Day 12 - Vernal, UT - Grand Junction - Colorado NM - Moab, UT

This morning we again had breakfast at the motel before leaving for the day. After breakfast we packed up the car, and climbed into the Prev for the day's drive. We had decided to make a slight detour east into Colorado for the trip south to Moab.

Blue Mountain

We drove east from Vernal, past Jensen into Colorado, past Blue Mountain toward the town of Dinosaur. There we turned southeast on Colorado 64. We drove through the open, dry landscape of the Rangely Oil Field toward the town of Rangely. At Rangely we turn more directly south on Colorado 139 where we follow the drainage of Douglas Creek, climbing up the mountain grade. Near the top the road gets a bit exciting with hairpin turns and sharp drops. Douglas Pass is at 8200 ´. The road down the other side is even more exciting with many switchbacks and great views. We follow Trail Canyon and East Salt Creek until we reach the plain again where the road turns directly south toward Fruita, where it joins US 6.

At Fruita we found the road to Colorado National Monument. We took this road, climbing the side of the cliff, following the switchbacks to the park entrance. We don't have a lot of time to spend here, but we certainly couldn't drive by without taking a look. We stopped at the Monument Canyon turnout and followed the trail out to the overlook.

Independence Monument

The stone monolith, Independence Monument, rose from the canyon floor below, isolated from the canyon rim. The swallows swooped over and around us, chittering away. The canyon fell away below us to the valley of the Colorado River. We spent some time here just enjoying the landscape and the quiet after the morning drive. Rather than drive on and make quick stops at several overlooks, we decided to go back to the picnic ground and have lunch here before continuing on toward Arches.

At the picnic grounds it took some work to find a spot of shade in which to have lunch. We finally decided to haul a tarp out of the Prev and spread it in the shade beneath a bush in order to find a little relief from the sun. Kathy , Rebecca and I brought out the food, the plates and the plasticware while the "men" spread the tarp away from the ants and placed rocks on the tarp corners. We ate lunch in a deserted picnic area, keeping an eye on the ground squirrels who were also watching us. There were also a few birds quite interested in our meal. The heat drove us to finish lunch quickly. We carefully disposed of all our scraps in the garbage cans, repacked the van and decided to retrace our path to the west park entrance and continue on toward our destination, Arches National Park.

Back on the Interstate, we drove west toward Utah, soon finding the spectacular Book Cliffs just to the north of us. But we had no time for another detour away from our goal. However, there was a very scenic backroad which we could take in to Moab. A road which runs along the Colorado River beneath spectacular cliffs. Several years ago the road crossed a one lane suspension bridge over the river. This bridge was rendered unsafe one spring when the Colorado River was very high. There is now a new bridge which the traffic takes, but the old Cisco bridge is still there beside the new one. From the bridge, the road clings to the side of the river as it takes us toward Moab.

Castle Valley

Along the way in we stop to marvel at the Fischer Towers guarding the Castle Valley. We took a (very) short detour into the valley to evaluate future prospects for a stay there. But the need to acquire a pair of motel rooms and the desire of Daniel and Rebecca to play among the arches again press us onward toward Moab. We continued on along the river, entering a narrow canyon of high rock walls and rushing water.

We finally emerged into the north end of Moab and went looking for a motel. After getting the rooms and moving in, we decided to have an early dinner and then let the kids play until dark. There is a restaurant in Moab, perched high above the highway, with tables looking out a wall of windows to the west at the spectacular landscape. We decided to visit this restaurant to relax and enjoy the view while the kids stretched their legs in preparation for their romp. This was a very good choice. Everyone else was still out in the landscape and the restaurant was deserted. We had a relaxing dinner and then drove north to Arches and went to the kids favorite playground, Turret and Double Arches.

Double Arch

They ran around and climbed the arches until it was almost too dark to see.

Tomorrow morning we planned to hike to Delicate Arch early in the morning. This hike is competely exposed and we wanted to take advantage of the cooler early morning temperatures. The kids are very anxious to make this hike, their second to Delicate Arch, and know they need to get to sleep. Nonetheless, they love this area so, they are reluctant to go. We succeed in dragging them away and head back to the motel for a good night's sleep.

No rain tonight.


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See our map and guide reference section for trail maps and other useful information available from has over 3,500 maps.

Utah Atlas and Gazetteer, DeLorme Publishing.

Colorado Atlas and Gazetteer, DeLorme Publishing.

Roadside Geology of Utah, Halka Chronic, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, MT

Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey, University of Arizona Press.

A Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest, Alex Patterson

Images in Stone: Southwest Rock Art, Polly Schaafsma, David Muench (Photographer), Browntrout Pub.

Indian Rock Art of the Southwest, Polly Schaafsma, Univ. of New Mexico Press

Kokopelli: Fluteplayer Images in Rock Art, Dennis Slifer, James Duffield, Ancient City Press

Legacy on Stone: Rock Art of the Colorado Plateau and Four Corners Region, Sally J. Cole, Johnson Books

Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Utah: The East and Northeast, Kenneth B. Castleton, Univ. Utah Press

Postcard-Images in Stone Southwest Rock Art, Browntrout Pub.

Rock Art of the American Southwest , Fred Hirschmann (Photographer), Scott Thybony, Graphics Arts Center Pub.

The Rock Art of Utah: A Study from the Donald Scott Collection, Polly Schaafsma, Univ. Utah Press

The Archaeology of Rock-Art, Christopher Chippindale, Paul S. C. Tacon (Editors), Cambridge University Press

The Dominguez-Escalante Journal:
Their Expedition Through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico in 1776
, Fray Angelico Chavez, Univ. Utah Press.

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© 1995 - Karen M. Strom