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.


6 comments:

BIG SKY CHEF said...

ENVY... is the word that comes to mind. Makes me want to quit Chefin & hit the road. Thanks for the Utah tour. We spent the winter in St George back in 99, We sure missed alot of Terrain. Where to Next? If your heading North Granite Valley by Jackson Hole is cool. Hot Springs, secluded camping and awesome scenery. Keep in Touch.

Suzanne and Brad said...

Thanks! =)

Back to ST. George, incidentally, then???? Haven't decided.........

We may be too early for Jackson Hole right now, but ya never know! =)

Jerry and Suzy said...

Amazing! Awesome! Astounding! Bold! Beautiful! Bedazzling! We could go on through the alphabet, three words at a time and never be able to describe what you guys are doing and seeing! Thanks again and again for taking us along with you!

Joy and Phil said...

I second every word of Jerry and Suzy's comment!
Stay safe,
Joy and Phil
PS: Saw a pocket-size snake bite kit in the camping section of Wal*Mart. If I had your address, would have mailed it to you! LOL!!

Suzanne and Brad said...

....but we don't ever see pocket size snakes. ;)Thanks though!

Debbie and Rod said...

Thanks for all the great tips. We'll definitely put this hike on our list for next year.

Debbie & Rod

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