Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Arches National Park

Balance Rock Arches National Park Utah
Balance Rock Arches National Park Utah

This was one of the first sights we saw in Arches National Park. Balance Rock at sunset. Even the photos can't do justice to the awe and majesty. I get chills looking at the photos 2 months later.

Helpful hints about Arches - go early or late. The park is open 24 hours/day because there are several campgrounds. If you go out early in the morning you avoid the crowds (parking lots can be full from 9 AM to 3 PM) and, more importantly, you avoid the scorching heat. As you'll see in the rest of the photos, there's not much in the way of shade at high noon. Bring lots of water. And sunscreen. And a hat. And sunglasses.

OK, enough of the PSA, here are the photos!

Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch
Our main goal on our one full day at Arches was to see this. We arrived at the parking lot just after 7 AM and found there were a few spaces left. Many hikers set off in the dark to catch the brilliant sunrise when it hits the arch. (We missed that golden hour by about 2 hours!) You should plan at least 2 hours and more like 3 to really have the best hiking and viewing experience.

The hike up the slickrock to get here is about 1.5 miles, a good portion of that is straight uphill. The visitor's guide suggests you know your limits as the park service rescues many overextended hikers from this area every year. Water. Water. Water.

Slickrock path to Delicate Arch
Looking back to the parking lot.
You can see how far we've walked, and we're not at the top yet!

Small arch along the way.

After hiking straight uphill for about a mile we came to this lovely, small arch. There was no obvious continuation of the path (it's actually right behind me) so lots of people were standing around taking pictures. (It's also picture-worthy, not just because hikers thought this was the end of the trail.) A small boy, about 8 years old, looked around and stated pretty much what I was thinking, "I walked all the way up here to see THAT?" Then we saw more walkers coming around the edge of the cliff and we continued on. 

Moi at Delicate Arch
Rock at Delicate Arch

I sat for a very long time watching Rock scramble all over the place. It's hard to tell from this photo that it's a fairly steep drop off all around. You know me and the ol' vertigo. Just hiking on the easy cliff walk to get here was a challenge. And, yet, I remember being a kid and racing all over the edges of cliffs along the Palisades with no problems! But, as you can see, I finally screwed up my courage, convinced myself it's all in my head, and I got over there to have my picture taken. However, once there, I could not, for love nor money, walk under the arch where you see Rock standing. Close enough, I thought, and leaned into the arch and hoped Rock got the picture!

It's a long way down...
Rock was able to get this cool shot of the Delicate Arch's shadow on the floor of the valley about 100 or so feet down. (What is not visible, thank goodness, is my water bottle which rolled across the plateau and over the edge.)

Another thirty minutes or so and we were almost back to the parking lot. Always excited to see petroglyphs, we took a side trail to find this:

We continued on to Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch. After that, it was around 11 AM and all the parking lots were full. Back to Moab for lunch and a stroll around town.

Broken Arch

This gives an idea of what the hiking is like off the slickrock. Scrubland as far as the eye can see. No trees worth mentioning and the only shade is near the rocks. It was around 70 degrees that day so I'm having a tough time picturing pioneers crossing this in the summer or even simply exploring this area during the day.

Into the canyon.
Yes, this is the trail! Hard to imagine you're going to get anywhere squeezing through here. And it was a squeeze. Not for the wide of hip, although you can scramble up and over.

But a pretty, little arch awaited - 

Sand Dune Arch - Arches National Park - Utah
We didn't go through the arch to see where it went, it was getting a bit too hot for us Easterners just coming out of hibernation.

Broken Arch
Under the Broken Arch. There were quite a lot of large chunks of the arch on the ground underneath. I didn't hang around...

Next stop is Canyonlands National Park! 

I can't stress enough how wonderful our national parks are. Get out and see them. I brought home the 'trading cards' series of postcards of the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. There are 59 postcards in the pack. If you can't get to a National Park this year, you can order the pack directly from the designer.

If you are 62 years or older, get your $10 park pass that's good for life. (With some entry fees at $25/car, paying $10 once for the rest of your life is a great deal!) We missed the deal by 6 months this time around, but there's always next year.

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