Sunday, September 6, 2015

Moab & Arches National

 Moab, Utah: Arches & Canyonlands National Parks:

Following the trip to Yellowstone we start talking about other National Parks; Yosemite, Zion, Arches, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Glacier. I'm not sure anything can compete with Yellowstone with the exception of Yosemite but it's too far to drive and we want to make it easy and use the RV.

Driving into Moab the first day we need to find camping for the night. It's late afternoon so we have a little time to do something but if camping is full we don't have the energy to beat the back roads looking for a place to camp. I know about Horsethief campground from a previous trip and we put our eggs into that basket. We score 1 of several open spots but within 2 hours we believe everything fills. Tomorrow starts a multi-night stay at the Moab RV park.

After getting into Horsethief we are eager to get on with vacation fun. The campgrounds local 'trail' is going to do. It's a few short miles. We enjoy it very much. She's never been in the Utah desert so it's an 'interpretive' trail for her as I point out the basics like Crypto Soil and tips on how to hike around plants that bit.
Devils Garden: Starting at the far end of the park we tackle the most distant and most committing trail first. The Park Service says, "Narrow ledges, exposure, steep climbing, and few trail markers on Primitive section. Not recommended when wet or snowy." That sounds like our speed. We load up two day packs as we would for any wilderness hike and head in. 
We figure the longer, harder trail will cut down on the people traffic. This is the busiest park I've ever been too. Trails are short and accessible with a huge tour bus system. It's a mess. At the first turn, we are all alone and it would be great but Arches, um, well, is a one trick pony. No arch, nothing worth seeing. Below: See! Hard to get excited about flat high desert vista's. It's like a car show for average cars.
Rounding around the back of a huge mesa we enter into the main trail but from the opposite direction. We are at the end of the park (Dark Angel loop on the map).

Every arch has a name, all 2000 known arches. So many so that rules about what an arch is had to be crafted to limit the 10's of thousands to ~2k. Even the rules are too pedantic to recite here but it's something about size greater then x and ....

Landscape Arch: The longest in the park at 290 feet. Measuring an arch has no standards but its maybe the 2nd longest in the world.
In order to abate the people we go off on a side trail to an arch most don't see. It's small and not very good but it's like bug repellent for people.
Below: This is not the little arch we just talked about but a modernly popular arch on a spur trail. By now I'm starting to understand that trip in this National Park pony.

We have a few hours left on the hike so its time for some shade and a big snack. I attempt to gain the highest ground for lunch with a view, but she's not interesting in a scramble to the top. We settle for shade in a cool nest of rocks off the main trail for a snack.

Double-O Arch:
The high ridge line view I wanted at lunch arrives on the return trail.

The ridge walk on the way back and another hole in a rock. 
Going in the opposite direction we are avoiding the masses as they stopped on the way in and now that it's later in the day are headed directly back to the parking lot and we get arches to ourselves.

When we finish the Devil's Garden we see people that didn't plan well or follow the huge sign telling people it's a long walk and they will need water. We see one gentleman in what could best be described as safari cloths, yet crying into his cell phone about "Please have water ready when I get to the car!" I'm surprised the cell phone works until I realize it's a handheld FM radio. This tool gets the clothes and radio but has no idea how to hike a few hours without running out of water.
Windows? Arch: I forget but they are close to the parking and have sidewalk to them for ADA access.

Below: Parade Of Elephants:
3 of them are walking in line. Last(far left) is the most obvious. Middle is better from the other side and the front is the largest and you get a body and head/ear. It's actually pretty good.
The Double Arch:

We hike behind and around the Double Arch but nothing great. We hike out farther but get turned back when we see a road and figure the pull out parking lot is around the corner.

Moving to a new area, later in the day we acquire a parking spot for the RV (remember, we have to find oversize parking in a park packed with people). Into and Upto the ICON of the park, Delicate Arch.
A long, strenuous, trail awaits anyone wanting to see one of the most famous arches in the world. So much so, we are called upon to encourage others less fit or prepared to hike such and serious hill.

Early on we pass by the ranch of Mr. Wolfe. You can read if you'd like.

The age of the wood and the primitive construction. Looking close shows restoration where old wood was reassembled by the park service so this site has some 'exhibit' feel but mostly authentic.
Ute Petroglyphs: These petroglyphs were carved sometime between A.D. 1650 and 1850.

The climb starts and for the next hour we hike uphill.

Below: Carved steps make the trail less severe but it's still tiring.

On to the next adventure and I really want my wife, Mrs Otter, to experience a true slot canyon and the hypnotic curves of sandstone bathed in pink light. I chose Little Wild Horse Canyon for it's easy access and it's spectacular design.
We had a bit of rain but water hangs around until it evaporates and that could take weeks or months if it ever dries up.

To "chimney up" means to stem out and walk up the walls to avoid deep narrow cracks, water holes or in this case, climb over a rock and avoid dropping down into a slot too narrow for humans.

This is to be expected but having the correct boots helps. These are the correct boots.

We do not finish the route but we spend 3 hours in the best parts and we both enjoyed it very much. Mrs Otter thinks its fun but she needs more time to digest the risk and exposure. It's a case of too much too quick and makes for a case of nerves.

Again, it's down the road to the next item on the To Do list. This is a very easy road side hike to a Granary. I always find these interesting if you can see finger prints and bits of wood that are from ~1500 BC

Just like Arches, Once you get 30 minutes from the road, you are all alone.

We poke around and find a lower rim trail that is NOT part of the tour. Others have been here but it's not for the weak or skittish.

At the end of the trail is a feature called, Upheaval Dome. If we had more time and could hike in farther is may be cool to see but as it is, it's just more huge vista that defies scale.
Below is  a canyon inside a canyon. Someplace in the middle is the White Rim Trail and from here you can see why it's called white rim. At the time I rode my bike around it I could not tell it was white, scale too large. Comment: Looks like a dinosaur footprint. 

Shaffer Road leads down into the Canyonlands. This is one of just a few ways in, or, out of the massive Canyon.
Back into Arches (we had to flip-flop days to make plans work) and a walk down Park Avenue Section. It's just as the name reports. Easy stroll for everyone, almost, it's not ADA but entering from both ends would avoid all or almost all the challenging steps. 

Most of this trail is a wide stone wash with a road at each end. You can see everything from ether end but for many it's the only hike they will do in the park.

Sand Dune Arch:
Skull Arch: We took a tour into a part of the park called Fiery Furnace. They have a scary story about how dangerous it is and why they make you pay for a tour. blah blah blah,,, so we are on this tour you see...
Its the normal tour. Mostly stories and a pace so slow nobody falls behind. The terrain is serious but nothing we couldn't navigate. Finding all the features, probably not before we ran long and had to leave but then it would be on our own and it would mean more to find it ourselves. 

This is the outside of the Fiery Furnace. Between all those rocks are miles of passage, benches, holes, tunnels, overhangs, dead ends and slabs. The park is correct, it's no Park Avenue but it's not a meat grinder.
A ride though Moab to see Morning Glory Arch and play around in a stream that follows the trail.

Best part of ride and hike was the stop at Milt's for shakes and tater tots. We are on our way to the other end of town (maybe 8 miles) to an old mill to go swimming.
Swimming sucked, the water was ice cold. It was hot out but the water was so cold it would need to be 119F in the shade and it was more like 89F. We wade for a short time and hike and it does what it was suppose to do, use up the last hours of the day.

The next day we see Newspaper Rock and it does not disappoint. What you see is 2000 years old!

Leaving Arches for good we re-enter the Canyonlands.
Pine nuts right from the tree and we already have an arch. Great, more arches, I'm kind of tired of them.
Arches was just full of people. You couldn't hardly take a photo without someone getting in the shot. Canyonlands are empty.
Without days to drive down into the canyon and a 4x4 truck to take the side roads we are left with the primary attractions, long, deep, wide views of earth baked by sun and weathered by rain for thousands of years and you get this.
Speaking of old, this tree has been dead for maybe a few hundred years. I asked Rangers and they didn't have any answers but those in the park for 20+ years say there are trees next to trails they use and in that time, they look the same. Add that the Granary we saw earlier was 1500bc and it's wood looked better....
I could be way off but look at this 'log' and tell me that's not a 100 years of getting cooked in the sun.
Before we go, I think about other trips and shade is at a premium so we bring umbrellas. You don't need it for the heat as much as you get angry at sun. It's nice just to be in the shade for 20 minutes. Maybe it's easy on the eyes.
Again, we stop and hike a trail. This time "Cowboy Camp" and before you say it's a setup for tourist it kind of is, but it was used until 1975 so, yes, it's not old but it is authentic and was created around 1800 and used until 1975.

This was some food store or supply locker. It's kind of crusty and patched with tin from tobacco tins, soup cans, and  coffee cans. It's empty.

pictographs, unknown age.

The park has a trail for Cave Springs and it includes these crazy awesome ladders. 

The ladders get you to the top, below is cowboy camp and the pictographs. If I recall this is the place where I count 17 rock cairn from a single place. Like you could get lost on a lollipop (out-around-back) route with a ladder but it's probably happens.

We have a lot to do but we also have a careless timeline. If we want to do it, we do it and now it's time to look at the little things like flowers and bees.

It's time to leave the Canyonlands. We have one more night and a 20 hour drive home.
Just outside of Moab are the Highway 279 petroglyphs and we want to see them before we leave.

Below, it's a footprint. Its sunken. A rock behind me that split off is the positive. We find 3 or 4 in line with many other prints harder to get to.

This is the last campsite just outside of Castle Rock. Until now we stayed at the RV Park in Moab. It was great. Each night we would return to our site, park and plug in. Clean up and walk minutes into downtown Moab for dinner and shopping. It was the best. We'd dine and walk around for a short time before returning to camp to update plans for the next day but the last night we did not have a site so we boondocked. I was excited to do some astronomy in the dark skies away from down but we just sat out in chairs and stared into the sky and reflected on the trip. All week we stared into the distant lands, distant past, and tonight we stared into the distant sky. Tomorrow we drive the long distance home and that's a 'good bye'.