Some say that “patience is a virtue”. I say “screw that”!
Last night, when we pulled into Moab, we made a last minute change to our plans. We had originally intended to see the Canyonlands National Park today, and Arches National Park tomorrow. But since Arches is one of the most highly anticipated stops on the trip, we just couldn’t justify making ourselves wait.
We left our motel shortly after 8:00 and within 10 minutes, we were pulling into Arches National Park. The entrance into Arches is one of the grand entrances you will see at a National Park. After passing the Visitor’s Center, you drive up the side of a mountain with several switchbacks.
While at the Visitor’s Center, we spent some quality time visiting with one of the most personable and customer-oriented Park Rangers we have ever come across. He did a wonderful job explaining which would be the best trails for us to hike, cautioned us about drinking plenty of water, and refused to charge us for a map of Canyonlands when we told him we were visiting there the next day. “If we can bail out General Motors, I’m not going to charge you a quarter for this map.”
Based on our great Ranger’s advice, we had a plan for the day. We started by driving the length of the Park so that we could take the 2 mile hike to see the Landscape Arch. We wanted to do this hike early so that PK would be up to the challenge.
When we got to the Landscape Arch, Marissa was very impressed. She said, “Ooh, I’m glad I brought my camera!”
The Landscape Arch is the arch with the longest span in the world – a massive 306 feet. In the 1990’s, a large section of it fell off. At that time, you could climb all the way up to the arch, but miraculously nobody was hurt. A tourist captured the break on video, and we got to see it at the Visitor’s Center during the movie.
We are not shy about stopping somebody to take a family picture for us, and we grabbed a lady who was carrying a very nice camera. We figured that anybody with an expensive camera can take good pictures. Wrong! After she took our picture and left, we checked it out – she managed to get us in the picture, but not the Arch. From that point forward, we made a point to always tell the people taking our picture that we want to get the Arch in the background.
A quick note about bathrooms in Utah – Pit toilets are very popular at the Utah National Parks. This is exactly what it sounds like. A hole in the ground where you can do your business. Nearly every one that we went into was very clean, had plenty of toilet paper, and in most cases, hand sanitizer. The pit toilet at the parking lot for the Landscape Arch even had ceramic tile floors. They are first class!
Parking at the Landscape Arch was busy, even early in the day. This is the first Park we have visited on this trip that has shown signs of being busy, compared to its capacity. But I would still stop well short of calling it crowded.
Our next destination was the lower viewing area for the Delicate Arch. This is the icon of Arches National Park, and even Utah itself, for that matter. You will see it on all of the Utah tourism material, as well as their license plates, etc.
It takes us a while to get anywhere within the Park because we like to stop at every available scenic turnout along the way. We took plenty of pictures of the lesser well-known arches. There are over 2,000 arches in the Park, and it is possible that we took pictures of half of them.
After our viewing of the Delicate Arch, we drove to the Windows Section of the Park. A short walk to the North Window and South Window Arches was followed up with a short walk to the Double Arch. Mallory and Marissa joined us for that walk. We were pelted with a very short afternoon rainshower on the way to the Double Arch. It was over within a matter of minutes. We have experienced these types of showers on occasion while in Utah.
As we left, we found a rock that was being climbed by a couple of people. Within a few minutes, one of them had made it to the top. He stood on the top of the rock for quite a while. I think he enjoyed getting his picture taken.
By this time, it was mid-afternoon, and we were heading back to the Visitor’s Center for the girls to complete their Junior Ranger. I was being encouraged by the other passengers in my car to skip the scenic outlooks. Mallory announced that she was suffering from R.O.D. – Rock Overload Disease. As a result, I was becoming highly skilled in appreciating rocks while driving at a high rate of speed.
A different Park Ranger than we visited with this morning assisted the girls with their Junior Ranger, but she was just as awesome. I would have to say that Arches has it going on with the Park Rangers.
She was pretty young, and did a great job of communicating with the girls. She had a great story regarding the last arch which fell at the Park – the Wall Arch. The Wall Arch fell between August 4th and August 5th in 2008. Our Ranger told us that she often would eat her lunch underneath the Wall Arch, and in fact, she ate a turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch while sitting under the Wall Arch on August 4th.
Our Ranger asked the girls if they had seen any Ravens. These birds are common at the Park. She said they are very smart, and work in pairs. She has seen them work together to steal food from tourists. One Raven will approach a person and fake that their wing is hurt. The Raven will lure the tourist away from their food while another Raven will come up from behind and steal their food. We did see some Ravens today, and the most striking thing about them is their size. They are huge.
By this time, it was around 4:00, and we had seen just about everything that we wanted to, with the exception of one thing. Dad and I wanted to see the Delicate Arch up-close, which required a 3 mile round trip hike. We decided to come back later this evening and do just that.
But first things first, we had some hikers with good attitudes today, so what else are we going to do except eat some ice cream. We found an ice cream shop right off of Main Street and we kicked back with Rainbow Sherbert, Moose Tracks, and Coconut Almond ice cream.
Earlier in the day, over half of our group was going to make the hike to the Delicate Arch, but as the day drug on, people started getting tired and bailed out. However, Dad and I had the same thought – we did not drive all the way to Utah to not make the extra effort to see this Arch.
Dad and I left the motel around 6:00 and it was almost exactly a 30 minute drive to the parking lot for our hike to the Delicate Arch. It was over 90 degrees when we arrived. We had plenty of water, our cameras, and extra batteries. We were ready.
It took us 45 minutes to walk the 1 ½ miles. The Park describes the hike as “strenuous”. We’re not sure that we would go that far, even though we did stop for a break on several occasions. We even saw a few people who wore flip flops all the way to the top.
What makes the hike to the top interesting is that you cannot see the Delicate Arch until you are right there. You round the side of a hill, and there it is. The thing that really surprised Dad and I were all of the people who were there, and were just sitting, admiring the arch. I would estimate there were at least 100 people there.
Dad and I were so pumped. We made it! We were high-fiving and all smiles. Looking at the Delicate Arch will make you smile. It almost confounds explanation how something that shape can exist. Not only that, but it just so happened that sunset was the perfect time to view the Delicate Arch from our view point. The sun was shining brilliantly on it. As Dad so wonderfully put it, “You get what you expect”. Of course we showed up at the perfect time. How else is it supposed to work?
We hung around about 20 minutes. We took lots of pictures and enjoyed the scene. We were not in a hurry to leave, but we had soaked it all in, and we did not want to be caught walking back down the hill after the sun went down. That would not be an easy hike.
Right before we made it to the parking lot, we saw a sign indicating there were petroglyphs around the corner. We took the short walk to view them. These were the most pronounced petroglyphs we have seen yet. The reason for that is that they were created between 1650 and 1850 by the Ute Indians. Relatively brand new in the world of petroglyphs.
We made it to the parking lot at 8:30, and we were amazed that we were still meeting hikers who were just beginning the ascent to go see the Delicate Arch. We hoped they remembered to pack a flashlight for the return trip.
We drove back to Moab with the windows down. The temperature had only dropped to 88 degrees, but it didn’t feel too bad. And when we were driving down Main Street in Moab, it was neat to see every single business – restaurant, bar, and t-shirt shop – had their doors propped open. You sure couldn’t do that in Oklahoma when it is 88 degrees.
Arches National Park got a big thumbs up from our group. You absolutely have to include it in any trip to Utah. We packed everything into one very full day, but there were some longer hikes we were unable to take due to time constraints. You could easily spend one more full day at this Park.
Our decision to change up our itinerary and see Arches National Park today was a great move. If we had tried to see it on the originally scheduled day, I do not think we would have been able to fit in the hike to the Delicate Arch. It just goes to show you, “When you live right, things go right.”
And a little impatience doesn’t hurt either.