Saturday, June 25, 2016

Day 8: To Salt Lake City

The Grand Western Tour was up with the sun this morning. We headed out of Colorado towards Utah and into the Moab Desert. The crew got their first taste of the red sandstone rocks at a rest area near the Canyonlands National Park. It didn't take them long to start climbing on the bus-sized boulders and rock formations (with chaperones standing a close watch of course).

After about 30 minutes of playing on the rocks they boarded the bus excited for the bigger formations to come in Arches National Park. For the first time we can remember there was a line of cars waiting to get into the park. We were thankful we came earlier in the day as it appeared the advertising of Utah's National Parks was working! Inside the park the bus followed the winding road through colorful stone formations and petrified sand dunes. Formations such as the three gossips, balanced rock, and the lions rose high on either side of the bus. The whole park was created by the slow petrifaction and then natural wear down of salt beds through the course of 300 million years. In some places there were bright red sandstone formations and open arches rising above the ground. Other views included the multicolored rolling petrified sand dunes. 

We stopped at two locations to take short walks to the formations. The first stop was the Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch. The orange sand in this area is so fine and thick that walking is a workout in itself. The arch and surrounding formations here were covered with a light layer of the sand which made climbing on them more of a chore. Sliding down was the safest and most fun way to get down from the higher regions.

The second stop was at two arches called The Windows. We were able to walk to one for more climbing, picture taking, and sitting under the arch with a great view of the other "window". By the time we got to the lunch spot the whole crew was very hungry and ready for cold water. We spread out among some picnic tables where we could find shade to eat our picnic lunches. Much to the chaperones' surprise the students continued climbing on nearby rocks when they finished their lunches. It seemed they were never going to get their fill of playing in the Arches. 

Once the bus arrived in Salt Lake City the crew was given some time to relax at the hotel before dinner. Dinner was at the Blue Lemon restaurant right downtown next to Temple Square. Choices consisted of fettuccine Alfredo with vegetables or slow braised short ribs with vegetables. The group seemed to enjoy having time to dress up a bit and many students commented that they were glad to have a healthy dinner.

It is almost bedtime for the group. Onward to Jackson Hole, WY tomorrow! 

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