The Retailer Tour has reached its second state, Utah, leaving behind Simply by Nature's home territory with a comfortable transition from one beautiful desert to another. Nevada is soon to follow, and California soon after that.
We crossed the border into Utah via the 191, which is just East of Mexican Water, AZ (part of the Navajo Nation that straddles the AZ/UT divide), and less than 50 miles from the four corners. We've been to Utah many times before, usually entering it via the 15 or Monument Valley, but figured we should try something new. It might not be the showiest border crossing ever, but it gives a sense of much of the quiet beauty you'll find in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, if not a bit muted.
Our first destination was Moab, a small town in Grand County famed for its proximity to two of the country's most famed National Parks - Arches, and Canyonlands. If you don't go off the main strip, you could easily mistake it for just another adventure-tourism capital, but spend a bit more time and you'll find it has much more to offer.
One such thing is the Colorado River, which runs right by Moab, literally hugging the outer perimeter of Arches (see that rock wall across the river in the photo above?), and offering a wealth of camping opportunities along its banks. We set up at Grandstaff Campground, which is about ten minutes outside town, is walking distance from one of our favorite local canyons, and has some of the easiest water access of the any of the Colorado Riverway campsites.
We mentioned it in the last post, but again, take advantage of natural water sources whenever you can. Grab your Face Wash and clean up, use it instead of your water bottle when you brush your teeth and even when you rinse. We keep a bottle of water around specifically for cleaning and stuff that we fill up at every opportunity at springs, rivers, and creeks. It's a great way to save money, not to mention reduce plastic waste if you're prone to buying bottle after bottle of water instead of refilling.
With the clay-banks of the Colorado literally less than 20 feet from your tent, there's no better way to start the day than to wade into its cold waters, cover your face in reddish mud (or Simply's Detox Face Mask), and have the hot morning sun let it dry before you wash it off, realizing you get unlimited free clay-masks as long as you're camped here – awesome!
Most campsites only have shade during the late afternoon, which makes staying at camp during the day pretty unpleasant during the summer. No worries! Head into town and visit Moab's outstanding Grand County Library, the Youth Garden Project and their 'Nibble Garden', the Moab Farmer's Market on Thursday afternoons, the well-shaded dog park, or our personal favorite - Moonflower Community Cooperative, one of the absolute best health food stores in the entire country.
When we're in Moab we practically live at Moonflower (the above image is of Moonflower Canyon by the way, a short but fun little hike just outside of town with a surprise at the end). They've got a great selection of beautiful local produce at amazing prices, plus at the end of the day a small selection of it gets discounted and nearer to closing is even free! This might sound strange to some folks, but it's a beautiful way to easily reduce food waste and help folks who otherwise might not be able to afford quality food eat really well. While we were there a few dozen bananas that weren't even all that old were in the free bin, and the staff actually called a local who they knew would be interested in them and she came and picked them up right away. That's not something you see at many health food stores.
Their prepared foods are simple and delicious, with a hot bar that's usually stocked with soups, breakfast sandwiches and burritos, plus a refrigerator full of salads, desserts, more soups, and more sandwiches. The best thing is that all of those items are made with almost entirely organic ingredients, are clearly labeled so that even the pickiest eaters can make an informed decision, and cost half what you'd expect. Top that off with a broad kombucha selection, tons of independent and local companies across the store, and an amazing staff, and they're pretty tough to beat from any angle. We love Moonflower, seriously.
If you're looking for a good long hike that's got all the best elements of Moab's famous landscapes (red rock cliffs, varied and dense plant life, water features, red clay soil, and even an arch) but only a small fraction of the people, get up at the crack of dawn and head over to Negro Bill Canyon. In the early morning the light is soft and beautiful, as it's reflected off the red rocks surrounding you, giving everything a subtle pinkish hue.
The whole hike is about 3-4 hours round trip (make sure to pack some sunscreen, and put on your Probiotic Deodorant) depending on how much time you spend awing at the landscape or hanging out in one of the many pools or river crossings. There's tons of variety too, some sections are dense and jungly, while others are bare rock and water.
It's a great hike for those who love to get their feet wet. Depending on who you ask there's either 8 or 9 river crossings over the course of the hike - you can do them with shoes if you want, hopping from rock to rock, but it's definitely more fun to wade through and cool down in the chilly water.
The farther along you go, the more the views open up, and before you reach the climactic ending you're up on great swaths of rock with light pepperings of desert plant life. At the conclusion of the canyon is a massive arch, as well as the source of the spring that feeds the river you'll have crossed 8 or 9 times getting there! Splendid ending.
What would a post about Moab be without at least a few shots from Arches National Park though? It's a hot mess there during the Summer, and feels more like an amusement park than a national park, but it's still an undeniably beautiful and alien landscape, which if you go on the right hikes at the right times, can still allow for some proper communion with nature's glory.
Arches' first major vista, Park Avenue, is surprisingly deserted at dawn and dusk. True, folks flock to the overlook that's a short walk from the parking lot, but the lovely hike down into the valley below is shockingly peaceful, and barely gets any traction as the cars pile up in the parking lots of more 'showy' formations for sunset shots.
Double Arch is hard to find isolated at any time except perhaps at midnight, but even with tourists literally crawling all over it (see the small specs in the image above) this goliath is deeply affecting. It's hard not to feel the power of these rocks, especially when you're right under them.
If you're all ready to pack for your trip to Moab, hold your horses. We've got a whole lot more of Utah to see, including the world-class Uinta range above Orem, the sprawl of beauty that is Grand Staircase-Escalante, and all sorts of awesome destinations in between. We'll be covering the greater Salt Lake area next post, including Utah's secret resource for scoring quality raw milk, and we'll share our favorite ways to keep up on recycling while we're on the road!
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