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|Arches National Park|
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|Arches and the Drive to Park City|
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This morning dawned clear and bright, almost chilly compared to the past week. The cool start to the morning fooled us, though -- the temperatures in Arches National Park by mid-afternoon were as hot as we had experienced.
We entered the park just before morning moonset and started around the driving path. Arches suffers from too many visitors (as do the Grand Canyon and Zion), but has not implemented a shuttle bus system. The Park Service is working on a major renovation to the visitors center, to open in 2004; after that project is finished, there will be much better convenience facilities in the park.
We drove north up the park road to Double Arch, a pair of arches one after the other. Arches are caused by wind erosion of fins of rock; natural bridges, of the type we saw yesterday, are caused by water. We hiked up the trail about half a mile and clambered up onto the rock beneath the arch itself. Even though there were quite a few other visitors in the same area, it felt very quiet and isolated. The sandstone arched above our heads, as it has for centuries, creating a landscape that felt otherworldly.
We then walked back up a short trail to Turret Arch and the North and South Windows. The Turret looks like a bulbous cross, or a gun turret, and has a round hole in the rock next to it -- perhaps a cannon shot?
The Windows are a side-by-side pair of arches of approximately equal size. We first walked up to the Turret Arch, and then around to South and North Windows. We perched for a while at the top of the North Window. The arch itself, while undoubtedly stable, has a large crack running almost its entire length. In the middle of this crack there is a rock, perhaps 3 feet on a side, jammed between the two edges of the crevice.
We returned to the car on a different trail than we entered, a loop around the back side of The Windows. This was a "primitive trail" -- not graveled and stepped -- so had far fewer visitors on it, and was therefore much more enjoyable.
Having reached the car, we set out further north to the Devils Garden trailhead about 15 miles away. We started on this trail at about noon, in the full heat of the day, to see three different arches. The furthest one on the trail, and our first stop, was Landscape Arch, the longest arch in the world at 306 feet from base to base. Visitors are no longer allowed to walk under this arch, since a rock fall in 1991 that brought down a 60 feet long, 11 feet wide, and four feet thick from the underside. The remaining arch looks improbably thin and delicate --there's no good reason, to our minds, why it's still standing.
The walk back to the car took us past Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch. Pine Tree Arch frames a small pine forest, while Tunnel Arch is much deeper (wider) than many others, running through a particularly thick fin.
By now, both of us had had enough sun and heat -- there was little shade on this last 90-minute walk, and the temperature was easily in the 90s. We had consumed the half-gallon of water we brought on the hike and needed some lunch. We headed back in to Moab for a late meal at the Moab Diner (home of the best green chili in Utah, the sign in the front proudly -- and accurately, we think -- proclaimed). We spent a while wandering the main drag, doing some souvenir shopping, and returned to the park about 5:30 to see the sunset.
We had thought of hiking out to Delicate Arch, which we had not yet seen, but decided against it on the recommendation of the Park Ranger whose advice we asked. The sun sets directly behind the arch from the viewpoint, making it impossible to see, and the return hike would take us past dark. We ended up returning to the Window Arches. On the way, we stopped at Balanced Rock -- another feature that has no apparent reason to still stand other than habit.
The Windows were much more deserted than this morning, and we found a nice bit of rock to sit on to watch the sun set. We had the Window entirely to ourselves for the half hour before the sun went down. It was just incredibly peaceful. As soon as the sun was low in the horizon, it cast a wonderful light over the surrounding rocks, bringing new colors and definition to what we had seen earlier in the day. The sunset was beautiful -- there were just enough clouds to provide some color after the sun was below the horizon and the afterlight on the rocks was spectacular. We returned to Moab about 9 and had dinner at Zax's Wood-Fired Pizza.
More pictures from today