Hiking in Utah: Part 1

I met Dad at the airport, and he greeted me: “Welcome to the next adventure!”

We arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado, to the one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen out of an airport window – snow-capped mountains and dunes surrounded us, and the weather was cool and clear, perfect for outdoor fun. We drove 2 hours to Moab, Utah, a small resort town situated between two National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands. We spent three days between the two of them, resting at our hotel in Moab in between treks. I think it’s normally a quiet, quaint place, but a classic car show was in town, and the main drag was full of men showing off their babies, like this guy. It appears to be the motorcycle version of an El Camino.

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Arches National Park was first up. Our first hike took most of the day and was basically a tour of many famous natural sandstone arches, created when time, wind, and water wear away all of a piece of rock except for an archway. This one, Landscape Arch, is the longest natural arch in the world at almost 300 feet, and the trail under it is now closed because pieces keep falling off. It may not be around much longer (historically speaking).

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The Devil’s Garden Trail took us on a tour of a bunch of these, and they were all beautiful! Some were harder to get to than others…after Landscape Arch, the trail gets considerably harder, and you have to scramble up and over these ridiculous rock “fins,” which is like climbing along the edge of a giant nickel planted in the ground – sheer drops on either side of a thin walkway in the shape of a half-moon (on this picture, I’m on top of one, and you can see others off in the right corner).

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This was definitely the scariest thing we did. I had a really hard time getting over a seam/crack in it – not only a drop on both sides, but you had to jump over one, too! I was horrified, but as soon as we got off the end of it, a bunch of school kids on some sort of sanctioned school trip got on it to go the way we had just come. I couldn’t believe anyone would send kids on that thing!

Here’s another one – it started off innocently enough and got scarier the further up the fin you went!

The arches were beautiful, and although there were some other scary moments (like shuffling along a slick, 1-foot wide ledge for about 60 feet overlooking a 20-foot drop-off – at least – onto solid rock), we had a great time. One of the coolest was this double arch – you can see the scale of this by that guy in the bottom left.

The arches below are called “The Window,” and you can see through them to a whole other area of the park otherwise obscured by massive walls of rock.

We came back to Arches our third day of hiking to see the most famous one, Delicate Arch, the one on all the license plates and postcards. The hike there isn’t super long, but it’s strenuous because you have to trek up this GIGANTIC slickrock mountainside first. Dad is the green dot below, and you can see part of the trail we took to get to this spot, kind of in the middle left. We had to stop several times to rest!

Then we moved through this area that kind of feels like the surface of the moon. Very smooth and bleak – I think I read it is ancient sand/sea floor.

Then comes the part I was a little worried about after our fin “adventure” the first day. You have to walk along a ledge, about 4 feet wide, for about 200 feet, and it takes you along a wall overlooking a several-hundred-foot drop-off down to the moonscape below.

THEN you finally see Delicate Arch. It’s unique because the others have portions of wall on either or both sides, and this one has worn away differently, so that it’s just an arch. Nice view of the mountains behind it. You can’t tell from this, but behind us, between us and the arch, is a couple-hundred-foot drop. To get to the arch, you have to climb over this lip and go along the top edge of a pretty severe slope and over to it. Many people have died simply walking here, falling to their deaths. You can see the ledge a little better behind me in the second photo.

Arches was a very diverse place, even though the arches were the main feature. There was also Balancing Rock…

And there was Park Avenue, named because it reminded someone of walking down a New York avenue, flanked by skyscrapers. The walls were sheer and massive. We got caught halfway down the half-mile trail in a lightning storm. The sound the thunder made echoing off those walls was just awesome, in the full sense of the word. We made it to the car as a flash flood stream began pouring off the rock wall in front of us and across the dry bed a few feet from our car. I know it’s hard to tell, but that is not a small rock formation, and that is not a little bit of water.

Arches was an amazing, unique place, and there was so much we still didn’t see, even though it’s a fairly small park by comparison. Can’t want to go back. Coming up, Part 2 – Canyonlands National Park, where the 127 Hours guy cut off his arm!

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