Below are the diary entries for September 20, 2012, with the newest entries added at the bottom. Also, check out today’s photos.
Since we didn’t find a place to sleep until pretty late last night and we dined off a bagel (and not a very good one at that) and water, we treated ourselves to a big breakfast this morning before setting out on a hike in Arches National Park. Please don’t ask me why it’s called a Pancake Haus instead of a Pancake House. We wanted to get up to Delicate Arch, which is supposed to be best either at sunrise or sunset, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to get up quite that early. So we didn’t start until 9.30 a.m.
It’s not a long hike, but it rises about 500 feet and there’s no shade on most of the trail. Eric originally wanted to explore other areas first, but I put my foot down and said that I wasn’t planning to hike over a pile of rocks in the middle of the day when the park already warns you to take at least a quart of water per person, use sunblock, and wear protective sun gear. I certainly was glad I had recently bought a sun hat at LL Bean. It was a bit expensive (seeing as we own at least a dozen baseball caps and a straw hat - it’s falling apart, so I only use it when gardening) but it’s supposed to be SPF30 and the brim goes most all the way around my head, so the tops of my ears are covered, too.
The hike was moderately strenuous, but the views over Delicate Arch and the surrounding country were worth it! It is such a very peculiar, starkly beautiful landscape. There’s a cabin at the trailhead, left there by a pioneering family who staked a claim there in the late 1800s. The patriarch, a Civil War veteran from Ohio, and his oldest son came there first, and later on his daughter, her husband and their two children joined them. The sign near the cabin said that the daughter was so appalled by the primitive conditions that she managed to convince her father to build a better cabin. We looked in the cabin: it can’t have been more than 10 by 10 feet on the inside, with six (!) people apparently sharing it. Also, if that is supposed to be the “luxury” cabin, I hate to think under what circumstances the father and son lived there at first! In the end, they couldn’t make a go of it and returned to Ohio by first decade of the 20th century. I’m not surprised they couldn’t. They wanted to start a cattle ranch, and I suppose you could let your cattle graze in the canyons if there’s a river and there’s sufficient rain. But I don’t quite see how you could possibly have a garden there, so you’d have to bring imperishable foods, like beans and rice, or maybe canned stuff. Not a very varied diet. Much as I appreciate solitude, I think I’d go stark raving mad if I had to live there! When I told Eric so, he said you’d probably have to be stark raving mad to want to homestead there in the first place. He had certainly had a point there.
Anyway, after the Delicate Arch hike we drove up to the Devil’s Garden to look at the Landscape Arch. The odd thing is that in its current condition, it’s only a little bit older than Frank. On September 1, 1991 a sizable portion of the arch broke off, to make the opening far wider and thinner on top than it was before. Some lucky hiker managed to get a picture of it, which is displayed on the information sign. You used to be able to hike underneath it, but because of the danger of the arch caving in completely or bits falling off again, the park has closed that part of the trail. As it is, the hike to Landscape Arch is billed as one of the shorter, easy ones at only 0.8 miles (one way), but what they don’t tell you is that about a quarter of that is through dry, soft sand and another quarter is over smooth rock with the thinnest layer of sand, which makes it about as slippery as ice. No fair! But we made it back, and as it was about 2 p.m. we were about finished with hiking for the day.
I drove back to the visitors’ center, only stopping along the way so Eric could take a picture of Balanced Rock, a piece of rock balanced on top of pillar so precariously that you’d think one good wind storm will topple it. But it’s apparently been like that for years, so it must be more stable than it looks. Then we went back to the visitors’ center to refill our water containers. Remembering the dry, hot climate from our 2007 trip, we brought a collapsible 5-gallon water container and we also have several water bottles, among them a souvenir one that I bought at Pikes Peak. When it’s full, it can stand by itself like any bottle, but when it’s empty, you can roll it up almost flat, because it’s a plastic bag with a drinking spout. I thought it’d come in handy on Appalachian Trail hikes or otherwise. I guess the otherwise came first in this case. While Eric took care of the water supply, I bought the last postcards I’m going to send from this trip. I had stamps, so I could write and mail them right then and there.
At Landscape Arch I happened to talk to a lady from Utah, who told us that if we wanted to find a place to stay, we’d do best to drive to Monticello, Utah, about an hour south of Moab. Since she was a local, we took her word for it, and lo and behold: we found a motel room at the first try. The place even had a pool and a hot tub, which was a nice treat for our poor, mistreated leg muscles. As soon as Eric finishes today’s pictures and I manage to log into his computer (some networks allow it; others don’t. I can’t tell you what the difference is), I’ll post today’s diary entry with pictures and call it a day!
Most of today was spent in Arches National Park. This was, after all, the reason we spent the night in the sold-out town of Moab... After a good night's sleep, we had breakfast at a pancake place Nicoline had seen yesterday. For most of the trip, the hotels and motels included breakfast (this seems to be pretty much standard nowadays; usually just a bar with coffee, juices, danishes and such, but sometimes much more elaborate) but of course the hostel didn't provide that. They did offer the use of a kitchen, but we weren't really looking forward to putting a lot of effort into our breakfast. Anyway, after breakfast we went to the park. The first stop was at the visitor center, where they had faucets with filtered water to fill up your water bottles (our bottles were already full).
And then we went into the park. We did stop at the first few viewpoints, but then decided to move on the Delicate Arch Trail, the 3-mile round-trip trail we decided would be our main hike for the day. It did have a 480 feet elevation change, so although a little bit longer it wasn't as bad as yesterday's hike but still a reasonably tough walk.
The trail started out relatively easy as a nice gravel path but it got more challenging later on: rock, sand, sliprock... Most of the path was marked by cairns (piles of rocks). And we had some great views along the way. By the way, according to the GPS attached to my camera, the height difference was actually 532 feet, but I have to admit that the GPS isn't very accurate with its height...
Of course, the best time to view the arch would be in the late afternoon; we preferred to take do the hike in the morning though, before it got too hot. I was still able to get some nice pictures, including a raven perched high on a rock and a chipmunk looking for crumbs ;-).
On the way back we took short detour to see some Ute Indian petroglyphs, and we stopped at Wolfe Ranch (see also Nicoline's blog entry). And, of course, I took a bunch more pictures of the trail, including a belly-shot of one of the cairns.
After Delicate Arch, I really wanted to see Landscape Arch as well, so we continued on to the Devils Garden trail head and took the 1.6 mile round-trip hike to Landscape Arch. This arch is the longest natural arch in the park, and possibly the world. After in 1991 three slabs fell from the arch, visitors are no longer allowed to travel underneath and have to be satisfied with taking pictures from a little bit of a distance. The arch could collapse at any time...
After Landscape Arch we made one quick stop at Balanced Rock and then we were done with Arches for the day. After refilling our 5-gallon water container we continued on to Monticello where we got a room in a hotel with a big pool and hot tub!
By the way, today was day 17 of this I-70 trip. We have traveled over 4,000 miles so far in these 17 days, and are approaching the turn-around point (Cove Fort, Utah, where the I-70 begins). Just saying...