Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Wednesday - Windows and Delicate Arch

The evening before, while we drove through the park, John and I strategized over the order of what we were going to do and when in the morning. We decided to hike the smaller Windows and the Double Arch tail before doing the strenuous hike up to Delicate Arch, and it worked out quite nicely. So Wednesday morning we hit the coffee shop from the night before for breakfast, and then I got stamps from the post office for all the postcards. We filled up on water at the Visitor's Center right when we got into the park and we were set.

Moab in the Valley
Wednesday dawned clear and bright, with that impossibly blue high desert sky, and the clear light that pervades the warmth of the stone like nothing else can do. I had also discovered the portable tripod and the high contrast setting on my camera. It actually takes three pictures on an array of settings and then puts all of them together so that you get the most dynamic range across the whole of the scene. Since it takes three pictures in a row, you can't move between them. So this one was capture on the gravel by the side of the road just inside the park, looking back at Moab in the valley.

It was exactly the right time, too, to see the Double Arches section of the park. There's a little loop, and on one side was a single path out to the Double Arch, and on the other was a bigger loop trail, part of it a primitive trail in dirt marked by cairns, around the two Windows arches and by the Turret Arch. Given that the Double Arch was further along the driven loop, there were far fewer people parked there, so we started there.

The light was exactly right, too, shining right into the whole structure. Of course, being so close to the road, the place was just swarming with people, and the trail went right into the arch, so that people could climb up the base and onto the various arms of it all.

Double Arches
I managed to find one moment to capture this. Then the three of us went up and climbed the thing ourselves, sitting up on the shelves, along the arms, and out into the arches themselves. The sheer mass of the whole thing was astonishing in contrast to how delicate it looked. We had the most fun taking pictures of this one thing. The contrast of the blue sky against the red stone, airplane trails between arms, and the play of shadow and light.

The steep climbs were fairly easy. It just took a little bit of nerve to get up to the highest spots. Of course, John had to get here in order to take pictures out of the arch.

I had Jet run between us with the camera so that I could get this picture of John. That was pretty cool. At one point, I just lay down on the stone, staring straight up at the sky between stone, and resting for a bit. We were all pretty sore from the long hike on Tuesday, so it was nice to just rest for a while.

We walked across the center island to get over to the Windows trail, and got to see Turret Arch, the two Windows arches. It was a very well paved trail, and people were wandering off it in all directions. Some of them climbing up into the arches when the trail end was clearly marked before the stone of the arches. Jet asked us, "Why do they do that?" And neither of us had a particularly good answer. The sandstone is so soft, that all these people were going to wear it away, doing damage not only to the stones themselves, but to the soil and biosphere around them. There were signs at all the sites explaining that the crust on the soil was actually a colony of living things that supported the trees and plants so that they could survive this kind of desert.

The dying trees on the places where people had gone off the trail was mute testament to what kind of damage people were doing without really even thinking anything other than, "I want to climb that!"

Backside of Windows
One good thing, though, was finding the primitive trail out the backside of the Windows arches. We followed it off the paved area, and onto cairn-marked dirt. There were some beautiful trees back there, along with this view of the arches, which fewer people got to see. I'll admit that I do like the path less traveled, to see the things that not so many people see.

The Way Up
Sometimes that isn't strictly possible, though. *laughs* The trail to Delicate Arch was supposed to be three miles back and forth, with a 480 foot rise in elevation. I'm guessing that not a lot of people really understood that, or why, on the park map, it said in bold letters: This trail is on open ground without any cover or shade. We recommend that you bring a gallon of water for each person in the summer.

Luckily it wasn't summer. It was spring, and cool enough that it was actually a pleasant hike nearly straight up slick rock and stone. Most of it was solid footing, compared to the Devil's Garden, but it was nearly straight up. What amazed me was seeing men in business suits and dress shoes without a bottle of water in sight, or dozens and dozens of families with kids and maybe one water bottle between them. Admittedly, the further up we went the fewer people there were. I saw people stopping all along this particular slope up, hiding in any bit of shade they could find, and one dad giving his kid the last of his water just on the way up.

At the Top
Right near the very end, the path went around a cliff on a ledge, with a huge drop below. The funny thing was that everyone coming down would say, "It's just around the corner! It's so worth it!"

So we edged by on the inside of that crazy path. There were no rails or guards, just open air drop to the one side and stone wall on the other, but when we got around that corner, and up over a rock edging, there it was... the Delicate Arch, sitting on the rim of a steep cup of stone. And right beside us was a Ranger, moving quickly, with a full pack and harness and belaying gear.

The steep slope of that basin was, on one side, a very steep drop and a wall of stone down to the bottom of that cup. And some woman had stupidly gone down that wall and was stuck right in the middle of it. Had been stuck for the last half hour, and was a spectacular warning for all the kids with their parents. There was a man above her and a man below her, and the ranger had to secure a line and belay down to her in order to get her out of there. The good thing was that there was a bottom to the basin.

Delicate Arch
The arch itself stood on the edge of a precipice, and there was a ledge off to the left that could be used to capture a picture, but it was also at the top of a very steep slope. That slope, however, dropped off into nothing.

Jet and I stood next to the Arch, looked over that slope and Jet said, "That's the Slide of Doom." I agreed.

The arch itself was amazing. It's the only one we saw that was free-standing. It wasn't part of a wall, or, as Jet put it, "It isn't a hole in a wall, it's a hole in a rock." The off-kilter aspect of it was especially evident from the far side. Yes, both John and I went out on to that sloped ledge to get a shot, and John got the better shot because he put away the camera to concentrate on just getting out on it as far as he could.

From the Far Side
The funny thing was that as we were sitting there, we heard one family saying, "Oh, we're from Niwot, it's spring break." And another family saying, "Oh! We're from Longmont!" and John chimed in with a, "Yeah, we're from Longmont, too..." It was funny having us all say, "Saint Vrain School system." Yeah, all on spring break and all out for some adventure.

The walk back was good. The ledge was more nervewracking on the outside edge, and the downhills were a little harder on my knees, but it just took a lot less energy to go down than to go up. There were still hordes of people coming up the slick rock, but we took our time, and got a good look at the valley and the meandering arm of the Colorado at the very bottom. The earth was copper oxide green, and the water murky and green as well. There were petroglyphs off on a rock on the hillside, and we took a look there as well.

Gnarly Juniper
One tree really caught my eye on the way down. It had fallen, the back half of it was nearly hollow, but it was still green and growing, even with footsteps everywhere around its roots. It was beautiful to me. *grins* One little girl hid under it for shade, and I really want to paint this particular one, especially since it seems to be coming up right out of the worn rock.

We were pretty tired by this point, so decided to just do the few things near the entrance of the park and head out to other places tomorrow. We had to get out of our Moab hotel because they didn't have any room beyond the two nights we'd stayed there, so we had to find new accommodations further into Utah.

Balancing Rock
Balancing Rock had a little path around it, so we got out and did that. It was fun to just do the small circle and the rock itself is pretty amazing. It used to have a smaller version of itself next to it, but that one fell off its pedestal.

It was later in the day by then, and the sunlight was starting to slant toward the West. It's amazing to me how the changes in light really affect how things look in these canyons and valleys. And what a difference a few minutes can make. The photographers of the area really seem to know that as well, as the last place we stopped was the place most people hit first: Park Avenue.

Park Avenue
It's actually a very small valley between two large fins of rock, and at the top we got to see that the way most of the park was formed was with rougher, softer dark rock under the harder, smoother sandstone. The stuff underneath weathers much faster than the stuff on top, and when it's exposed, it goes away faster, which is why and how many of the arches were formed.

When we got to Park Avenue, Jet was done for the day, so we left him with a book in the car, and John and I went down the staircase into the valley. There were half a dozen photographers, with full tripods, huge lenses, and lots of equipment all up and down the staircase, all pointed at this particular view at exactly this time. I wish I had a better eye for why they'd chosen that particular instant, but I really like what we got! I even set up the tripod and used the high contrast multi-shot spread function.

When I got back to the car, I had 22,000 steps and another hundred flights of stairs. That was pretty cool. I really am enjoying having the fitbit to see how well I'm actually doing.

Since the hotel we'd been staying at didn't have any room after the two nights we were there, we moved on to Monticello, Utah after we were done at Arches. It's a very tiny town that had police cars on both ends of the highway that went through it as speed traps, and when we checked in the hotel clerk said that if we wanted to eat at the hotel it would be best to just order delivery pizza. *laughs*

The best thing about the hotel, though, was an indoor pool. As a family, we hadn't been swimming for a very long time, so we all dove in and enjoyed the waters. We all showered and were starving after.

John's brother, Walt, had been to Monticello before, and one of the unique features was a Taco Time! It's actually a Mexican restaurant that started in the Northwest! So it's not particularly authentic, but it was very familiar to us after a decade in Seattle. There are items on its menu that aren't anything like real Mexican food, but they're good American-Mexican food, and have always had a standard for using fresh ingredients when possible and making a good deal of the items in-house. They make their own shells, salsas, and other things every morning at the restaurant.

It has been years and years since I'd been able to eat at a Taco Time, and given the other range of restaurants in town, we decided to just chance it eventhough it was actually a part of a Shell gas station! *laughs* We went and weren't disappointed. Jet and I had the Crispy Beef burrito, and I had a Supreme Soft Taco. Jet added a crisp beef taco to his menu and John had the crisp bean burrito along with a new menu item, the carnitas enchiladas, and they were amazingly good. The crisp burritos are kind of like a flour tortilla taquito, crunchy on the outside and tasty on the inside. The carnitas enchiladas were lovely, rich with pork flavor, spicy with green chili, and the fresh veggies were really good. We were all very happy with our dinners.

The beds were great, too, hard enough to support the back, but soft enough my hips weren't complaining, and we were so tired after the last two days, we slept well. I ached pretty badly, but we had a plan for Thursday on how to ease the aches.
Tags: adventure, travel

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