Thursday, July 17, 2008

Arches National Park

Cairns mark the trails at Arches. This trail was in the Devil's Garden section, leading up to Double O Arch. (And yes, this trail was like most of them, steep incline, shimmying up the rock.)

Me, in an arch. Partition Arch. Yep, I scurried up the slickrock to get there; it was a long way down the other side. (Don't worry, I was perched, not sitting in the opening. I like safety.)

Navajo Arch

Upon entering the park, you wind your way up a long ridge. As soon as you round the corner to the other side, it all unfolds before you: red rock, massive structures unbelievably balanced, and then those arches. I stopped counting I saw so many.

I went straight to the very back of the park first, to the Devil’s Garden section, thinking I would get my longest hikes in before the desert sun was high overhead. 8:45am, my CamelBack was strapped on full of water, and I was ready to hike. As the trail wound its way up and through the sand, the numbers of people trickled off. I began regretting wearing my running shoes and not my hiking boots. The red sand was seeping into the fronts of my shoes through the mesh, and I felt it sloshing around like one might feel water sloshing after slumping through puddles.

As I hiked, a storm loomed over the mountains in the distance, and I kept tabs making sure I didn’t get caught out on the rock. The trails were primitive, deep sand like walking on a beach, steep inclines of slickrock which we scrambled up sometimes on all fours, and boulder ridges 3-5 feet wide and very high up. Parts of it reminded me of climbing at the top of Zion years ago-- the steepness of the ridges and the changing nature of the trails. Cairns were used for markers, and they were well placed about every thirty feet, always within sight, and usually right when you would begin to think which way do I go? Aside from erosion, it was easy to see why you should stay on the trail: there was nothing for miles, and in a level area everything looked much the same.

Because of the storm in the distance, there was a decent breeze and clouds, which kept the desert heat bearable. Small drops even fell as I came back down the mountain. After hiking several trails and close to eight miles, I went to hike to Delicate Arch, perhaps one of the most famous. I got out of my car and my legs started shaking from the strain, and I thought, nope, I’ll settle for the lower viewing point.

After 7 hours of hiking and looking at arches, I was ready for a rest. The sun came out as I descended into the valley, and I found myself jumping into the pool at the campground, and then lounging in the “cold” tub (a hot tub filled with desert cold water... Yay!).

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