Westward Ho!: Day Five

Today has been by far the longest and most beautiful of the trip. What should have been about 6.5 hours of driving somehow turned into almost 10. 

We left Albuquerque early-ish after going back to Boca Negra Canyon at Catie’s request. She wanted to climb the mountain again, which left little time to do any other exploring in the city itself. We drive west on I-40 and immediately entered the most beautiful landscape we’d seen so far this trip. We were surrounded on all sides by mesas, buttes, canyons, and all make and model of other geological formation I don’t have the vocabulary for. I could have stopped every mile for another photo but limited myself to once every hundred or so. 

We took a small detour into El Malpais National Park on a whim at around lunchtime and took some photos from the top of Sandy Bluffs. Catie asked about the shadows of the clouds about the rivers of black rocks in the broad valley below. 

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As we neared Gallup, NM, I detoured again onto historic Route 66. There was a lot to see on the roadside but as the afternoon wore on, I became conscious of the time crunch. If we dallied for too long, we’d be pulling into Moab in the dark. Just west of Gallup, we turned northward onto some backroads to head into Monument Valley. We wound through more mesas, traversed several reservations, and ended up sitting in over an hour of traffic as one community had narrowed all incoming and outgoing roads to one lane for road work. Luckily there was plenty to look nearby. 

Rain on a butte in Arizona.

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We crossed the Utah State line and came into Monument Valley much later in the day than I expected. I couldn’t resist many photo-ops here, though Catie declined the chance to get out of the car and stretch her legs for a few of them. On one particular exit from the car at Forrest Gump Point, she asked “What maked those?”, pointing at the now-distant monuments. She listened as I explained erosion as simply as I could, nodded, and asked to get back in the car. We’ll have to come back when she’s not quite so world-weary. 

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The rest of the afternoon was spent trying desperately to get to Moab before it got too dark. We advanced through gorgeous countryside I had to force myself to drive straight through unexperienced and unphotographed. My auxiliary cable gave up the ghost near Blanding, UT and I fiddled with it long enough to miss the signs of an oncoming speed trap. Sorry, Mamaw. 

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Light was fading as we drove through Moab and past the arches to our lodging for the night. By the time we’d checked in and walked to our tent, night had fully fallen. Catie stayed awake long enough to scarf down a smore, then collapsed into our ridiculously comfortable (though somewhat hot) bed. Explanations and exploration will have to wait for the light of day. Tomorrow we see Arches and arrive at last in Logan. 

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