Monday, July 28, 2008

Arches National Park in the Sun

Joe and Ned Standing Beneath Wall Arch

It rained again last night but by morning it was dry. It is the monsoon season. We started off the day hiking the 7.2 mile Devils Garden Trail including the Primitive Loop. There are nine arches to visit including Landscape Arch. We started off a bit late and arrived at the trailhead around 9:30 am.

There are short spurs to Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch almost right away. Then after about three quarters of a mile is Landscape Arch. For most visitors Landscape Arch is the high point of the Devils Garden. It is a slender ribbon of stone 290 feet long and 105 feet above the desert floor. Landscape Arch is probably in the last stages of its existence. In 1991 a 60 foot section dropped from the arch making it thinner. The trail continues northward past Wall Arch a very accessible arch. Then a short spur leads to Navajo and Partition Arches. Partition Arch is two large holes in the rock face. The main trail ends at Double O Arch a little over two miles from the trailhead.

To return to the trailhead you can retrace your steps or you can turn north from Double O Arch, and take the loop trail that goes back through Fin Canyon. This trail is what the Park Service calls a "primitive trail." It is not as well developed as the main Devils Garden Trail, but it is quite easy to follow. The trail wanders through thin stone fins that were formed millions of years ago when the ground rose beneath a solid block of sandstone, causing it to fracture and separate into long, parallel vertical sheets. These fins are the primary reason why so many arches have been formed in Arches National Park. Private Arch is an especially beautiful arch and lives up to its name because you are usually the lone visitor.

After spending about a mile in the fins the trail breaks out on the eastern side of Devils Garden and into a wide wash. At this point I realized I was in trouble. With the lack of shade my body quickly becoming dehydrated. On top of that this is where I ran out of water. As we hiked on I got worse. I had to get to the main trail if I wanted to walk out of the park and not be carried. Once we got there I managed about another half mile until we came to a large hill which I didn't think I could climb. I found a shady spot in the rocks and sent Joe to find a ranger for help.

After about fifteen minutes Joe returned with some water bottles. He had told a group of people that I needed help and they gave him their water and went to find a ranger. The water was just what I needed. After drinking both bottles I decided to try for the parking lot and the water spigot there. As I stepped out on the trail I wondered where the hill was and Ned said that we had already gone over it. I had been really out of it. On the way to the parking lot a park worker gave me more water and walked with me. After sitting and drinking more water at the parking lot I felt much better.

We drove to the visitor center where the boys finished their Junior Ranger booklets and received their badges. We went back to the campground and hung out at the pool for a couple of hours. I drank lots of water. After showering one of my contacts stuck in my eye. I couldn't get it all out. We went to the Moab Diner for dinner and then the coolness of the library for the rest of the evening. By the time we went to bed I felt much better though my shirt will probably never be the same.

It was an experience that I will try to avoid repeating. We should have started a little earlier and taken more water. It was amazing how bad I felt in such a small amount of time. On the way out we passed some hikers going out on the trail and most of them didn't have water. I tried to warn them.

Pine Tree Arch, Ned Standing in the Bottom Middle

Landscape Arch is 290 Feet Long

The Devils Garden Trail Follows the Fins

Ned and Joe Sitting Partition Arch

Joe Checks Out the Neat Rock Formations

Ned Found a Nice Little Hole

Looking Into Fin Canyon

Double O Arch

Joe Trekking Through Private Arch

The Devils Garden Trail

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