Sunday, April 26, 2009

Photos of Arches National Park, Utah


We've uploaded our Arches National Park Photos ~ enjoy!!!!!

PS ~ We'll be off-line a few days ~ stay tuned..............................................

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Courthouse Wash Rock Art, Arches National Park, Utah

Outside of Arches National Park is an amazing assortment of petroglyphs and pictographs created hundreds of years ago. One such area is actually inside the boundary of Arches National Park, but to get to it, you need to go out of the park. Just outside of the park is a small parking area, and from here, walk south, over the bridge. To your left you’ll see a sign that leads to a once-spectacular display of pictographs. Carefully following cairns, you’ll walk up a rocky area to the panel, where the best remaining pictographs can be seen on the top left.

What is unfortunate about this panel of pictographs was that in 1980, someone vandalized this panel with acid, thus destroying this incredible piece of history. Although the National Park Service tried to restore what was once there, the acid did damage beyond repair.

We visited this panel 15 years ago when we were in Arches the first time, and were surprised to see now that it is even more faded – from the sun we suppose, as the one area with the best remaining pictographs seems to get more shade.

If you enjoy looking at pictographs or petroglyphs, this is a nice quick stop to enjoy some history of the area.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Park Avenue, Arches National Park & The Moab Brewery, Utah

There are no arches here, but Park Avenue at Arches National Park is well worth a quick stop. Park Avenue is comprised of tall, "thin" rock formations which resemble skyscrapers ~ these were striking and unusual. There is a short, one mile trail that takes you to Courthouse Towers, where you can either turn-around and walk back, or get someone to pick you up there and take you back to your car.

After a long day of hiking and exploring Arches National Park, we went to Moab Brewery for dinner. The surprisingly thing was that although the parking lot looked jammed-packed, there was actually plenty of seating. The food was pretty good for brewery good, as the menu was more than burgers and grilled sandwiches, but included salads, soups, pastas, and vegetarian entrĂ©es as well. Brad’s the beer drinker here, and must admit that he wasn’t too impressed with Moab’s brew. OH, there are coupons at the Moab Visitor's Center for a free appetizer with the purchase of three entrĂ©es. Enjoy!!



Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Windows Loop Drive, Arches National Park, Utah

A nice way to see a number of arches within close proximity of one another is to take the drive to The Windows area in Arches National Park. With short easy walks, this area provides views of 4 plus unique and spectacular arches. On the way, first be sure to stop and enjoy Balanced Rock, where a short path circumnavigates around the base of the free standing rock, so you can enjoy the variety of views. Although this path is not fully accessible, there is a small portion that is boardwalk that offers great perspectives as well.


The drive to the Windows first takes you past the Garden of Eden section that features some beautiful rock formations including several large rock fins and free standing rock spires. There is a parking lot where you can get our and meander and enjoy these wonderful views. At the end of The Windows drive, there are two parking lots – one that you first come to, and another one just a little further around the loop, so do not be dismayed if you cannot find parking at the first lot. The Windows area features four main arches; North and South Window arches, and Turret Arch which are closet to the first parking lot, and Double Arch accessible from the second parking area.
To explore the three arches up close, you can take an easy gravel path that offers great views and provides access to walk under North Window and Turret Arches with a little more effort. This path has steps built-in so it’s not accessible to wheel chairs. Along this walk is another arch that is just starting, so maybe someday there will be a “more northern” window arch recognized. To add a little adventure to your walk and to change your viewing perspective, there is a primitive loop trail starting at South Window arch that takes you behind both Window arches and leads you back to the parking area.

Double Arch is located near the second parking lot. It’s literally a huge double arch where two arches beginning at the same point yet end in different places. This arch is very unique and quite spectacular. To get there from the first parking lot (you might loose your spot is you try and move your car to the second parking lot) you can either walk the road or cross via a small path that cuts through the center field that separates the parking lots. There is a short dirt trail (not wheel chair accessible) to this arch that eventually takes you under the arch. You don’t have to walk the entire path to get great views of this arch.
As you drive out of the Windows Section there is another area called the Cove of Caves. This is section of caves that have formed in the base of a red rock wall. Very interesting to see and who knows maybe your witnessing the formation of future featured arches.

The Windows area and drive are a must if you visit the park. There are great views and “don’t miss” scenery even if you don’t leave your vehicle. It would be fun to travel this road and see the sights with different lighting at different times of the day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Famous Delicate Arch Hike, Arches National Park, Utah

This is the arch that you see on many Utah license plates – it is the quintessential arch that defines and is the symbol for Arches National Park. There are a few ways to enjoy viewing this arch:

  1. Go to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint, which is wheelchair accessible and is about 100 yards in length
  2. Go to the same Delicate Arch Viewpoint and take the short, moderately strenuous trail to a viewpoint that is across a canyon from Delicate Arch – and enjoy a unique view
  3. Go to the Delicate Arch trailhead by Wolf Ranch and hike the 1.5 miles to the arch and touch it, which is what we elected to do.

This is a very popular hike, so definitely start it as early in the day as possible (we got there at 9:30am). The trail begins as a flat dirt path and passes by the Wolfe Ranch homestead house. The Wolfe’s lived and raised enough animals to survive in this harsh place. The single room house has been preserved and offers a glimpse into how difficult their life must have been.

Just past the house and the small creek is a short spur trail that leads to some petroglyphs (which we took at the end of the hike). Here you can see animal and human-like carvings in a few large rocks that are believed to be created by Ute Indians.

Continuing on the main the trail after about ¼ of a mile, the hike begins its steady ascent on a bed rock face where no plants grow. Following the trail takes locating the series of cairns and the well worn path in the rock from years of hikers. Eventually the trail levels out a bit, but always with an uphill ascent, to an area with some scrub juniper trees, bushes, and plants. There are no views of Delicate Arch at all these sections of the trail, so the prize still waits.


As you approach the end of the trail, which is the top of the peak, Delicate Arch is still hidden from view by a large rock wall. The trail skirts around the backside of this wall where a path/ledge has been cut into the side of the cliff. After about 25 yards look up to the right and you’ll see a small arch in this wall. It’s worth the effort to scale the rock to go up and look through it for there Delicate Arch can be seen for the first time on this hike. This unique vantage point provides a magnificent perspective of this one of a kind arch!

Continuing on the ledge trail a bit longer, an open stadium like bowl appears and off on the far side lies Delicate Arch in all it’s glory…truly an awe-inspiring setting and viewpoint. You can hike around the bowl so you are under or inside the actual arch. There are amazing views on the other side of the arch. This is a great place for that one of kind photo of the arch up-close and with the snow capped LaSal Mountains in the background. A huge Wow!

The walk to Delicate Arch took us 45 minutes, and after spending about 30 minutes at the arch hanging out and chatting with people, it took 30 minutes to return to the trailhead.

Remember the petroglyphs? On the way back we took the very short spur trail to take a look at them as well.

We also saw this cool bullfrog as we were just at the tail-end of the hike ~ of course, we named him Jeremiah.......

This is a definite must-do hike when in Arches National Park. The trail is open enough and smooth enough to also hike it at night during a full moon. We have already pledge to ourselves that we’ll definitely do the hike during full moon upon our next visit to the park.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hike to Tower Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

If you’re looking for a quieter hike in a remote part of Arches National Park and still want to see a few interesting arches, then this is the hike for you. To get to this hike, you first need to drive 8.2 miles down a dirt road. This road is the first dirt road off the left hand side of the road after the Sand Dune Arch parking area going towards the campground. It is maintained well enough to be passable for both trucks and cars, but there were places we wouldn’t have minded a bit more grading, as there were some serious washboard grooves. This dirt road takes you right down the middle of Salt Valley. This valley is wide open, full of desert brush and offers distant views of the Devils Garden area and Klondike Bluffs (home of Tower Arch).

The trailhead is located at a small parking area that also has a pit toilet. Once to the trailhead, the hike begins with a steep ascent over rocks, yet after 100 yards or so when you are on top the ridge, the trail levels out and it actually quiet level in most places. There were a lot of interesting rock formations along the way, and the trail eventually descends into a valley where you spend some time walking over rocks to the next level section. This valley is bordered by a wall of spires and large rock formations on each side. At the bottom of this valley, you cross the wash and begin to climb up the other side over a large sand dune that is the color of the surrounding rocks. Once on top, the trail leads you over more sand dune (at least it’s not uphill) and into narrow passage ways formed by rock fins. The trail is well marked by rock cairns which after about ¼ of a mile lead you to Tower Arch.

Tower Arch is a large arch with a very thick cap. You can climb through and up the backside for amazing views using the arch as your window. At the base of the arch is a carved inscription by Al Ringhoffer and his wife ~ Ringhoffer who was instrumental in establishing Arches National Park. As you are facing Tower Arch, there is another smaller nice arch to the right.

The total mileage for this hike was 3 miles round trip, and it took us about 2 hours. If you’re not up for such a long hike, there is a 4-wheel drive high clearance road that you can take to within 0.3 miles of Tower Arch.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Fiery Furnace Hike, Arches National Park, Utah

There are two ways to hike the labyrinth area known as Fiery Furnace; either via a permit or a Ranger-led hike ($10 per adult). We chose the ranger led hike, and had a variety of thoughts on whether we made the right decision during our hike.

Fiery Furnace is a section of Arches National Park that has no trails or markings, such as cairns to follow, so it is important that you be able to navigate on your own, or go with someone who knows the area well, such as a ranger. When we first entered Fiery Furnace, it was actually an easy trail to follow – there were quite a few tracks in the sand and we thought, “Hmmmm….perhaps we should have just gotten a permit and walked here ourselves.”

We did enjoy the scenery and there were striking rock formations and very interesting narrow canyons, but for the next hour/hour-and-a-half we continually stopped to hear some history, a story, and the same bad jokes by the ranger. Now usually we enjoy ranger-led hikes and enjoy learning about the area, but we just didn’t get the best orator of the rangers here in Arches, and time seemed to go by very, very slow…………..and we were still thinking, “Hmmmm….perhaps we should have just gotten a permit and walked here ourselves.” (and we weren’t the only ones with this thought!)

Around this time, the hike started getting very interesting. On many occasions we had to squeeze through narrow passages ways that required us to place our feet on one wall while leaning forward putting our weight on our hands against the opposite wall walking sideways through the crack. In other spots we had to slide down rocks surfaces and then jump across cracks in the canyon floor. All these fun obstacles were without the aid of cables or chains. In addition to the increasing technical nature of the hike, the canyons got much narrower and very deep. We soon realized that if you took a left instead of a right you would easily get lost so now we were glad we were following a ranger.

In addition to leading us through the labyrinth of trails, the ranger took us to some dead-end canyons that were awesome. One such chamber contained an arch called Surprise Arch that partially covered the sky.

We were lucky on a lot of accounts ~ we had a great group of people (who ranged in ages from 5 to 70+). We enjoyed helping each other in tight spots (literally & figuratively), chatted while we waited for people to get through areas that forced us to be slower, and shared a sincere interest in this unique setting. So in the end, we do recommend the ranger-led hike, since we were able to explore areas we wouldn’t have otherwise known about, and we do enjoy learning about areas we explore, just cross your fingers that you get a more fun and a better orator in your ranger.

Tips~

1. The Fiery Furnace ranger hikes fill-up quickly – be sure to get your reservation as soon as you get to Arches National Park. Go to the Visitor’s Center to purchase your tickets.

2. Groups of 10 or more can get a private hike (with 4 weeks notice). We think this would be a great experience for a group of people, such as a family gathering.

3. Bathroom tip! When Suzanne asked the ranger where there would be a place to stop to step-off and take care of business, his reply was, “You should have gone before we left.” Well, she did, and it was only 45 minutes into the trip, and 2 ¼ hours of “holding it” was not an option. Here’s the tip – hang back in the group – there is always enough time to step-out, take care of business, and jump back into the group without ever being seen by the ranger, who is always first in line. Those at the back definitely bonded over these side trips.

4. Like to take photos? If you hang in the back of the group, since it slows down as people have to maneuver over obstacles, it will give you lots of time to take pictures, and not feel rushed or that you’re holding up the group. 5. Wear sturdy soled shoes or boots for climbing the almost vertical rock surfaces. Wear ankle-high shoes or boots if you have weak ankles and need the extra support.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hiking Devil's Garden, Arches National Park, Utah

Devil’s Garden contains 7.2 miles of hiking trails to various arches and rock formations, and it took us about 4 ½ hours to hike to them all, including a leisurely lunch along the trail. The entire hike varies from easy to strenuous, and begins easy with a well marked trail for about ¼ mile where you then arrive at a fork in the trail – we took the right trail first, still an easy, well-marked trail. This short spur trial took us to two arches – Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. Tunnel Arch has a deep opening that looks like a tunnel and Pine Tree Arch…yep, has a pine tree growing in the middle.

After enjoying these two arches, we returned via the same trail and merged back onto the main trail for about another ½ mile to the expansive 306’ Landscape Arch. In 1991 a large chunk fell, creating the “thin” arch that remains today. Luckily, people picnicking under the arch heard and saw some smaller rocks fall and got out of the way before tons of boulders came crashing down. If you’re in the mood for a shorter hike, this is a nice destination and would total a 1.6 mile round trip hike, taking about one hour if you include Tunnel & Pine Tree Arches, or just 30 minutes if Landscape Arch is the sole destination.

We continued past Landscape Arch, which is when the trial became more strenuous in nature. Climbing boulders with some more effort than the previous section of the trail, we walked on top of a rock fin and by the now empty space which was Wall Arch until the summer of 2008, when it fell. Continuing up the boulders and over various rock fins for another ½ mile or so, another spur trail awaits – this one goes to the back of Partition Arch and Navajo Arch. Partition Arch can be seen from the hike as you climb towards this spur trail, and the view from behind is more amazing. This arch consists of a large main opening that’s higher off the trail and another smaller about 10’ in diameter to the side. Be sure to climb to this small opening and take a peek at the breathtaking views to the other side.

The small hike to Navajo Arch takes you through interesting hidden canyons made by high rock fins. Navajo Arch itself is not a large arch but the fact that it’s so well hidden makes it worth the extra hike to discover for yourself. There is also a perfectly shaped Christmas looking pine tree growing near the base of the arch that adds to its mystique.

After an enjoyable lunch and chat with some fellow hikers, we continued to Double-O Arch, which is another popular one-way hike in Devil’s Garden (4.2 miles round trip, 2-3 hours). This unique arch is actually two arches, one on-top-on another. With a little effort, you can climb through the bottom “hole” and see some incredible views from the other side. This was definitely the busiest place along the entire 7.2 miles of trail, so be prepared for crowds.

Continuing on the trail, the crowds definitely lessened as we hiked the ½ mile to Dark Angel – it’s not an arch, but a rock formation of dark rocks in the shape of an angel (if you squint and know it’s supposed to be an angel). The trail ends here, so back to Double-O Arch where a decision needs to be made – you can return via the route originally taken or return via the longer “primitive” trail. We took the primitive trail……..

The primitive trail begins rather easy, but does eventually become strenuous and you need to be mindful of looking for cairns to keep on trail. About ½ mile into this return trail is yet another spur trail to Private Arch, a beautiful large arch. If you climb some of the rocks to the right of the arch, you can get a 360-degree view of the area on a clear day. We wouldn’t recommend climbing on top of the arch as Brad did in the picture below. It’s very easy to walk out to the center of the arch but you have to crawl backwards to get back because it’ too narrow to turn around.

Back on the primitive trail, the hike becomes more fun and mildly technical as we hiked over boulders, walked on top of narrow rock fins, and scramble through and jumped over many narrow ravens. There were also several places where we had to slide down steep rock surfaces. This was definitely a fun part of the hike, much less crowded than the more accessible areas, and more physically interesting. The primitive trail ends by Landscape Arch, so back into the crowds as we made our way back up the easy path for about a 1 mile walk to the car.

This was a great hike, a definite “must do” when in Arches National Park!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah

We are excited to be in Arches National Park for two reasons:
  1. The absolute beauty of the arches and other rock formations.

  2. Our friends Linda & Howard of RV-Dreams are camphosting here, and we were looking forward to seeing them again.

Arches National Park is located in southeastern Utah, just 5 miles north of Moab (in and of itself a tourist destination). There are numerous arches here, some accessible by car, others by a hike ~ we look forward to seeing as many as possible in the few days we’ll be here.

Devil’s Garden is the campground, and be prepared for the 18 mile drive form the park entrance to the campground. There are 52 sites ~ 24 available on a first-come/first-served basis (plan on being here by 7am if you want a site – yes, we’re serious), and the remaining sites are reservable via ReserveAmerica. There are no hook-ups at any site, yet drinking water and restrooms are located throughout the campground. There are a number of sites to accommodate big rigs and all the sites are beautiful, yet in our opinion, site 22 is the best!

As we said, we were also looking forward to seeing Howard & Linda of RV-Dreams again and were pleasantly surprised to also meet up with Rod & Deb of Keeping up with the Kendalls. They are here for a couple days as well to see Howard & Linda, so suddenly we had a party with lots of food, lots of fun, and lots of fun conversation.


Oh, photos of Capitol Reef National Park have been posted! Enjoy!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Trail to Cassidy Arch in Capital Reef National Park, Utah

This was our favorite hike in Capital Reef National Park in part due to the strenuous nature of the hike (ascent of 1150 ft. in 1½ miles) but also because of the unique terrain on the top half near Cassidy Arch. The Cassidy Arch trail starts in the middle of the Grand Wash canyon at the end of maintained dirt road where you will find a parking area and pit toilets. Taking this dirt road from the Scenic Drive road into the canyon, you first pass a turn of the century uranium mine. It was interesting to learn from the information sign near the mine that back then, uranium was mixed with water and drank to cure arthritis…not sure that was a good practice. Continuing along the dirt road and heading further into the canyon, you’ll come to a turnout on the left for the Cassidy Arch viewpoint. This is a short trail that provides views looking up at Cassidy Arch and is much less work (and time) than hiking Cassidy Arch Trail.

The Cassidy Arch trail begins at the parking lot and follows the wash further into the Grand Wash canyon. After walking for about 4 minutes, you’ll see a sign to Cassidy Arch pointing the left. This is where the real hike starts. The trail immediately begins with very steep switch backs, ascending over stairs made out of rocks and very narrow rock ledges that follow the contour of the canyon wall.

This part of the hike was fun to walk, but did not have very interesting views. About ½ mile into the hike, you’ll start working your way further back into a side canyon and once you get away from the edge of the Grand Wash, the views open up and you start working you way up a sold rock sheet - some dirt, some vegetation, but quite open and expansive with much better views. This is actually the place where upward climbing ends, yet you have more horizontal hiking to get to the arch. There is almost no vegetation and the rocks are a beautiful red and cream colored.

At this point, to safely follow the trail, watch for cairns and follow their route. It’s about a ½ mile and you’ll see Cassidy Arch on your left – below where you are standing! Basically, where we were standing was on-par with the top of the arch – you need to look down into a large hole to see the opening of the arch.

For photo-ops and a very unique perspective you can walk across the top of the arch. (The picture below ~ that spot on top of the arch ~ us!) The easier way seemed to be to the right.

The area around the arch is a nice place to stop, enjoy lunch and chat with fellow hikers as you take one another’s pictures on top of the arch. This would be a definite hike to do when in Capitol Reef National Park; it took us 1 ½ hours to walk to the arch, then about 45 minutes to return, so 2 ¼ hours, including lunch and play on the arch.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hiking in Capitol Reef ~ Hickman Bridge & Rim Overlook

From the Hickman Bridge parking area there are two nice hikes; Hickman Bridge trail leads to a large natural bridge (an arch formed by water) and the Rim Overlook trail leads to a vantage point high above the canyon floor. These two trails were highly recommended, so we combined them into one hike, as they share the same trailhead. Both trails start by sharing a series of switchbacks, which brings you to a plateau where the two trails go off in separate directions.

The Hickman Bridge trail itself is a 2 mile round-trip self guided nature trail with a small, 400’ elevation change. At the start of this hike there is an information pamphlet you can purchase for 50-cents (honor system). Along the hike there are numbered posts that correspond to information telling about the significance about the stop in the pamphlet. Although interesting, we chose not to read as we hiked, and simply headed off to the bridge. From the plateau junction, the Hickman trail heads off to the left and soon follows along a hidden canyon wash. The trail and the wash become one, so you are walking up the wash basically. To the right of where the trail starts heading up and out of the canyon, there is a very small unnamed bridge spanning the wash. Here you can climb onto and underneath giving you up close and varied perspectives. It was fun to take a moment to explore and of course click a few photos. The trail continues up the ridge until you reach another junction which is the starting/ending point of a loop trail that brings you to Hickman Bridge. This loop trail goes under the bridge and loops back to the starting point. It offers many great varying views of Hickman Bridge and interesting terrain to explore.

Getting our photo-fill, we hiked back to the Hickman Bridge and Rim Overlook trail junction and started our Rim Overlook trail trek. This trail starts by walking over a different part of the same plateau and across a bigger wash. After crossing this wash, the trail follows along the wash for about a ½ mile working it’s way up a large ledge along the canyon wall. About half way from the overlook there are vast views of the valley and the snow capped Harris Mountains in the distance – really quite beautiful. Even if you do not want to hike to the rim overlook, going to this point on a clear day is well worth the time.

Continue to the overlook, the terrain consists of many juniper trees, fallen rocks and smooth rock ledges to walk out on to see views along the south scenic drive and the Fruita orchards. There is no sign telling you that you’ve gotten to the “overlook”, and the trail does continue to Navajo Knobs (another 2 ½ miles), so once you are overlooking Fruita, you know you’re there.

This trail was much less used than the Hickman Bridge trail. So if awesome views and solitude is what you are looking for then Rim Overlook trail is the one to hike. Have fun!!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cohab Canyon Hike, Capital Reef National Park, Utah

For our first hike in Capital Reef National Park we chose the Cohab Canyon Hike. This trail starts across the street from the Hickman Bridge trailhead parking lot. From the parking lot you have to cross the river via the highway bridge and look for a small trail sign about 25 yards past the bridge on the right side of the road.

We found the first ¼ mile of this trail to be a strenuous hike with plenty of steep switchbacks. After this initial section, the trail levels off and becomes moderate while following a hidden canyon.


This small hidden canyon was very interesting with the huge flat sheets of sandstone that frame the ridges to the smooth path water has made during the rainy season. Eventually the trail crosses through this small canyon and up the other ridge until you come to a small grassy plateau at the top. Here there is a trail sign at the junction of two trails for the north and the south overlooks.

The north overlook trail is about a 1/3 mile hike to the edge of the plateau. This location offers awesome views down into the canyon along Hwy 24 where you can see the petroglyphs area, Hickman Bridge trailhead and further west down the highway. You also get great views to the other sides of the canyon. The south overlook trail is about a ¾ of a mile hike from the junction and winds through large rock formations and through smoothly worn sandstone washes.


This trail eventually takes you to a panoramic viewpoint where you see down onto the Fruita valley area where all the orchards and the visitor center are located.



Amazing views! We were sorry that the fruit trees weren’t quite in bloom yet for this must be spectacular from this vantage point. The total hike was around 3 miles round trip and took us under 2 hours. This was a great hike that offered super views of the two main canyons in Capital Reef. The ranger that suggested this hike to us also mentioned that big horned sheep are often seen on the grassy plateau. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any during our hike….maybe you’ll have better luck!

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