Arches National Park
Until visiting, I’m not sure if I had ever heard of Arches National Park. Upon looking at my book of National Parks, it talks about specific arch-shaped rock features created by erosion over time and the delicacy of some of these arches from collapsing. Some are easy to get to, and others are not. I chose a full day of hiking that included one iconic feature and a second that would be more challenging and lead me away from the crowds. It would be a long day- visiting a local State Park and a three-hour drive to my next campsite in Torrey, UT. But my Mesa Verde tours were not at all strenuous, so I felt a good workout was in order.
The first one I went to was easier and the closer of the two., I read that people crowd the arch in hoards and by mid-morning it is hard to find a parking spot. When I arrived at 8:00 am, there was already a crowd, and I was never alone at any single portion of the hike.
Seeing this region for the first time amazed me with more than just the arches. The color and smoothness of the rock hills I climbed and the sparse desert plants that dotted the hills around me inspired the same sensation that I would expect from visiting Mars.
At Mesa Verde, they had a strict “no food” at the cliff dwellings policy to deter the animals from burrowing within the historic sites looking for scraps. They did a good job with it, as did the visitors, because looking back I didn’t see one animal on those trips. Arches, however, was the perfect example of these little squirrels/chipmunks and their curious, hungry nature. I took a little video of one that reminded me of the squirrel from the movie Ice Age. Shortly after his film debut he snuck up on me and jumped on top of my backpack looking for food. Freaked me out a bit.
The Delicate Arch was magnificent and a perfect view from afar. Because it was so crowded, I chose to grab a seat and take in the view from the spacious edge of the rim. This allowed me to watch all the other tourists vying for a picture underneath the arch without having to participate. I almost snagged a shot without people in it while they were switching out.
My second hike was to be a bit longer, but after that first trek, and realizing how hot and dry this climate is, I was already a bit tired. Time had passed rather quickly despite my early start. Instead, I decided to start out on the same trailhead I had planned the longer hike and check out the first of the arches. I’d decide to go to the second arch once I got there.
At The Windows trailhead, I took the shortest .25 miles up to Landscape Arch. The Windows hike is a shorter hike than Delicate Arch, so there were just as many people with me as on my first hike.
Once at The Landscape Arch, the trail took a steep incline and looked more like bouldering to get up to the next section of trail. I was intrigued by the challenge and what the view would look like from above, so I decided to conquer that climb and reassess. Once there, I saw another bouldering opportunity and decided to continue just a little further. The trail became unbelievably amazing and at one point required sideways climbing on steep ledges and drop offs of 30-60 feet. I called my bro on Facetime from the steepest portion so he could witness the incredible view. And, the first hill scared people, so I saw a few other couples along the trail.
By the time I finished repeating to myself, “just a little bit more,” I had added two additional hours onto my hike, but the view was worth it at Double Arches. This hike also helped remind me that it isn’t just the destination that is the reward but the trip along the way. I must have taken 400 pictures of which, I’m positive, none will accurately show just how phenomenal this part of the world is.
Fortunately, my interest in being completely alone in the outdoors, and being outdoorsy in general, meant I was very prepared. I had plenty of water along with hydration tabs. As soon as I took a turn up the boulders, I popped it into my water and started sipping. I saw other folks who came less prepared without water, food, or anything really. I came complete with a first aid kid, binoculars, compass. And for once, I was extremely pleased to be carrying all of that stuff around.
The next leg of my journey is a bit more complicated…so I will save it for the next post.