2013 Gratitude Project – Arches National ParkThis month will be a celebration of travel. I am so grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had over my nearly thirty years to explore the world. Click here to read about my 2013 November Gratitude Project – Travel
Yesterday, I shared some pictures from my first adventure to Zion National Park; pictures that I thought I lost. When I found those I also found photos from my adventure to Arches National Park with the same roommate and our sisters. This was also a very quick trip.
We left early in the morning and drove down to the park. The way the entrance to the park is designed creates a magical experience. Once again you don’t see anything from the major thoroughfares. There is no sign that anything truly amazing is just over the hills. After checking in at the visitors center you ascend the path up and over the cliff.
Once you reach the top the road enters the park. In the distance you see monolithic rock formations, arches and windows. It isn’t like they are everywhere, but you can see them as you drive through the park. We stopped at the Three Gossips area for a quick walk down in the wash and gaped at the massive rock “organ” across the road.
A little further we found Balancing Rock. This is a solitary rock formation that appears to have a very large rock balanced on the point of another. Really, natural weathering over the ages has worn away at the stone around the middle more than the top mostly likely because of what each layer is composed of. Someday, as winds keep blowing and water keeps precipitating, the balancing boulder will be loosed and tumble to the ground. I would like to be there when that happens, just not under it.
There is a trail that winds around this formation so you can get up close. It isn’t long and is a nice start to your Arches adventure.
Our little band next visited the Devil’s Garden area and took the trail out to landscape arch, the longest arch in the park. This hike takes you through sandstone cliffs and into the desert. It isn’t difficult since the trail is relatively flat. This arch is a great example of the ever changing geology of Arches. Not too many years ago, some hikers witnessed as Landscape Arch shed a little of its belly fat with sheets of stone falling to the ground. These natural wonders are delicate and no one really know how they may change or when.
Our final stop in the park was the most famous rock formation in Utah – Delicate Arch. We timed it so we would reach the arch just before sunset and it was completely worth it. This trail begins at some of the park’s signs of human history near an old ranch house and nearby petroglyphs. As opposed to the other trails we took, the trail was a little more difficult purely because of the climb in altitude. It isn’t hard though.
The trail also climbs up rocks, so keep an eye out for the cairns marking the path. You don’t see the arch until you reach it making the reveal all the more impressive. The final stretch of the trail takes you on a wide ledge overlooking some beautiful desert landscape until you round the corner and there it is.
The iconic rock formation is on the edge of a cliff. It is amazing this formed this way and hasn’t collapsed. It is exposed more than most of the other arches to the elements. The stone all around has weathered, but this arch still stands. On one side is a bowl and on the other a sheer cliff.
There were a few dozen people scattered around mesmerized and waiting for the sun to set. Ravens came too in hopes of scraps from snacking hikers. At last the sun hit the horizon offering a magnificent display of colors. I positioned myself behind the arch so I could get a picture of the sun setting with the arch in it. That worked very well (scroll to the bottom to see it). The whole experience is quite magical. I hope I have the opportunity to see it again someday. Maybe I can catch the sunrise too.
We hiked back down in the dark and drove to the nearby Dead Horse Point State Park to camp for the night. This state park is right on the edge of Canyonlands National Park and gives visitors a fantastic vista into the canyons of that park. We didn’t get to see it until the next day, but it was spectacular. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go back to Arches or visit any of the other special places around Moab on that trip.
I am grateful for things in nature that make us marvel in awe and stupor to ponder the great creations of God. I am thankful for national and state parks that preserve these unique places and protect them for generations to come.
Until next time, remember adventure is out there, so go have one!