Tag Archives: Arches National Park

Palm Springs, CA to Clarkston, MI, Day 4 May 9 part 2

If you are going to visit Arches on the weekend (as we are), the rangers recommend doing so in the evening and early morning. So we decided to get started today, even after our long drive from Monuments Park. We arrive at the park entrance at 4:00 pm, and the rangers are right — it is easy to get to whatever we want to see. The afternoon light creates some fascinating views, and I do my best to get every one I can.

Coming into the park, there is a visitor’s center which does an excellent job of describing the attributes of the place.  May 2015-7978Beyond that there is a uphill climb, which takes us to the first stopping point, the overview of the Moab Fault.  The fault follows the road down below.  According to the sign, when the fault occurred about 6 million years ago, the side of the road we are standing on dropped 2600 feet below the side across the road.

Just as in Monument Valley, the main features of the place have been created due to the wind and rain eroding the softer sandy soils away from the harder materials creating buttes and towers, some quite spectacular.  Other geologic activity, like the Moab Fault, have contributed.

May 2015-8002Some of the more interesting features are named.  In the picture at right, in front of Gwen you can see three towers, which are called the “Three Gossips”.  To their right at roughly the same depth is “Sheep Rock”.  The most prominent butte on the right hand side of the picture is “Tower of Babel”.  To its immediate right, is “The Organ”.  May 2015-8011The picture on the right is a view of the “Three Gossips” from a different vantage point.  It’s a bit like looking into the sky and seeing pictures in the arrangements of the stars; you have to have a good imagination.

May 2015-8016Another view of “Tower of Babel” is on the left. May 2015-7993

 

On the right is a picture of an unnamed butte formation, but behind it are the “Petrified Sand Dunes” formed as a result of a layering of sand some 200 million years ago covered by layers of other sediment including quartz and calcite and compressed over time.  The additional layers have been eroded away, and the petrified sand dunes are the result.

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One of the most unusual formation is this “Balanced Rock”.  You’ll remember a similar formation from the last post called “Mexican Hat”.

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The picture at right shows a number of other towers which were in the same area, but not quite as dramatic as this one.

May 2015-8070Another angle on “Balanced Rock” can be seen here.  They let you walk up right next to this rock; I guess they don’t expect it to topple in the near future.

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The next pictures are not named (as far as I know), but are examples of the formations to be seen.

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The park has a number of pullovers and parking lots to enable safe stopping and viewing.  Often excellent pictures are available directly from these designated parking areas, but there are two in particular that require walking along paths to get to the best picture-points.

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The first, at Windows arches, does not require us to walk that far, perhaps half a mile all told and Gwen kindly accompanies me to the “North Window”, the one with people in it enjoying the view beyond.  I go on from there to the “South Window”, and take more pictures, including the one of the two windows together.  Behind me as I take that picture is “Turret Arch”.

The second and  longer walk from the parking area is Delicate Arch, out beyond Wolfe Ranch.   Delicate Arch is the iconic Arches National Park Arch, and therefore one I have to take a picture of.

Wolfe was a Civil War veteran who came across to this area in the late 1860s with his son to try and recover from a bothersome leg wound he sustained during the war. The two of them lived at this location for 10 years before his sister, her husband and their children came out to live with them. Wolfe and his son had been living in a one-room shack, which was not big enough for the newly reunited family. Within short order, they built a bigger cabin, which is the one that stands today. Wolfe eventually returned to Ohio (from whence they came) in 1890, and died four years later at the age of 84.

The walk to Delicate Arch is 1.5 miles from the parking lot, and probably over 1000 feet in elevation climb. Described on the sign as moderately strenuous, it is all of that and more for this out-of-shape 66-year-old. One section, which as I get to it, I desperately hope is the last, consists of climbing up a 20% slope for probably 1000 yards.  Definitely “moderately strenuous”. Half way up that slope, I decide I just have to sit down and rest, so I find a nice step on the side of the main slope and sit down.  Its getting late, and I had been thinking as I walk that I am one of the last ones going up today.  May 2015-8261Boy was I wrong!  As I sit there, I get passed by group after group, all happily climbing their way up without stopping. After about 15 minutes, I resume climbing.  It isn’t the end of the journey, of course, it is only about half way along the path.

 

There are a number of people to follow now, so I join in. As we get closer to the goal, the path narrows, and I realize that we are being funneled up an ever-narrowing ledge that is climbing slowly around a hill rising out of the landscape.

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May 2015-8262The path continues to narrow; it is not more than a couple of yards wide with a sheer drop of at least 500 feet off the outer edge. Those who know me know I have an absolute terror of such unfenced edges, but I’ve got to get to this Arch and get its picture.  I concentrate on keeping close to the inner wall, and keep going on. Every time I think about looking over the cliff my stomach clinches. Eventually I get around the hill and there in front of me is the Arch. All the people who had passed me up on my trek up are there and of course a lot more.  Some are resting, the younger ones playing, some moving in and amongst the Arch, and some taking pictures. I quickly find a spot to take my own pictures. I do not have the time to wait for the people at the Arch’s feet to go away as Gwen has to be wondering where I’ve gotten off to by now.  Besides, they provide scale!

May 2015-After taking my shots it is time to start the trek down. It is much easier than the trek up, except for the first part where I have to walk that narrow ledge again.  The traffic pattern suggests the down-walkers should be on the outside closest to the cliff edge and away from the relative safety of the inner wall. I don’t trust myself walking there, of course. Fortunately there aren’t any people behind me that are in a hurry, so I just hug the wall and wait until a group of up-walkers go past, then quickly make my way to the next group, and wait for them. Soon enough I am past this obstacle, and headed on my weary way down.  Gwen is calmly waiting in the car when I return perhaps an hour and a half from when I started.

May 2015-8339As the sun was going down, we go one more stopping point beyond the Wolfe Ranch parking lot and then turn around heading back to the hotel. We get back and spend a quiet evening recovering from the long day.

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Palm Springs, CA to Clarkston, MI, Day 4 May 9 part 1

Today started off well. We get up, go to the restaurant for breakfast, go back to the room to finish packing, and hit the road to Arches National Park. Our breakfast waiter, Pascal, recommends we stop at Goosenecks State Park on the way, so we are on the lookout for it.

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The scenery is fabulous. There seems to be no end to the “monuments” visible, and as we drive along, we keep getting different views of them. Gwen drives so we don’t have to stop so much for me to take pictures.

May 2015-7803As the light changes, the views change as well, so that means more pictures. May 2015-7804As we continue north, I notice that the vegetation gets more bountiful, although it never really gets out of the desert variety nor the desert look.

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Also the altitude rises, and soon we are seeing juniper bushes as well as the occasional tree interspersed.  Before Gooseneck National Park, the most spectacular landscape element is Mexican Hat.

Mexican Hat

Mexican Hat

It is indicative of the strange results that occasionally are possible as the wind and rain erode the softer underlying layers of dirt leaving a large, harder stone balanced on top.

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We soon reach Goosenecks State Park, about three miles off the main road we are on.

May 2015-7878The prominent feature when we get there is quite a surprise, even though Pascal did his best to describe it to us. Like a mini-Grand Canyon, at the bottom of a thousand foot drop is a river, muddy brown. (Note the camper on the ridge at the right of the picture at left.)  May 2015-7900The goosenecks themselves are created as the river’s path flowed back and forth winding its way from one end of the basin to the other. Once in that pattern, the river cut through the layers of the basin floor creating the almost vertical drops It had more of the aspect of a long snake than goosenecks, but what are you going to do, the name “Snake River” was already taken. May 2015-7895It has the aspect of the river leading up to Victoria Falls in Africa, winding back and forth having worn vertical views down through the underlying rock.  h

The views are no less spectacular as we continue on from Gooseneck on toward Arches.  The buttes get even more unique, and the vegetation even more diversified.

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May 2015-7963May 2015-7964The most spectacular aspect of the drive is the falling snow that we drive through once we are in and past Blanding, Utah. May 2015-7958It is more like mini-hale, and it didn’t stick, but it occasionally made the visibility hard.

 

Our next stop is Moab, Utah. This is just five miles from Arches National Park, and seems to be also a recreational hub for all kinds of adventurous sports. The signs call this “Canyonlands”. In addition to the canyons associated with Arches, there is a recreation-sized river where people use kayaks, canoes and boats of a variety of configurations. There are lots of trucks and camper-vans pulling 4-wheel drive jeep-like vehicles, so I presume there are also lots of places to use them, although we didn’t see one close enough to the highway for us to recognize.

May 2015-7971The first “Arch” we come across close to Moab is the Wilson Arch.  A nice preview of what is to come!

We get to our hotel, check in, and then head out to do our first visit to Arches.

 

 

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