Sunday, June 9, 2013

Arches National Park, Canyonlands and more!

The temperatures can get beastly hot in southern Utah during the summer time, even as early as the second week of June, when we were visiting, so we were anxious to get an early start.  A breakfast place called Love Muffin was right next to our Moab motel, but it did not open until 7 AM, so we headed down the street to the Pancake Haus where we were able to order a filling breakfast. 

Then we drove into the park and stopped at the Visitor Center, hoping against hope that there might have been a cancellation for the one ranger-led activity that I had really been hoping to try – a tour of the Fiery Furnace.  When I first started making reservations for this trip, two months before, there had been tickets available for Friday, June 7, but it was five dollars less per person if we could provide the number of an interagency senior pass, so I put off making the reservation until Nancy and I could obtain those.  Penny-wise and pound foolish, all tickets were gone by the time a I checked again six weeks before our trip; and I had been kicking myself ever since. 

Miraculously, though, I found at the Visitors Center that an extra tour had been created for Saturday morning, June 8, so I quickly signed us up.  Our plan had been to start driving toward Capitol Reef National Park in Saturday morning, but this opportunity seemed too good to pass up. (More about that in the post about Saturday’s hikes). We learned later that the Fiery Furnace guided ranger hikes were booked up all the way into October – so, a word to the wise, reserve this tour early!

We then headed out for our secondary choice for the day, a hike through the Devils Garden.  After a relatively easy walk –largely flat, although the ample sand made the going a bit rougher –   we arrived at our first destination, Landscape Arch (a second arch that we would see late in the hike, Partition Arch, can be seen on the far right side of the photo)

Landscape Arch

Fin on the Double O Arch Trail
At this point, the hiking got harder.   We were determined to make it up to the Double O Arch, if not further, but we were nervous about hiking over the first fin on our path, so we opted to work our way up the slot on the side – big mistake.  I almost got stuck on the way up and as I tried to turn around to pull Nancy after me (on the way back down, it was apparent that it would have been easier just to haul ourselves up the fin).  The walk to Double O Arch required us to cross more fins, but they were a yard wide and only about 25 to 30 feet above the surrounding areas, so it was not at all intimidating.
And the view afforded from the top of the fins was excellent

At last we arrived at the Double O Arch – two arches on top of each other.
Double O Arch
The author sitting in the bottom "O" of Double O Arch

We headed back down, stopping off to see the Navajo Arch

Navajo Arch

and the Partition Arch, which consisted of two arches side-by-side.

Partition Arch

We passed Landscape Arch on the way back down to the parking lot and stopped off to see Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch.  It was obvious how Pine Tree Arch got its name – there was a small pine right behind it

Pine Tree Arch

But Tunnel Arch seemed to me might better have been called the dental arch, because it resembled a molar more than anything.

The trails were generally marked with cairns, and I enjoyed the sense of humor of one trail-maker who created a cairn in the shape of an arch

With the following morning committed to the Fiery Furnace walk, we junked the original plan to see Canyonlands National Park the following day and, after resting back at the hotel to minimize exposure to the worst of the midday heat, and feasting on leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, we drove up to Canyonlands.  This park is much larger than Arches, and, at least in the Island in the Sky section which we visited, the landscape was dramatically different -- a relatively flat expanse of mesa, with dramatic views off the sides.  We did not have time for any rigorous hikes, even on the unofficial trail to the "false kiva'", a route about which we learned on our flight into Salt Lake City from our seatmate, a scoutmaster in Salt Lake City.  As a result, most of what we did involved driving from one scenic spot to another and looking out.   Here is the view looking east from the edge of the mesa across the road from the visitors’ center

View east from near Canyonlands Visitors Center

I spotted this lizard with an unusually colorful neck (striped black and orange) running across the rock at this location.  The other lizards we saw in the Utah parks had much duller colors, grey, brown or green.

One sight to which we had to walk in Canyonlands was the Mesa Arch, which is perched on the eastern edge of Island in the Sky (the northern part of Canyonlands Park, so named because the Green River is to the west and the Colorado River to the east).  The two rivers meet in a part of the park in the southern “Needles District” of the park, which we did not have the time to visit.

Here is a view of Mesa Arch.

Mesa Arch
Cairn in the shape of an arch, on the walk to Mesa Arch

Here is the view looking south from the Grand View Point at the very southern end of Island in the Sky

And here is a view of the Green River from a western point on the mesa

There was some nice Prince’s Plume at this overlook

On the way back to Moab, we stopped at Dead Horse Point State Park where we looked at the Colorado River

Colorado River seen from Dead Horse Point
 and watched a dramatic sunset

Sunset from Dead Horse Point

We drove back to Moab and had dinner at Pasta Jay’s, one of a small chain of restaurants. Nancy’s baked manicotti and my “baked Lorenzo” – linguine baked in a tomato cream sauce with bits of sausage – were delicious.  It was particularly nice to dine outside because the evening was so balmy.

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