Before we knew it, we had crossed the north-western tip of Arizona and were in Utah. After a meal stop in the busy town of St George, we headed east through Springdale and into Zion National Park. Oh what a difference! It was great to be away from flat terrain and into the mountains, and Zion didn’t disappoint. Sadly, we couldn’t stay too long. We were booked into Best Western Ruby’s Inn at Bryce and the roads looked like they could be covered in snow.
Our guess was right. Within a few miles the roads were snowed-over, with icy patches where the afternoon shadows were forming. We had 4WD engaged for extra safety, but what we really needed was an auto-pilot, so we could take in the spectacular scenery and drive at the same time.
Ruby’s turned out to be a huge complex with hundreds of rooms, a great restaurant and even a giant-sized indoor pool. It had the warm ambiance of ski resort - without the crowds. According to their advertising, the place absolutely buzzes in the warmer months. We were glad it was winter.
It is only a short drive from Ruby’s to Bryce Canyon. What a sight. With countless streaks of snow draped over the glowing pink canyon walls, it looked like a gigantic birthday cake. Fantastic! From the canyon we headed northward along Highway 12. Some people had told us this road would be a surprise, and we weren’t disappointed. It proved to be one of the best roads we have ever driven. They don’t call it ‘America’s prettiest byway’ for nothing. If you’re ever in this vicinity; find any excuse to spend some time on this road.
Right at Torrey, left at Hanksville, up to Highway 70 and straight into a snow storm that was traveling almost horizontally . The car in front seemed to know where the road was, so we followed it at about 10mph. As soon as we turned south toward Moab, the storm disappeared. Must be just a Highway 70 thing!
It was dark and freezing when we pulled up at the Best Western Canyonlands Inn. We had made a good choice for our base in Moab; the owners were friendly, the motel was spotless, and our room warm and incredibly spacious.
The next morning we walked around the town centre. Many of the tourist places, shops and restaurants were closed. The clerk at the post office told us that January, being the quietest month, was when many business people headed south to Arizona’s warmer regions. We didn’t mind; there were still plenty of places to eat and things to see and do. Plus, the weather was perfect – crisp air and absolutely cloudless skies.
Moab is home to about 5000 people and, from driving the around the streets, we reckon almost every household has a 4WD. Or three! And why wouldn’t they? Within easy driving distance are hundreds of the most scenic vistas in the world and what must be the best variety of 4WD, mountain bike and walking trails anywhere. At Easter, Moab is the base for the Jeep Safari. This event attracts around 2000 vehicles carrying thousands of jeepers hot to try out the hardest trails. Sounds like a good time to be in Moab. But we had picked January so we could get away from the madding crowds.
|In one of the back streets, we saw a sign that made us pull into the curb: ‘World Famous 4 Wheeling Museum’. Although I have read almost every 4WD magazine printed since 1969, I couldn’t remember any mention of this ‘world famous’ place. The museum building was the size of a very small house, or a large home garage. Displayed outside, was an old and weathered Jeep truck. Sadly the museum was closed, so we can’t tell you whether the contents justified the name. Even their website, 4wm.org, seems to be closed. |
Just north of Moab is the entrance to Arches National Park, an area containing thousands of stone arches and rock formations of every size and shape you could imagine. The most popular sights are reachable by sealed roads, and there are many walking trails ranging from easy to difficult. For the more adventurous, backcountry overnight hikes are allowed, subject to first obtaining a permit from the visitor centre. Even if you just do some of the easy walks, you will need at least a couple of days to have a good look at this amazing national park.