Thursday, October 06, 2005

Arches National Park
The Utah Adventure, Part II

Our first two days in Moab were dedicated to Arches National Park, and I wish it could have been more. It is such a spectacular park. Our first hike was along the Park Avenue area of fins, as you can see in the picture. Early hikers thought these formations looked like a New York skyline, hence the name. It was a beautiful day, but since this was our first venture into hiking territory, it was also our first lesson in just how necessary it was to take water absolutely everywhere. (*Geek Note: If you have ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you may recognize a lot of the Arches scenery from the opening sequence, when the young Indy was on a scout troop trail ride.)

We continued into the park, stopping at some of the smaller trails and viewpoints along the way. One of the most notable was Balanced Rock. It has been formed because there are different types of rock making up the top rock and the neck underneath it, which is eroding faster than the top. Eventually, of course, the top rock will fall off, as happened to a smaller version of it that used to stand nearby.

Next we hit the Windows. There are really two main windows, North and South, and then a nearby circle of stone and arch called the Turret Arch. The North Arch is quite spectacular as the first thing you see, but it was nearly impossible to get a good picture of without 20 different tourists of 5 different nationalities standing in front of it, so my best picture is of the South Window, which is sort of around back. The Turret Arch was the most fun to walk around, though, because you can go inside it and walk all around, sort of like a castle.

Our final stop for the first day was the Delicate Arch overlook. Delicate Arch is probably the most famous sight in the park. We didn't have time that afternoon to hike all the way up to it, though, so we looked at it from afar. I liked doing it this way, because the arch was that much more impressive when we actually got up to it on the second day. The hike up to it is mostly over slickrock, and very steep, but very satisfying. It was again quite hot and sunny, but we weren't in a hurry and had plenty of water, so we stopped to admire the view whenever there was some shade. The end was definitely worth it. Also, since we were crazy people who went in the middle of the day, there weren't that many other people up there, and we could walk out to the arch itself. Note that the tiny person in the picture is me.

Further along the road, we went to Sand Dune Arch, which is hidden back amongst a bunch of higher rocks, and you have to walk through a very narrow passage to reach it. All of the ground underneath it is much softer sand than we saw anywhere else, so I presume that's how it got its name. Andrew, of course, had to entertain himself by climbing up on top of it, but I declined, in case he fell off and I needed to run find help. I did convince him not to jump off.

The Sand Dune Arch trail connects to the longer loop trail leading to Broken Arch, which of course we had to take. We had this trail mostly to ourselves, and it leads directly through the arch and into some very interesting winding paths through steep canyonlets.

Unfortunately, by the time we found our way back to the car from Broken Arch, we had run out of time to do the ultimate hike in the park, Devil's Garden, which can take up to 5 hours. It had also started to rain, but this turned out to be a gift, because we got to start our drive back out of the park with the biggest, brightest, most distinct rainbow I've ever seen.

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