I finally have some time to post about the rest of my trip down in Utah!
After leaving the Dinosaur quarry, I headed down south to Moab! As far as first impressions go, it looks like I got to Moab about 20 years too late: billboards plastered with “adventure” for sale were everywhere and the annual Easter Jeep Fest meant many of the BLM trails were covered with off-road machines and engine noise. For our first half-day, we drove down the Colorado from town and back up into incredible canyons. We hiked about 2 miles up into Hunter’s Canyon. It was great to be in a new ecosystem with sights and sounds way different from the Tetons. Tagg and I listened to foreign bird calls echo through new canyons.
The next morning I decided to get an early jump on Arches National Park. I started the car at 5am and headed northwest from town, through the empty gates, and ascended into the park. A full moon cut through low hanging clouds and I slowly became aware that I was surrounded by sandstone monoliths – deep deep black against the slowly lightening sky. I took out my travel tripod and got a couple dark sky shots.
First on my checklist of things to see in Arches was, of course, the famous Delicate Arch. I got to the parking lot just before sunrise and started off on the trail alone. After a section of wide, well maintained trail the path took off across white rock. I quickly developed a newfound fondness for cairns – little rock towers that marked the way. After a couple miles of hiking I finally wound around the last escarpment and got to experience the most iconic view associated with Arches. Heading down the trail I passed at least two dozen people hiking up, so I was happy to have gotten their early. Other notable sights on the trip included my first Indian Paintbrush of the year and some awesome petroglyphs depicting a bighorn sheep hunt with horses and dogs!
The next morning I tried to get a pass to go into the Fiery Furnace – a series of tight canyons with no trails – but they were out for the day. And so I spent Easter morning in the Devil’s Garden. At the north end of the park, the Devil’s Garden trail is the longest in the park, measuring in at about 7.2 miles. This is pretty short compared to trails in the Tetons, but the desert landscape presents many more challenges than our forested wilderness up north.
The Devil’s Garden trail wound around to at least 9 arches – including the Landscape Arch, the longest arch in the world! Relying on cairns once again, I worked my way across sandstone fins, even getting to hike along the tops of a few. Completing the loop on what’s called the “Primitive Trail” I hiked out feeling accomplished and replenished by some quiet time in the brush.
That afternoon Tagg and I escaped the crowds by driving out along an old dirt road, finding a place under a tree, and taking a nap in the desert breeze. Coming back down the road I got a good view of the Balanced Rock with snowcapped La Sal mountains in the background.
The Moab trip was a great warm-up for summer. It was great getting to hike on dry ground and enjoy sunshine. Then again the day I got back to Victor it had snowed another 5 inches, and I remembered there was still good skiing to be had!