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Our first Moab trip - family vac (many pics)

Discussion in 'Moab' started by jediwebdude, Mar 22, 2014.

  1. Mar 22, 2014 at 10:22 PM
    #1
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    For Spring Break, I decided that maybe we should check out Moab...in the 4Runner. This latter suggestion gave my wife angst. She knows off-roading in Moab is on my destinations wishlist, but she wasn’t exactly a fan of me taking the whole family on a multi-day off-roading adventure. Our 3 sons were excited, as they’d seen photos and videos of off-roading in Moab. Wife agreed to it as long as we didn’t camp and didn’t hit any <ahem> dangerous trails.

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    I booked us 4 nights at the very scenic Red Cliffs Lodge 15 miles NE of Moab. I found a way for us to fit in Mesa Verde N.P. and Monument Valley. For Monument Valley, I booked 2 nights at the famous View Hotel where each room balcony provides a stunning view of the valley.

    Based on recommendations from friends, I purchased FunTrek’s Guide to Moab, UT Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails book. From this guide, I chose Moderate and Easy trails based on duration, locality, and scenery. I also ordered FunTrek’s SD card for my Nuvi 50LM. This proved to be very beneficial, as we found signs were missing for some roads/trails.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1934838063/ref=as_li_ss_il?ie=UTF8

    List of trails we hit:
    Eye of the Whale Arch Trail
    Tower Arch Trail
    Trail between these 2 arches
    Dellenbaugh Trail
    Secret Spire Trail
    Long Canyon and Pucker Pass Trail
    Gemini Bridges Trail
    Bull Canyon Trail
    Picture Frame Arch Trail


    If you want to skip the text content and see more than the photos I've posted in this thread, the entire set of processed shots are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/visual-universe/sets/72157642192226854/

    Most of the photos were shot with GPS enabled on my cameras. Flickr allows for you to click on the location, which will pop-up a map of the location as depicted by the GPS. If you want to know which lens was used, you can click on the 3 dots to access a Flickr menu of options, then click on View EXIF Info.

    High level itinerary:
    Fri - drive to Amarillo
    Sat - drive to Durango via Santa Fe
    Sun - Mesa Verde National Park, then on to Moab
    Mon - Moab (Arches N.P. and 4x4 trails)
    Tue - 4x4 trails near Moab
    Wed - 4x4 trails near Moab
    Thur - Arches N.P., then drive to Monument Valley
    Fri - drive to Horsehoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam, then return to MV
    Sat - pack up and drive home to Frisco, TX
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2014
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  2. Mar 22, 2014 at 10:24 PM
    #2
    TeamSarcasm

    TeamSarcasm Flawless Escalation to the Ludicrous

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    The better coast
    3 pictures is not "many" pics bro...

    But that's a stuffed runner :D
     
  3. Mar 22, 2014 at 10:27 PM
    #3
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    The family enjoyed the overall trip. We experienced a snow blizzard, a blinding dust storm with 50 mph gusts, challenging hikes, unforgettable views of the vast landscape of the West, eye-opening views of extreme poverty, learned more about the past of this great land, and we can finally say we have off-roaded in Moab.

    Friday, Mar 14
    Yanked kids out of school a few hours early and drove to Amarillo for night stop at Holiday Inn.

    Saturday, Mar 15
    Drove to Durango on scenic 84 and 160, with a lunch stop in Santa Fe. The kids had never seen the city of adobe structures, so we ate near, and later visited, the square in the old town area. We arrived that evening in Durango and dined at a tasty pizza place and later slept in a Holiday Inn.

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    Burrito Co. Santa Fe by VisualUniverse, on Flickr
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
  4. Mar 22, 2014 at 10:29 PM
    #4
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Sunday, Mar 15
    Spent the morning and early afternoon at Mesa Verde N.P. In additional to the wonderful scenery and canyon views, this park provided a very educational experience for the kids.

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    As we drove north on 191 into Moab, we took in the breathtaking scenery. The diverse geological structures with the snow-capped La Sal mountains serving as the backdrop captivated our attention (translation: the kids stopped staring at iDevices). We took the obligatory stop off at Wilson’s Arch and the let the kids scramble up for some photos. We dined at Zax and sat at a table next to a bunch of Jeep guys telling tales of carnage woe. I reassured my concerned spouse that we aren’t doing the same trails. Star photo below is the view from the patio of our hotel room at Red Cliffs Lodge.

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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
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  5. Mar 22, 2014 at 10:46 PM
    #5
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Monday, Mar 16
    We started our morning at Arches N.P. Before hitting the 4x4 trail, we stopped and did a short hike at Balanced Rock.

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    Next, we ventured onto our first 4x4 trail in search of the Eye of the Whale Arch. After a few miles of off-roading, we were greeted by a fish-shaped sign at a little parking area. The hike over to the arch is whale worth it.

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    Notice the pool of water near the arch. Many different animal tracks led to the water source, including predator tracks. The hike back to the truck doesn't look daunting, but the sandy hills provide quite a workout.

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    Next up was the 4x4 road that continues on from there for another 10 miles and leads to Tower Arch. Only other rig we saw on this portion was a lifted 5th gen 4Runner headed the opposite direction. My wife drove most of this trail and had fun. At one point, our 17-year old son, who has a 2006 Tacoma 4x4 he’s off-roaded in once, asked if he could have a turn and my wife quickly responded with “no.” She refused to give up the wheel. The trail featured points of deep sand and some rough terrain. Only one descent point required careful articulation.

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    At the turn-off for Tower Arch, the trail becomes more vigorous. I would rate 4x4 road between the arches as easy, and the turn-off road as moderate (ratings are based on guidebook definitions). Cynde finally gave up the wheel and let Conner drive...until we came upon a steep and off-camber descent. Part of this 1.3 mile stretch is slow-going because of the rocky terrain.

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    Cynde proudly shows the guidebook page for the trail she drove...

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    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  6. Mar 22, 2014 at 10:56 PM
    #6
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    The hike to Tower Arch from the 4x4 parking area is a bit challenging and requires getting on hands/butt/knees at times. Once inside the arch area, the view outward was very calming and peaceful...until a kid discovered the echo effect when yelling.

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    Last edited: Mar 24, 2014
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  7. Mar 22, 2014 at 11:05 PM
    #7
    01tacoprerunner

    01tacoprerunner 01 4WD Prerunner

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    This looks like an awesome family vacation, jealous!!
     
  8. Mar 22, 2014 at 11:06 PM
    #8
    TeamSarcasm

    TeamSarcasm Flawless Escalation to the Ludicrous

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    x2, wish my childhood had something like this in it :D
     
  9. Mar 22, 2014 at 11:07 PM
    #9
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    The drive back meant driving past the turnoff for the 10 mile road and going over a large rocky climb and descent before getting to a dirt road (Salt Valley Rd) that took us back to the main park road. While we didn’t have trouble, it was slow-going, but fun. Upon finishing the descent, we saw a Honda Element traveling toward us on the dirt road. They quickly turned around when they saw what was ahead.

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    The dirt road comes out on the main park road just south of the parking area for the famous Landscape Arch. We hiked the long uphill/downhill/uphill/downhill hike as the wind picked up and drew colder. For Texas flatlanders, hill hikes are wearisome. Add to the fact that much of the trail is sand, it took a while. By now it is early evening. I discovered that Landscape Arch is best viewed in the morning (sigh). Aiden, our 7 year-old son, was really getting into the arches. Someone made the mistake of giving him the Arches N.P. map. As he poured over the map, he started listing out all of the arches we needed to see next and demanded we return to the park the next day.

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    Arches National Park - Landscape Arch by VisualUniverse, on Flickr
     
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  10. Mar 22, 2014 at 11:16 PM
    #10
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Tuesday, Mar 17
    We headed to Tombstone Rock off of 313 in search of Dellenbaugh Tunnel trail and the Secret Spire trail. We were successful in finding both trailheads and conquering both 4x4 trails. Along the way to Secret Spire we saw an arch off in the distance, so we paid it a visit on the way back for Aiden’s sake. Both trails were slow going. At some of the more difficult spots, which are why the trails are deemed as moderate, there were bypasses.

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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
  11. Mar 22, 2014 at 11:28 PM
    #11
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    As we headed back to 313 with the sun over our heads, we could see the rain and snow clouds off in the distance over the mountains and bluff regions. I couldn’t ask for better scenery. We headed south on 313 to Dead Horse Point State Park, which is just north of Canyonlands N.P. Island in the Sky district. Visiting this park was better than we had imagined. The canyon views are phenomenal. While not as large as the Grand Canyon, the canyon is still enormous.

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    At this point in the trip, Conner obtained his 15 minutes of fame. The Dr. Pepper addiction runs strong in our family. So while I'm off shooting landscapes with pricey camera gear, the kid shoots his Dr. Pepper can with the epic background of the canyon and mountains, then posts it on Twitter @drpepper. Dr. Pepper retweeted his photo.

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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
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  12. Mar 22, 2014 at 11:32 PM
    #12
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    I decided to take us to the Shafer trail in Canyonlands N.P. and head to Potash road and back to Moab. Only a quarter-mile onto the Shafer trail and Cynde freaked...especially when on the first ledge turn, we came face-to-face with a full-sized Dodge pickup. Not enough room for both vehicles to pass. Maybe this is why the guidebook suggested starting from the other side? I surrendered and we turned around, got back on 313, and headed toward another trail that was identified as a great trail to take on the way back from the state park: Long Canyond Rd and Pucker Pass. Heading East on Long Canyon Rd is beautiful, especially with the sun in the West.

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    This road of beauty soon turns into ledge-hugging switchback roads. Cynde freaked. Sense a pattern here? As I’m sticking my camera out the window shooting pictures of the incredible scenery, I’m also getting a lecture about not paying attention to the road while transporting my family. At one point, a narrow passageway between canyon walls was only wide enough for one vehicle. Driving under the giant fallen boulder was neat. I had to stop for photos, which meant the truck was aimed at a sharp drop-off ledge curve. I applied the emergency brake for extra assurance, but assurance was not well received. She kept yelling to “hurry up” with the photo taking. When we finally made it to the bottom of the canyon, her tension eased.

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    The road terminates at HWY 279, on which we turned North to head back to Moab. Immediately after turning, the large Jug Handle Arch loomed over us. Along the way, we stopped to see and photograph petroglyphs and observe the technical rock climbers taking advantage of the bolted in protection on various routes. We stopped to explain how when mommy and daddy were much younger/smaller/more physically fit/adventurous/daring, and just dating at the time, we traveled all over to go rock climbing (not sure I can fit into my harness anymore). I don’t think they were impressed.

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    We finished the evening at Pasta Jay’s. I highly recommend their chicken parmesan.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
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  13. Mar 23, 2014 at 12:14 AM
    #13
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Wednesday, Mar 18
    We headed over to the park containing Hell’s Revenge in hopes of seeing more beefed up rigs hitting the trails. None were present, so we decided to leave, but not before I tried Baby Lion’s Back. Going up was easy. The top, however, was a mental challenge. I discovered I’m not psychologically prepared for narrow trails with steep drop-offs on each side. Cynde freaked. She made the kids evacuate the truck. Conner agreed to spot me. And our 13 year-old son, Parker, took over photography duties and captured some nice shots. At the first point where the truck got tippy, I discovered that any tippiness is significantly magnified when high up on a narrow piece of rock. My son sensed my concern and yelled out, “It’s not as bad as it seems.” When I got to the final descent, I was more concerned about the big puddle of water awaiting me at the bottom. 4th gen 4Runners don’t do well in deep water. The descent was easier than it looked, and the truck survived the big splash as the nose went in first. Looking back up, I realized it wasn’t nearly as difficult as it initially seems.

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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
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  14. Mar 23, 2014 at 12:36 AM
    #14
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    We headed south of Moab to the moderate 4x4 trail for Picture Frame Arch and Balcony Arch. Picture Frame arch is exactly as described. The older boys were successful with climbing up to the arch for photos. Balcony Arch is inaccessible without climbing/rappelling equipment, but is easily viewable.

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    When we returned to Moab for lunch, we ran into our hotel neighbors. They joined us for the next few trails in their diesel-equipped and off-road modded Jeep Liberty. We headed to Bull Canyon and Gemini Bridges trails from the north entrance off of 191. About a mile into the trail, we found ourselves climbing up a narrow ledge-hugging trail. By now you know what happened. This road was a bit wider, so her freak attack was calmer. Eventually the road took us back down into a canyon floor where we took in more scenery.

    Bull Canyon Rd is a 4x4 trail that leads to the bottom of the Gemini Bridges, which is basically a pair of large arches sitting in parallel. The tops are flat and wide enough to drive trucks over them, but due to a Jeep going off the bridge and other concerns, vehicles are no longer permitted on them. After completing the long hike to the lower part of the bridges, we drove back to the connecting road to lead us to the parking area for the upper part of the bridges. Once there, we found several Jeeps and a Hummer, and lots of parking areas. Apparently this is a popular destination. After walking across the bridges and seeing the memorial plaque for the Jeep owner who lost his life there (several hikers have also died trying to jump the 6’ gap between the bridges), we headed out on the easier Westward road that took us to 313, and then to Moab for dinner at the Moab diner; another place I recommend.

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    Thursday, March 19
    We returned to Arches N.P. so Aiden could check a few more off of his list. We then departed Moab and headed south toward Monument Valley. We stopped off at Newspaper Rock monument (lots of petroglyphs), and then tried to take a shortcut to Monticello. We didn’t realize the shortcut was a high elevation mountain pass. When we got to the point where everything was covered in snow, we turned around.

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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
  15. Mar 23, 2014 at 12:48 AM
    #15
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Friday, March 20
    Monument Valley is a scenic place on Navajo land at the Utah and Arizona border. Many movies, especially Westerns, were shot here. The View Hotel provides the perfect view for watching the orange tones appear during sunset and the silhouette during sunrise. The road through the valley is a 4x4 road. Yes, minivans, cars (we saw a Fiat 500), and other ill-equipped vehicles drive down into the valley and attempt the road. There are some drops and many rocks that cause those types of vehicles to go very slow and struggle. Many of these photos, including the star trails photo, were shot from the balcony of our hotel room.

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    In between the two nights at MV, we drove 2.5 hours West to Horseshoe Bend access point and Glen Canyon Dam in Page, AZ.

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    On our final day, we left MV at 8:00am MT with the goal of making it home. We stopped at 4 corners. It was the last decent weather stop. Wind was gusty, but it was still sunny. We arrived home at 2:48am CST after enduring a blizzard and dust storm with 50 mph gusts.

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    Still capture from the dashcam video of the dust storm near Amarillo on the return trip home. Notice one car has pulled over to the shoulder. The car hitting its brakes directly in front of us about ran into the back of an 18-wheeler. Don't see the 18-wheeler? Neither did I until a few seconds later.
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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
  16. Mar 23, 2014 at 1:05 AM
    #16
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    The End!

    noteworthy restaurants visited on the trip - we were pleased with all of them
    Buritto Co. for lunch in Santa Fe
    Fired Up Pizza for supper in Durango
    Oscars for breakfast in Durango
    Zax in Moab for dinner
    Pasta Jay’s in Moab for dinner
    Moab Diner for dinner
    The View Hotel scenic restaurant at Monument Valley for breakfast and supper

    Oscar's in Durango for breakfast was superb. People were lined up out the door. Parker waiting to be served massive pancakes...

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    Oscar's in Durango, CO by VisualUniverse, on Flickr

    We conducted a family taste test of these softdrinks made in Durango, CO...

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    Durango, CO by VisualUniverse, on Flickr

    List of trails we completed as identified in the FunTrek guidebook:

    Eye of the Whale Arch Trail
    Tower Arch Trail
    Trail between these 2 arches
    Dellenbaugh Trail
    Secret Spire Trail
    Long Canyon and Pucker Pass Trail
    Gemini Bridges Trail
    Bull Canyon Trail
    Picture Frame Arch Trail


    I do plan to return to Moab with buddies from my local Toyota of-road club and hit some of the more challenging trails.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
  17. Mar 23, 2014 at 3:35 AM
    #17
    rileySB

    rileySB RileySB

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    Great trip report! Looks like you have a full family of wheelers. Nice of you to share the driving experience. Your photos are amazing! What kind of lens are you using? A fisheye type lens? I just went on a Utah trip and stopped by Arches but was not impressed by how crowded it was (and beacuse we had a dog could not take her on any trails to see the arches). Seems as if there are many arches outside of the park. Should have pushed farther into Moab to do some off roading to see arches. Thanks for the great narrative, felt like I was there with you!
     
  18. Mar 23, 2014 at 6:25 AM
    #18
    jediwebdude

    jediwebdude [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Thank you. I have more wide-angle lenses than a person should, but that's because I'm a nut about sharpness, perspective, etc...

    I don't own a fisheye lens. However, the Canon 14mm f/2.8L II, which is my widest lens, looks like a fisheye because of the curved lens. The others I own:

    Canon 24mm f/1.4L II (the sharpest of my wide-angle lenses)
    Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II
    Canon 24-105mm f/4L (least sharp when in the 24-35mm area)
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
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  19. Mar 23, 2014 at 7:47 AM
    #19
    bluewaters182

    bluewaters182 Well-Known Member

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    This is what I want to do with my family! Awesome trip and report. Great pics.
     
  20. Mar 26, 2014 at 8:57 AM
    #20
    NYCO

    NYCO go explore...

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    thanks for sharing! looks like you had a great time!
     
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