Because our daughter, Jodee Adams-Moore, had been invited to participate in the Red Hot 55K trail race in Moab, Utah on February 15, 2014, Abby and Rusty decided to drive out there to join her and cheer her on.
We set off on Monday, February 10 with a plan to visit as many national and state parks as we could while driving out and back, planning to return home on February 20.
Here is our photographic travelog of that wonderful meandering road trip to Moab:
At California’s Mohave National Monument, the ranger told us that this valley has the greatest concentration of Joshua trees.
Valley of Fire State Park is the oldest state park in Nevada, dedicated in 1935. You’ll find it 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas via Interstate 15 at exit 75.
And these fiery red rocks are the reason for its dramatic name.
This formation is known as “The Beehive.”
After entering Utah, we headed to Zion National Park, providing time for both afternoon and morning drives & hiking.
We hiked to a viewpoint that gave us this panorama of Zion’s canyon and the Virgin River.
We took this road that winds up to the cliffs and then pierces through them with a two-and-a-half-mile tunnel.
We had to make a sudden stop when this big-horned sheep dashed across the road.
Fearless mule deer grazed along the trails. This buck was larger than our California white-tailed deer.
The Virgin River is given credit for cutting this colorful canyon.
Abby was able to capture a portrait of this pair of Common Merganser ducks.
For early February, the weather was surprisingly mild and sunny.
Our next stop was up onto the high plateau that is dissolving into Bryce Canyon National Park.
This Steller’s jay kept a careful eye on us as we surveyed the scenic overview.
Big, beautiful ravens frequented the trailheads, hoping for handouts.
Abby loved her close approach to this fearless fellow.
One of the highest parks we visited, Bryce still showed its recent dusting of snow. But temps were now in the mid 50s.
These human-scaled hoodoos are why we loved exploring the muddy trails through the Queen’s Gardens.
But watch out for this tourist-eating octo-tree!
The next morning we drove to Kodachrome Basin State Park where we were the only visitors!
Although we encountered wet trails of sticky red clay, we hiked up to see into this beautifully bizarre basin.
Although too big to explore this trip, we passed through the edge of Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument.
In the tiny town of Boulder, Utah, this place caught Abby’s attention.
Another huge national park that we only caught an edge of was Capitol Reef. We did check out its Goosenecks Point trail.
Abby imagined the lessons taught at this historic, one-room Mormon school house in Fruita.
Alien-looking petroglyphs on a Capitol Reef cliff.
At Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, we just had to see what those goblins looked like. Was this the goblin king’s castle?
The road past the Goblins’ Castle took us through these sculpted landscapes to…
the Valley of the Goblins! Goblins here, goblins there, goblins, goblins everywhere!
Is this the Queen of the Goblins?
Here’s our special and surreal slot-canyon discovery: Little Wild Horse Canyon State Park.
Could we climb out quickly if a flash flood came? Luckily, no rain in the forecast.
Saturday, February 15, dawned cloudy and cold. But in Moab, Utah, world-class runners were arriving for their race. Jodee had flown from Seattle to Salt Lake City, then driven south in a rental car.
At 7 a.m., Rusty drove Jodee to the race’s starting area where she went out for a warm-up run.
At 7:59 a.m., hundreds of trail runners from around the country lined up to start this 55-kilometer (34-mile) race. Some of the men wondered what this petite woman was doing up with the big guys.
Jodee told us she expected her race to last more than four hours, so Abby and Rusty went for a hike in nearby Arches.
The Windows Trail at Arches National Park, just north of Moab, Utah.
We returned at 11:45 a.m. to wait for the first 55K runners to descend from the red-rock canyons; at 12:31 came Jodee!
After a leg massage and hot shower, Jodee returned for the awards ceremony.
Only a few men ran faster. Jodee was the first woman across the finish line.
The next day, a rested Jodee joined us in a hike to Landscape Arch back within Arches National Park.
Dreaming in the crevices…
Back at Moab, we said our goodbyes to Jodee, who was headed back north to Salt Lake City’s airport to fly home.
At sunset, we drove to Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park that overlooks the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park.
We think these silver areas are a solar power site.
The next morning, southbound on Scenic Byway 95, we came to Natural Bridges National Park and set out on another hike.
These ancient Pueblo ruins are tucked deep within a rock cleft.
Crossing the mesa of the Grand Gulch Primitive Area, we stopped to take in the magnificent Muley Point Overlook.
Descending from this mesa involved slowly driving down these 3 miles of switchbacks, known as the Moki Dugway.
Again on the plateau, we rested and marveled at the San Juan River’s sinuous curves from Goosenecks State Park.
Ahead stretched the Valley of the Gods.
And Mexican Hat, Utah, named after this fantastic rock formation.
That afternoon, we pulled into Monument Valley in the Navajo Nation, just in time for sunset exploring.
We spent the night at the historic Goulding’s Lodge, where John Ford’s many classic western movies were shot.
Sunrise was also exquisite!
Continuing south, we crossed into Arizona and explored Navajo National Monument. Due to the snow, only one trail was open.
On our way to Flagstaff, we passed Devil Dog Road, where one of our favorite local wines, Devil Dog Red, got its name. After a sleep-over in that fun little city, we went onward into California’s deserts.
We made a brief stop in Joshua Tree National Park and toured the Cholla Cactus Gardens.
Abby learned a painful lesson: never bump a Cholla Cactus—those barbed spines held on tight!
Remember: the only safe Cholla is a dead Cholla!
Our last evening we visited with Bellevue, WA friend, Kathy Judkins in Indio, CA. We loved our visit to the red rock country at this time of year, with so few folks on the trails. We were lucky with the weather, as with the off-season rates that we got at many hotels. The disadvantage was that many of the recommended restaurants were closed for the winter season. Nevertheless, we ate well and found some delightful local beer —when in Utah, be sure to try the Polygamy Porter!