Friday, 22 July 2011

A trip Part 4

The Arches National Park - more pictures
The next morning, we headed back up into the Arches National Park. The scenery is amazing in this park, where unusual shapes, impossibly balanced rocks and natural arches have formed over the millennia. Carved out of red sandstone by the action of rain, frost and wind these rock formations have produced towers and pillars and the definitive arch shapes as a result of the curved strata in the rock.
Click to enlarge any picture
On the way in you pass huge wind scoured cliffs that look as if someone has sandpapered great curving hollows in them and past a wide area of rolling ancient petrified dunes.

This balanced rock made me think of queen Nefertiti of ancient Egypt  

Petrified sand dunes
 The area is arid and there is little vegetation but several species of hardy plants including cactus manage to survive.
A stunted tree with a curved root

 There were small burrows in the soft sand which may have been made by prairie dogs or snakes, but we saw no other signs of animal life.
The altitude is about four thousand feet, so we found the climb up to the larger arches a little bit breathless, but not as bad as some climbs we made later.
One of the larger arches

There are several people in the arch, which gives you some sense of scale

Nowadays tourists come out to admire this scenery or to walk and trek through it, taking it in as an easily accessible wonder, but long ago these places must have caused the original settlers and earlier explorers huge difficulty in crossing all this beautiful but desolate country and I wonder what they thought about the strange scenery when coming across it for the first time.

For people arriving from Europe, it must have been mind blowing. During the whole of our trip whenever we came across a new view of something spectacular, huge or rugged, the same thought crossed my mind.
The way in and out of the Arches National Park, with route 191 in the background
After spending the morning in the Arches National Park, we had to get on the road again as we were aiming to arrive in Las Vegas for the next night’s stop.
The quickest way to do this was to drive north back up route 191 to re-join the I-70 and then continue west across most of Utah to join the I-15 to head south towards Vegas. There were a number of alternative routes but many were difficult roads and none were very direct and we wanted to reach our hotel that evening.
Typical scenery in mid Utah
The central part of Utah is quite barren and we saw some dry and forbidding mesas and hills.

This strata was very pronounced
A proper mountain shaped mountain, just like the ones we drew as children
 At one point on this part of the I-70 there is a sign which tells you that there are no services for the next 160 miles, a mere nothing in the USA, but it reminded me that Margret Thatcher had wanted to build motorway service stops every fifteen miles along the British road system when she was in office. A little impractical out here.
There were several warnings that we were passing the 'last'  petrol before this stretch,
a bit like the movie titles Final Destination 2, 3 and four
After crossing this deserted area, we came into sight of the Fish Lake Mountains, which we had to cross. Although these mountains are similar in height to the range we crossed after Denver, the road does not reach much higher than seven thousand feet, so no danger of our crisp packets bursting. 

Approaching some mountains

In the mountains

There are two ranges of mountains between us and the I-15, so no sooner had we crossed the first range when the Pahvant Range came into view.  The two ranges are different in character, the Pahvant Range being greener and less arid than Fish Lake.
As we started to descend on the far side of this range, we went through some heavy rain.
Some more mountains
After crossing this range, we left the I-70 and headed south on the I-15. Whilst the scenery was still very different from home, much of this part of the journey was relatively uneventful because we had been so blown away by the Arches, it took something very special to grab our attention.

This family were proud of their numbers, nine plus a dog followed by 19 grandchildren
Passing through Cedar City, we saw the unusual sight of a lighthouse, miles from the sea declaring ‘Providence’. I have, found out since that this is the name of the Providence shopping mall and the lighthouse is simply used as a sign for this.
Cedar City shopping mall
We next passed through Saint George, which had bad connotations because it was the site of a breakdown on a previous trip by the family where they were stuck for some time. So this is a place everyone was pleased to leave behind as soon as possible.

Entering Arizona
 The next landmark was the brief passage through Arizona, the I-15 cuts through a corner of this State and so for about thirty six miles we were in yet one more state.
Arizona scenery
When we started out in the morning at the Arches, it was quite cloudy and we had experienced some rain, but as we headed further south it began to clear up and by the time we were in Arizona, it was brilliant sunshine.   Quite soon we left this tiny corner of Arizona and entered Nevada.
Leaving Arizona and entering Nevada

 We were now only about eighty miles from Las Vegas and in Pacific time, so we had to put our watches back yet one more hour. A little over an hour later we came into sight of Las Vegas.
First sight of Las Vegas


  1. Wow, those sandstone arches and ridges are amazing and, yes, I can see Nefertiti too. Your thoughts about those first settlers are very similar to the ones that I've been thinking about on my travels, where the landscape, whilst not as arid, was/is agriculturally and geographically void.x

  2. It's like another world isn't it? The Arches look stunning. Don't like the look of the smog over Vegas though.... or is it heat haze?

  3. M-AJ, the blue haze is smoke. There had been a number of brush fires and some quite big forest fires over a wide area around Arizona and its neighbouring states a week or so before our trip and the smoke was still hanging around.

  4. Fantastic photos,snafu! There's one that reminds me of the three wise men on a Christmas card. I am really enjoying this trip through the States, and although the first impression of Las Vegas isn't so great, I am sure there are photos coming up that will change that!

  5. Got to go to Arches National Park. It's not so very far from us. I love the scenery in Nevada, Utah and Northern Arizona. Not too excited about Las Vegas. Just not fond of cities. I like the wide open spaces-- perhaps I should have been a cowboy! You know when you were on I-15 we were only just down the road -- by a good number of hours. Hwy 15 passes about 15 minutes away from us! I love your photos but especially the tree with circular roots. That's a winner. You're giving me the travel bug! Looking forward to seeing more.

  6. Chris, yes I knew we were relatively close, the closest I have ever been to your current home. Zion National park is a bit closer to you and smaller but amazing too. We were unable to stop there but in hindsight could have missed a day in Vegas and gone there instead. You will have to see what I thought of Vegas in part 5.

  7. PS thanks for the compliments about the pictures, but as I say lots of bad ones you only see the selected few.

  8. What an amazing trip you are on! That balanced stone does look exactly like Queen Nefertiti. I wouldn't like to walk under any of those balancing towers. Early travellers must have gaped (even more) in wonder at that scenary, it looks so otherworldly. And there's Las Vegas taking shape from the desert. Fascinating!

  9. Stunning pictures. The balances rock is spectacular! How I wish I were taking your trip!

    Ellie Garratt