Apr 22 - Arches National Park (Day 1)

  • Explored Arches National Park... our first full day in the Park
  • Toad Miles Today:  69
  • Total Toad Miles Spring12:  675
  • Tonight's camp:  Portal RV Park near Moab
  • Weather: morning low 48,  afternoon high 91; no humidity, cool mornings, intense sun and heat in the afternoon.
  • Notables:  1. a pleasant, intimate experience with Pine Tree Arch.  2. walking amongst the fins.   3. Being up-close and personal with the fragile Landscape Arch, the largest arch in Arches with a span of 306 feet.
  • Link to photo album for today.

Pine Tree Arch
Having already done the Arches visitors center thing yesterday, we headed right into the Park this morning. As it was Sunday, and as it's another National Parks Week when the Parks Service waives entrance fees to all the National Parks, I suspect more people were in the Park today than usual. I have no reference for judging the crowd, except that as the morning wore on, finding a place to wedge the car into a parking spot at some stops became a challenge.

From the entrance gate to the Park, the road quickly climbs up the steep side of the red rock cliffs that frame the Parks "front door". I didn't check the GPS, but it must be something like 500 feet of twisting mountain climb. A few pull-offs provided a place to stop and soak in the view. Once on top, there's a parade of places to stop, things to see, and natural wonders to explore. I think we stopped at almost all of them... Park Avenue, The Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, Petrified Dunes, and more. (most of these have been included in our online photo gallery from today)

The first place we wanted to put our boots on the ground was at the Parks signature arch, Delicate Arch.  The Park Service meters the flow of people on the 3 mile trail out to the arch by restricting parking at the trail head. When we got there, the small parking lot was full and overflowing onto the road, in clear violation of "No Parking" signs that lined the shoulders. Not wanting to be part of this size crowd anyway, we proceeded another mile to a much larger parking lot for the overlook trail, where after a short walk you can see Delicate Arch (... up there, on the hill.  See it? Oh yeah.)  The trail to the upper, higher, overlook rewarded us with a more vigorous walk than expected, throwing in some elevation change as a treat. We decided the hike to the arch itself would be done on a second day.

We continued driving generally northward and further into the Park, eventually to the end of the paved road at the Devils Garden Trailhead. There is one campground in Arches... it's 52 sites arrayed along either side of a single road that ends at a turn-around and trailhead. It's possible to get campers like the bus-house in and level on a few of the sites, but like most National Park campgrounds we've seen, it was designed and built with tents and much smaller campers in mind.

Lucking into a parking space close to the trailhead for Devils Garden Trail, we donned camel pack, an extra bottle of water, snacks, hats, cameras, and sunscreen, and headed off up the trail. We probably walked something like 3 miles, but the sun and heat (90's), and some tricky steep rocky areas provided a little challenge to these out-of-shape hikers. Along the way we visited Landscape Arch, the largest spanning arch in the Park at 306 feet. In 1991 a large chunk of rock on the underside cracked and gave-way, crashing to the ground and onto a section of trail. No one was hurt, luckily, but some visitors caught the action on film... both photos and a video.

The trail under the arch is now closed. And the Arch looks about as delicate and fragile as it could while still standing. It's thin and graceful... a real treat to witness. Whether it's later this year, next, or a dozen years in the future, this arch will collapse like so many others have in the past. (As Dar says... it's the life "span" of an arch.  Get it?)

Landscape Arch

Along the trail we also saw Partition Arch and Navajo Arch a short distance from Landscape Arch but higher on the cliff and a moderate climb from there. We also stopped at Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch.

The stop at Pine Tree Arch was our favorite. For 15 minutes or so there was no one else around. We could get up-close and personal with it, walk under it, touch it, and let it shade our rest stop. It's a memory we'll have forever.

Dar under her favorite arch... Pine Tree Arch
This truck was made by General Motors the year I was born. Com'on, be honest... which looks better to you?

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