Adventures,  Utah

Canyons & Arches

Saturday. May 19 2018.
Willow Springs Rd, Moab.

I started the Druid Arch hike (11 miles) at 0845 and finished at 1325, it was a very nice hike with no crazy elevation changes until the very end, where it got fun with scrambling up a pile of rocks and a sketchy metal ladder. I have now seen an arch in every park but Zion. The Needles district of Canyonlands is not at all how I pictured it, the geography and rock formations are completely unique, and stand as spires towards the sky (hence the name of the district.)

I was really proud of my time on my hike today, my body has been feeling much better. Although, I was also motivated to get back and drive to the visitor’s center for their wifi, because it was the community day for pokemonGo featuring charmander… So yes, I did awkwardly walk around there for an hour or so staring at my phone. And yes, I know I am so incredibly nerdy. Of course, Utah’s phone service and even its wifi quality has been extremely sporadic. So it is definitely a trip to plan if you want to get away from the outside world.

After my lunchtime pogo break, I did two of the short hikes with a glimpse of history. The roadside ruins is a Pueblan granary, which is just cool to picture them using it, and trying to find it without a road for that matter. I have an uncanny sense of direction generally, but it is hard to imagine finding your way through the expansive and repetitive landscape of the area. Cave Spring was also cool and had a cowboy camp, which I guess cowboys were in the area until 1975. Supposedly there’s rock paintings from the Pueblo Indians as well, but I could not find them. Regardless, both hikes were short and pleasant, even during the hottest part of the days and being in the desert Canyonlands.

Now I am camped outside of Moab for a day at Arches tomorrow, I am at yet another dispersed camping site, which I am still loving the concept. The two guys that pulled up beside me are from Florida (Shawn and Wes) and on a 1.5 month road trip across the West, and it sounds ideal! I mean they have ample amount of time to see whatever, and a best friend for the company! Although two people has its drawbacks, for that long of a trip I would want a companion too. Heck, even this week in this extremely isolated part of the country, I have longed for a companion (or at least a sketchbook or something to pass the time.)

Sunday. May 20 2018.
Klondike Bluff Rd, Moab.

I slept poorly last night, someone with those rooftop tents came in after I fell asleep, and they did not buckle all the straps so they were banging obnoxiously. Then I woke up from some crazy dream at 4. I dozed a little bit more until my 0530 alarm rudely woke me up again. I would have laid there longer, but I was anxious to see the sunrise over the desert.

I drove to Delicate Arch in Arches and hiked up to it by 0700. I somehow managed to watch the sunrise twice; once on the drive into the park and then once on the hike because of the horizon changes from the elevation climb. I definitely recommend this hike as an early hike; it was absolutely stunning in the morning light, the air felt fantastic walking the insane ascending slickrock, and there were significantly fewer people than the norm. It is a must see hike, and that is widely known. The amount of people over doubled just by the time I made it back.

I then went and hiked the Devil’s Garden Trail to the ‘Double O’ Arch and the several other arches the trail passes. The second half of this hike was on the primitive trail, and it was not worth it. You have to hike along an open rock fin (which today it was crazy windy to make it worse) and then several other steep slickrock surfaces. The last portion not being easily marked, and I found a detour by jumping/sliding off a 15ft ledge. The older people behind me also could not find the trail, so I slid to the bottom where the path was visible, and I traced it back to where it connected for them. The other arches were worth the small climb to them; but if you have any fear of heights, falling, getting lost, etc, then avoid this hike. Heck, Angel’s Landing is at least worth the view. Before I learned about dispersed camping, I had originally planned to backpack the primitive trail loop just for a place to stay for free. I cannot imagine climbing along the rock fin, especially in that wind, with my pack throwing off my balance. I personally would have been a goner, or at the very least peed my pants.

After that I stopped at a few scenic views and hiked the short distance to underneath the ‘Double’ Arch, which is actually the arch I was interested in to begin with. I mean come on, double and double O are so similar; how was I supposed to know which was which? Double Arch fortunately held up to my expectations, and was absolutely beautiful. You are able to climb underneath of it and it has an open cave feeling. So, I also highly recommend this one paired with Delicate Arch.

It was only noon at that point, and I had seen what I came to see (although clearly there were many arches left unseen,) so I decided to head to the Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky district. I just did the scenic viewpoints there, since I had hiked numerous miles earlier in the day and it was storming over the La Sal Mountains (and definitely looked like it would over the canyons.) The viewpoints were jaw dropping. It was vastly different than the Needles, and I am glad I stopped to see it. It reminded me of the grandiosity and depth of the Grand Canyon, just with a more arid and dark vibe. I wish I could have seen the Convergence, where the Green and Colorado Rivers meet and I guess it is something. I also wish I could have seen the ‘false kiva’ which is an area in the canyon wall that a lady from Canada I met in Capitol Reed told me about. I guess it is not a commonly talked about place, as the locals keep it a secret and it is more than amazing she said. So if any of you have seen it, or are able to in the future, please share pictures and the experience with me!

After that, I headed to Mab for lunch and last-minute souvenir purchases. The town is more than I was expecting, it is bigger and actually has fast food chains; possibly the only ones in the southern half of the entire state. It also has a quaint couple blocks of shops, much like little Nashville where I am from. It was fun to browse through the shops at the very least. I especially enjoyed the work of the local artists, and one day I hope I can afford to support local art more.

I ate lunch at Sweet Cravings, and got the kokopelli panini. It was delicious and even came with a sample of cake. I highly recommend for a good lunch place (and I really wanted to try their coffee too, but I didn’t want the diuretic effect once I got back to my dispersed camp site…)

It is my last night in Utah, and I can definitely say these parks have lived up to the “Mighty Five” title. They are all so diverse and expansive, they cannot really be compared. Although my plans had changed some and I spent less time out in the backcountry, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip. Utah offers so much to see and do, I cannot wait to return to spend more time in the more local slot canyons, and maybe even learn to rock climb.

-Ty

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