Apr 25 - More Arches (Day 2)

  • Explored: Arches NP for a second day
  • Toad Miles Today:  52
  • Total Toad Miles Spring12:  829
  • Tonight's camp:  Portal RV Park near Moab,    elevation: 3900
  • Weather: morning low  60f   afternoon high  87f;  increasing cloudiness
  • Notables: 1. The hike to Delicate Arch.  2. Fell into a Ranger-guided hike and learned a bunch about the Park.  3. Standing under any arch produces a wave of anxiety as you wonder what could possibly be holding those loose-looking chunks of rock up there.
  • Link to photo album for today.

click to enlarge... that's us under Delicate Arch
Arches is a big enough Park that even for a relatively quick "survey course" overview visit, it really takes two days. Our first day was Sunday and the crowds crimped our plans some when we couldn't find legal parking at the Delicate Arch trailhead. But knowing we'd be back for a second day, it involved only a minor re-shuffling of the plans.

Today's climb up into the Park from the front gate was a different kind of enjoyable than the first, as the cameras were off and our eyes were turned up to high-soak. I suppose those who work in the Park and make the drive in every day get used to the views... it's probably human nature. But we were still blown-away by the awesomeness of these piles of rocks.

First stop was the Delicate Arch trailhead parking lot. Not quite as busy as Sunday, it was still busy... but we had no trouble securing a parking spot. Boots laced up, water and snacks loaded, cameras, brimmed hats, check, check... and we're off. It's only a three mile round trip with 500 feet of elevation change, so it was an enjoyable walk. And today the increased cloudiness kept the sun intensity in check. There were a lot of people on the trail... as there almost always is (it's the most popular hike in the park)... so there was this constant din of greetings and acknowledgements emanating from the long string of people... "hi, hello, howdy, hey, nice day, good morning".

Because of the increasing elevation, as you walk up the park unfolds below you. You can see further, from a higher angle, which produces a different perspective than you get from "ground level".

Rounding a corner where the trail clings to the side of a rock wall, Delicate Arch comes into view. By Arches standards, it's a small arch (65 feet high), but yet an impressive natural work of art. What makes it unique is that it's an isolated free-standing arch. It's the signature arch of the Park and is on Utah auto license plates.

Lingering near the Arch for almost an hour, we snacked, took photos, and just absorbed the view. With a constant flow of fellow hikers cycling in, we all took turns exchanging cameras and taking photos of people posing under the Arch.

When we first got to the Arch, there were a few people lingering and looking at it from the end of the trail... a safe place to sit, view, and take photos. No one was over at the Arch. So I worked my way over, on the side of a sloped sandstone bowl, to the arch... a distance of maybe 50 or 60 yards. I could feel the audience watching. Slipping under the Arch itself, I stood... posing, so Dar, over by the others, could snap a photo. Because the distance wasn't great, and the bowl-shaped rock surrounding seemed to amplify her words... I heard her say as she raised the camera to her eye, "Oh Shit... the battery died... and YOU have the spare". Everyone chuckled, and I had to make the trip back to Dar, exchange the batteries, and return to the Arch. It was a small thing... but something to remember.

After that hike, we headed for the last major area of the Park that we hadn't visited yet... The Windows Section. This might be the most stunning collection of rocks in the entire Park. Arches, alcoves, and holes wherever we looked. There's Double Arch, Cove Arch, Turret Arch, and the two Windows Arches and more. We found a Ranger preparing for a ranger-guided hike around the two Windows arches... was ready to go except for one thing... a willing audience. "When are you starting the hike?... "Right now". Let's go.

So we spent almost an hour with Ranger Kait (her first name), and learned some important things about the "small things" in Arches... the soils, the plant life, the composition of the rocks. It turned out to be a well-spent hour. Once turned loose, we then spent some time climbing around North Windows Arch, and walked over for an up-close view of Double Arch.

While on the hike with Ranger Kait, we learned she was hiking by herself near Devils Garden on August 4, 2008. She stopped under Wall Arch for some shade and to have a ham and cheese sandwich. That night, only about 12 hours after her rest stop, Wall Arch collapsed... totally and completely. It happened at night, so no one saw it and no one was injured. But it reminds us that ALL of these arches are only here temporarily. They all will fall at some point. You find yourself thinking about that fact any time you're under one of them.

It was a full day... but a rewarding day. Good-bye Arches NP, we'll be back soon.

Our Intrepid Explorers at South Window Arch

Wall Arch Before Collapse (photo by NPS)

Wall Arch After Collapse (photo by NPS)

Slightly Better than Most