We’d been in rural southern Utah for the past 2 weeks and had seen some beautiful sights. However, being 17 days without finding a fully stocked grocery store had our meal options were becomming quite basic. That’s why, when we saw the hotels and tourist shops of Moab’s Main Street, it was quite literally an Oasis in the midst of a desert for us.
Canyonlands RV Resort
Although we did find a few small town grocery stores during our time between Zion, Bryce, Kodachrome Basin and Capitol Reef, they were all generally lacking in one area: fresh food, i.e. fruits and vegetables. Our meals had become mostly grains, which we had stocked in higher quantities in the camper: pasta, rice, oatmeal, etc. After checking in to our campground in Moab, the Canyonlands RV Resort, we walked directly to the grocery store a few blocks from the campground. Our eyes feasted in delight– isles upon isles of crisp fresh fruits and vegetables! Apples that weren’t Red “Delicious”! Zuchini! Mushrooms! Cucumbers! And more beyond– canned soup that wasn’t just Chickin’ Noodle, tea that wasn’t just Lipton!
We chose Canyonlands RV Resort because it was right smack dab in the middle of the city. It was a nice change of pace being able to walk everywhere we wanted to go. In fact, we left our van hitched up to the camper for the 3 nights we stayed at the RV park and traveled only by foot. Besides a great grocery store, we were also able to walk to two outdoor gear stores, the post office, a thrift store, the library, and a brewery for dinner. We also took advantage of having access to laundry machines and did 2 loads. It was actually quite lovely with the leaves falling from the beautiful yellow Cottonwood Trees.
One of the outdoor gear shops we walked to, Moab Gear Trader, had used gear, and we found a great Patagonia down jacket for Sarah. Sarah is notorious for always being cold, so having super warm clothes is very important for her to have an enjoyable experience in the outdoors. I had found a used down jacket for her before we left Portland (at our favorite outdoor store, Next Adventure) but it was a bit large for her made her look a bit like the Michelin Man. We were able to sell that jacket to Moab Gear Trader and buy the better fitting one for a net cost of only $45– not too bad, considering these jackets cost about $300 new.
We also found a used camelback backpack for our 5 year old. A couple sewing modifications and it was perfect! On our hikes so far she hadn’t been drinking a lot of water; once we bought this hydration pack she started guzzling! In fact, in the first 30 minutes of trying out her new pack, with a little help from her sister, she had finished the liter of water (potty emergencies soon followed)! We later went back and got a water bladder for Sarah to put into her pack as well, as she is also not the best at remembering to drink water. We have water bladders that we left at home since we thought that, with the girls along, we wouldn’t be doing activities intense enough to require them– but I guess we were wrong, whoops!
At the thrift store I was able to donate a few things that we brought along on our trip that we had since decided we didn’t need: a crock pot, a kiddo potty, and a fabric camp table. At the post office, I mailed a package to our neighbor back home (thanks John!) of other things that we didn’t need but didn’t want to part with: my extra clothes, two “crazy creek” folding camp chairs, some wooden hangers, and a few hard-cover kids books which took up more of our precious space than the smaller paperbacks. The clothes I sent back were most of the cotton clothes I’d brought– for the most part I’ve been rotating between just a couple of outfits consisting of synthetic camp clothes, which seem to stay “clean” feeling a lot longer than the cotton clothes that I mailed back.
At the library we found that they had guest library card you could purchase for $15 for a limit of 3 months and 4 items at a time. This seemed a little steep since we weren’t staying long but luckily the library was also having a book sale where we were able to buy a few more small paperbacks for the girls. Our 5 year old is able to read simple books now and she reads to herself right before she goes to sleep, so we picked out some more books for her that would also be of interest to our 3 year old.
We visited the “Red Dirt Shirt” shop in Moab where we picked up a “Red Dirt Play Shirt” for our 3 year old. Our 5 year old already has a Red Dirt Shirt that we had purchased for her at one of the other “Red Dirt Shirt” locations in Hawaii.
The campground had an outdoor heated swimming pool, and with the days being sunny and in the 70s, our girls spent each afternoon splashing in the pool. Our 5 year old, for the first time ever, swam on her own, without floaties, to the deep end of the pool and back! She was super excited!
My hair was getting a bit shaggy by this point (about 1 month in to our trip), which wasn’t so much an appearance problem, but it was a problem in that it was requiring more water to wash it as it grew longer, and we have very limited fresh water and grey water tank capacities (20 gallons each). Not a problem when we’re staying at an RV resort like this with full hookups, but more often than not we don’t have hookups and have to rely on the water in our tank. Fortunately, I brought my barber with me. Photo credit goes to our 5 year old. 😉
On our second day in Moab there was a Day of the Dead festival in town! This was a really fun event and good cultural exposure for the girls. On one side of the lot where the event was held, mock graves were erected honoring loved ones who had passed. On each grave were offerings– food, drink, and other items that were favorites of the beloved. What a beautiful tradition! There was also great Mexican food, face painting, piñatas, a Mariachi Band, and crafts.
The craft we participated in was bicycle spin-art. With Sarah and our 3 year old turning the bicycle pedals, which caused a record to spin, our 5 year old splattered paint onto the record. The end result turned out pretty neat, and we hung it in our camper.
The mariachi band, Mariachi Raza Cora, was excellent as well– they had 2 horns, 3 violins, a bass and a guitar, and they all took turns singing. The 3 violins playing in-sync were particularly impressive to watch.
On our last day camping in downtown Moab we walked around to a few more of the shops. The coolest shop was a rock shop on the edge of town. The employee there said the owner, Lin Ottinger, for which the shop is named, started collecting rocks when he was 4 years old and never stopped. He’s in his 90’s now and still at it.
We let the girls each pick out 1 rock. Our 3 year old picked the tiniest rock they had. The up side to this was that it cost only 10 cents. The downside was that we lost it as soon as we left the store. I went back and they were kind enough to give us a replacement tiny rock for free. Not only that, but as I left the store with the new rock, I found the old one lying in the dirt parking lot outside the store!
Willow Springs Trail Boon-Docking
The RV resort wasn’t the cheapest place to stay ($65/nt. on halloween weekend, and $45/nt. thereafter), so after 3 nights we decided to move to a free boon-docking site just north of Moab. Before we headed out of the RV park, however, I took advantage of the close proximity of the grocery store and made 2 more trips by foot (each time carrying back as much food as I could carry) to stock up our food supply, since we weren’t planning on being back through town for 10 days. Since we had donated/mailed some of our posessions we had quite a bit more room than before for food storage, and we didn’t want our stock to dwindle down to the basics again like it had in the previous weeks.
The spot we chose to boon-dock in was the Willow Springs Trail, also known as BLM 378. With expansive desert views, including views into Arches National Park, it was a beautiful place to camp, especially during sunset.
It was a popular spot, and I’m sure had we been there on the weekend it would have filled right up. As it was, there weren’t really any spots where we could be totally alone, at-least not unless we had a high clearance vehicle and could reach some of the further-in spots. We shared our lot with two other friendly campers– a man from Denver travelling by himself in an RV, and a woman from Australia travelling by herself in a rental car and a tent. We even had 3 horses sleep near us on our last night!
After we set up camp we had planned to all go to Moab Giants together– a dinosaur museum of sorts. However, our 5 year old was having a hard time and didn’t want to do anything, so we decided that Sarah and our 3 year old would go check out the dinosaurs, and our 5 year old and I would go for a bike ride (she would ride in the bike trailer, because she also didn’t want to ride her bike). Mom and the little one took off, and about 15 minutes later I realized that my bike was still on the bike rack of the front of the van, which was now parked at Moab Giants about 2 miles away. Doh!
The only actual road between our camping spot and Moab Giants was the highway, but looking at the satellite maps it looked like there were some dirt “roads” that we could take to get there without needing to walk along the highway. Our 5 year old and I talked it over, and she decided she did want to ride her bike after-all, so we decided she would ride and I would run on the dirt roads, get to Moab Giants to retrieve my bike, and then we could both ride back together.
As it turned out, the dirt road, which turned out to be an ATV trail, was made of deep loose sand, which proved too difficult to ride in for our 5 year old (I’m not sure I could have ridden in it either). We were only half a mile from camp, so we turned around and headed back. I spotted another road on the map that looked like it would also get us to Moab Giants. By now, our 5 year old no longer wanted to ride her bike, so we loaded up in the stroller and headed back out. This new road was bumpy, but but was sufficiently solid to push the stroller on. It was looking like we were going to make it– but then suddenly the road ended and we were just tromping through rocky desert land.. and, from the looks of it, we were approaching some kind of camp. Up ahead were beautiful canvas tents. As we approached, two men stood up on the porch of one of the tents and spoke out “can we help you?” As they explained, this was “Moab Under Canvas”– a “glamping” campground. It looked pretty cush. However, it had just closed for the season yesterday, which explains how they immediately knew that we weren’t staying there. They were nice enough to give us directions for some roads we could take, through their campground, to get to Moab Giants.
Perhaps there directions weren’t quite right, or perhaps I didn’t follow them correctly– but pretty soon we ended up at a house, squeezing between a car and a bush to continue down the other side of the road, only to end up at another house, where we had to descend a sandy hill to get back to another ATV road that finally took us to Moab Giants– or at-least across the highway from it. For the final challenge we had to wait for a gap in traffic and use my childhood Frogger skills to make it across without getting squashed. Our sun hats and the sunscreen were also captive in the van, and by now we were starting to feel a little sun burnt. By the time we arrived we had had enough and no longer wanted to ride home, so we met Sarah and company in the gift shop and got a ride back to camp.
According to Sarah, Moab Giants was a bit cheesy. The dinosaur statues were neat, but there was little in the way of educational material– not really a real museum– and they don’t let you touch or even get very close to the majority of the dinosaurs. It was a good thing that we didn’t all go, as it was a pricey place. Still, our 3 year old has mentioned it many times since in the context of being there with only Sarah and her so she clearly enjoyed it.
Mountain Biking at KlonZo
The next morning I scarfed a quick breakfast and hopped on my mountain bike first thing to check out the nearby mountain biking trails. Only 3 miles along a dirt road from our camping spot was the KlonZo mountain bike trail system. While not Moab’s most famous mountain biking, it was a perfect spot for me, and better matched my skill level with mostly intermediate trails (Moab is known for some pretty extreme riding). This was my first time experiencing riding on dedicated mountain bike trails, outside from ski resorts anyways, and it was awesome! The trails were beautifully maintained, with sign posts at every intersection including a map, and each trail was flagged with color-coded markings.
The terrain was mostly clay soil but there was a small section of “slick rock” where the trail was onto of only solid rock, with the route marked by painted lines directly on the rock surface. This is the type of riding that Moab is famous for, so I was glad to get to experience a small bit of it!
At one point the trail went through what looked like a field of crystals. Even some of the rocks that marked the edge of the path were this same mineral. I picked up two small rocks to bring back for the girls (hey– this wasn’t a National Park, so it’s allowed, right?)
Park Avenue Trail in Arches
That afternoon we drove 30 minutes into Arches National Park and hiked the first short hike we came to, the Park Avenue Trail. It was a there-and-back route (or it can be done as a one-way hike if you’re able to park a vehicle at the parking lot on the other end, which we weren’t able to do). The trail descended some very nicely laid rock stairs and into a wide canyon, flanked on each side by tall cliffs that, at the top, were worn down so thin that they looked like serpent spines. Since we had a late start, we just did the first half-mile before we turned around, making it a 1-mile there-and-back for which the girls earned 1 dime each. Our 5 year old also got to try out her new water bladder on a trail for the first time.
Trunk or Treat
It was October 31st, so after the hike we drove south of Moab for a “Trunk or Treat” event. At the Old Spanish Trail Arena south of Moab, 40-50 cars were lined up with their trunks facing the walkway where hundreds of kids walked trunk to trunk trick-or-treating. Each trunk was decorated in halloween theme– some done by local citizens, others by local businesses. There was a small haunted house (or tent really), which our 5 year old was excited to go through.. that is, until she got through the entrance. It was a bit on the scary side for her, but, to her credit, she let me run her through the rest of it rather than turning around and trying to fight upstream through the crowd coming in.
The girls ended up with way more candy than they needed. Still, they ha a blast sorting it all (we gave them a few hints as to which were the good ones!) We let them each choose 3 pieces to keep– the rest they have since been giving away to other people we see in campsites and around the parks (and the parents have eaten a few of-course)! The bulk of it was given to the park rangers.
We spent one more night boon-docking on Willow Creek Trail, and then we packed up the next morning and headed for Canyonlands National Park, followed by Arches National Park (we’ll talk about each of those in their own posts).
One last day in Moab
After Canyonlands and Arches, we wanted one more day in town in Moab to do laundry & re-stock on groceries. We all took showers (thank heavens, says Sarah, since we hadn’t had real showers since last in Moab 8 days ago!). We also took advantage of the RV-sized car wash in town to clean Dimes & Wobbles.
While we were at Canyonlands, we ordered some Carhartt overalls for our 5 year old from eBay (our 3 year old already has a pair, which she inherited from her older sister). Our 5 year old has been going through pairs of pants like crazy from all the sliding around on rocks, so we needed something tougher that would survive the abuse. I ordered them “General Delivery” to the Moab post office– something I had never done before, and I was a bit nervous that it wouldn’t work. Basically, the post office holds on to all “General Delivery” mail and you need pick it up within 2 weeks by showing ID. Sure enough, it worked!
Moab Valley RV Resort
We spent our last night in Moab at Moab Valley RV Resort, which happened to be owned by the same company as Canyonlands RV Resort that we stayed at previously in Moab. When we arrived the pool & hot tub were still open for another hour or so, and our kids got really excited (despite it being less than 50 degrees outside). We mostly stayed on the hot tub side, but our 5 year old did go in the pool for a few minutes.
It’s funny– we stayed at this very RV resort on our honeymoon and didn’t think much of it … but that was in the middle of the summer in the searing desert heat, and we were in a van without air conditioning (and the resort offers no shade). This time, in the cool fall weather and comfy inside our RV, we were quite content!
It’s hard to leave the Moab area as there’s so much to see here and it’s nice having all the conveniences of a real town. However, we’ve been here for two weeks and it’s time to move on.