2 Nov 2014

USA Road-trip - Arches

The following day we woke up late, had some cereal in our motel room, made a packed lunch and then headed out to Arches for a few short hikes. The sky was overcast again, although there were a few patches of interesting striped cloud and the sun managed to come out for a few minutes as we headed into the park. Without the sun overhead it was far more pleasant for hiking even if it made photography challenging.

We drove right to the end of the road to the Devils Garden area and set off, together with lots of other tourists, along the trail leading to the Double O arch. The first part of the trail is relatively flat and easy, on the approach to Landscape Arch, and thus was the busiest. It still makes me laugh watching people taking photos on iPads.

After Landscape Arch the trail began to get a little harder, with a steep section climbing up slickrock. Fortunately it was dry, but some people found it tricky and there was a bottleneck for a short while as people took it slowly.


The trail continued for a while over various slickrock fins, or ridges, out of which the arches are formed. Soon we reached Double O arch - one of the most famous formations in the park - and climbed through and up to a viewpoint on the other side. Already there was a party of school-children, scattered around the arch and above it. A few people sat right at the bottom of the arch, not seeming to notice that everyone wanted photos of the view without them in it! We sat and ate our sardine bagels and chatted to a couple from Portland, Oregon who were on their honeymoon. Eventually the people left and I was able to get a shot of the arch without being dotted with people. The sky wasn't great for photos.


On the way back from Double O arch we stopped to see some cacti and a pretty caterpillar, but were dismayed to find some graffiti. It's unbelievable that someone could deface such a place (or anywhere, for that matter). Ted Kim, I hope the park rangers found you and fined you - shame on you!!

We caught up with the party of children as we reached the steep section, which slowed us down a little. We did a little detour to Pine Tree Arch and then back to the car.

We headed straight off towards the Windows section of the park, the sky still overcast, with that nasty white cloud that makes photographs look so dull, but the sun was trying to come out. We did the primitive loop that goes in front of Turret Arch and then behind the North and South Windows. It was nice and uncrowded, unlike the arches themselves which were teeming with tourists (given the proximity to the car-park it's no surprise that they are so popular). By the time we got back to the car the sun had managed to come out, brightening up the red rock. Some interesting clouds were beginning to form, which gave me hope for a decent sunset.





Although there were still a few hours until sunset, we decided to head up the Delicate Arch trail and hang out up there on the rock. Obviously we knew exactly where to park having been there in the early hours the previous morning. The sun was still out, with clearer skies above us. We followed the trail and eventually found the cairn that we'd sat next to watching the lunar eclipse. The path led off to the left at that point through a shrubby section which we missed in the darkness. The cairns were all quite far apart - easy to see in daylight, impossible in darkness! The trail continued for another ten minutes, finally winding along a path that had been carved into the rock behind large hillocks. Finally we turned the bend and there was the arch, sitting behind a bowl. We wandered around looking at different angles before deciding to wait for the sunset directly opposite it, with the La Sal mountains - sadly not very snowy, or clear - behind the arch.

The crowds grew as the sunset approached, but there's a large area to sit, so it never felt too busy. People would go down to the arch to get their photo taken, do yoga poses, spread their arms wide in the air (that again) and the photographers on the ridge would shout if they stayed too long; the atmosphere was friendly, though, and we chatted to our neighbours.

Gradually the light got better, the sun coming out just in time to give a glorious light to the right-hand section of the arch - again glowing orange like the Mittens and mountains at Zion. The clouds came and went, but thinned as the sky darkened.

The air grew noticeably cooler and I was glad for a spare layer in my bag. There was a fair amount of cloud lying above the horizon, below which the sun quickly disappeared. As usual, most people left as soon as the sun had set, but a few of us lingered to see the last few clouds light up. I wandered over to the other side of the ridge, closer to the arch to capture it with the last patches of pink cloud.

We could have stayed longer and waited for the moon to rise, but we'd been out a long time and felt hungry and thirsty. We drove back into Moab, ate at an average Chinese restaurant, then packed as we were planning on a very early morning trip to Mesa Arch for sunrise before our long drive back to Boulder.

Next stop: Mesa Arch at Sunrise

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