Continental US

Quick Weekend Trip to Arches National Park Part 1

A quick trip to Arches National Park to temporary relief my vacation bug! We took the night flight from Boston to Salt Lake City on Thursday after work scheduled to arrive after midnight at 12:24 am just half an hour to get our rental car before Thrifty closes at 1 am. We had a connection at JFK, New York and our flight was late due to clearing customs from arriving from Dominican Republic (according to the gate agent). Half way through boarding, the captain made an announcement that the navigation system was down and waiting for the technical to come over to take a look and stopped boarding. We were in the plane and waited for half an hour, captain updated that it could be replaced and a spare is available so continue with boarding. After our flight was fully boarded, we waited for almost an hour and then the captain said can’t be repaired so we need to deplane and wait for them to find another plane. Uh oh, there was no way we’ll be able to make it to pick up our rental so I emailed the hotel to let them know we’ll need to take the hotel shuttle and will be very late checking in! JetBlue stepped up on their customer service level by giving us food vouchers so we could have dinner while waiting for them to find a plane. We each received $20 in vouchers, both of us total $40. This was the first time ever I received food vouchers from an airline due to flight delay, I wish all the airlines can be as considerate as JetBlue to their customers…..last time Delta on our Hawaii trip nothing!  I walked to the food court, it was already late that not much were open, but there were still Dunkin Donuts, an Asian stir-fried, pizza, and sub. I was calculating to maximum our $40 vouchers…….two rice plates, 1 soda, and 3 bottles of coconut water (boy those are expensive at $4+ each)!

At least our tummy were comfortable while waiting for our plane. After 2 hours, we finally on our way to Salt Lake City and the captain flew at max speed to catch up some time. We arrived at 2:30 am…we were tired…called the shuttle and got to the Candlewood Suites Salt Lake City Airport – I booked with cash to fulfill the Acceleraten promotion that IHG was running at that time to earn extra 38,500 points 🙂 The suite was spacious with a mini kitchen, it was very clean and at least looked modern, I was quite satisfied with the room at just $135 included tax and extra points package!

I really impressed the fact that they provided two chairs in the room! I had stayed with many hotels and they usually only have 1 chair!

It didn’t took us long to fall asleep and I had to wake up at 4:30 am (6:30 Boston time) to work….I did a work from home day on Friday 🙁 I worked till noon time to check out and shuttled back to the airport to pick up our rental car. The line was not that long but extremely slow due to other unprepared customers who had to ask all those questions that they should’ve known prior to rent a car GRR! When it was our turn, it only took us a few minutes to sign the paperwork and got the key! We drove to the nearby Sunny’s Bistro @ 2333 W N Temple St Salt Lake City inside one of the airport motels to have lunch. It was hard to believe hidden inside an airport motel is a hand-pulled noodle restaurant! The menu was limited but all home made dishes like their signature hand-pulled noodle and home made dumplings.

I ordered the Taiwanese beef noodle soup (spicy), it was so delicious! I really enjoyed the spicy broth and the hand-pulled chewy noodle!

Big bowl of noodle yum!


Jason ordered the dumpling soup….urg no noodle in there LOL! It had like 10 dumplings inside…not filling for him…so I shared some of my noodles with him! Why Boston has a large Chinese population but no good hand-pulled noodle place? 4 hours to NYC for noodle just not worth it! After the delicious and inexpensive lunch at $29 including tips (can’t beat that value for the quality), we officially started our road trip but with one obstacle: we brought a mobile phone holder to use as GPS and the holder need to inserted into the CD player slot but the car didn’t have a CD player! Yikes, newer rental car these days do not have CD player so should’ve buy the sucking cup ones! I searched my bag to find something to strap it in place and ended up using my headset cord LOL!

It was almost a 4 hours drive to Moab and on the way we get to enjoy the scenery; it was our first time to Salt Lake City – it was surrounded by snow-capped mountains!

People said New England weather changes fast then I can say Utah weather changes instantly!

We first started off with beautiful big puffy white clouds and blue sky driving out of the city:

Then, it got cloudy as we drove up the mountain and we couldn’t believe it, SNOW! Seriously we came all the way out to the west to escape the New England winter but ended up seeing snow LOL!

Back to sunny sky……a lot of their trucks have spoiler?

We cut through mountain ranges….

Hubby must have enjoyed the speed limit of 85 mph, it really saved our travel time to just 3.5 hours whahaha! Those clouds and blue sky were perfect, wait for me to get there!

The bright red limestone started to fill the backdrop, we were almost there!

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Moab just 2 miles away from the entrance of Arches National Park and on the outside of the busy Moab downtown so it was perfect! We paid for our first night stay at $216 included tax to complete Jason’s Accelerate IHG promotion which he racked up another 40,000 points with one stay! The other two nights were redeemed by points at 35,000 points per night and the free anniversary certificate with the IHG credit card. The first night was booked a 1 king bed room and the other 2 nights were 2 queen suite. But it turned out our 1 king bed room was already a suite!

No kitchen but has a microwave!

The room was comfortable!

We headed right out to town to Bangkok House for dinner; it was already 6 pm! The restaurant is on the main road but on the outskirt of downtown and it looked like a house without the house number labeled so we passed by it when I saw the Bangkok House sign. The interior looked nothing like the outside, much more pretty and authentic Thai looking!

There were quite a few Thai restaurants in Moab and many of them served both Thai food and sushi……never seen that combination before in Boston! Jason is a seafood lover so sushi oh yes!

Totally forgot what special roll name this was but it was spicy yummy!

I ordered…of course….pad kee mao (drunken noodle) but it wasn’t the flat noodle we used to have in Boston. Although it tasted pretty good in the middle of “nowhere”!

Jason ordered crab fried rice but they ran out of crab meat lol so he ended up having shrimp fried rice. They use the jumbo shrimps and not cheap like other Chinese restaurants using those tiny shrimps, but it didn’t have much of the “wok” taste.

Total dinner cost $59.06 including tips, not bad for near national park restaurant!

There was a car show event taking place that weekend so the town was crowded with both tourists and locals. The locals took their chairs out, sat right on the pedestrian side walk and some on the back of their truck trunk, and just hanging out there to see the antique cars driving by! It was very fun to see how creative they can get (both the people and the cars)!

I found the Moab visitor website has a section for photographers going to Arches National Park, it has a list of sites that are best for early morning or late afternoon (sunset) to plan for the trip:

Moab Fault Park Avenue
The Three Gossips Courthouse Towers
Sheep Rock Petrified Dunes
The Great Wall Balanced Rock
Turret Arch The Garden of Eden
The Spectacles North and South Windows
Double Arch Delicate Arch
Cache Valley Fiery Furnace
Wolfe Ranch Skyline Arch
Landscape Arch Fins in Devil Garden
Double O Arch Tower Arch

Knowing that we’ll not be able to hike to the infamous Delicate Arch on time for sunset, we went to Balanced Rock and the North and South Windows instead. The main entrance of the park is right off the main highway/street that cuts through Moab, hard to miss that! After the gate/paying booth, it’s an incline up drive then after a few minutes of drive, you’ll feel you’re in Arches National Park! Don’t forget to grab a map of the park, it has the trails marked and facilities like restrooms and campsites. Note that there’s no restaurant inside the park so plan accordingly! The first stop was Balanced Rock, as the name suggested:

There is a small parking lot there and since we arrived near sunset, it was almost emptied, the crowds all over at Delicate Arch 🙂 The sun started to creep down and I looked at the horizon, thick clouds covering, yikes we better be fast or else no more sun light! Sunrise and sunset are the most spectacular times to visit the park because the golden sun really turn the rocks/limestone into red fire and golden color!

We walked the loop around to see 360 degrees of the Balanced Rock, amazing how it balances itself!

A huge rock I saw that resembled a hand?

Being in a desert climate zone, the trees were almost looked like they are dead:

Next, we headed over to the North Windows, more cars in the parking lot but we had no issue finding a parking space. The sun was covered by the clouds and it looked like this:

I turned back and took a photo of the path to the parking lot and you can see the sun trying hard to break through!

We waited for the sun to hit that little clear spot on the horizon for the sun ray and there you go, see the difference?

The rock looked like it was glowing, incredible!

I told Jason to walk up to under the arch to give a sense of the size this is!

As we are more experienced with photographer, we no longer “spray and pray” but this time we had to take as much as possible within that short window (no pun intended) of sun light!

At one point it was so golden bright that need to switch to manual model in order to capture its true color:

We continued on the short trial to Turret Arch, we saw few people heading that way. Silly Jason!

We climbed up and through the arch and there was a group of tourists sitting there to enjoy the sunset.


There was a lady keep walking around taking selfies that I was trying to get a photo without people sigh! So I turned back and took a picture of the arch “window” instead.

The background is the South Window which we didn’t get a chance to go:

People finally started to leave and I quickly snapped a shot:

Climbing down was much harder than climbing up, yes I agreed!

Since no more sun, we decided to leave and come back tomorrow early in the morning. We went to the General Store in town to stock up water and drinks for our full day Arches National Park adventure the next day. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was already dark and look a purple (my favorite color) antique car parked there!

It was a long day especially for me since I had only 2 hours of sleep but I was still crazy enough to set my alarm to 12:30 am to go back to the park for star photos!!! The clouds covered the milky way too bad! The night sky there wasn’t as dark as in Lake Tekapo in New Zealand, probably due to its close proximity to Moab town. We decided to stop at Balanced Rock for photos since it’s a very short walk from the parking lot; I constantly shuffle my legs to keep creatures away like I heard…snake…the scariest animal on earth! There was another crazy photographer light painting the rock there as well!

On one side of the Balanced Rock, Jason said it looked like a head…urg…creepy!

Without luck, we headed back to really sleep and rest for our next full day of hiking!!!


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