DAY 6: ARCHES
This day was different from all the others. We spent most of the morning in the hotel, relaxing, reading, and writing. After a late Mediterranean lunch at Sultan’s, we did a little shopping and stopped at the Visitor’s Center in Moab, then headed to Arches National Park. They are implementing metered entry to reduce the crowds, and our reservation was for the last entry, at 4:00 p.m. We got to the gate at around 3:40, and the ranger welcomed us.
Arches has many of the same features of the other parks. The desert terrain has huge red rocks. In this case, they were more solid red color than in the other parks. Some of them look like thin slices if rock, standing straight up. It would seem that the slightest wind could knock them over. There are also walls, narrow passages, a few hoodoos, and windows. but, of course, its main feature are the arches. This park invites one to look through.
There are so many arches that it’s impossible to see all of them in half a day. So we had to pick a few. We first drove about 18 miles to the end of the paved road. From there we walked on a fairly easy packed dirt road, taking in the beautiful scenery. At the end of that short trail is a longer loop, which we didn’t have time to do.
But we walked part of it, mostly deep sand, to see the Landscape Arch, which is the 3rd longest overall and longest sandstone arch in the world, the sun was shining directly behind it, and it was breathtaking.
From that point we returned to the main path, then took a side loop to see and walk through the Pine Tree Arch…
…then finished the loop with a view of the tunnel arch.
Back on the main path and almost to the parking area was a steep, narrow gap between two walls, so, of course, we had to climb to the top, just for the experience. One feels so small in these surroundings. It’s amazing.
We got back in the car and drove toward the park entrance, making a few more stops along the way. The first one was just a viewpoint if the Scenic Arch.
Then we stopped for another loop, which proved to be much longer and difficult than we had anticipated. The idea was to see the Sand Dune Arch, which is close to the rosd, but there were two others nearby, so we decided to make the loop. At first the path was on hard sand, through a meadow. It seemed easy. Then, as we approached the Broken Arch, it became much more primitive, with cairns showing the way through rocks and sand.
The Broken Arch is huge, and beautiful. To walk through it we had to climb a slick rock. There was a cairn right in the middle, indicating that the way forward was through the arch.
One of my highlight “Abba hugs” was to see a rock squirrel run up the cairn and sit atop as to declare this was his domain.
Past the Broken Arch, the trail became even more primitive. Climbing rocks and traversing through deep sand in the heat was exhausting.
We finally found the Tapestry Arch, an almost perfect circle with a smaller, less perfect one on either side.
Then, the trail became really confusing. There weren’t enough cairns to guide us. Or maybe we were looking for them in the wrong places. After a bit of wandering, we decided to backtrack. 300 feet later we came back to the loop, and it finally made sense that the lookout for the Tapestry Arch was a short detour from the loop. Carrying the trail map would have been helpful.
Back on the loop, we continued toward the campground, and we found it, but now we couldn’t figure out how the loop continued to take us back toward our parking lot. A nice lady sitting by her camper gave us a trail map, and we figured out that we had to walk through the campground to find the trail head. After a bit of frustration, we found it.
As we were completing the “loop,” we heard a voice: “I’m not a bear.” Then this man came running past us. He looked like he has been raised within the park; he seemed to navigate the terrain as easily as the squirrels and lizards.
We finally completed the loop, then got back on the sandy trail, and reached the entrance to the Sand Dune Arch. From that point, it was just a short walk toward the arch, but it was through very deep sand. I’m glad it wasn’t much longer.
We got back to the car, exhausted, and took time to replenish with lots of water and yogurt. We still had one more stop to make.
By now it was 7:45 p.m. and we wanted to see the Delicate Arch, Utah’s preeminent landmark, before sundown. We had been advised not to try the hike to the arch in the extreme summer heat. And we were too tired for it, anyway. But there’s a much shorter and somewhat simpler trail from which one can see the arch from across a canyon. So that was our choice. We headed to the Lookout section.
For the lookout, there are two options, the lower, which is a mere 200 feet from the parking lot and the upper, which is 0.5 miles with a rather steep climb. Of course, that was our choice. Even though we were tired, we had regained just enough strength for the climb, and reached the top just as the sun was setting.
We hadn’t planned it, but it was pretty awesome to finish our Utah Parks experience by watching the sun set behind the Delicate Arch.
Back to the car, and now it was almost 9:00. We decided to stay in the park so we could see the night sky without any man-made light to detract from it. We found “Panorama Point,” with a telescope icon on the map. We thought that would be the ideal place to be, so we drove there, on a high point in the park, and found a series of smooth rock benches laid out perfectly for stargazing.
We shared a bench, head to head, and played John Mark Pantana music on the ear buds as we watched the sky turn darker and stars appear, one by one, until the sky was full of them. The moon was shining brightly, and the temperature was perfect. This was the perfect ending for a most memorable trip.