Saturday, October 30, 2010

SWS Day 6 - Nature's Fault

Sunday, August 29, 2010 - There are many perfect breakfast settings, and Red Cliffs Lodge on this specific morning is on that list. Sitting beside the lazy Colorado River, framed by red cliffs and quiet, warm breezes - it was a damn fine way to enjoy my family and my eggs.

Breakfast by the Colorado!

Still feeling the vibe from our early-morning breakfast, we donned our hiking boots, slathered on some sunscreen, and steeled ourselves for the impending hike to Delicate Arch. On our coach journey to Arches National Park we picked up our local guide, Preston - a born and bred Moab local with a fact and a story for every rock on the horizon and every bend in the road. I was especially rapt during his stories about the movies shot in and around the area because, in many cases, he had a personal anecdote to share (e.g. a friendship with The Duke and some horses for Indiana Jones).

After a quick stop at Balanced Rock, Dan dropped us at the Visitor's Center where our hike would begin. Those not interested in the hike stayed on the coach with Preston, who would take them on an alternate tour of numerous arches in the Park. My family, of course, was ready for walking the 1.5 miles over slick rock trails to Delicate Arch. The hike was not too strenuous and had just one section that was (sort of) steep and one other section that was (sort of) narrow. It was an altogether unwordly experience walking on the vast, flat fields of wind-polished sandstone. My inner geek kept thinking: Tatooine!

 The steep part of the trail.

 Our family portrait under Delicate Arch.

After 45 minutes of hiking (with rest stops) we closed in on the Arch - it being perched on the edge of what I can only describe as a sandstone 'bowl'. My words will not describe the scene, so I will let the pictures do it for me. Needless to say, the 30+ minutes (and bazillion photos) we spent there were not long enough. But eventually we had to make our way back down the trail to Dan, Preston, and the one family who opted for Preston's tour.

The coach drove us all into Moab for a few hours of free-time for lunch and exploring. The town is small and quiet, although it seems to do a decent business catering to the extreme sprots crowd (judging from some of the local shops). We opted for lunch at Pasta Jay's, which serve a pretty decent meatball sandwich along with cold beer. After our meal, we explored the shops a bit in search of a waterproof, disposable camera we could use later in the week (only to find that the RCL gift shop carries these, too).

 Moab caters to a certain clientele.

We met Dan at the appointed time and made our way back to Red Cliffs Lodge for our afternoon of free-time. For my family and a few other ABDers, we arranged (through RCL) for an ATV tour of the backcountry! No sooner had we cleaned up from hiking when our ATV guides, Cody and Dan, rolled up to the front door in vans pulling trailers packed with ATVs! We piled into their vans and we all drove out to Onion Creek (just down the road from RCL) where we would ride the dusty/muddy trails. At the load-out spot, we were all fitted with helmets, goggles, and gloves before being assigned our ATVs. My wife and I would be driving with each of us taking one kid on the back of our vehicle.

We received a driving lesson - starting, stopping, turning - before heading off with one guide up-front and one at the rear. An ATV is similar to driving a snowmobile. Being Canadians (eh!), we soon got the hang of things, although I will admit that my Northern Ontario spouse was a more adept driver than I. For the first half of the tour, we stuck to groomed trails with easy turns and minimal rocks to navigate. Earlier rains kept the dust at bay, which meant we could enjoy the scenery as we snaked through canyons at speeds of up to 35mph. Still, we were glad for the jeans and light shirts we wore since our trail criss-crossed through Onion Creek numerous times, whipping mud and water up our legs.

 ATVing was the coolest thing EVAR!

The halfway point meant a little rest, a little water, and a few group photos. Because our small group was able to handle the ATVs at such high speeds, our guides elected to take us down some more challenging trails for the second half of the tour. They were rocky, twisting, dusty, and bi-sected by deeper areas of the Creek. There were a few points where I scared myself (and my son riding on the back) by fishtailing too hard or cornering a little too late. But the breaktaking view around us was something alien-looking, and it distracted us from any lingering nervousness about my driving.

Along the way we spotted deer, lizards, and even Indian cliff-dwellings that were long-ago abandoned. And before we were ready for it, the tour was over. We put everything away in the vans and trailers before Cody drove us back to RCL.

We spent some time getting ourselves presentable for the evening - amazed by how much red dust one can carry on their body. Everyone was in good spirits since the evening would be the obligatory Adult Dinner/Junior Adventurer Night. At 14 (almost 15) years of age, my son was a little torn about what he would do, but the promise of pizza and the company of an ABD friend of similar age made his decision to be a Junior Adventurer a little easier. My 17 year-old daughter, of course, opted for the adult's table in the RCL dining room.
With my son off in another part of the Lodge, we met the other adults in the lounge for a few drinks before all 7 of us moved to the dining room. It was just a lovely, lovely evening with new friends - sharing stories, sharing appetizers, and laughing a lot. While the pickup time for the JAs was supposed to be 8:30pm, our dinner ran rather long and, by 9:30pm, the kids were 'released' into the dining room to collect their parents. We were slightly chagrined in our hopes that Guides Mike and Chris were not (too) upset with the parents!

The remainder of our evening was spent laundering the clothes we had made filthy by hiking and riding ATVs. We all needed clean jeans for the next day's equine activities!

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