unlike Switzerland's Top of Europe Jungfraujoch that regularly gets me super uncomfortable, maybe due to even higher elevation of  11,332 feet (3,454 meters).

The reason I mention the altitude is that mountain weather may - and will - happen. One hour you're lucky and enjoy blue skies and beautifully illuminated scenery...

The next hour the curtain literally closes on you

Fog, rain, a thunderstorm, it may hit you without much of a warning.

There was zero visibility after that :-( 

Instead we had a tire pressure malfunction warning popping up. Of course there was no cell phone reception, and even though as we made it back into "town" we managed to make a call to our rental company, but of course our Swiss cell phone plan doesn't allow to call a 1-800 number in the U.S. so we made a 50 bucks worth call to find out what repair shop we should take the car to. 

Page, AZ, I see? Only 150 miles away. Sure, that's where we'll go. Here's to hoping our tires will hold up.

Luckily we had visited Zion National Park upon a previous visit, so we skipped it this time. Here are some pictures for you:

You know me, I'm trying to always look at the bright side. So yes, our car trouble had cost us time and money, and we had to adjust our trip, but hey, in the hotel lobby in Page we saw all these gorgeous pictures of Antelope Canyon (in order to visit you need to sign up beforehand, so we couldn't go there this time) and Horseshoe Bend - which we just had to see for ourselves! It involved a bit of a hike, much to our son Colin's dislike, but hey, the view was spectacular!

Now that we crossed from Utah to Arizona, I cannot not include the national parks of all national parks, the Grand Canyon, you'll agree I'm sure, so here goes:

Being the most well known nature sight it makes it the most crowed, too. Reason enough for me not to rate it my favorite national park. 

It is beautiful, I'll give you that!

After all it's where hubby popped the question back in 2003! Not at the park though. That happens in movies only:

This is the link to the trailer, I highly recommend the movie.

Mine happened at Yippee-ei-o! Steakhouse in Tusayan, AZ. I can't believe they still haven't got their own website!

And the rest is history. Well, honeymoon. I told you all about it.

Thank you for exploring Utah with me. Check out what other bloggers did with the letter U, and be sure to come back tomorrow for V is for Vienna.