National Parks of the Southwest

Monday afternoon here and we’ve just pulled into the little town of Moab, located between Arches and Canyonland National Parks. We’re going to chill out here for a couple of days and do some walking in the parks.

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Death Valley was a huge surprise and nothing like we expected. The scenery along the way to the park was so flat and featureless that it prompted Wingo to suggest that Death Valley may have got that way as the scenery was so dead boring. But once we got into the park proper all that changed. The salt pan that is the valley is, in places, 85 meters below sea level and is one of the hottest places on earth. For us, it was one of the windiest places on earth, but we escaped from the some of the wind by trekking up into the canyons, which held some remarkable rock formations. It really was a wonderful stop.

Our last night in Pahrump was a little alarming, as with very few alternatives, we sought dinner in Mom’s Diner. There seemed to be a party of 30 or so, moms, dads and kids all wearing the same tee shirt. Thinking that they we probably God-botherers I asked the waitress where they were from. She replied that they were all at a firearms training academy on the outskirts of town. And looking closely, I realised that many of the men and women were wearing sidearms. Called the waitress back. Yes, she confirmed, real guns and in Utah you may carry a weapon in any public place. Wingo and I reconsidered our dinner options fearful that a car backfire or paper bag bursting might set the whole lot off.

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We left Pahrump early the next morning and drove to Zion National Park where we caught the shuttle up through the park and enjoyed a couple of walks. At the entrance to the park is a Brew Pub and Wingo suggested we might wet out necks before resuming our journey. But that was not going to be possible. Here’s how it works: In Nevada you can bring a Glock into a diner, but you can’t get a beer there, and in Utah you can’t buy a beer in a “pub”, unless you order a meal. No sign of firearms though.

Later that evening, and unfortified by beer, we arrived at Bryce Canyon where next morning it was zero degrees with a stiff wind that had followed us from Death Valley. We’d had a long day in the car the previous day and determined to make good use of our time, and acting on the advice of a fit, young, park ranger, chose two trails. By the time we got back to the car, five hours after we’d left it, we were buggered. Both of us! Completely! We could hardly put one foot in front of the other and we returned to our motel to curl up on the bed and have a little cry.

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But then a few hours later, restored with Voltarin and Panadol, we ventured out to a local restaurant where we found that when you order a meal in Utah you can order a beer, but although it’s going to taste pretty good after five hours of hiking, it’s still only going to be a maximum of 3% alcohol. But the steak and salad was pretty good.

Tomorrow morning we plan to walk to the delicate arch in Arches National Park and have a poke around Moab. Our very flexible schedule looks like taking us south east to Durango, then onto Santa Fe by the end of the week.

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