Saturday, December 17, 2016

Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

The second half of the week we stayed in Moab (September 2016) we visited Canyonlands National Park. Part of the same geological processes that created the stunning landscapes in Arches National Park just down the road, Canyonlands is much less crowded, and less visually inviting at a first glance. But its starkness and vastness make it splendid in its own right. The colorful landscape has been carved into countless canyons, mesas, and buttes by the Colorado and Green Rivers, and their respective tributaries. Author Edward Abbey described the Canyonlands as “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth – there is nothing else like it anywhere”, and I would have to agree.

With virtually no shelter from the sun, visitors have to choose carefully where and when to hike on the 100’s of miles of trails, many of them rugged and remote, with no facilities, including no fresh water, along the way. It seems this barren environment wouldn’t support much life at all, but the park is home to over 15 mammals (including black bears, bobcats, bats, and deer), at least 273 species of birds (lots of hawks, owls, and eagles), several species of reptiles (count the rattlesnake among them), and six confirmed amphibian species (frogs and salamander). We saw many birds, but none of the other inhabitants the days we were there.

We spent just a couple of days exploring the Canyonlands, so there will be plenty left to do when we come back here next time! 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Arches National Park (Utah)

After leaving St. Louis in mid-September, we headed west to Moab, Utah, for a week-long stay to visit Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. Moab is a charming small town in Eastern Utah that merits attention in its own right, but the main draw is its proximity to the National Parks, and we were among the many tourists who had the same idea we did – the crowds were impressive, to say the least.

The first half of the week we spent hiking and sightseeing at Arches National park. Located on the Colorado river, Arches has over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the world-famous Delicate Arch which reaches 60 feet into the sky. The park contains the highest density of natural arches in the world spread over 76,679 acres. Over 1.3 million visitors a year come to see these amazing formations, and it’s no wonder why. The shapes, colors, and impossible angles of the rock formations seem to defy explanation and suspend belief, and to walk among these wonders of nature is like stepping into another universe.

As you gaze at the incredible stone creations, you can’t help but see the resemblance to animals, humans, and creatures, and the names given the various formations reflect this natural tendency to anthropomorphize the natural world. Names include Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock, Broken Arch, Skyline Arch, Double-O, Navajo Arch, Eye of the Whale, and Skull Arch. We saw many of these during our three full days of exploring the park, but not nearly enough to satisfy our curiosity. Another place to put on our list of “Places To Return To”.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour (St. Louis, Missouri)

Visiting breweries across the country was not one of our original goals when we set out on the road nine years ago, but when you find yourself in parts of the country where historic breweries are located, what else are you going to do? And, I can’t lie, I enjoy these tours, especially the free tastings! J The Anheuser-Bush Brewery is more than just a fun place to hang out and taste beer, though. Opened in 1852 by German immigrant Adolphus Bush, the brewery was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1966, recognizing the company’s importance in the history of beer brewing and distribution in the United States.

Spread over 142 acres, this brewery ranks number one in beer production in the United States, and during the tour we were able to see where the beer is produced, packaged, and distributed. Our guide provided us with a running narrative of the company’s history, beers that have come and gone, information about the Clydesdale horses, and little known bits of trivia surrounding beer production in general.

What I noticed was how ornate the Brew House was, with its beautiful chandeliers, stained glass windows, and intricate iron work. And while I’m not a fan in general of using animals to entertain humans, I have to concede that the Clydesdale horses’ living quarters at this facility were more posh than many a hotel. They seem to be treated very well, at least as far as the public is shown.