And just like that, we leave Colorado behind; our visit there was far too quick, and we definitely want to return one day and see more of the state and hike some mountains. Before leaving, we had a great breakfast at the Cortez Holiday Inn Express. The standard HIX breakfast buffet was supplemented by cheese omelets, additional fruit, and other choices. All in all, our stay at this HIX, which happened to be our first free "reward" night for us with our Priority Club membership, was the best HIX experience we have ever had. The staff was exceptionally friendly, the room was excellent in every way (brand new pillows, even!), and the breakfast was delicious.
We got on the road to Moab, Utah fairly early and had less than a three-hour drive, so we knew we'd have time to kill in town before we could check in to our room at the Cali Cochitta(Aztec meaning: House of Dreams) Bed & Breakfast inn at 4 pm. Since we were taking our time on this drive, we spent 45 minutes bird watching at a beautiful rest area we happened upon soon after entering Utah. Amongst rocky cliffs, the rest area was an oasis of green grass and large deciduous trees and postively teaming with many species of birds. Barry spotted a bright golden Bullock's Oriole singing away, and we saw numerous other finches, warblers, and flycatchers. We spotted a bird nest in one of the trees, as well as several tree cavities with birds going in and out; nesting season is obviously in full force here.
We finally tore ourselves away from the excellent bird-watching and drove the rest of the way to Moab, a charming town with a walkable downtown and plenty of shops and sights to see along the way. Like Sedona, there are dramatic rock formations behind the main roads on both sides of town; but unlike Sedona, there are also views of higher, snow-capped peaks in one direction that are breathtaking. I envy people who have the privilege of viewing these beautiful sights every day!
After parking our car off Main Street and beginning to walk around, we noticed that every fourth vehicle or so had mountain bikes on top or in the truck bed; we'd never seen so many mountain bikes. In a mile or so of Main Street, we also spotted about six bike shops. This is slickrock mountain biking country and is a mecca for off-road riders from all over the country, and we saw plenty of them. I'm sure weekends are the busiest time here for that. The mountain bikers give Moab the look and feel of a traditional college town since most are in their 20s. Yes, I felt a little old in this town, but at least I was wearing hiking capris and Teva sandals like just about every other female I saw in town, so in that respect, I fit right in - as did Barry in hiking shorts.
We found a lunch place on Main Street, Zax, where we could eat outdoors and watch the town go by. We enjoyed a nice lunch (probably the first "real" lunch we have had on this trip, since we've been eating snack bars while hiking and sight-seeing). I got a turkey/veggie wrap, and Barry had a veggie calzone, and we both washed it down with some delicious raspberry iced tea.
After lunch, we took a long walk up and down Main Street to take a photo at the Moab sign and to visit the Visitor Information Center, where we picked up Arches and Canyonlands National Parks magnets. We also visited several shops carrying Moab paraphernalia and each found a Moab hiking t-shirt, along with a Moab fridge magnet and stickers for our cars.
After all that, we still hadn't killed quite enough time until we could check in at the B&B, so we headed up to Arches National Park, just a few miles north of town, for a short hike. Our all-day Arches visit is tomorrow, so we hadn't really planned on going today, but with our National Parks pass, it doesn't cost us anything additional, so why not? And it was well worth even the quick visit. It is a gorgeous park with magestic, vast red rock formations. We hiked the Park Avenue Trail (2 miles round trip) and looked up at the rocky "buildings" as a first-time visitor to New York City strolling down Park Avenue would look up at the skyscrapers in awe; we are assuming that this is where the trail got its name.
We ran ino a few French tourists on the trail (though it was very lightly traveled overall, happily). A couple greeted us in English, but one said "Bon jour" (good day), and the last woman who passed us in the opposite direction spoke a few words in French as well. I missed the first few, but I did catch the last: "C'est bien?" (Is it nice?) she asked as she pointed to the direction from which we'd come. "Oui!" I replied and smiled, and realized that the last few vestiges of my high school French were still with me. I honestly don't know if she'd thought we were French, but it was a nice little exchange, and Barry was impressed that I was able to answer her question, even though it was very elementary as French goes!
We have noticed on this trip that there are as many foreign tourists as Americans at the national parks; We noticed many Asians as well as Europeans at the Grand Canyon, Barry chatted with a hiker from Germany on one of our Sedona hikes, and we have heard French spoken several times along the trails and at lookout points in recent days. Yesterday while waiting to begin our tour of the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde NP, an entire busload of French tourists came to the overlook to take photos and exclaim "Ooh la la!" and "C'est magnifique". I noticed that even though most were middle-aged, very few of them were overweight; what a contrast they were to what I am sure a busload of typical middle-aged American tourists would look like!
ARCHES National Park
After our hike, we headed back to town and checked in at Cali Cochitta, which exceeded our every expectation. The owners are gracious and friendly, the house, cottages, and grounds are as charming as any child's storybook cottage, there are stunning, picture-perfect flowers growing everywhere, including the most beautiful and fragrant roses I have ever seen, each bush more beautiful than the last, in every color. The back yard is full of nooks and crannies to sit and watch the many birds at the feeders or sip a beverage. And our cottage is small but beautifully appointed, with a charming iron bed, beautiful quilt, a multitude of pillows and plush white robes for us to wear while lounging around. We are here for three nights and will get a home-cooked meal every morning outside on the patio; what could be nicer!? The inn is within walking distance of many restaurants in Moab, which is great for us as we love to walk to and from dinner.
After unloading the car and cleaning up a bit, we sat in the back yard and watched birds and relaxed for a few minutes before dinner, then we walked to the Slick Rock Cafe for dinner. Their food had some Carribbean influences, so we each tried one of their special tropical drinks (seeking a change from margaritas), which were great and large. I had a delicious dinner salad, the "Mango-Tango", with sesame-crusted chicken breast strips on greens with hearts of palm, topped with chunks of mango and a Carribbean dressing. It was yummy! Barry had the Mango/Ginger-sauced mahi with veggies and a salad. Since we'd eaten pretty healthily, we both got a dessert. I had peanut butter chocolate cake, and Barry had Mississippi mud pie. I am glad we're going to be picking up the hiking mileage again tomorrow after several low-mileage days, because otherwise my clothes will not be fitting at the end of this vacation!