Colorado National Monument and Arches National Park

My original plan was to visit Arches on my way out of Grand Junction and then drive the rest of the day all the way up to Pocatello. But last night, on my way into Grand Junction, I saw a sign saying I was close to Colorado National Monument, so I thought I'd pay a quick visit there, too.

 OMFG. I cannot describe this place without cursing. The shapes of the rocks and the color of the ground and the flora growing. It's all just so incredible. I actually literally understood what 'breaktaking' means. I was gasping so repeatedly that I lost my breath at one point. I also think I broke my awesome meter. It's going to have to be recalibrated at least. I cannot believe that places like this quietly exist in the middle of our country. Why aren't people talking about this place every day?

 I was really hoping to see some big horn elk when we were in the Big Horn National Forest, but we didnt' see any that day. Today, though, I spotted a whole herd of them walking down the face of this mountain to graze on whatever's at the bottom.

At one point, my camera was too full to take any more pictures. This was a relief, as it freed me to just drive through the park without being tempted to take a picture of everything. I will definitely come back here, and I'm so glad I took the extra time.

Although it did add over an hour to my total itinerary, it was worth every second.

The next awesome adventure was taking UT-128 into Arches. This has earned a place on my list of favorite drives.

detail of just the interesting stuff

overview of the whole day

 The ride into Arches was spectacular for about an hour before even getting to the park. There were also plenty of outside-the-park camping and hiking. I kept thinking, as I passed by the rock formations, that it was like walking through a fine museum and passing one great work of art after another. Eventually, I found that we were driving along the Colorado River. I had to get some pictures of the river so I pulled over and started deleting things from my phone.

It was brown from all of the rock sediment. I imagined it slowly taking millions of years to carve out the impressive designs in the canyons for miles through ancient rock. As I drove along the river I felt as if I were meeting the artist. And rather than him being full of vibrancy and excitement like his artwork, he's actually old, slow and frail. And he's stained with paint.

River and I got out of the car in a beautiful spot, hoping to get our feet wet in the old man artist, but the river was protected by thick grass.
And then we got to Arches, which was another mind-blowing place.  Both of these parks should be given at least a full day to really enjoy, and I tried to stick both of them into a full day of driving. That's so me. Well, I ended up reaching a full-point only about one quarter of the way into Arches. I knew I still had a hefty drive ahead and I also knew I was going to be coming back to give this place the attention it deserves.  Before turning around, I did take a few photos.

It was mid afternoon before I was on the interstate driving quickly through Utah. And I did just that for the next several hours. I stopped to get gas in Lehi and to get a burger in Green River. The sun was setting just as I drove through Salt Lake City and a nice, long dusk dimly lit almost the rest of the way out of the state.

But it was dark before I saw the Welcome to Idaho sign, and not much further before I was checking into Motel 6 in Pocatello/Chubbuck. The clerk wondered why I had such a low rate.  He said the manager entered the rate and it was the lowest he's ever seen. I didn't know why. But I did show him my AARP card, which he didn't need to see as I had been at this location before. I told him the rate I had in my book was $38 and that's the rate he saw in the computer, so he honored it.


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