Hiking in Arches national park near Moab, UT (April 2016)

Wednesday, April 20th

We left Helena at about 10 am, stopping at Blackfoot, ID, for gas (@ $2.059/gal) and again at Green River in Utah (@ $2.359/gal). There were two of us driving, which made it easier. We arrived in Moab at about 9.50 pm (almost 12 hours later). It was dark, and there was no prospect of finding a place to hang our hammocks that late at night, so we checked into a cheap (LOL, yeah, cheap in Moab > $100/night) hotel. It was nice to have a comfortable bed to sleep in and, more importantly, a shower (twice). 

Thursday, April 21st

In the morning we headed to the Dead Horse Point State Park, which is only 12.5 miles (20.2 km) from where we were staying, as the crow flies (i.e. in a straight line) but, of course, there's no such thing as driving in a straight line there.
A long drive from Moab to Dead Horse Point state park
It was actually a 32 mile journey on US-191 Northbound, then on UT-313 Westbound. We skipped the Moab Giant Dinosaurs Paleosafari dinosaur museum that's on the corner of those two roads, and arrived at the park at around 8.45 am. The day-use fee is $10 per vehicle, valid for 3 days. After a quick shufti at the visitors' center and gift shop, we set off on the West Rim Trail, which was supposed to be about 2.5 miles long. The plan was to get to the southernmost point, past the narrow Neck, then hike the 1.5 miles back again on the East Rim Trail.

A nice, easy trail, which would have been perfect on a less hot day
It was pretty hot already when we set off (probably 80 °F), but we had been spraying ourselves liberally with SPF50 sunscreen all day long, and we had plenty of water to drink along the way.

You can see some photos at https://goo.gl/photos/HpFLpqcBL9ZfZ6wa8.

By the time you added the odd quarter miles here and there to reach the overlooks, and accounting for the mile that we lopped off by cutting across the Neck, we walked 3.5 miles between 09:20 and 12:05, so 2 hours and 45 minutes. That included many stops along the way to take photographs, of course.

While sitting in the shade of the visitors' center, lunch was a Mountain House freeze dried beef stew, plus a packet of Idahoan flavored (fully loaded) mashed potatoes. The stew was a little bit spicy (peppery) even for my tastes, but definitely edible, and definitely appreciated after what felt like a hard workout.

In the afternoon, we spent many hours driving around, looking for BLM campgrounds with openings. We finally had to settle for a private one about four miles outside of Moab that was only $20 a night (very rustic).

We stopped in at the Visitors' Center in downtown Moab, and got the 4-1-1 on private campgrounds. Then we decided to have dinner in town. It was 5 o'clock by now, and I was happy to try a Sweet and Salty Beet Salad, made with roasted red and golden beets marinated in lime, oil and chili sauce, served on spinach with crumbled bacon, goat cheese and Parmesan crisps. With all the carb-laden food that I was otherwise eating, this felt vaguely healthy to me.

Setting up our campsite for the night was mostly uneventful, even if there weren't many trees available to hang our hammocks from. We arrived at six o'clock, picked our spot, then registered and paid for two nights in advance ("A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"). We attached one end of each hammock to the luggage rack of the truck. After some minor adjustments to the height, our sleeping accommodation was ready.  By 9.00 pm, I was ready to go to sleep.

The overnight temperatures were generally around 48 to 49 °F, although it dipped to 45 °F just before sunrise on Friday. With my daughter's borrowed under quilt, and my own down top quilt, it was plenty warm enough.

Friday, April 22nd

I woke up at 6.00, and quietly packed my hammock away.

North and South Windows, and Turret Arch
We got a late start. After filling up with gas in Moab (@$2.259/gal), and decided to hike the Windows section of Arches national park. The first arch we explored was Turret Arch, which involved a little bit of a scramble up some rocks but the view was worth it. On the way back to the main trail we encountered a small snake, which I suspect was only a non-venomous Great Basin Gopher snake. We had been warned about the much more venous Midget Faded rattlesnake, but the markings weren't consistent with that.

Probably a Great Basin Gopher snake, posing for a photograph
Even though it was only less than a couple of miles long, the trip around the North Window and the South Window were strenuous enough, and it was hot enough, so it was time for an afternoon siesta.

After our nap, which was difficult in the heat, it was time to cook dinner. I'd taken a selection of Mountain House freeze dried meals with me. We opted for the lasagna with meat sauce flavored one, and cooked one of the Knorr Pasta Sides packets. The lasagna tasted good. The pasta was very runny - it could easily have been cooked in 1½ cups of water, not 2. Throughout the afternoon, you could tell that it was going to be windy later.

We left it too late to see Delicate Arch at sunset, but we tried anyway. Given the choice between the long hike, which gets you closer to the arch, and the shorter hike, where there's a small canyon in between, we opted for the shorter (but still steep) one. My camera was able to take a couple of pictures, but the light levels were too low. We'd have to come back the next day. 

Saturday, April 23rd

The overnight temperature on Friday night never dipped below 66 °F. I slept with almost no clothes on, and my quilt down around my knees. Surprisingly, I managed to sleep until 07:00. After breakfast, we decided to abandon any idea of seeing Canyonlands national park, which was a 30 mile drive away, versus Arches, which was about 5 miles away.

Delicate Arch, difficult march

The 1.5 miles up to the iconic Delicate Arch involved an elevation change of 480 ft. That's like walking up 48 flights of stairs in a building! The first half was up and down and up and up. The second half was straight up all the way - no downs for a bit of a reprieve. This is not the kind of hike you want to do with infirm people, or unfit people. You need good health and good footwear (for goodness sakes, people, flip-flops are NOT good footwear!) The other thing that made it difficult was the wind! Holy cow! I've rarely experienced wind like it. And, being in the high desert, the place was full of sand and grit, which had a sandblasting effect on one's skin. There were woman who started the climb with tattoos of mermaids and stuff on their calves. By the time they'd reached the top, the tattoos were gone (not really).
The deceptively simple-looking route to Delicate Arch, up the slickrock
People's hats were blowing off all over the place. The ravens were having a wonderful time of it, soaring effortlessly in the updrafts upgales. The slickrock that dominated in the second half was okay to walk on when it was dry but, had it been wet, it would have been,... well... slick and slippery. I wouldn't have wanted to venture up there if it had been raining.

You can see some photos at https://goo.gl/photos/588cTuY3tkpbGCWGA.


As well as the one snake, we also saw lots of geckos, a couple of collared lizards, some ravens, and ... that's all I can remember now. The prickly pear cacti were all over the Dead Horse Point state park.

After that little adventure, we went to Salt Lake City for the night. While driving between Price and Provo (crossing Soldier Summit [elevation:7,477 ft] in the Wasatch mountains) the rain became heavy, then turned to snow. Later that evening, I learned from the TV weather reports that the temperature in SLC had dropped nearly 40 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few hours. Driving conditions were very poor. I was glad to get to our initial destination in West Jordan. 

Sunday, April 24th

Driving home to Helena the next day didn't take as long as anticipated. I left Salt Lake City at 7.40 am, and walked into my apartment at 2.40 pm (exactly 7 hours later). Driving on one's own is much more tiring than being able to swap driving duties every two or three hours. Also, it's way too easy to keep gnashing on snacks while driving. 

1 comment:

Deborah said...

Looking forward to hearing about your Utah trip!