Thursday, March 5, 2015

Arches and Canyonlands: Hiking through Utah

For the second stop on our Utah road trip, we chose Moab, home to two national parks: Arches and Canyonlands.  

Not surprisingly, Arches is absolutely full of beautiful rock arches.  We stumbled upon them everywhere.  Hiking along the Devil’s Garden Trail, we stopped to admire the famous landscape arch, as well as several other unique formations.

Although we were slightly less impressed with the black angel outcrop marking the trail’s halfway point, the hike itself boasted one spectacular vista after another, the snow-capped mountains in the distance providing the perfect contrast for the blazing red rocks along the trail.

After passing a few of the most famous arches, the well-marked trail transformed into a so-called “primitive trail” for the rest of the lengthy loop.  We followed a series of small rock cairns through the sand, around ponds, and along the rocks.  On our way, we discovered even more arches hidden in the park’s fin canyons.

Of course, a visit to Arches wouldn’t be complete without seeing the precarious “delicate arch.”  Sure enough, it was perched on the hillside – along with the nearby north and south “windows,” the perfect setting for a photo or two.

Before we visited Canyonlands on the second day of our explorations, we stopped at Dead Horse Point State Park.  Susan had promised that the views would rival the photos of the Fish River Canyon we had posted back in September.  As we hiked to the point (actually the site of the demise of numerous horses as the name indicates), the views from the rim were certainly incredible and the canyon itself somewhat resembled its African counterpart.  However, it didn’t quite capture the desolate beauty we had found in Namibia, particularly since we could see the potash production in the distance. 

However, we soon arrived at the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands, where we marveled at the spectacular vistas laid out before us.  Our vantage point on the rim of the 6,000 foot mesa provided the perfect spot for a picnic and a scenic hike, despite the vertigo.  This mesa-top view certainly rivaled the scene we had encountered at the Fish River Canyon.

At Canyonlands, we sadly missed the Needles section of the park, made famous in the film 127 Hours.  Instead of a day scrambling through narrow passageways in the rock while Giorgio shouted “James Franco!” we stayed out of trouble hiking along the rim of the mesa. 

We didn’t have quite enough time to hike down into the canyon spread out below us and make it back up before sunset, but there was still plenty of time to explore the island in the sky.  We found yet another beautiful arch and stopped to wonder about the meteor that may or may not have crashed down to create the park’s “upheaval dome.”

As a side note, we had been a bit concerned about the availability of alcohol in the notoriously dry state of Utah.  However, we shouldn’t have been concerned – there was plenty of local craft beer!  Just don’t ask for a sampler of the various beers on tap because you aren’t allowed to have more than two drinks, no matter the size.


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