Moab 2012. It was kind of like an Olympic tag. Getting together for nearly a week, with a couple dozen friends from TripAdvisor, somewhere in Utah, has become an annual thing. Even MrsRedPony tells our friends that we are going to be with our TA friends for our annual vacation meet up.
We took it a step further this year and added several days in Denver to visit our sons and their families, and then a long weekend in Albuquerque to enjoy the Balloon Fiesta. Many of our fellow travelers also added time on the front and tail ends of the gathering to see more places in the southwest, but I'll let them report on their own. This is how it went for me, my DW aka MrsRedPony (MRP) and our Yorkies, Madison and Mulligan (M&M).
We left Sedona in the morning on Wed Oct 4. A stop for breakfast at Cameron Trading Post filled us up for the rest of the drive. We lost an hour on the time change when we crossed into Utah at Monument Valley and arrived at our VRBO house in Moab around 4:30. Our housemates included RedDirtDog and SlickRockWalker and their friends Clark and Paula who had traveled all the way from Louisiana for the event.
By 7PM we had 20 participants at the house and PowderGlut had the grill fired up and loaded with chicken, burgers, brats and dogs. SouthJerseyGirl was in the kitchen whipping up a huge batch of Mac'n Cheese. Paula was in there too, making her signature cole slaw. The reunion was underway! Renewing friendships from past meet ups and events and making new friends almost instantly, was as fun as always. There's no other way to describe the kinship that we all feel. We discussed the plans for the following day and confirmed times and places. OhioHick likes to talk about this as herding cats, but the prep work and planning we all had done made it easy to communicate and arrange who would ride with who and who would drive which vehicles etc. Kudos to SRW who did a ton of legwork, researching tours and bookings, and finding housing for many of us.
Once we had the business out of the way lvziggy brought out her homemade limoncello(s) and we all enjoyed a nightcap...or two.
MRP and I heard voices and doors and stirring in the morning, but this was our day to sleep in. While the others were heading out to hike ruins sites, go jeep touring and ride bikes at Dead Horse Point, we took our time, went to breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe and then did some shopping in Moab. In the afternoon MRP spent some time in the kitchen making her corn souffle' casseroles and we waited for our friends to return from their adventures.
Dinner that night was another cook out affair, but this time at the VRBO house shared by the OhioHicks, the PowderGluts and Mr and Mrs SouthJerseyGirl. The menu included kabobs of tenderloin, shrimp, lamb, vegetables and fresh grilled salmon. PowderGlut manned the grill again while a host of volunteers managed a busy kitchen. The crowd grew to 24. I think there was a moment when a storm blew up outside. There was a quick shower and some high wind and then it was gone. The socializing was more than enough to make the storm a non event.
Friday morning was a sunrise hike. The group consisted of the Mr and Mrs OhioHick, MRP and me, Paula and M&M. We were up early to make the drive up to Arches to the Windows area. We hiked to the front and backsides of the North Window. On arrival we were surprised to see a huge bus parked in the lot and the driver was setting up a breakfast buffet. His passengers were already up at the North Window, standing in the window itself, in perfect position to spoil the photo ops for the rest of us who would want to get pictures without a bunch of humans cluttering the subject. But it was still dark. Ironically, as soon as these bus people saw the sun come up on the horizon they departed the window and headed back to the bus for their coffee and danish. Too bad for them. They missed the best part of sunrise. Good for us though. We got some fabulous sunrise pictures.
A couple of short stops for more photos at the Park Ave area and we were all getting hungry. We headed back to town and stopped at the Peace Tree Cafe for a nice meal on the patio there. Back at home we broke up to head out for more activities in the afternoon. MRP, the dogs and I opted for nine holes of golf at the nearby Moab Golf Course. The course is a nice design with some challenges of elevation, good greens and amazing Moab scenery from every hole. And affordable too. We might have played 18 but we had more activities for the evening when we would all gather again to share company and discuss the various adventures of the day.
The evening activities began with an informal cocktail hour at the Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn. Marketing Director Cheryl Covey, aka MoabMomma, and Manager Zach Bynum, were our gracious hosts for an hour long, pre dinner affair. The Inn was completely rebuilt several years ago and enjoys an excellent location in the heart of town, convenient to everything that is Moab. We enjoyed the new second floor covered patio with delightful views of the sunset. This patio is also where the Inn serves the included breakfast buffet each morning.
By now we had our full contingent of meet up participants and even a few more TA fans and groupies who had read about our gathering and showed up just to say hi. It was an unexpected pleasure to meet Ken and Cheryl and others who were in the middle of their own vacations, that several of us had knowingly or unknowingly helped to plan. A group photo has close to 30 faces, gathered from all over the globe who have nothing more in common than a love for travel and an appreciation for TripAdvisor. We adjourned and regathered at Buck's Grille for a great supper on their back patio with live music and great food and service. A fitting end to another fun day.
I've always wanted to see Mesa Arch at sunrise. OH and the Mrs shared my desire so on Saturday we awoke at Odark:30 and drove an hour unto Canyonlands and hiked for 20 more minutes by flashlight to the Arch where we found about 7 or 8 other dedicated photographers lined up in the chilly air with their tripods and hi-tech cameras aimed and ready. It was still about a half hour till sunrise, so we chatted with our neighbors and waited for the light. A few more photographers arrived and assumed the inferior positions to get their best angles. At about 5 minutes before the moment we heard a mild thunder of footsteps and turned sound to see a herd of photographers descending upon us. They tried to squeeze into the tiny spaces between the coveted spots that the rest of us had secured and protected so dearly in the frigid morning darkness. The earliest arrivals were obviously professionals and weren't having any of it. The new competitors were all speaking Chinese and pretended not to understand when they were emphatically told No! and instructed to find space elsewhere. For a moment I thought that I could be witnessing the beginning of a brawl. But it was all for naught. The sun was blocked by a cloud and so we never did get that magical photo with the morning light beneath the arch. I think my best photo was of the line up of tripods, cameras and bodies in the coveted space on the edge of a 300 foot drop off. Satisfied that no Asians would be pushed into the abyss, we packed up and headed back to town. At the parking lot we saw the Ming Tours bus that had brought the crowd in a rather untimely fashion. I wanted to take a nap before the afternoon hike.
This is the event that MRP and I had been looking forward to the most. We had passed up an opportunity to hike the FieryFurnace On a previous trip. Now was the time to make up for that bad decision. There were 19 of us hiking with Ranger Mike, all from our TA group. We gathered at the trail head at the appointed hour, got our briefing and began the trek. We had barely gotten down into the wash when those of us in the lead spotted a midget rattlesnake. Mike told us that she was a familiar sight there and that they called her Midge. Though they are smaller than other rattlesnake varieties, they are among the deadliest. So we took a snake break and allowed her to get out of the way.
We proceeded into the slots and towers that make this hike so unique. Mike was careful to show us exactly where to step and hold as we negotiated some of the more challenging places on the path. The overall hike isn't very long, measuring about two miles, but the stops and the highlights are unforgettable. Ranger Mike was younger than every one of us but his experience in the park covered years and his passion for the place was clear.
Our last stop was under Surprise Arch. It was here that we took a group photo and listened to Mike's own story of how he came to love Arches NP so much. His speech was from the heart and actually moved several of us to tears. It was a blessing for us to be there that day and have Mike as our guide.
It is often said that Fiery Furnace is the "must do" hike when visiting Arches NP. This was our 4th visit and only the first time at FF for us. I never felt that our other visits were incomplete, and I can assure readers that if you go and you don't hike FF, you will still be amazed by Arches. But if you are fortunate enough to win a spot (reservation) for this guided hike, and pay the fee, it is something you'll never forget. It's not for everyone, but it is indeed a special place.
Dinner that night was pizza, lots of pizza, at Noel and Donna's Moab residence. It's a testament to the beauty of Moab that this family from Australia would choose to own a family vacation home right there in Moab UT. When they travel to and from Moab it involves as few as 5 or as many as 8 different flights and takes almost two days of air travel. It was an honor and a privilege to have them host us all for Saturday night.
Early Sunday morning I kissed MRP and M&M good bye as I headed off with 14 others to go white water rafting on the Colorado river. Our star trip planner, SlickRockWalker aka Max, had chosen Sheri Griffith River Expeditions because those of us who wanted to do a river experience, were looking for some serious white water. This trip put in at Westwater, well upstream from Moab and ended at Cisco, still above the upper end of Rt128 and the Dewey Bridge. We had 3 boats, two with an oarsman and one with 8 of us paddling while our Captainette, Annie, called out the commands. I had the front right position in the boat. This meant that I was guaranteed to get the wettest, and I did. Pixie had the front left and together we lead our fellow paddlers through some wild rides. It was hard to top the FF hike from the day before, but this day was truly exhilarating. Great fun with great friends. I would recommend this adventurous trip for anyone wanting a real river experience. It was a long day, but tons of fun. We barely had time to get cleaned up before gathering again for dinner at Moab Brewery. And we had yet another member join us that day. Mr Kbecjeans had come down from SLC to rescue Kbec since she had overdriven her truck on Friday in Canyonlands. I'm looking forward to seeing Bob's video of that day. Noel has already posted some pictures.
All too soon our week was coming to an end. As we left the restaurant that night we said goodbye and hugged everyone since we had to leave on Monday morning. Most of the others were staying on for another great RDD hike to the Citadel, but we were moving on.
Lvziggy called it bittersweet, and that's probably the best word. Bitter to leave so many friends, but sweet because we took with us the fond memories of anther wonderful week, and a belief that it will happen again. Expect to see discussions beginning soon about another event next year.
Highlights for me this week, beyond the described activities, included meeting new friends. Among these folks are SussexWorldTraveler and her husband who traveled all the way from England to take part, Bob from St Louis, who will be posting videos that he shot every day, mtnwriter from NC, Shewie from Toronto, Clark and Paula from LA, MoabMomma, and then of course all the others who have become the core of these meet ups.
The following photo link has already appeared in the forum, so it will be familiar to those who have linked it from other threads. It could evolve though as I find more pictures and combine them into the same file.