The Road to Arches | Utah Recap
At our last planting event, Joey came to me with an idea. "Road trip to Utah in April?" Immediately I was filled with stoke about the possibility of visiting a destination that has always been high on the bucket list. "Absolutely" I replied.
Fast forward to the second week of April and we'd finished all the planning; campsites were booked except the ones that were first come, first served. We loaded up Joey's rig with everything we'd need for a week of overlanding, camping, hiking and snowboarding. Between the two of us, we had enough gear to stay out there for a month, at least.
The first leg of the journey was from Seattle, Washington to Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho. It took us about 8 hours to get there including a stop for pizza in Boise. I'm convinced the stretch from eastern Oregon to Boise is one of the most boring drives in America. There's really nothing there at all outside of the Blue Mountain range. Once we arrived at the sand dunes, we were immediately greeted with gusting winds. The second I opened the truck door everything loose in the cab went flying. We had joked about sand boarding on the way down, but when we saw the dunes up close we knew we had to give it a go. We laced up our boots and made sure to pack a couple brews for the hike. The sun was just starting to set when we made it to the top, and the view was nothing short of breathtaking.
It's rare to see Orcas in the desert. It's even more rare to see two homies strapping into snowboards atop a sand dune. We definitely caught some eyes as we prepared to head down the rolling dunes. The first couple turns were magical; the dune was steep enough at the top to provide actual momentum. It was easy to lay an edge into the sand. Towards the bottom where it flattened out, it felt as if we were riding the heaviest, slushy powder imaginable. We both totally ate shit and got sand everywhere. I still think I have some in my hair a week later. Not sure if there's a wax out there with the temp range of "sand", but if not, that's a niche market ; )
After setting up camp for the night, we overheard people talking about an astrological showing atop one of the dunes. We walked over and were stoked to see two massive telescopes set up and an astrologer pointing out constellations. Away from the light pollution of the city, we could see the entire night sky. It was incredible to peep Mars and Venus through the massive lenses. I asked about the star of Taurus and was delighted when homeboy pointed it out right away. It was an amazing first night after we had just completed the longest part of our drive. Sadly, the intense wind absolutely battered Joey's rooftop tent and made it nearly impossible to sleep. Guess that type of weather comes with the territory in the middle of nowhere.
After logging maybe 2-3 hours of z's, we decided to skip breakfast so we could get out of the wind. We made it to Twin Falls Idaho and had a dank breakfast at a hole in the wall café downtown. The weather was super calm and warm; a promising development after the night we just endured. The next stop on our journey was Bonneville Salt Flats on the Nevada-Utah Border. The salt flats were once home to the literal cast of Ice Age. Saber tooth tigers, wooly mammoths, sloths and many others called the ancient Lake Bonneville home during the last ice age. Now, the salt flats attract visitors from around the world and are home to the fastest land speed record ever recorded. We found a spot to pull off the highway and waded into the ankle deep water with a few dozen others.
The salty water was oddly warm considering the air temp outside. Joey brought his guitar into the middle of the flats and played a couple songs while I sat and took in the view. The reflection of the mountains in the endless salt flats was insane to see. The lighting there made for some incredible photos! It felt amazing to sit in the sun for the first time in what felt like years. Seattle's winter had been especially gray this year so we really needed the vitamin d.
We found an incredibly dope overlanding spot to spend the night just west of the salt flats. To our pleasant surprise, there was absolutely no wind. We set up camp and fired up the ol' Coleman grill to make burgers. After another long day on the road it was great to chill under the stars and sip an old fashioned. Sunset that night was incredible, and not a single hint of noise could be heard from our spot. We climbed into the rooftop tent and crashed hard.
Joey woke me up just after sunset and I'm so glad he did; the sight outside the window of our tent filled me with gratitude. The orange rocks of the nearby mountains were illuminated by the first light of day with a cool blue background.
I steeped some jasmine tea to sip on while enjoying the morning sun. The calm desert vibes put us in a great frame of mind while we made breakfast and prepared for another leg of the journey. This day's destination was Salt Lake City, another two hours east of the salt flats. After breakfast burritos we packed up camp and hit the road again. Considering the distances we'd covered the previous couple days, two hours went by like nothing. The drive through western Utah is incredible; there's 360 degree panoramic mountain views the entire time. When we came up on the Great Salt Lake, we knew we were getting close. Salt Lake City is honestly one of the coolest metropolitan areas I've ever seen. Sprawling mountain ranges from every angle. Tons of urban art & skate culture. Amazing restaurants as well! We headed up to Park City which is only 40 minutes outside the city to check out the slopes. We planned on riding Brighton later in the trip so we wanted to see what the area was all about. We headed back to SLC where Joey dropped me off at an airbnb I booked while he headed south to Ephraim for the Runaway Vows Wedding videography workshop.
I needed tacos, so I asked a few locals at the evo Salt Lake campus where the best spot would be. They told me RocTaco; they were absolutely right. I had the most fire artisan tacos I've ever had there. Kalbi beef short rib, spicy chicken tinga and fried avocado. After cruising around the city on my longboard I decided to call it a night. Salt Lake City had me buzzing.
The next day, Joey was booked with his workshop so I set out to explore the city. The minute I left the house- BOOOOM. Huge thunder claps after lightning streaked across the sky. It started raining and hailing like crazy so I went back in to grab my snowboard jacket & layer up. Since I couldn't longboard in these conditions I started mobbing around on foot. I found a really chill spot called Tea Zaanti to sip on matcha while I watched the storm roll over the hills. In thirty minutes or so, the sun started to come out, which is apparently typical spring weather in Utah. I really wanted chicken and waffles so I walked about a mile to a local spot called Finn's. They had bright Scandinavian digs with some interesting art on the walls. The owner moved to Salt Lake in the 70's because he fell in love with the local mountains. I can dig it!
I wanted to get my snowboard waxed before riding Brighton, so I looked around for local tune shops. I found one called the Salty Ski Service; a local who brings his van and tuning gear to wherever you are! I didn't have a car, so it sounded perfect. I called him up but the owner said he was out of town for a climbing trip. Sounds about right. He referred me to a local spot called 7even Skis, so I took an Uber out there and they promised to get me waxed & sharpened same day. I was stoked. At that point it was time to grab dinner and find a spot to watch the Kraken's first ever playoff game. To my surprise I found a chill brew pub where a handful of Seattle fans were also watching the game. It was definitely a vibe! The Kraken ended up winning, so we went home happy. I could barely contain my excitement for riding Brighton the next morning; a resort I'd always wanted to see.
Joey picked me up at 9 am and after we grabbed coffee we headed up the Little Cottonwood Canyon. The drive out that way is insanely cool, with massive rock formations surrounding in all directions.
The fact that there is world class riding at several resorts within an hour of Salt Lake City absolutely blew my mind. The fact that it snowed 6-8 inches the day before IN THE MIDDLE OF APRIL made things even crazier. When we pulled up to the resort parking lot we were stoked to see the way the terrain was laid out. Big, open bowls to the right, a terrain park in the middle and myriad tree runs surrounding us. The sun began to poke through the clouds and with the cold temps we knew we were in for an epic day. "Bright-on, dude!"
We headed up Crest Express and found some insane conditions right away. High vis and untracked powder everywhere! We were legitimately shocked how nice it was for spring riding. Some locals were talking about Milly express as the lift to be on for powder turns so we traversed that way and were not disappointed with what we found. Wide open bowls with soft snow and amazing coverage. The terrain accessible from Milly rivals some of the runs at Whistler Blackcomb.
We felt like we were spending too much time on one lift, so we made our way back to the main base area and headed up Great Western. From there we were able to access some amazing tree runs: tight but still really open and fun. There were a few serpentine courses that felt like mini banked slaloms. Stopping and breathing it all in was meditative. We'd been on the go for the entirety of this trip, but I felt completely still. I've been reading The Daily Stoic for weeks now, and the meditation for this day (4.20) was Real Good Is Simple. "For centuries, people have assumed that wealth would be a wonderful cure-all for their unhappiness or problems. Why else would they have worked so hard for it? But when people actually acquired the money and status they craved, they discovered it wasn't quite what they had hoped. The same is true of so many things we covet without thinking. On the other hand, the 'good' that the Stoics advocate is simpler and more straightforward: wisdom, self-control, justice, courage. No one who achieves these quiet virtues experience's buyers remorse." As I sat there among the high alpine evergreen treez, I thought deeply about these words. The calm feeling the forest evokes is what I live for.
After such an epic day of spring riding, we really didn't want to leave Brighton. We were buzzing from the runs we took and the sights we saw. Our thirst for late season pow had been quenched. We headed back to SLC to get some rest and prepare for the final leg of our trip: The Road to Arches.
Arches National Park is the remnants of glacial sediment that served as habitat to dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures between 175-200 million years ago. The debris from floods and ocean waters compressed into rock, pushing the earth upward into domes and down into hollow pockets.
The stoke level we had as we left Salt Lake for our 4 hour drive south to Moab could only be described as through the roof. We'd both been wanting to see Arches for years, and the day had finally arrived. The Park has a timed entry system to control crowds, and our time slot was one pm. We arrived in Moab shortly before that so we decided to grab burgers and beer at Proper Brewing while planning our route.
The first stop once we arrived in the National Park was Courthouse Towers; an ancient panel of pictographs. The rock formations were striking; I could see faces and different shapes in them that blew my mind.
We met a super friendly older couple who happened to be from Eugene Oregon while we were on the trail and chatted with them about where we should head in the park. They suggested The Windows Section as an area with tons to see within a relatively short loop. We went our separate ways and were awestruck by the ancient rock formations slicing into the blue skies above us.
Arches NP is super spread out and covers an area over 119 square miles. There's tons of open space with winding roads that are perfect for longboarding!! I pulled out my board from the back of Joey's rig and hopped on it. The visceral joy I got from carving the freshly paved road while staring at countless rock formations was juxtaposed with the snap back to reality of completely eating shit from not paying attention. I got distracted for a little too long and before I knew it my board was rolling down the hill without me while my hands, knees and belt buckle were freshly torn open.
The ONE thing we forgot to bring with us was a first aid kit. So here I am bleeding in the middle of the national park when that same friendly couple from Oregon happened upon us. Luckily they had a first aid kit with alcohol wipes and band-aids. There wasn't one large enough to cover the wound on my right hand so we used gauze & electrical tape : )
After putting that wipeout behind me we made it to the Windows Section of the National Park where we were greeted by a loop of several prominent arches. We took time to take in all the sights as we watched the sun sink lower in the sky. Our goal was to be at the Delicate Arch for sunset, which left us with a solid three hours to explore. When we came to the Garden of Eden, we were absolutely mesmerized. This section of the park has, in my opinion, the wildest rock formations. They jut straight up into the sky and were highlighted by the late afternoon sun.
The hike into Delicate Arch is about 3.2 miles roundtrip so we knew that we needed to get started in order to be there at sunset. We drove through one of the most scenic sections of the park on the way there. Near the Devil's Garden campground there's a high ground section where you can see for miles to the south. Absolutely awe inspiring view of the desert where bright, vibrant orange contrasts with the cool turquoise sky & Canyonlands.
We parked at the trailhead and grabbed our camera gear as we started the climb. It was an absolute jaunt going straight uphill as our legs were screaming from snowboarding, hiking and venturing all over SLC the days before. My hand started bleeding through the makeshift wrap I made and was feeling wonderful on the way up. We were absolutely wiped but the promise of sunset at Delicate Arch pushed us up the hill. We got up there at the perfect time because most other people were starting to head down. Just before we got to the arch, the trail followed a narrow rock ledge for about 200 yards. The drop-off to the side was at least several hundred feet. When we turned the corner and spotted the Delicate Arch, we were absolutely stunned. No pictures can do justice the grandeur and mystique of the ancient rock formation. We made it during the golden hour when the last sun of the day was perfectly illuminating the arch like a beacon in the desolate landscape.
The mountain ranges nearby were drawing my attention just as much as the solitary arch; they were painted pink and purple by the setting desert sun. We truly felt tiny in that moment, and all the tiredness washed away. We were completely overcome with feelings of peace and contentment. People from around the world took photos by the arch as we watched the sun slip behind the distant peaks. A strange calm fell over the area as the first stars appeared in the sky, as if distant streetlights flickering on at the end of a long day. I closed my eyes and sat in silence for a good ten minutes before we started the descent.
Upon reaching the trailhead in total darkness, neither of us could contain our excitement about what we'd just witnessed. The weather lined up perfectly. The crowds were minimal. Our whole trip had been a resounding success. The last thing on the to do list that night was to visit a dive bar and eat some greasy food. We found one that happened to be playing the Kraken game and surprisingly sat by another group that had just driven to Moab from Seattle. While we waited for our pizza we exchanged stories about our trip and I finally got to clean up my bloody hand, lol. We went back to our hotel and crashed super hard that night. The next morning brought us back to reality as we started the long drive north, but also instilled a great sense of accomplishment. We had travelled over 1800 miles and seen some amazing sights. This is the story of the Road to Arches. Here's to living life in the treez and moments like these -->