Wednesday, September 19, 2012


We were headed out of the campsite by 9 after a breakfast of a protein bar each.   It's 7.2 miles down the canyon to 191 from out campsite.   Then a mile or so north on 191 to the Arches National Park entrance.

On the way is the US Department of Energy Umtra Project.... which appeared to consist of a bunch of dirt being moved around.  I'd have to ask about it later.

Sam had told us that as a Senior Citizen, Vicki could get a lifetime pass to all the national parks for $10.   That's crazy, we thought.  Must be $10 over and above a 1 year all parks pass... which would mean about $90.   As we pulled up to the booth, a sign seemed to confirm what Sam had told us, but we still couldn't believe it.   And when we got to the window, Vicki asked the ranger about it, and she said "just need to see your id".

Vicki showed her ID.

"Ok, $10".

We got a pass.  That was it.  Rest of her life.  And if I'm with her, I get in, too.  Awesome.

I always like to check the ranger stations and visitor centers at parks before I dive in full bore.   There was a water station right outside for filling up bottles, camel backs, and other water containers for the trip.  Everywhere we were warned "bring water".   We didn't take that lightly.   Have to fill up our collapsible 5 gallon container here.

We went inside, got the basic layout of the park and kind of where to expect what.   It tured out that directly across the river from our campsite was technically Arches National Park.  Huh.  We hopped into the car and headed up the switchbacks on the east side of the Moab fault and up onto the park's plateau.  

Moab Fault
The first outlook overlooks the Moab fault, where the park side slid down, leaving an exposed cliff sticking up higher on the left.   191 basically runs right down the fault line.  It pointed out the rock layers and where the ones on that side matched up with the layers on the side where we were standing.   Kinda cool.  

La Salle Mountains
We went up past Park Avenue ... a long row of monoliths kind of resembling a Manhattan city block.   Somehow neither of us felt the need to hike down it.   You could see already that the campground host was right ... there were RV's and busses and cars everywhere.   We blew past it and went to the La Salle overlook, which looks across the Petrified Dunes to the La Salle mountain "range" to the south.  It's a small group of large mountains that kind of stands alone in a spot in Eastern Utah.   Typically, you can see it fairly clearly from Arches.   But ... with the smoke, they were blue shadows.   You could get a decent view of about 1/3 of the park from here -- you can see Balanced Rock and the Window District, and if you know what you're looking for, the Firey Furnace.   Plus Park Avenue, Sheep Rock, the Three Gossips, The [pipe] Organ, and the Tower of Bable.   We were disappointed, but not surprised, at the murkiness of the long views.  Hopefully it will clear up a bit this week for when we go to Canyonlands.
Old Fashioned Santa
We cruised by many of these features on the road on our way to look at the Windows.   Saw one formation on the way I thought looked, from a certain angle on the road and the way the sun hit it, like Yogi Bear, and then a monolith with a stricking resemblance to an old fashioned Santa Claus (if you go there, I think I calculated it's about 7.2 miles past the parking lot).   But the Windows District was overcrowded and there was literally no place to park.  So we pressed on toward the Firey Furnace. 

Going down the road from The Windows toward Firey Furnace and Wolfe Ranch, there was a long valley called the salt wash ... with what looked like poured piles of blue-green gravel piled up on an otherwise thinly vegetated red gravel valley.  Like many things in the desert southwest, it looked stark, pretty, and uninviting all at the same time.   Enter at your own risk. 

Me in front of part of the
Firey Furnace.
We passed the entrance to Wolfe Ranch/Delicate Arch and drove up to the Firey Furnace ... a veritible "field" of giant red-rock fins sticking up from the earth that stretched ... oh ... I don't know ... a long way.   We stopped there, and while there took a photo for a couple and tried to have them take ours (it later turned out she hadn't tripped the shutter), and we moved on past Skyline Arch to the Devil's Garden area ... which was pretty much full as well.   We ate a lunch of PBJ's and apples, and headed back toward Delicate Arch - the most famous arch in the park and unofficial Utah state symbol.  You've probably seen it before.

Blue Collared Lizard
Vicki didn't want to take the 3 mile hike to get to the actual arch, and with the park this crowded and temperatures in the upper 80's, I wasn't that hip on the idea, either.   So we took the short hike to the upper overlook, where you look at the arch from across a canyon.

On the way we saw a blue collared lizard on a rock right off the trail posing for pictures, and I and several other tourists obliged before heading off on the maybe half mile hike to the overlook.
Delicate Arch
Well, there it was, and it doesn't look as impressive from a half mile away, I'm sure, especially with 40 or so people milling around it.   But I did get a few decent long distance shots of it and it was sort of neat to see it in context ... which is right alongside several other formations about the same height on that ridge. 

We had driven by Skyline Arch and wanted to head back and take a look at it.  It was a short hike back to the arch with, of course, various opportunities for photographs.   When we made the final turn to where we were looking almost straight up at it, we recalled where they'd said a chunk of rock had recently fallen from one side of it.  It was right in front of us, in pieces.  Some of them very, very large pieces.  Vicki's always been fascinated with large boulders.  And you could easily see the relatively recently exposed face from where it fell.

Behind us, another couple was arguing about why the woman hadn't dumped the photos from the previous day out of memory, and why she was taking them in raw format ... in short, they were out of camera memory -- and it was either delete pictures or stop taking them, and it was causing strife between them.  I thought I had an old 1GB card I never use anymore in my camera bag.  Without saying anything, I dug through my bag, found it, and trotted over and offered it to them, no strings attached.  "I never use it anymore anyway.  This'll get you through the day."   They thanked me.  I hoped they had a better rest of the day.
By this point, it was pushing mid afternoon, getting kind of warm, and the park was crowded.    Let's head back to the Visitor's Center, fill up our water, putz around and look at the displays and merchandise in the air conditioning, and maybe head back to the campsite.  Cook some dinner.

We had the Buffalo Chicken rice meal with Three Bean Salad.

I love that little camp stove.  Handy.

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