12:30 p.m. — The report on the Peace Tree on Main Street is it uses all natural and local ingredients when possible. The roasted turkey bagel with bacon, jalapeno-cranberry sauce and spring mix is $9 and the hummus wrap with house-made red pepper hummus, sprouts, carrots and tomatoes is $10. Also on the menu is a Peace burger, Thai wrap and peanut butter wrap.
1:30 p.m. — The ride to the Gemini Trail triggered interest in Dead Horse Point State Park, given the driver's tale that a long time ago horses were corralled on a point 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, then forgotten and eventually died. An early newspaper report, however, suggested some horses broke their legs on the point and were shot, thus the name. The park is 22 miles from Moab. Entrance fee is $10. The visitor center is impressive, but the 2,000 foot overlook on the furthermost tip is spectacular, especially the view of the Goose Neck, a point where the Colorado River loops around and nearly reconnects with itself.
2:30 p.m. — A few miles down the road is the Island in the Sky entrance to Canyonlands National Park. It's one of three sections to the park, the other two being the Needles District and the Maze. A short drive into the park is an overlook to the Shafer Trail. Had time allowed, the 18.2-mile loop from the park down to the base of Dead Horse Point and Potash sounded intriguing. Travel time for this drive, however, is around two hours. The well-maintained dirt road leads to well marked Indian petroglyphs, natural stone arches, steep switchbacks and a different look at the land. Entrance fee to the park is $25. The scenic drive through Canyonlands accesses multiple trailheads to sweeping overlooks of Utah's Canyon Country, including the Green River Overlook, a panoramic view of the confluence of the Colorado and Green, a showcase in geology and a quick lesson in the erosive power of water.
3:30 p.m. — So much to do and time a factor, a hike is a good choice. But which one? Many of Canyonlands' best are several hours — or days. And hikes abound. Staying in Canyonlands, fit hikers can get a quick sense of the park's dramatic geology by hiking Gooseberry, which drops down some really nifty switchbacks 1,400 feet off the mesa to a wash that leads up the White Rim Trail. Be warned, the hike back up is plenty strenuous, but this 5.4 mile hike is a spectacular one.
6:30 p.m. — The Broken Oar Restaurant located just off Main Street offers a tantalizing menu for a fine meal. Off the smoker is a hand rubbed and smoked barbecue beef brisket for $18 or baby back ribs, hand rubbed and smoked, for $20. Natural chicken breast, marinated in fresh herbs, is $18. Bacon wrapped shrimp for a starter is $13. Alternatively, the Elk Tataki at Shabu Sushi is a great regional starter to a fine sushi menu.
8 p.m. — The light you see, points out Alexander Ludwig, is coming to you from 35 million light years away, and to see it as it is today means returning in 35 million years. Time travel? Probably as close a one can get looking into space. Ludwig, owner of Red Rock Astronomy, explores the galaxies, but not in traditional fashion. That is, looking through a telescope at Venus, Mars and Jupiter. Instead his on-site class discovers the Wild Duck Cluster (3,000 light years away), the Hercules Cluster (36,000 light years away) with roughly four million stars, the Andromeda Galaxy (2.5 million light years away) and a cluster so far away it's impossible to even imagine. His narrative includes time, dates and history few would even know — but him. Call 1-435-210-0066 for reservations and the cost is $40 for roughly two hours.
Day 4 (Optional)
8 a.m. — The country you see from the back of a horse is, with few exceptions, exactly as seen by John Wayne when he arrived to make the first of many movies on land that is now the Red Cliff Lodge. He walk the land, rode the trails and relaxed alongside the ever-flowing Colorado River. He's one of a long list of movie giants to stand before cameras here, so there's a certain sense of history that was captured on film. Horses, of course, played a major role in many movies, so a ride out of Red Cliff was warranted. The Moab Movie Museum catalogs many of the movies. The lodge offers gentle horses, tackle and guides.
11 a.m. — If staying up S.R. 128, take your time on the return trip to Moab by hitting the La Sal Mountain Loop. Few roads can compete with this loop when it comes to variety of scenery. It starts with the sculptured red rock country in Castle Valley, climbs into the pines, aspens and high mountain lakes, then drops back into Moab's red rock. The paved loop covers 60 miles and, depending on scenic stops, and there are many, it can take anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours. The La Sal range is the second highest in Utah, with some peaks reaching 13,000 feet elevation.
12:30 p.m. — There's a real western flavor for lunch at Susie's Branding Iron. The menu includes a sizzlin' steak salad for $9.95, Navajo Taco for $7.95 and, my favorite, a roast beef French dip for $8.59. Other meals include chicken bowl for $7.95, chili burger for $8.99 and lady burger for $7.95. All meals come with all-you-can-eat fries and fried bread.
1 p.m. — What was needed here was something cool and refreshing and, it turns out, fast. Available on the Colorado River are one hour to full day jet boat tours that take passengers to sites including a look at Dead Horse Point from ground level and the Goose Neck. This day required the shorter one-hour trip that opened new country, spectacular scenery and an opportunity to view wildlife — eagles, deer, beaver and desert bighorn sheep.
3 p.m. — Ending all too soon the trip back to Salt Lake City, roughly 235 miles, includes a stop in Green River for the delicious canary and Israeli melons and on into Price for dinner and a careful drive down Spanish Fork Canyon to I-15 North and home ... with fond memories locked in and a story to tell.