Tag Archive | arches

Moab 2015: We Made It!

It was time!  To make our way to Moab that is!  We couldn’t wait to get back there after so thoroughly enjoying our time there last year.

We stopped south of Salt Lake City for a quick lunch and some snacks, and then got on the road for the trip down US Highway 6. Highway 6 is the main highway between Salt Lake City and Moab, and used to be a main thoroughfare between the Midwest and California, until it was bypassed by I-70. It is a very winding highway that is often only one lane in each direction, with passing lanes at regular intervals.

It winds through the city of Price, Utah, a mining town that might be fun to pass a day in. Price has a mining museum and some dinosaur attractions, commemorating the fact that many dinosaur fossils have been found throughout the area. That said, Price seems like a town that time forgot, at least the sections visible from the highway. Lots of run down homes and empty buildings.

Further south from Price, Highway 6 also passes by the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, which is still being quarried for fossils today (that would be cool to visit). I hadn’t heard of it before, so did a little research on it later.

It was an uneventful drive – we did end up seeing 3 pronghorn and 3 prairie dogs (no photos as we blazed by at 65 mph)… one day I will get a good photo of pronghorn in the wild.

We ended up in Moab right about 4 pm, got checked into our hotel room and immediately changed into hiking clothes. We were at Arches National Park at 4:20! We stopped at the first trail head in the park, the Park Avenue hike – an easy 2 mile out and back through a wash beneath gorgeous sandstone formations.

Jon taking in Park Avenue.

Jon taking in Park Avenue.

The Park Service has Park Avenue listed as a moderate hike, but that is really only because it has a set of stone stairs at the beginning of the hike. If you started the hike from the second trail head, you could do almost the whole hike without the stairs. Much of the hike is in shade, which made it relatively cool (I was wearing shorts and had to put on a fleece).

Sheep Rock, from our Park Avenue hike.

Sheep Rock, from our Park Avenue hike.

After our Park Avenue hike, we drove down to the Balanced Rock viewpoint. Balanced Rock is one of the most recognized features in the park, and it is an easy walk on a paved sidewalk (total round-trip distance 0.3 miles).

I can't get enough of this view!

I can’t get enough of this view!

I asked Jon to try to take a picture of me “holding up” Balanced Rock, like they do with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but he was not up to the challenge. He took the camera, looked at the viewfinder for a second, snapped a pic, and said “here, that’s as good as it’s going to get.” This was the result…

Me

Me “holding up” Balanced Rock. Ignore my totally pasty, white legs – I’m from the Northwest…

This is what I need girlfriends for – they are way more accommodating to my foolishness…

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park

Balanced Rock was great, but it was dinnertime, and we wanted to make sure to get a place at the Moab Brewery, so we headed back into town. The brewery wasn’t nearly as packed as it was last time for some reason, so we were able to snag a table right away in the bar.

Jon ordered the Black Imperial IPA that he had last time we were there, and our server told him that the latest batch was hit or miss, due to some weird, unknown problem during bottling. He said that Jon was welcome to try one and give it back if it wasn’t good.

We appreciated his honesty and the commitment to a quality product, so Jon ordered a Hopped Rye beer instead and a veggie burrito. He loved both. I had the Dead Horse Amber, which was sold out last time we were there, with a Reuben sandwich, both delicious. We enjoyed our beers, and both had seconds, with Jon ordering another Hopped Rye and me getting a Hefeweizen.

Jon's Veggie Burrito

Jon’s Veggie Burrito

After the brewery, we headed back to the hotel for a relaxing evening.  We had a full day of adventuring coming up, including zip lining!

SW National Parks Trip: A Last Bit of Arches

When we got back to the car after hiking to Landscape Arch, we began making our way back to the park’s entrance so we could get on the road.  Arches does not have a through road, so you drive several miles out to see what you want to see, and then turn around and drive back the way you came.  This gave us an opportunity to stop at some of the viewpoints and see a bit more of Arches from the road, before we headed on our way.

Arches National Park in Bloom – the red blooms are Indian Paintbrush

Arches National Park in Bloom – the red blooms are Indian Paintbrush

We stopped at the Salt Valley Overlook, a viewpoint that lets you see the diversity in the geology of the park and the beautiful La Sal Mountains in the distance.  This land used to be an enormous sea, so below all the sandstone is a layer of salt, hundreds of feet thick in places.

The view from the Salt Valley Overlook – Arches National Park

The view from the Salt Valley Overlook – Arches National Park

We saw Balanced Rock, which is a column of Navajo Sandstone with a 55 foot tall rock precariously perched on top.  It used to have a companion, aptly named Chip Off the Old Block, but Chip fell during the winter of 1975/1976.  Another reminder that the landscape is constantly changing, even if it seems to do it very slowly.

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park

Our last stop was at the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, close to the Visitor’s Center.  We saw Sheep Rock (it really does look like a sheep) and the Three Gossips.  I think Eagle Rock is a more fitting name for this one – because I thought the rock on the right looked like an eagle.  Do you agree?  We also spied Baby Arch, one of the smallest arches in the park.  Maybe one day, thousands of years from now, it will be much larger.  An arch has to be at least three feet to be considered an arch, but I’m sure Baby Arch is actually much larger than that.

Sheep Rock at Arches National Park

Sheep Rock at Arches National Park

The Three Gossips at Arches NP – I think it should be called Eagle Rock

The Three Gossips at Arches NP – I think it should be called Eagle Rock

After we left Arches, we headed down the road to our next destination – Cortez, Colorado. We made the two hour drive in good time, moving from the mesa and rock formations to a mountain forest pass, and then eventually farmland. Cortez is a small town of about 8,400 people at an elevation of 7,000 feet. We checked into our hotel (can you believe it was a Super 8?) and changed our clothes, and tried to wash a bit of the grit off our faces from our earlier sand facewashes.  Then we headed for a walk down Main Street to find some food.  Just an aside: after growing up in a town with no Main Street, I love it when small towns have one!  Jon was in a beer mood again, so we went to the Main Street Brewery (fitting name right?).

It wasn’t very busy the evening that we were there, and the service was fast and friendly.  They brought us samples of a few of the beers to help us make a decision, and Jon selected their IPA.  I went with the Honey Raspberry Wheat beer, which has local honey added during the brewing process and raspberries added during the finishing.  It is a light beer that wasn’t too sweet.  Perfect!

Beer Samples come in a fancy glass here

Beer Samples come in a fancy glass here

For food I ordered the Nutty Blue Salad, which had dried cranberries, candied walnuts and blue cheese crumbles on a bed of romaine lettuce.  And it was topped with medium rare Angus steak strips.  Delicious!  Jon had the Rocky Mountain Trout, with rice pilaf and seasonal vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms and onions).  He also enjoyed a second beer – their Schnorzenboomer Amber Dopplebock – say that 3 times fast!  It was a deep amber beer with lots of malty flavors.

My Nutty Blue Salad – dried cranberries, candied walnuts, blue cheese crumbles and Angus steak strips

My Nutty Blue Salad – dried cranberries, candied walnuts, blue cheese crumbles and Angus steak strips

After a very enjoyable meal, we strolled back to the hotel to call it a night – we had Mesa Verde National Park to look forward to in the morning!

 

SW National Parks Trip: Landscape Arch at Arches NP

After Delicate Arch, we went up to another trail head to take a short hike – 1.6 miles round trip – to Landscape Arch. The hike takes you past several fins, which are the intermediate rock formations between a slab of rock and an arch. The stone begins as a solid slab of sandstone, and then over time cracks form in the block of stone. Water erodes the rocks, eventually forming fins and arches. The last stage in the process is when the arch collapses. Of course, this process takes millions of years, but since 1970, 43 arches in Arches National Park have collapsed.

Fins of Sandstone - Which one do you think will become an Arch?

Fins of Sandstone – Which one do you think will become an Arch?

Landscape Arch is the longest arch in the park – but very fragile.  In fact, it is thought to be the longest arch in the world; measuring 290.1 feet in 2004.  In 1991, after several days of unseasonably heavy rains, a large piece of rock, approximately 60 feet long, fell from Landscape Arch and landed below. No one was injured or killed, but the Park Service closed the trail below to prevent the potential for future incidents.  Landscape Arch could last another million years, but it could come crashing down at any time.

Landscape Arch is on the Devil’s Garden Trail, which is the longest maintained trail in the park.  It is 7.2 miles round trip, and it passes by eight named arches, with many more visible in the distance.  If you want, you can hike past Landscape Arch and do a loop on a primitive trail past several more arches.

We set out on a paved path that goes up and down some hills along the way.  At the very beginning, you are sheltered from the wind, but early in the hike you step into an area that acts as a wind tunnel if there is any sort of breeze.  Unfortunately for us, this area also has quite a bit of loose sand.  The wind was really blowing the day we were there, so we both got sandblasting face washes at a couple of points.  To add further insult to injury, we both had our hats blown off a couple of times. I guess this is why hikers wear those hats with the chinstrap strings.

Jon hits the Devil’s Garden Trail – always walking ahead…

Jon hits the Devil’s Garden Trail – always walking ahead…

A little further up the trail, you reach a fork in the trail that will take you to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch.  I would have liked to have taken the detour, but we weren’t sure how far away they were and we were already going to be hiking almost five miles for the day as it was.  Next time, I will definitely go see them though!

The view from the Devil’s Garden Trail

The view from the Devil’s Garden Trail

As you get closer to Landscape Arch, the trail turns to soft sand; it made for more difficult hiking for the last little bit.  And the loose sand kicked up quite a bit in the wind too.  But when we got to the viewpoint, I was impressed with the Arch.

Landscape Arch – The World’s Longest Natural Arch

Landscape Arch – The World’s Longest Natural Arch

We also saw Partition Arch which is right next to Landscape Arch, and spent a little while just taking in the view.  Even though you can no longer hike up underneath Landscape Arch, it is still really impressive.  And knowing that in my lifetime, I will never see an arch that is longer than this one… well, that’s pretty neat too.

Partition Arch – the one next door to Landscape Arch

Partition Arch – the one next door to Landscape Arch

Have you ever hiked to Landscape Arch?  Did you see the other arches on the trail?

SW National Parks Trip: Arches History

In a story that is probably familiar if you have read my histories of Zion and Canyonlands National Parks, the first inhabitants at Arches arrived about 10,000 years ago.  They were nomadic, but they found deposits of quartz stone that are perfect for making stone tools; their piles of discarded quartz are still visible to the trained eye.

Next, the Puebloan and Fremont peoples moved in around 2,000 years ago to farm maize, beans and squash.  They left few dwellings though, so researches suspect they may have only used the park as a seasonal residence.  And like other dwelling sites in the Four Corners area, they seem to have left by about 700 years ago.  Both cultures left rock art and pottery to tell the story of their existence here.

Near the beginning of our hike out to Delicate Arch, with the La Sal Mountains in the background

Near the beginning of our hike out to Delicate Arch, with the La Sal Mountains in the background

Like at Canyonlands, the Ute and Pauite peoples used the area after the Puebloan and Fremont cultures left; they were here when the first Europeans arrived in 1776.  They left pictographs of men on horses, which are easy to date to after the 1500s when the Spanish first brought horses to the area from Mexico.  The Utes and Pauites are thought to have only lived here seasonally as well.

As you learned in my Canyonlands history post, trappers were the next to arrive, followed by Mormon missionaries in 1855, and then finally by settlers and ranchers in the 1880s.  Interest in the park grew, and the push began for federal protection in the 1920s.  4,520 acres were set aside as a National Monument by President Herbert Hoover on April 12, 1929.  The area was expanded several times over the years, and in 1971, President Nixon substantially reduced the overall acreage of the park, but re-designated it as a National Park.  Arches today consists of over 76,000 acres.

To be honest, I was surprised to learn that Arches became a National Park 7 years after Canyonlands, as Arches is certainly the more famous park.  Over a million visitors come to Arches each year, compared to slightly fewer than a half million per year for Canyonlands.  It must be the arches that are the draw.

A good view of the fins that form at Arches National Park

A good view of the fins that form at Arches National Park

The arches are created when a solid slab of sandstone begins to crack over time.  Water get into the cracks and erodes the rocks, and sometimes freezes and expands the cracks, eventually forming fins.  These fins sometimes erode in a way that leaves an arch above after the center below has eroded away.  Then you have an arch.  The last stage in the process is when the arch collapses.  Of course, the arches aren’t the only feature of the park; Arches has sandstone towers, hoodoos and sand dunes too.  They all have their own unique beauty.

To give you an idea of how remote some areas of the park still are, in 1970 the Arches official brochure indicated that Arches National Monument had “nearly 90” arches.  In 1973, a geological survey team established a method for documenting the locations of all the arches in the park, and went out exploring the park to see how many they could find – there are now over 2,000 arches recorded.  Since 1970 however, 43 arches have collapsed due to the ever present forces of erosion – which one will be next?

In my next post I’ll tell you about our hike out to Delicate Arch!  Have you ever been to Arches National Park?

SW National Parks Trip: Mesa Arch Hike

In my last post, we hiked the Murphy Point Overlook Trail to one of the most scenic views I have ever experienced.  After that hike, we started back the way we came and parked at the trail head for Mesa Arch.  Mesa Arch is one of the most visited places in the park, for a couple of reasons – it is only a 0.6 mile round trip hike from the trail head, and it is beautiful.

Mesa Arch with the La Sal Mountains in the Background

Mesa Arch with the La Sal Mountains in the Background

Mesa Arch is one of the arches in this area that faces the sunrise, allowing photographers to get some beautiful sunrises coming up through the arch. And it is perched right on the edge of the canyon, so you can get some amazing views of the canyon through the arch.  And if that weren’t enough, the picturesque La Sal Mountains can be seen in the distance through the arch.  Even though we weren’t there at sunrise, the views of the canyon and the snow capped mountains in the background are  stunning.

Mesa Arch with the La Sal Mountains in the Background

Mesa Arch with the La Sal Mountains in the Background

Mesa Arch, and other arches in the area form when a solid block of sandstone gets cracks in it from pressure from the Earth’s forces.  The cracks get water in them when it rains or snows, and the water makes the cracks expand.  Over millions of years the water erodes the sandstone, causing fins to form, and then chunks of sandstone eventually fall away.  If the sandstone beneath falls away and leaves the stone above, you have an arch!

There were a lot more people at Mesa Arch than Murphy Point, but it wasn’t crowded, and everybody was really polite about taking turns so you could get a photo of the arch without anyone standing in it, or you standing next to the arch. I posed with the arch for a few photos, but of course Jon wouldn’t.  All in all, it was a worthwhile short hike – I love the photos I took there.

Mesa Arch with the Canyon Formations in the Background

Mesa Arch with the Canyon Formations in the Background

Once we finished our Mesa Arch hike it was a little after 5. We talked about whether we wanted to do more, and decided that 4.2 miles of hiking was enough for the day. We headed back towards the park exit, and Jon was nice enough to let me stop back at the Visitor’s Center on the way out and watch the movie that we skipped earlier. It is approximately 15 minutes about the history of settlement and the geology of the park and was pretty informative. That’s when Jon and I learned that most of the roads in Canyonlands had been built to accommodate uranium mining in the 1950s! It was an interesting example of how industry can give a boost to recreation.

Canyonlands National Park – Looking into the Canyon – The La Sal Mountains are in the Background

Canyonlands National Park – Looking into the Canyon – The La Sal Mountains are in the Background

After leaving Canyonlands, we drove back into Moab and checked into our home for the night – another Super 8 – and discovered it is the ritziest Super 8 I have ever seen! It had granite counter tops, a built in drawer system along one wall, and laminate “wood” floors. Of course, it was also the most expensive Super 8 I have ever seen – but it was still less expensive than the other hotels we had looked at.  We did a quick change of clothes so we would be prepared for the temperature drop after sundown, and made our way to the Moab Brewery for a quick dinner before our astronomy tour!

 

Super 8 with “wood” floors!

Super 8 with “wood” floors!

There was a 10 minute wait at the Moab Brewery, but the wait went quickly and we were able to order quickly because we had looked at the menu while we waited. Jon got the fresh salmon filet – with a dinner salad, bread, vegetables and rice pilaf. He paired his with a Black Imperial Ale; he had been craving a high octane beer for the last few days, and this one delivered at 8.59% alcohol by volume. I can only guess that the Moab Brewery is able to brew extra strong beer either because it has a hard liquor license, or because this beer is not available on tap – it is served in the bottle.

I had the Greek Pasta – sautéed sundried and fresh tomatoes, Kalamata olives & spinach in garlic, basil & olive oil, tossed with penne pasta, topped with feta cheese & parsley. It was served with garlic bread. I enjoyed it with a Dead Horse Amber Ale. The brewery was packed – the service was fast and friendly, and the décor was fun. The food wasn’t outstanding, but it was good. It was the kind of place we would love to come back to.  But unfortunately we couldn’t linger long, because we had to meet our Astronomy tour guide!

Have you ever hiked to Mesa Arch or visited the Moab Brewery?  I’ll post about our Astronomy tour next!