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Moab, UT

We skidded into town in the pitch black of night. The valley surrounded by towering red cliffs blocked out whatever ambient light might penetrate the area. I couldn't see beyond my headlights. It was a Monday night, so there weren't too many others following our tracks. The first gas station we encountered off the highway set the stage.

We had arrived a day earlier than anticipated after speeding through Kansas in record time and making it across the entire state of Colorado by nightfall. This meant we didn't have a formal place to stay, I hadn't booked a campground for tonight.

Down in the Spanish Valley, Moab sits along the upper banks of the Colorado River which continues south eventually forming the Grand Canyon. We walked into a locals bar, and began to ask around for places to stay. They informed us camping within the town limits was frowned up and we'd surely get a ticket and a talking to. Luckily, a local chef/bartender gave us his address and said we could park in front of his house and crash there since it was private property. I bought him his drinks, and we took off, pulling up next to a streetside tree, hoping the surrounding darkness could help mask the unusual shape of a tent on the roof of my car. Luckily, it all worked out—I had to get up early for work the next day at 6am local time.

The view from my temporary office was half decent. Moab is an awesome town. A funky mix of hipsters and cowboys. Locals and tourists. Upscale and down-to-earth at the same time. A green valley surrounded by red desert. There was beautiful fall foliage I didn't know existed outside of New England.

The town of Moab, Utah looks surrounded by towering red cliffs

Town of Moab, Utah in the fall

After the first day of work ended at 2pm local time, we set out to explore the first national park on the trip. Arches. A switchbacked road took us high above the town up the surrounding cliffs. The road levels off onto the big plateau and there's the park. It contains over 3,000 naturally formed arches, and unique rock formations unlike anything I'd ever seen.

After a long afternoon of hiking and climbing in the desert heat, we hit the road to find our camping spot for the next two nights. The temperature of the dry air drops instantly once the sun goes down.

We lit the fire and cooked enough food to have leftovers for a few days. I popped the tent and we prepared to spend a chilly night under the stars.

Camping under the stars in the Utah desert

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(c) 2024 Nick Gianetti

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