Passion for Outdoor Adventure Displaces Pandemic Apprehensions
Like many avid adventure seekers, I counted the days until I would feel safe to travel and wondered where I would go. In an era when pandemic experts offer a series of conflicting statements, I feel common sense must prevail. Reliable medical evidence indicates that outdoor activities within a reasonable distance from others is a healthy option. With this in mind, I determined that our top destination for our first pandemic road trip was a state or national park.
By mid-May, Colorado restrictions were reduced as the incidences of COVID-19 decreased. A road trip from the Denver metro area to Moab, Utah was a reasonable choice. Timing became critical. Within just a few weeks, the outside temperature would hover over 100 degrees. I called the Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection by Hilton, the town’s newest hotel, and reserved two rooms for the first week of June. It was a great opportunity for a multi-generational getaway with two of our grandchildren and their parents.
Heading to Utah
Driving in tandem, we headed west. To accommodate antsy, small children, we stopped at a Grand Junction city park near I-70 where we had a picnic style lunch and access to clean restrooms.
A couple of hours later, we checked into the hotel where all of the employees were wearing masks while only a small percentage of guests followed this precaution. Later on, we would see that this was the norm. Store owners, restaurant personnel, and park rangers had their faces covered while almost everyone else was content to be unrestricted. Was I concerned? A little bit.
We didn’t waste any time. Within an hour of arriving, we were on our way to Arches National Park. To our surprise, the admission fee at this park is being waived for the time being. Fortunately, we visited midweek. Keep in mind that it is best to arrive early on weekends since park rangers reserve the right to limit entrance when the capacity reaches a certain point. During the prior weekend, the park was temporarily closed for crowd control. For information about current traffic conditions, check the webcam.
Arches National Park: Park Avenue Trail
Even though it was late afternoon, the temperature hovered in the low 90s, and the cloudless sky was a deep shade of blue. After living most of their lives in India, our two grandchildren were not adversely affected by the heat. They gladly accepted the challenge of trekking on the Park Avenue trail, a two-mile, round-trip adventure.
Even though the adults had previously made this journey, the experience was enhanced by observing the reactions of our one-year old granddaughter and three-year-old grandson. We had to continually remind them to stay on the path so that they wouldn’t damage the microorganisms of the high desert soil. Pinyon and small juniper trees added a tiny bit of greenery. Rock formations forming the towering canyon walls change their intensity at dawn and dusk. As the sun lowered in the sky, we witnessed these subtle changes as our cameras recorded the experience.
Arches National Park: Double Arch and Windows Trails
Traveling with small children naturally slowed our pace. A late start on our first full day put us at Arches National Park later than anticipated. In intense heat, we tackled the Double Arch Trail and Windows trails.
Both are conveniently located at the same cut off from the main road. We started with the easier quarter mile hike to the Double Arch so that our granddaughter could spend time walking on sandy level terrain before being placed in a carrier. While strolling on the lengthier Windows Trails, we viewed the North Window, the South Window, and Turret Arch. Along the way, our grandson happily shared new names for all of the rock formations that we passed, and our granddaughter was intent on picking up small pebbles whenever she was unrestrained.
We also stopped frequently to watch lizards scurrying about and ravens flying overhead. Our grandson loved his first chance climbing steep boulders. Sufficient time was spent hydrating our parched bodies and taking short breaks in shady areas adjacent to the rock formations.
Lunch & Snack Options
By the time we returned to the hotel it was late afternoon. We ordered lunch from the Quesadilla Mobilla food truck and ate in our guestrooms. We took a short walk to Moab Coffee Roasters for a special treat of chocolate ice cream and a round of coffee and tea for the adults.
Swimming at the Hoodoo Moab
To take a break from hiking, we spent a relaxing morning enjoying the hotel’s pool area which caters to children of varying ages. After months of not having access to a swimming pool, a dip in the pool was welcomed by all. Outdoor restaurant service catered to our grandchildren’s healthy appetites.
Grandstaff Canyon Trail
At lunch time, we purchased sandwiches at a nearby food truck and ate in our rooms. As we drove to one of Moab’s top-rated paths, the Grandstaff Canyon Trailhead located on Utah 128, light gray clouds rolled in. One of the hotel’s employees recommended this trail since it is partially shaded by the adjacent canyon walls and mature desert vegetation. Anyone considering this trail should be prepared to find an abundance of poison ivy plants and cacti.
We had allotted sufficient time to make the four-mile round trip journey. The high point of the hike is located at the midpoint. The Morning Glory Natural Bridge is the sixth longest natural rock span in the United States. Unfortunately, our grandson’s tired short legs prevented us from reaching this landmark.
During our three-mile hike, we had to cross the creek by rock hopping numerous times. Our grandson handled these first attempts at crossing a creek successfully, without any hesitation.
This hike offered the opportunity to see how certain species survive along a desert stream. We heard an assortment of birds singing and frogs croaking near the water while lizards darted in and out of our path. At one point, I encountered a small snake sunning itself on the trail. I’m certain my scream sent it slithering into the nearby brush.
Unlike many trails with consistent surfaces, this one has a mixture of sand, loose rock, sandstone slabs and mud. Young and old will find this engaging trail a worthwhile journey. I would recommend wearing waterproof hiking boots with good traction.
Arches National Park: Landscape Arch Trail
The grand finale of our trip was a hike on hard packed surface to Landscape Arch. We had to make the 1.9-mile round trip journey before our designated check out time. If we weren’t heading back to Colorado, or accompanied by youngsters, we could have walked farther. However, the Double O Trail was several miles longer and designated as difficult so it may not have been a good fit for a young family.
Unlike our previous stays in Moab where our accommodations fell short of our expectations, we were impressed with what we experienced at the newly opened Curio Collection by Hilton hotel. Well-appointed, spacious, and clean suites overlooked a family friendly pool area. Our Hilton status entitled us to complimentary breakfasts each day. This small perk removed the apprehensions of trying to find a place for breakfast. We also enjoyed the convenience of onsite dining at the Josie Wyatt’s Grille. Our other Moab dining options were split between carry out, food trucks, and limited seating in restaurants.
On our return drive, we chose to take our break in Glenwood Springs. By happenstance, we parked just off of Grand Avenue and walked to an ice cream store named Sundae. To celebrate the shop’s opening, just a few days before, we were offered a 10% discount on our purchase. Sundae has two sister shops, one in Vail Village and the other in Edwards, Colorado.
Despite a few initial concerns, I felt safe throughout our stay in Utah. We survived without daily cleaning service and found nourishing food options at two food trucks, a coffee shop/ice cream shop, and at restaurants offering dine-in and carryout service. It was also possible to find appropriate places to stop along our driving route. We did bring our own masks and hand sanitizer as well. Based on the number of people we encountered during our road trip, it’s apparent that others are willing to put aside their pandemic apprehensions to enjoy their passion for adventure.
When Sandy Bornstein isn’t trekking in Colorado or writing, she’s traveling with her husband Ira. After living as an international teacher in Bangalore, India, Sandy published an award-winning book, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, as a resource for people contemplating an expat lifestyle and living outside their comfort zone. Among other things, Sandy writes about family, intergenerational, and active midlife adventures highlighting land and water experiences.
Disclosure: The Traveling Bornsteins received a media rate for their suites at the Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection by Hilton.