Monday, May 9, 2016

Arches: Red Rock Wonderland

From Spanish Trail RV Park, Moab, Utah     Our second day in Moab started with an unwelcome steady rain which threatened to thwart our plan to tour Arches National Park. But by 9 a.m. the rain stopped and sunshine could be seen in the distance. Our group decided to meet in Arches Visitor Center at 9:45.

Another selfie
All eight of us, Pam, Ernie, Penny, Bob, Joyce, Charlie, Wayne and I watched a short movie at the visitors center and were ready to explore Arches by 11 a.m.

Joyce, Charlie, Pam, Wayne, me, Penny and Bob seated for the movie. A kind stranger took the picture. Ernie was MIA. 

A bit "like herding cats," as Bob put it, our group of eight, divided into three vehicles, finally got back to the parking lot, loaded and pulled away from the visitors center. We wound around the first steeply ascending curve and looked back down onto the line of visitors coming through the entrance station.

Looking downhill we see the ever growing line of visitors.
Moab is a short distance down the center highway. 

Arches National Park is beautiful. Both cameras, my point-and-shoot and the cellphone, one in each hand, clicked away as we followed the others up, up and through the majestic red rock.

Bob and Penny lead the way through Courthouse Towers.
Formations called Three Gossips, The Organ and Tower of Babel lie ahead. 

The Organ
Arches was making a good first impression. We "oohed and awwed" as we passed the Petrified Dunes viewpoint and notable formations beyond. Our first official stop, however, was to see Balanced Rock where the eight of us explored the base like a troop of Scouts, pausing for every opportunity to get that "very best" photo.

Up the short walkway to Balanced Rock. The weather was surely cooperating now. Shirt sleeves or light jacket weather.
Joyce, Penny and Pam lead, followed by Ernie and Bob. Charlie and Wayne pull up the rear. 

Pam took this group photo with the giant Balanced Rock in the background. 

My favorite "nature" photo at this stop was not of rocks at all. 

The ride continued and we wound around Panorama Point and then left at the split in the road. We passed Salt Valley Overlook and Firey Furnace on our way to Devils Garden Campground where we stopped at a group picnic area. Like Canyonlands, Arches doesn't have eateries but this time we had lunch enough to feed a small army. The picnic tables were for reserved day use but all were empty so we selected on in a nice sunny location, feasted and reloaded quickly.

Part of our lunch gang... Left to right, Ernie, Penny, Bob, Wayne and Pam. Charlie and Joyce are somewhere....

Landscape Arch in Devils Garden was next. This area is was just around the bend from where we ate lunch. A close up view of Landscape Arch would require a near 3 mile hike -- 1.6 each way. I jumped out of the truck to start the hike with the others while Wayne searched for a parking space.

That's me inside a sandy slot canyon. Joyce was the camerawoman.

Looking down onto the trail with snow capped mountains in the far distance. 

About a half mile into the hike, Wayne caught up with Joyce, Charlie and me as we lagged behind Penny, Bob, Pam and Ernie -- the serious hikers among us.

Wayne dressed today for cooler weather. Here's he's come out of his sweatshirt in just his undershirt. 

Time mixed with weather is the creator of these arches as old ones collapse and news ones are created. The walk was beautiful, despite the crowds. I can't imagine what these National Parks are like during the summer season. The National Park brochure reports more than 2,000 arches are cataloged here -- ranging in size from 3 foot to the longest, Landscape Arch at about 300 feet.

One of many small, unidentified arches. 

Joyce and Charlie went on ahead of Wayne and me. The thought of Lexie and Ozzie in the truck, along with the crowded trail, dust, hills and warm sun took their toll on Wayne and me. We decided against continuing to the destination Landscape Arch and turned back.

Another dead tree photo opportunity. 

The vistas and paths through the beautiful red rocks satisfied Wayne and me.  We saw Tunnel Arch along our abbreviated walk. The others hiked on to Landscape Arch and later Joyce told me we were really close at the point where Wayne and I turned back. She went on to say the she thought the walk itself was just as thrilling as seeing Landscape Arch.

Thank you, Pam, for providing your excellent photo of Landscape Arch. 

The truck was still cool when we got back to it. The outside temperature was in the 60's. Just down the road, another arch caught my eye. Wayne stopped the truck and I scurried over an embankment and up a short trail to snap a closeup of Skyline Arch.

Skyline Arch

By the time we saw the sign for Sand Dune Arch and parked the truck, the six others had finished the hike to Landscape Arch and caught up with us. Our group antics required more pictures.

Seems to me, this should be called "kissing arch" because of the placement of the two overhead rock formations.

The trail to Sand Dune Arch is short, flat and easy. It becomes quite narrow in places but opens wide here. The trail does go on past the arch for a little way before closing almost completely and becoming impassable. The sand is deep here inside the canyon and walking is difficult in some places.

The couple on the left of this photo were trying to get a photograph.
Our group, (L to R), Joyce, Charlie, Pam, Bob, Ernie and Penny, photo bombed the couple's effort, I think. 

Parts of Sand Dune Arch have fallen and more activity is expected. In this warning sign, a break-off just two months ago is shown. Our group lives dangerously, though and all but Wayne and I insisted on standing under the arch. 

A bit more Tom-foolery in the Sand Dune Arch slot. That's Penny, Pam and me.
Joyce, Ever Ready as we call her, the usual explorer, opted out of this bit of rock climbing. 

Rock climbing
Finally we left Sand Dune Arch. With so many intriguing names for the rock formations, I couldn't resist naming the next one myself. We caught a glimpse of it on our way to Landscape Rock.  I remembered to snap a picture as we headed back.

The final stop in Arches would be to get a distant view of Delicate Arch. I had hoped to see it from a closer vantage point, but this will do for this trip. It might be too warm to leave the pups in the truck and the strenuous hike to reach the arch wasn't appealing to any of us at this time of afternoon anyway.

Delicate Arch 
It's quite possible that Wayne and I will return to Arches (like Canyonlands) and the town of Moab. There are several points of interest in the area that we haven't seen or explored. As I mentioned in the previous post, a large rally forced our visit to be shorter than we had hoped. Meanwhile, I'm thankful we had this time together here.

Around 5 o'clock, our group gathered for happy hour at Bob and Penny's campsite before breaking up for the evening. That's their beautiful Entegra Anthem coach in the background.

Bob, Joyce, Charlie and Mike, another campground neighbor. 

Mike, his wife (whose name I don't remember) and Penny, holding her dogs

Penny, her dogs and Wayne 

Pam and Ernie 
With dinnertime drawing near, Joyce, Charlie, Wayne and I were in the mood for Thai food so we were first to break up tonight's happy hour. We found a really good place in downtown Moab called Sing Ha Thai Cuisine. The entry was a bit unusual, a shared foyer with a barbershop and then through the door, the place looked more like a storefront than a restaurant. 

Restaurant counter

But inside, the tables were nicely arranged, the mood was authentic and the food was wonderful.


My dinner 

Wayne's dinner
We will leave Moab after just three nights. Pam and Ernie will go to Park City, Utah, while Joyce and Charlie visit Capitol Reef. Wayne and I will travel a short distance east into Grand Junction, Colorado. We are looking forward to a long awaited visit with Ozzie's foster mom, who we haven't seen since his adoption in September 2011. We will catch up with the others in a few days at Park City.

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