Friday, November 30, 2012

Thursday Adventure: Moab, Utah

In the Schafer household, Thanksgiving is not a holiday for gorging on food and joining the hordes at the shopping malls (shudder!).  No, a four-day break means we head out of town for a proper adventure.  This year, we took our son to Moab, Utah, for his first experiences biking and hiking on slickrock. This was my first time back to Moab since he was born, and damn, it was awesome to play in Utah's red-rock desert again.  (As an added bonus, the trip served as extra inspiration for working on The Labyrinth of Flame, since Dev and Kiran will be traveling some similar scenery.)

Me under one of Double Arch's massive spans, in Arches National Park
Honestly, landscape doesn't get much more incredible than that found around the Moab area.  The town sits right next to Arches National Park.  Arches is one of those parks that's deceptively small in area; if you look at the little map the rangers give you, you might think it's hardly worth a stop.  The official trails are all quite short, and most visitors devote less than a day to sightseeing.

Yet Arches is full of secrets.  Awesome secrets.  We learned long ago via word of mouth from canyoneering friends that if you prove you know what you're doing to the park rangers, they'll give you a permit and let you explore some absolutely incredible areas that most people never see.  Of course, this time we had our three-year-old in tow, so we couldn't venture off into the remote areas of the park.  But even the official hikes get you to some amazing places.                

Delicate Arch, with the La Sal Mountains in the background
Another view of Delicate Arch, this time with me and my son under it for scale.
Phantasmal rock fins in the Devil's Garden area of the park
You don't even have to go into the national park to find terrific slickrock hiking.  Drive along one of the various roads leading out of Moab's canyon, pick a spot, and start exploring.

My husband wandering the slickrock
Slickrock domes with the La Sal Mountains in the background
Cliffs along the Colorado River, just outside of Moab
Hiking isn't even Moab's biggest claim to fame.  If every skier must one day make a pilgrimage to Alta's famous powder, so must every mountain biker go to Moab, irresistably drawn by the lure of the Slickrock Trail: 11 miles of insanely steep, technical riding over sandstone so grippy it lets bikers seemingly defy gravity.

Mountain bikers riding the Slickrock Trail
I myself am a total weenie on a mountain bike, not being fond of faceplanting into rock.  (My husband, an avid mountain biker, laughs at me, pointing out that I think nothing of skiing down couloirs that make him turn pale.  I say, yeah, but snow is soft.  I can take a tumbling fall in powder and walk away with nothing more than my dignity sprained.  You should see the injuries my husband sports after his more adventurous mountain biking escapades.)

But even I enjoy biking on slickrock, for the awe-inspiring views if nothing else - I just leap off my bike at the slightest provocation, rather than risk injury.  Our three-year-old had a blast giving it a try on his balance bike:

Zooming along a slickrock slope. 
We look forward to the day we can do some real Moab bike trails as a family.  And the day when we can rock climb together.  We sat eating lunch one day in Kane Springs Canyon watching this guy:

Climber in Kane Springs Canyon
My husband and I sighed enviously, watching the guy ascend.  The three-year-old said, "Mommy, when can I climb that?"  "Soon," we answered.  "Soon..."  (The kiddo is already climbing indoors at the gym.)

While serious family climbs might be a ways off, we had a great time hiking up to watch the sunset and explore the slickrock by moonlight.  Quality time with a preschooler doesn't get much better than that.

Slickrock before sunset
Slickrock by moonlight


  1. Awesome. That and your family's mad climbing skills scare the crap out of me.

    1. Hee. You know, we're actually not very hardcore as far as climbing goes. My husband and I have never done a big wall, never attempted a Himalayan peak...compared to many others in Boulder, we're pretty much "weekend warrior" tyros. (But, you know, we're still alive and haven't lost any digits to frostbite, so there's that.)

    2. Don't they just, Teresa.

      I need to visit Utah sometime...

    3. Oh gosh yes, Paul - Utah is photographer heaven. Especially the southeastern portion! With Arches, Zion, Canyonlands, and Bryce Canyon National parks, plus wilderness areas like Escalante, and the San Rafael Swell, and Robbers Roost...there are too many cool places to list, and most of them completely uncrowded.

  2. Looking at that landscape makes me think that God is a mountain biker.

    And someone's got to write a song called "Slickrock by Moonlight."

    1. Hee! I'll have to teach the 3yo to sing that old Sunday school favorite: "Jesus loves mountain bikers, this I know; for the slickrock tells me so..."