The Devils Garden Trail in 95 degree heat

Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
Canyonlands RV Park
What I did

Flag of United States  , Utah
Friday, July 15, 2011

Today, we have the Devils Garden loop trail in front of us. The long hike of the week at 8 miles. And this would be a hard 8 miles over some terrain where there is no trail. The trailhead is all the way at the end of the road in Arches National Park – about 45 min. from camp in Moab. We knew we had to leave as early as possible to take the trail and get back before a) it got too hot, or b) the monsoon storms came in. This is quite hard for us at this time since we are sleeping later and later. But we did get ready and headed out just before 9 with all our supplies of water and snacks.

Another reason to get to the trailhead as soon as possible is to get there before the parking lots were full. When we got there I got one of the last spots, but a good large one to make it easy to get into. The first part of the trail took us in between two fins (large narrow rocks) which gave us some great shade. Just a half mile down the trail we found two arches – Pine Tree and Tunnel Arch. Hanging around these arches was a small family of mule deer trying to cross the trail – but since there were too many people, they scattered away.

The next arch on this so far easy paved trail is one of the most famous at the park on the line of Delicate Arch and Double Arch is Landscape Arch. This is the longest and skinniest of all the arches with one part of it only 6 feet thick. In living memory huge chunks of this arch have fallen off so this arch could fall apart during our lifetimes – short in geologic times.

This was the end of the easy paved trail. Now it was time for a little fun in our hike. We chose right away to take the primitive loop since we knew we'd be too tired to take it on the way back. The first mile of the primitive was not too bad – just thick sand in places. Here we skirted the Devils Garden, but soon it was time to traverse it. The Devils Garden is full of tall rock fins – it is from these fins that arches are made. But to find a path through these fins you have to zig zag around these or go up and over them. We did everything – some zigs, some zags, and sometimes we had to crawl or climb up the slick rock fins to get around. Some had stair notches carved into them, others were just smooth and you had to do a crawl over them. The only thing marking the trail here were some rock cairns – stacks of rocks used as trail markers.

The only arch on the three mile primitive is called Private Arch – I guess they named it since they thought not many people would take this trail. However, this turned out to be a popular trail today – the arch had a group of people eating a lunch right below – not so private. To get here was not so easy as you had to climb some slick rock and some fins. Since we were only halfway through our hike we still had the energy to do this.

Just to hike these three miles on the primitive trail took us over 2 tough hours -one of the hardest hikes. Now, we still had 4 more miles to go and it was starting to get a little hot. Now we were back on the main trail and heading toward the end of it, at this monolith called Dark Angel – wasn’t that a TV show? Pretty much it is a 50 foot black rock spire just sitting there in the middle of sand. Now, time to head out of the garden on what is called the main trail.

We passed another double arch but it was so crowded and loud we just bypassed it quickly. Now, the next two and a half miles on this "main" trail was not so easy. It felt like another primitive trail in places as we had to go up and down these rock fins again. At one time we were part of a group of hikers that somehow got off the trail, though we didn’t know it until we ran into a side trail my mistake. Luckily I found out before we went too much farther and backtracked onto the right trail. At this time, the monsoons were not coming our way so that meant it was very hot. And we were getting a little tired. We skipped the side trails to the last two arches and just focused on getting back to the truck. We had a good pace and made it back in just an hour.

Boy, did that AC feel good driving back to Moab. To reward ourselves for a hard 8 mile hike, we ate some Mexican at La Hacienda – the oldest Mexican in Moab. It felt like a hole in the wall which is usually a good thing. I don’t like my Mexican too sanitized and chain-like. After some filling grub, of which Pooh only ate half again, we went back to the RV to chill for the afternoon. Later in the day, we were too tired and it was too late to try to do another hike, so we just walked into town to have Pooh check out some stores while I walked the dog. And that was the rest of our day in Moab.
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