Campground – Grandstaff, Utah

Last June we camped near Leadville, CO where it was in the upper 30’s at night and we cranked up the four dog camp stove every night. We wound down out of the mountains and across the desert into Utah near Moab where sleeping bags were quite unnecessary. Like trying to sleep in an oven in a huge warm tortilla. We woke up sweating most nights on the banks of the muddy Colorado River.

Relaxing on the banks of the muddy Colorado River.

The first night I thought how nice it was to sleep on top of my bag and not be remotely chilly. I’ll read my new John Geiarch book I thought. The second I flicked my headlamp on, a thousand tiny bugs swarmed my face like I had dog crap smeared all over me. The compound word, “Goddammit!” replaced my usually gentle last words of the evening, “good night girls” aimed at my three young daughters and lovely wife. No response told me they were asleep, or annoyed by my foul mouth.

The cliffs overlooking the campground. Vultures circled us all day, assuming our demise.

If you are there, you need to knock Arches off the list. We got a late start as always, and hit the park in the heat of the afternoon. We packed plenty of water but it was scorching hot with no cover in the rocky desert. There were also a lot of foreigners in the park as well. The Chinese crowd alone was impressive. Our first reaction was, “Lordy, what the heck are all these Chinese tour buses doing here?” Then we realized. We have been living six hours away from one of the coolest places in the world and we are just now getting here. Dumb Americans.

Balance Rock. It’s hot here in June. Like certain parts of Hell, hot.

People from every country visit our National Parks because they are amazing and we’ve been taking them for granted. Arches was incredible but you need two days there as it is a hike to all of the arches. We saw our share taking air conditioning breaks in the truck between parking lots. In March, the weather was much more favorable. We went through much less water and were able to hike with the kids to many more arches without dying.

Phyllis saving my life.

The only thing we had booked for our time in Moab was a Sunset Hummer tour with the Moab Adventure Center. We’d booked it way in advance with images in our heads of wine and cheese complete with a sunset over delicate rock formations.

That day we inflated the raft and took to the slow-moving Colorado River. Now, there are no shuttle services in Moab unless you are a bike rider. Everyone said, “Awe man, just hitch hike back.” OK, but I’m no seasoned hitchhiker and we had a sunset Hummer tour that night. It was a risk but we had hauled the raft this far. I lugged it into the river at the campsite and we floated through the canyon for about two hours, and it was perfection. The water was cool and slow, so I was forced to kick it into high gear a few times to get us to take-out at the bridge just outside of town. The girls loved it.

A quick dip in the river.

Once we disembarked I ran over the foot bridge to the highway and started walking back toward camp four miles away, thumb in the wind. Literally two minutes later I was passing around a PBR tallboy in a gutted 90’s minivan with three rock climbing stoners. Who knew Moab was my kind of town? I gave them $5 for the ten minute shuttle which they reluctantly accepted. Then I floored it back to the ramp and loaded the boat. And we made the tour in the nick of time.

A nice easy float among the canyon walls.

A very tan 20-something year old girl loaded us and eight other tourists into a snazzy old Hum Vee with modified stadium seating. Seemed totally safe. As luck would have it, MH got to sit shotgun. What she didn’t know, was that this tour was going to scare the living hell out of her and the rest of us. We roared out of town still muddy and smelly from the river and into a “park” that was stained with rubber tire trails over slick rock. The young lady carefully drove us over a rock the width of the vehicle, fifty feet of certain death on both sides. I believe she called it the Devil’s Backbone. Everything out here in the scorching desert is appropriately named after something the underworld.

Glad the brakes didn’t crap out.

That was by far the tamest obstacle we would see that evening. At one point she drove us backwards up a grade you could hardly walk on, and put us on three wheels while the girls screamed and Mommy nearly lost her mind. The sunset was beautiful as expected and we (not Mommy) thought this might have been the highlight of the whole trip. A heart pounding adrenaline rush with an amazing sunset to cap it off. The only way to describe it is surreal with a a side of terror.

The next day we hiked to Morning Glory Arch whose trailhead essentially started at our campground. Perfect hike with a creek the entire way to stay cooled off. The arch was massive and surrounded by poison ivy, but maybe the coolest arch we saw in Moab besides Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch in March 2018 when Texas Tech was advancing through the NCAA tournament!

While in Moab, you will likely run out of water. The coolest outdoor shop in the west is Gear Heads. They have a water refill station in the store where you can fill up your canisters for FREE! Also, their camping and climbing gear is endless. Don’t miss this shop. You’ll also want to eat. Absolutely eat twice at the Quesadilla Mobilla. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Directions: From Moab, drive north on Hwy 191, then right on 128 following the river. The campsite is on the left and first come, first served. Bring sunscreen and bug spray.

The other area we camped in was first come, first serve. Great views and a magnificent drive. From Moab, take Kane Creek Blvd. (145) west out of town. Follow the road for a few miles and you will see a spread out campground off to your right. There is another one even farther down called The Ledge Camping Area. Either is good but don’t go in the summer. Zero shade in either.

Published by willbarch78

I grew up in the middle of nowhere Texas. The nearest Walmart was a full two hours away. My family still runs a ranch back home that I grew up on, but at some point in my treasured youth I hung up the idea of becoming a cowboy, and pursued my passion for architecture. Today I still find myself trying to fit in to a life that has treated me with the average ups and downs one can expect after a certain number of years. My wife and I moved to Denver after attending Texas Tech School of Architecture in Lubbock as we needed a grade change from the Llano Estacado. We camp with our three growing girls all summer and into the fall while I write and create and fly fish to maintain sanity. Life is moving fast as our careers and children progress in all areas, so being outdoors with each other keeps us mostly grounded.

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