The Drive to Moab, Utah 🚗🏜 (Feat. Many Detours)
It’s currently 5:30 a.m. and
June 7th, 2017.
Our destination? Moab, Utah!
I knew today was going to be an awesome day simply by the fact that we had to stop the car to let four turkeys cross the road as we were leaving the Lower Lehman Creek campground. Apparently, according to this article from The Washington Times, turkeys are an invasive species in Great Basin National Park, and I also learned that wild turkeys are not native to Nevada. 😮
After leaving Great Basin, my dad took a shortcut road conveniently called the Baker Shortcut Road, where I saw several mule deer fawns with their mothers. The Baker Shortcut Road cut across a field and took us back on Highway 50, but once we crossed the border line and went into Utah, I could no longer say that I was on the Loneliest Road in America.
The sign for Utah is really beautiful, and I’ve noticed that the license plates for Utah are awesome, too — it’s of an arch! I find it really fun to look at the license plates of cars while my dad is driving, or even when I’m walking around the parking lot of a park’s visitor center. Surprisingly, I didn’t see as many Nevada license plates as I thought I would see in Utah, but I saw plenty of California ones. The furthest ones I saw were of states near the east coast, which reminded me how one of my road trip goals is to drive from the west coast to the east coast of the U.S. — and back.
Driving into Utah was… amazing. For miles, the terrain was covered in these little stumps of white sedimentary rock that just casually surrounded the road. I felt like I was in a place that shouldn’t have a concrete road built in the middle of it, but yet there was, and the combination of the unique terrain with the highway felt really interesting.
In fact, the terrain was so beautiful that I thought we must have arrived in a national or state park already — but that wasn’t the case. We were just driving through normal land in Utah.
When we stopped at a gas station to wipe off our windshield and refuel the car, I had to take out my camera and snap a few pictures to capture the feel of the entire setting. I took the picture below because I thought it was so interesting how there could be such beautiful mountains in the background, yet rows of metal trucks would stand in front of the majestic background in such a stark contrast against the natural beauty behind it.
In fact, even the freeway overlooks were amazing. While my dad was driving, I pointed out a sign that pointed to a scenic viewpoint The road to the viewpoint went upwards, which meant we would probably be able to see more of the land from the relatively low elevation we were driving at. I had been wanting to stop and take a picture of the land without having to be in the car, so we went up to the viewpoint and spent some time up there taking pictures.
After a couple more hours of driving, we entered Canyonlands National Park and decided to stay in the park for a few hours before driving to Moab, where we would stay for the night. In Canyonlands, we passed by the entrance road to the Shafer Trail, and since it was nearing lunchtime, we decided to drive down the beginning portion of the road (but not down the switchbacks) and see if we could find a nice pullout to park at and make some lunch — all of this preferably with an amazing view.
Before we even got to the switchbacks, my dad and I had to stop and get out of the car to take pictures, because the view was fantastic. The sun was shining so much that everything looked too bright if we just took a picture with no camera settings over it, so for the majority of the trip, I had to set my camera to sunset mode for it to capture the brilliant, fiery hues of the land.
I got back in the car, and we drove for about less than a minute until we had to stop again to take more pictures, the reason for that being that the more we drove down the beginning of Shafer Trail, the more we could see the switchbacks below us.
And the switchbacks were utterly mind-blowing.
The road you see leading out of Canyonlands below the Shafer Trail switchbacks is the Potash Road, which leads to Moab. Potash Road was what we planned to take to get us from Canyonlands to Moab, and in doing so, we would also get to experience going down the Shafer Trail switchbacks, which was in our plan anyways.
However, since my dad didn’t want to drive the switchbacks at night, we would have to make sure we planned our stay in Canyonlands today accordingly in order to have enough sunlight to get down to Potash Road. We would come back to Canyonlands soon afterwards, just not on top of the Island in the Sky portion — we would be driving on the White Rim Road down below.
We took a little more time to take pictures around the top of the Shafer Trail switchbacks, and after a while, we decided to drive back to a pullout we saw earlier to set up our camping stove and cook ourselves some lunch.
I set up my portable chair and sat in the only shaded area I could find in the area to read as my instant yakisoba cooked, while also having to shake my foot every thirty seconds to prevent ants from crawling up my leg. 😋
I also had my first portable bathroom break of the trip, and honestly, I would take going to a portable bathroom over a luxurious, 5-star hotel bathroom any day if the view was like this:
On the drive back out of Shafer Trail and to the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, we passed by a car that appeared to have done the White Rim Road. My dad and I knew that there was a flood warning for the wash between the Potato Bottom and Labryinth campsites, and if the wash becomes impassable and we entered the road on the east side, we would have to turn around and drive back out the way we drove in. In case that happens, my dad brought a tank filled with extra gas so we wouldn’t have to worry about getting stuck on the White Rim Road.
My dad asked the driver of the car whether he made it through the wash, and he said that even though the water reached up to the car door, he made it through fine. When I heard this, I got extremely relieved — I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to do the White Rim Road because of impassable flooding, and even though we had a second trip plan to follow if it so happened that the wash was impassable, I was really looking forward to driving on the road that was consistently described as a “life-changing experience” from reviews online.
Still, even if the wash was passable now, it might not be in three days when we can finally drive down to the White Rim with our permits…
But, everything always turns out perfect during camping trips, so I was positive that the wash would be passable on Saturday. 😊👍🏼 For now, we had to quickly drive to the three places the park ranger at the visitor center recommended for us to visit in the Island in the Sky district — Mesa Arch, Grand View Overlook, and Upheaval Dome — all before the sun sets.
The Race Against the Sun… BEGINS! 👏🏼
DESTINATION #1: Mesa Arch
When we arrived at the parking lot for Mesa Arch, my first thought was: Noooooo! TOO MANY PEOPLE!!! 😰
It made sense, though, since Mesa Arch was easily accessible by a concrete road. It wasn’t like we were in the middle of nowhere, but just seeing so many people in one area in nature after driving through the Loneliest Road in America and spending a night in Great Basin National Park, one of the most remote national parks, was not preferable, especially if I wanted to take some great photos (without people in it, please 😊).
I actually spent the majority of my stay in Mesa Arch not even looking at the arch — instead, I took gorgeous pictures overlooking the lower portion of the Island in the Sky district from a place a few minutes away from the actual arch.
Overall Opinions: Beautiful place, the amount of people there made it not very easy take a picture of the arch without seeing someone’s head randomly pop into the side of the picture. I preferred the area around the arch where less people were hanging out.
DESTINATION #2: Grand View Point Overlook
The Grand View Point Overlook was very interesting to take pictures of because of the multiple layers within the land, and it was also cool to be able to see the White Rim Road along the bottom of the land (see that white road lining the edges of the canyon? That’s the road!) and imagine what it would be like to drive along that road on Saturday. It once again made me super excited to drive on the White Rim Road and experience everything on that road for myself. 😄😆
And lastly, the final destination:
DESTINATION #3: Upheaval Dome
The hike to reach this overlook for upheaval dome was all uphill at first, which was *ahem* very exhausting in the ninety-one degrees Fahrenheit that it was outside that day, but it also meant that the hike back was much easier. (Phew 😌).
The story behind Upheaval Dome is quite interesting, and like the moving rocks in Death Valley National Park’s Racetrack, it stands as one of Earth’s many natural mysteries. You can read about the theories regarding Upheaval Dome on the National Park Service’s website.
Overall Opinions: There were way less people than Mesa Arch, but still… 😅 Upheaval Dome was still an amazing place to visit, and I’m glad I was able to see one of Earth’s natural mysteries for myself.
At this point, the sun was very low in the sky, and we still needed to drive from Upheaval Dome to Shafer Trail, which would take a little more than half an hour. My dad mentioned that we might have to take the regular road to Moab instead of the Shafer Trail, to which I was like
😱 😨 😰
Eventually we made it to Shafer Trail, and there was still enough sunlight left for my dad to safely drive down the switchbacks.
It was an insane ride down, but soon we were on the Potash Road, ready to quickly drive out of Canyonlands National Park and into Moab!
Not really. 😇
The land was truly too beautiful to not stop the car and take pictures of. And we were in the moments before sunset, so the lighting was absolutely gorgeous. Everything either looked like it came from a dream — or was on fire.
I also saw an amazing shadow that the tops of the canyon cast on the valley the Potash Road ran through:
Doesn’t the shadow look like a hand? If I didn’t look out the window, I would have never caught that shadow. I believe, since the shadow is cast by rocks, the hand shadow would appear every sunset? If that’s the case, this should be an attraction, because the shadow does look very much like an arm and a hand.
Despite all the stops, we did eventually make it into Moab, and thus our motel. Today was an awesome day, but despite everything fantastic that happened today, I was even more excited for tomorrow, which would be the day in which my dad and I would finally discover whether we were chickens or not.
Yes, you read that correctly. Chickens.
But more on that in the next post. 😋
Thanks for reading, and I will cya in the next travel post for the Road Trip of Summer 2017! 🤗🤗
These roads led to nowhere. Nowhere, because she couldn’t see any destinations. Nowhere, because she had yet to see a definite end.
To travel on these roads would be to travel into the unknown.
And somehow, that made her want to continue.
Perhaps that alone gave these roads a destination.
This post is the third post in the
Road Trip of Summer 2017 travel series
on Whisked Away By Words!
If you want to read more about my adventures road tripping and camping throughout
California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona,
head on over to the Travel Archive to view a list of all the posts in this series.