Utah--Arches NP--Seen One Arch You've Seen 'em All

Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
Trip End Jul 12, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Monday, June 1, 2009

DAY 45-Saturday, May 30--Sorry to leave the fresh, cooler hiking weather, we headed northeast to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks on Scenic Byway Utah 12, which promoters call a "Destination Highway" for its beautiful scenery. It passes the pink hoodoo outskirts of Bryce and goes through a part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument with its layers of colored yellow and red rock. We passed through the pines and aspens of the high altitude Dixie National Forest (so named by the Mormons because of its mild climate). Wildflowers bloomed on the side on the road--they are hard to identify. Many of the side roads are "Back Country". Going up the mountains, the car pulling the trailer struggled. We were hoping not to ruin the transmission. With terror, we crossed the Hogback, a ridge with steep drop-offs on both sides. The road narrows at the top as it approaches Boulder, UT (don't expect pictures-there was no side of the road). Mike nicknamed it the "Angels Landing Trail" for cars in reference to our experience in Zion. We stopped for lunch, and also to give the car a rest, at the top of Boulder Mountain,where the altitude is 9,400'. There we saw two immature California Condors soaring, a rare event at Boulder Mountain. These birds, kin to the vultures, have wingspans of nine feet. They were close to extinction until recent protection efforts, reintroducing them to the wild in the Vermillion Cliffs of GSENM. Atop Boulder Mountain, the Great Western Trail reaches its highest point. The GWT is a scenic corridor that crosses the U.S. linking Canada to Mexico. The trip down, unbelievably, was a 10% grade, the only one we have ever seen.

On our way, we briefly crossed through Capitol Reef National Park. Pioneers named it Capitol Reef because of the huge domed formations that reminded them of the nation's capitol. In the Park, the Waterpocket Fold, named for the impressive buckling in the Earth's crust, stretches 100 miles. This is a park for recreation. It has a river, overlooks, canyons, arches, and slickrock wilderness.

The drive was long after that. On the east side of the park, we returned to the "hell on earth" desert for another hundred miles. In Hanksville, even the Food Mart was closed. Got lost in Moab trying to find the RV park. Then when we found it, since it was Saturday, it was almost completely full and incredibly congested. They didn't have the pull-through site they promised us, so we had to do incredible maneuvering around other units, trees, and bicycling youngsters to get in the site. After all that, we deserved the good dinner at the Broken Oar in Moab.

DAY 46, Sunday, May 31--Today we visited Arches NP with its rock formations and arches with names such as Park Avenue, Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, Petrified Dunes, Balance Rock, North & South Windows, Turret Arch, Tunnel Arch, Pinetree Arch, Fiery Furnace, and Salt Valley. You can walk through many of the arches  At North Window, it looked like a big boulder would drop down on our heads. We are thinking now, if you've seen one arch, you've seen them all. Then looking back at the literature, we learned we had missed the two most famous arches in the park, Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch, so we'll have to make a trip back. It was hot hiking in this desert climate, even though the temperature was only in the 80's The sun made the difference. On Tuesday, we plan to return for a ranger-guided tour of the Fiery Furnace. This hike must be with a National Park ranger because it is so easy to get lost in the maze of gorges and fins. It gets its name from the fact that in the afternoon it looks like hot coals.

DAY 47-Monday, June 1--Taking a break from Arches, we rode the Colorado Riverway, Scenic Byway Utah 128 alongside the Colorado River past the towering red cliffs to Red Cliffs Lodge and Castle Creek Winery. Here was a movie museum about all the western movies, commercials, still shoots, and music videos filmed in the Moab area. Nine big Westerns directors filmed here (Rio Grande with John Wayne, The Commencers, Rio Conchos with Stuart Whitman and Richard Boone). The Colorado River was very busy with rafting tourists. The white water here is pretty tame; it looked inviting to the two of us, standing in the heat on shore below the hot red cliffs.

Back in town, we visited a Nature Conservancy, wetlands by the Colorado River, but in the heat of the day, the only wildlife we saw was mosquitoes. In the evening, we traveled to Dead Horse Point State Park for the sunset. It gets its name from the legend that early cowboys corralled wild horses on this high cliff and then forgot about them. The horses died in the "natural corral" in sight of the Colorado River flowing below. Somewhere here in the Park is also the point where Thelma and Louise went over the cliff at the end of the movie (it was not the Grand Canyon as indicated in the movie). It was cloudy, so there wasn't much of a sunset, but there was a scary dropoff to the canyon below here at the edge of Canyonlands NP.

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wingsofgold on

oh oh
too hot in May? we're heading there at the end of July... as I said... oh oh

lstoneham on

Depends on the weather report
We are north in Idaho Falls, Idaho now and it is in the 50's and raining. Going to Yellowstone and have the same forecast. I would expect it to be hot at Arches in July. The most important thing if you hike is to go very early or at sunset. We hiked the 3 miles RT to Delicate Arch at sunset and it was doable, but don't do it mid-day.

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