Saturday, September 02, 2006

Arches NP, Moab, UT 07/09/06 - 07/11/06

On our road trip this summer I found Arches NP wonderful. This was one of the places I was really interested in seeing, and drove 12 hours straight from Yellow Stone to get there. We stayed at the Kokopelli Lodge, which is really an old rundown-ish motel just off the main street of Moab. Comfortable enough once we got the a/c figured out.

Driving in to Arches is surreal as we encountered a lanscape so different from the dense forrests we had been through for most of the trip so far. This lanscape of low brush, red earth, endless views across the horizon
is a spectacular environment of natural formations of arches, spires and fins. There are over 2,000 arches in the park, the greatist density of natural arches in the world. And it's amazing to be in the midst of this wonder with the realization that it is ever changing and shifting over time. Particularly Landscape Arch which is only 6 feet thick at its narrowest point, and since 1991 three huge slabs have fallen away from the arch causing park rangers to close the trail that once passed under it. It seems apparent that in due time this arch will no longer be there for visitors to see.

After driving through Park Avenue
and then Courthouse Towers we headed up to Devils Garden. It was very hot but not overly crowded out on the trails. The Devils Garden trail is fairly easy and well marked up to Lanscape Arch, then it turns in to a rustic trail wich is marked by cairns. Most people seemed to walk out on the well maintained trail as far as Landscape Arch then turn around and go back. But beyond Landscape are more Arches, including Partition Arch, and at a point along the backbone of a large, high, fin it gets a little unclear as to the way to go. There were a few of us on the fin discussing the possibilities, and soon we located the cairn and picked up the trial again. We ran in to a very friendly couple with with Netherland-ish accents and talked with them a bit of our road trip travels and thier travles in the U.S. Nice, friendly, like-minded people.
Our plan was to drive out of the park during the hottest time of the afternoon, stop at the Vistors Center, then drive along the Colorado River when we saw a thunder storm rolling along and stopped to catch images of the lightening. It reached the park before we got out and pools began to form on top of the buttes creating spontanous waterfalls. As we wound our way down the road to the park entrance we were greeted by park rangers who had everyone turn around and led us back up the road to higher ground. We were told that between us and the park entrance, through a switchbacked portion of the road, there were several washouts and that the road to Moab had washed out.

The temperature must have dropped about 20 degrees as the storm blew through and everyone waited patiently for it to move on. They eventually led us down and as we pulled into the Visitors Center the entire parking lot was covered in a wash of red mud, but otherwise everyone was safe and unnaffected.

Instead of the drive along the Colorado River we went back in to the park with the intent of hiking out to Delicate Arch, but the weather was still a little unpredictable and the daylight wouldn't last too much longer so we opted for a shorter hike around the Windows section that had a nice grouping of arches to see, including Balanced Rock,
Double Arch and Turret Arch.We reached the road to Moab and it had quite a smear of red mud across it as well, but the road was open and passable. Once back at the Kokopelli we made use of the their restaurant guide and walked the few blocks to get pizza and a couple of beers at Isabella's Pizzaria, the best pizza ever. The next day on the road to the Vermilion cliffs we side tracked to Natural Bridges National Monument then on to that fated stretch of highway outside of Mexican Hat in Monument Valley where we found our 4 little pups.

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