A hike to Dark Angel

Trip Start Jul 05, 2008
Trip End Sep 2008

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Sunday, August 3, 2008

The next day we were up at 5:30AM to walk the dogs, get breakfast, and drive up to the trail head. We got to the trailhead about 6:30AM, with only a few other folks there ahead of us. Our goal was to hike to Landscape Arch, the largest arch in the park and get some shots in the early morning light. Of course, the clouds continued to play hide-and-seek with the sun. The hike to Landscape Arch is a fairly easy one, with wide well maintained trails. Since the sun was not cooperating and the morning was still cool, we decided to hike on. After Landscape Arch, the trail becomes much more rugged, running up and down small canyons, along smooth slickrock, and even traversing the exposed edge of one of the sandstone fins. Deb's fear of heights made some of these sections a little edgy for her even with a husband's steadying hand. The trail runs about three miles into the back country of Arches to a rock formation called the Dark Angel. On the way though we passed another formation called the Double O arch, where two arches are stacked on top of one another. It was off to the left of the trail and since we were descending the back of the fin at the time, we missed it until we got to the bottom. The sun was still intermittent so we walked on a little way to Dark Angel and then returned to an overlook of Double O on the side of the fin and sat down to have breakfast and await the sun. Finally we had some cooperation and the sun poked through the clouds. We took our pictures and began to retrace our steps. Since much of the trail goes across slickrock surfaces, the trail is marked by small cairns of stone, showing the way. Without these, it would be very easy to get lost since the countryside is very confusing and looks the same. The rock formations in the area we were hiking are called the Devil's Garden. The rocks jut up from the ground in small spires and fins, all made from the red sandstone. As we neared Landscape Arch, we encountered more and more people. The number of foreign tourists in the national parks is amazing. We estimate more than half the people camping in the parks we've stayed at have been from Europe or Asia. We heard French, Italian, German, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc. as we hiked back. As we rounded the turn from Landscape Arch, the sun again graced us with its presence and we were finally able to get a few pictures for Deb's reference material. When we got back to the parking lot, we were amazed at the number of cars. When we had arrived at 6:30AM, there were only a half dozen cars in the lot. When we returned at about 11:00AM, there were cars, motorcycles, and RVs jamming the lot as far as you could see. One of the favorite modes of transportation for many of the people visiting the parks seems to be rental RVs. These are small class C vehicles, but they are typically crammed with families of up to 8, all sharing tiny living quarters for a month at a time. Since these vehicles are too small to tow another vehicle, they have to disconnect every morning for tours of the parks and hen return to the campground in the evening. In any case, we were very glad we had done our hiking early in the cool morning before the onslaught of humanity. The solitude (and coolness) made the hike something special that would have been spoiled with hundreds of other tourists yammering away.  
Again we returned to the RV for a well deserved afternoon siesta during the heat of the day. We got up that evening and went to the Desert Bistro on the edge of Moab. We had eaten there last year during our travels and had a great meal. Unfortunately, we ordered poorly and were both disappointed with our dinner. The flavors and seasonings for the meal were just not well balanced. I had a risotto with smoked rabbit, which sounds great. However, the rabbit was dry and stringy and the risotto had been flavored with Frangelica. The combination was just strange.
Postscript: 36 hours after we hiked up to Dark Angel, the arch called Wall Arch collapsed in the middle of the night, blocking the trail indefinitely. While we thought this arch looked fragile, we had no idea how vulnerable to gravity it was. I'm glad we didn't make any big noise while we were there!
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Where I stayed
Riverside Oasis RV Park
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