Snow...Why Not After many cancelled trips, and many trips into the covid hotspot (New York) that Assana wishes had been cancelled, we are finally on a trip. A road-trip helps us avoid germs and people... a trip to the southwest to round up the southwest parks, and finally visit Mesa Verde! The trip ends up having more than its share of surprises and changes which use all of Assana's spontaneity reserve!
Who's The Gunnison Anyways? Of course like all things 2020, nothing works out as you expect. We land in Salt Lake City in the middle of a freak snow storm... in the middle of September. Thanks 2020. We make our way to our first destination, The Black Canyon of The Gunnison. The canyon is indeed black, and very much of The Gunnison! An unexpected beautiful park.
By the next morning, Colorado's mountain passes are shut because of ice and snow -- thank goodness for the ranger who told us during our morning hike. And so it begins the series of spontaneous changes to the trip.
Utah As beautiful as The Gunnison is, two days is enough. And we are anxious to get the hell out of the crappy Harold-Place-Inn-style hotel. Since the roads to our next destination -- Great Sand Dunes NP -- are shut, we change course and go back to Moab, Utah. The last time we visited Arches and Canyonlands NPs we were a bit rushed, so it would be nice to go on hikes we skipped last time.
Crowds Middle of a pandemic... who travels, right? So getting a hotel room should be easy peezy. Hm.
Standing at the front desk:
D&A: Do you have any king size rooms available?
Girl: [clickity click click click…] No.
D&A: Do you have any queen size rooms available?
Girl: [clickity click click clickity click click click…] No.
D&A: What do you have available?
Then what the hell are you typing for?! Geez.
Fortunately we snag a comfortable room at a different hotel. Whew!
More Than Delicate Arches continues to be one of Assana's super favorite parks. Weather is perfect and the trails nowhere as crowded as normal times. Glad to visit Arches again given that some of it arches have collapsed since the last time we visited 🐦. We make the trek to Delicate Arch, the most famous of them all, and man! It does not disappoint. So delicate!
Land of Canyons Easy trails in Canyonlands mean a bit more crowds. But as with any other park, you hike far enough from the parking lot and the riff raff disappears. And by "far", we mean 0.5 miles! Lazy people!
Moab, check! Back on the original schedule: off to Mesa Verde NP, Colorado.
4th Time's The Charm? Mesa Verde... the elusive National Park. We had driven right by it multiple times, during multiple trips, and had never visited, albeit for various reasons. So we made a concerted effort to visit, and the park was so interesting -- NOT! -- that we end up leaving a day earlier than originally planned.
Stupid The Cliff dwellers, yeah... not the sharpest. It literally took them 700 years to realize perhaps they should live under the overhang of the cliffs for protection from elements... vs just on top of the cliffs. "Man... it keeps raining on us. should we maybe go under the overhang for protection?" Or perhaps they should cultivate by the rivers, vs carrying bucket full of water up escarpments and cliffs. Really? And we are not talking thousands of years ago! At this point The Persians had already conquered (and lost) the world; the Romans had already mastered civil engineering and urban development and had built sophisticated cities such as Pompeii; the Egyptians had already mastered structural engineering and had built their pyramids, the Incas and Mayans were around the corner with their own pyramids. And these folks ran around barefoot carrying water up cliffs. We love history... we are fascinated by reading about life in the past... by the hardship humans have overcome. But we can't say that there has ever been a time when we felt... how should we put it gingerly... "HOW SLOW WERE YOU?!"
The saving grace: the absolute dark skies. With zero light polution, the Milky Way, the stars, and the galaxies are super bright. Thanks to Covid, the park is closed at night... which means we can walk right down the road without any car interruptions. Beautiful sky. Too bad we don't know how to take sky photos!
Utah Utah Utah Nice thing about being on a road-trip is that you don't have to stick to the original schedule. Done with Mesa Verde... no need to waste another night. So we head back to Utah to spend the night in Monument Valley... except that all the hotels in Monument Valley are closed because of stupid covid. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful lonely drive!
Crystals Petrified Forest: another unexpected park. It should really be called "Forest Far Away That Got Caught in a Flood and Was Petrified Here National Park." But a fascinating site! We are as impressed with the crystalized trees as we were not with Mesa Verde!
With not much hiking to be done here, we once again leave early. By now we are multiple days ahead of our schedule. So what do we do? We add yet another spontaneous destination: Sedona!
Man! Sedona is beautiful. We are always shocked that out friend Timmy has never made the 1.5 hour drive from his house to this amazing landscape. Once more we are surprised by the crowds and lack of vacancy in hotels, but once again crisis is averted!
Dry Heat Our ultimate stop: Scottsdale: beautiful but as though you have entered an oven. But who cares! We had our first spa treatments in over a year... or maybe even longer.
And to wrap up the trip's surprises, we visit Desert Botanical Garden, a privately-funded garden that shows what money can buy. It is one of the best kept, most beautiful gardens we have ever visited. We meander through before the triple digit heat melts us down.
33rd Park 10 days, 1723 miles, 3 new parks, 2 repeats, and a whole lot of fun! Not our last trip to the Southwest: we'll be back to hit Great Sand Dunes NP (Colorado), and Captole Reef (Utah). But for now... goodbye!