My 30th birthday was on a Friday which means the celebration had to extend into the weekend. I wanted to do something to mark my 30th even though we couldn’t take a big trip, so we took off to Moab for the weekend with Truman in tow.
We arrived outside of Moab around 2pm but couldn’t check in to our room until 4pm so we took a detour into Arches National Park to buy a new National Parks Pass and drive around. On our previous visit to the park we were pressed for time and didn’t drive the full length of the park but now we had a couple hours to kill so we decided to go for it. In the section of the park we hadn’t visited, past Delicate Arch, there are several arches within easy reach of the road (less than 0.5 miles round-trip) but we chose to do a longer hike to Landscape Arch instead.
Part of Devil’s Garden, Landscape Arch is one of eight arches on a 7 mile round-trip hike. Landscape was only 1.6 miles out and back but I’d definitely like to do the full hike some time. The journey to Landscape Arch was fairly easy – a wide dirt path with some elevation change – but the views were spectacular.
Landscape Arch is remarkable. It’s one of the longest stretches of stone in the world reaching across a void of 306 feet, yet it’s thin and vulnerable. In 1991, a 60 foot slab dropped from the underside of the arch, sending 180 tons of rock crashing to the ground. It’s a reminder that all of the park’s arches are in the process of slowly eroding, withstanding the pressure of gravity for only so long.
We turned back toward the car with our spirits raised, drinking in the afternoon sun’s gaze as it illuminated the sandstone around us. Truman only had to endure a 45 minute wait in the car – where he remained pleasantly cool – before we were ready to head into town for a quesadilla dinner at Zach’s favorite Moab eatery, Quesadilla Mobilla, an evening stroll around town for Moab’s art walk, and beers at Moab Brewery.
Our main plan for this trip, the star of the show, was to hike to Delicate Arch. I’ve wanted to do it since we first visited a year(ish) ago and did that stupid viewpoint hike instead. (Again, if you can’t hike to the arch, the viewpoint is worth it. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.) So we got up early on Sunday morning to get a jump on the day and possibly the crowds. We drove into the park around 7:30am, and though it wasn’t crowded, there was a fairly steady stream of cars along the main road. The early morning sun beamed across the park bathing everything in its warm glow.
The hike to Delicate Arch is considered ‘difficult’ by the National Park Service, but this designation is only correct when compared to extremely easy access to some of the park’s arches. It’s a 3 mile round trip hike with 480 feet in elevation gain – Zach and I have certainly done much more difficult treks. However, the trail is completely open, and in the middle of a hot day, it would be absolutely brutal. Warnings about the heat and dehydration in multiple languages smack you in the face at the trail’s onset. The beginning of the trail is easy enough; you follow a wide path up to a rock face, from which you can see miles and miles. Then you must follow rock cairns along with metal signs as the path disappears entirely.
At the top of the rock face we got off the trail by accident and ended up on a cliff edge across from the arch – whoops. We hiked down and around, eventually making our way back to the trail. (Anxiety attack averted.) As you approach the arch, the rock path narrows to a shelf and you are completely cut-off from a view of the arch. You wouldn’t even know it’s just on the other side. Then as you round the corner, it appears in all its glory.
Because we were there earlier in the morning, there wasn’t much of a crowd, more of a smattering I’d say. We were able to rest, gaze at the arch unobstructed by throngs of people, and even stand next to it. The swooping bowl-like rock made me slightly uneasy – those with vertigo might have a tough go of it – but eventually I gained some confidence and stood next to the arch. Zach stood underneath it, which from a distance, quite frankly, unnerved me. Something about the illusion of a sheer drop off behind the arch – though in truth it’s more of a gradual drop-off. Being in the arch’s presence was magical and exhilarating. So much better than the viewpoint hike.
At the arch we asked a fellow hiker to take our photo. Andy Kakeli, an engineer-by-day, photographer-by-choice, offered to take our photo with his own camera equipment. How could we say no? We ended up with a mini photography session! Zach and Andy exchanged information and a few days later we had some great photos in our inbox. We look forward to meeting up with Andy the next time we are in the Denver area. You can also check out his photography on his Flickr page.
We hiked back down the path with relative ease, staying on course this time. We took a short loop detour near the end to see a Ute petroglyph of horses with riders and bighorn sheep – a foreshadowing of our adventure later in the afternoon. We were both hungry and ready for caffeine, but wanted to admire a bit more of the park before going back into town. We drove toward Fiery Furnace – aptly named – and pulled off for a bit so Zach could play his horn. Truman and I enjoyed watching passersby bewildered by him. Then we drove up to the Fiery Furnace trailhead to get a closer look, before bidding farewell – for now – to the park.