Scott’s Big Adventure, Day Ten: Inside Arches National Park

Scott's Vespa at Arches

This should be a short post. I pretty much spent the entire day inside Arches National Park just north of Moab Utah. The pictures will tell the story of this breath-taking place. I had intended to get up early and beat the crowds and the heat, but instead ended up sleeping until about 11am. I didn’t leave for the park until about 1:30pm. Since I was intending to spend another night here, I stripped all of the luggage off of the Vespa and went to Arches in shorts and a t-shirt. I also planned on being back by sundown.

BTW, the weather has been perfect since the storm blew through. Temperatures have been in the high-70’s and low-80’s. But it does get chilly at night.

Arches has four—more or less—main areas where there are interesting rock formations. Not everything in Arches N.P. is an arch. There are plenty of spires, fins, balancing rocks and so on.

The first main area is just inside the park at the top of the plateau. There is a view point where you can see the La Sal mountains to the southeast, the Colorado River canyons to the east, the “Windows” area to the northeast, and the first set of monuments to the immediate north. Those first monuments do not include any arches. They are “just” large rock monoliths that seen to rise out of the desert sands and soar to heights of several hundred feet. (As an aside, I noticed something peculiar about these rock formations. From a distance, they look huge. But when you get right up next to them, you realize that they aren’t as big as you thought. There’s nothing for your brain to compare them with, so it defaults into making you believe that they are enormous when in fact many of them are only 50-100 feet high.)

The second main area included Balanced Rock and the Windows arches. Balanced rock is a large boulder that is sitting atop a spire, supported by a relatively thin layer of sedimentary rock. This sedimentary layer will erode faster than either the boulder or the spire, so the Balanced Rock will eventually fall. In the mean time, it just looks like it might fall at any minute. Further on are the Windows arches along with several other arches in the same area. The Windows are two arches in the same rock wall, one to the north and the other to the south, that resemble very large windows in a wall.

The third main area is the Delicate Arch and a little further on, the Fiery Furnace. Delicate Arch is the most photographed arch, and is used in most of the promotional materials. If you recall seeing a picture of an arch representing Arches N.P., it was probably Delicate Arch. You can get right up close to it after a brisk 1-1/2 mile hike, or you can do like I did, and take a somewhat-less-brisk 500 yard hike and take pictures of the arch with your telephoto lens.

The fourth main area is called the Devil’s Garden, and it includes a large number of arches along a trail stretching several miles. The most spectacular of these is the Landscape Arch. A little further on along the trail is the Wall Arch, which collapsed just last August. Also in this area is the campground.

The sun had gone down beyond the canyon rim by the time I got to Landscape Arch, so I decided to call it a day at that point and I turned around and started heading back. On the way back to the parking lot, I stopped to take a shot of the sun on a distant canyon wall. As I brought down the camera to look at the picture I just took, I noticed that only about 40-50 feet in front of me were 5 mule deer munching on the foliage. I moved a bit further down the trail for a better vantage point and took several shots of them. As they moved around in the bushes, one of them approached to within about 10 feet of me. I just stood still and took pictures. As people came down the trail after me, I motioned for them to be quite and pointed to the deer. Pretty soon there were about a dozen people standing there taking pictures of these 5 deer. After a while, they moved off and I moved on down the trail.

By the time I got back to the parking lot, it was dusk and getting cold. I had on only a t-shirt and shorts. I had a fleece vest in the trunk so I put that on and started back to towards the entrance. A quarter moon was out in the south and the sky was full of stars. When I rode by Balanced Rock, I could see it clearly silhouetted against the night sky. I stopped and set up the tripod and took a few pictures. I had to wait quite a long time to get some good shots because of all cars driving by trying to get out of the park. As the cars approached the spire, their headlights would illuminate the rock, ruining the shot. And of course, the cars were perfectly spaced so that it was impossible to get a shot in-between them. Anyway, I hope some of them turn out.

I ended up getting pretty chewed up by mosquitoes, which is weird for two reasons: first, they usually don’t like the taste of me; and I didn’t notice them at all. But by the time I got back to the motel, I was scratching both my arms and my legs. I jumped into the hot tub and tried to forget about the itchiness.

Tomorrow: Southeast to Mesa Verde in Colorado.