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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wild West Adventure, Day 8-9; The Arches

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

If there is one thing to know about Arches National Park in the summertime, it's this: The place is a hellish inferno. 110 degrees in the shade! Except there is NO shade. Nada. Zip. Zero. Not a smidgen. Forget that old adage about dry heat not being as uncomfortable as humid heat. The minute I stepped out of our air-conditioned car and into the searing, hot desert heat...I could feel my legs start to buckle. Thankfully my body didn't entirely cave to the ground and I was able to forge ahead. We brought tons of water with us, hats, sturdy hiking shoes, sun-block lotion and sunglasses. But all that didn't stop the intense heat from bearing down on us because Arches is smack in the middle of a vast, rugged, unforgiving, scalding desert.

Although we felt like cookies baking in an oven, we found this inhospitable desert environment uniquely fascinating. Arches National Park is home to over 2000 natural stone arches, according to the brochure. Sounds like a hefty amount of arches. But we only saw about ten of them. That's because there are only a few arches out of 2000 located off the main paved park road. All the others are situated off the treacherous, sandy back roads...where a number of intrepid tourists have been stranded or died of thirst over the years.

Yet to even access the arches off the main road was not easy. Many of them are not visible from the parking area. We were out in scorching heat. We had to climb up rocky hills, hike across slippery stones, maneuver through snake and scorpion infested brush and even squeeze through some gigantic, narrow get a good, up-close-and-personal view of these ancient stone formations. We were disappointed that there was not easier access to some of the other 1990 arches. Apparently the bulk of the arches are way, way, way off road and accessible only by lengthy foot paths or all terrain vehicles. Normally a 2-3 mile hike doesn't faze us. But in this blazing way. If we had been here in the fall or spring...the climate would have been much more pleasant.

Standing in the middle of this desolate land, I gained a first-hand appreciation of what it must be like to be stranded in a desert. It's a terrifying concept. I thought about the early native inhabitants and brave pioneers who trekked across these barren lands years ago. It's amazing that many of them actually survived. For us...this was a crazy form of eco tourism. Who in their right mind would venture into a fiery furnace desert just to see a bunch of rocks? Millions of tourists every year! That's who. The unusual arches, towering spires, weird rock shapes, gigantic balancing boulders that look like they could fall any second...all create a remarkable, unworldly landscape in the middle of this foreboding, arid setting. Most extraordinary to see. But once is quite enough for me.
"Windows" Arch
A hat always makes a good prop.
Sandstone rock arches look like they're smooching.
We had to squeeze through this narrow passage to view some arches.

"Skyline" Arch.
The famous "Delicate" Arch.
Red rock cliffs reflect in the waters of the Colorado River in Moab, Utah.

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Susan Anderson said...

Magnificent scenery, but I would have to do it in the spring or fall.

No way I could take that kind of heat! Menopause already has me boiling...


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