Hiking in Arches NP

On Tuesday, October 5, 2010, I got up ready for hiking and we decided to do the longest hike at Arches that could be accessed from a paved road, knowing if we did it all, it would be over 7 miles. After our adventurous summer that didn’t seem very long, and certainly the altitude wouldn’t be a problem here. We visited numerous arches, some pretty wonderful and some ho hum, but what I had forgotten from our last visit was the rock scrambling necessary including narrow passes over huge rock ledges, but in spite of the numerous fellow hikers we got through all that, and even went past Double O arch to get to Dark Angel, which other than a nice walk out there is pretty much a waste of time. There must have been hundreds of people spread out on the hiking trails and we found out before we ever started on the primitive loop that there was a water feature that either had to be waded across or rock scrambled around. We had lunch after our walk out to see Dark Angel in an cool, shaded area near the beginning of the primitive loop trail that would intersect the main trail after about 2 miles. After the initial part of the primitive but well marked trail, we began the rock scrambling, having to slide down a few smooth rocks to stay with the trail. Clouds had begun to form and were looking increasingly ominous, and I was hoping to get through the slick rock and water feature parts of the trail before it began to rain on us. There were several good sized pools, but as we made our way through the sometimes narrow wash, we knew it when we came to “the” big pool of water, and as we were told, there was no way around it as the wash was surrounded by steep slick rock. Neither of us wanted to pull off our shoes and socks and wade through the murky water with several pieces of driftwood tossed into it. It was too murky to see the bottom and we had no idea how deep the water was, but it was ugly and long. While I watched nervously, Dan scrambled up the tallest slickrock, and after the first ten feet, it was easier to gain footholds. When he was about 20 feet above me, the rock leveled out a bit and walking was possible and he made his way to the other end of the water feature and working his way down to the trail beyond the pond. Encouraged, but wary, I began to crawl on my hands and feet up the toughest part of the slick rock, finally making it to the minor indentations that served as footholds, and with Dan’s guidance I made my way around the water below, just as the first few raindrops began to fall. Phew! We had made it through what we knew was the toughest part of the trail, especially if all the slick rock was wet. Not long after the huge puddle, we were forced to get out the ponchos which we wore for a while, but the rain never really got serious, and we were able to get out of the hot raingear fairly quickly. It seemed we were always going up as we followed the trail up one little rise after another. We could not believe how many people we met coming in on the trail, in spite of the time of day and impending rain. There were literally dozens, and there were many more that we passed during our last mile of trail. We decided most of the walkers were foreign, because so many we spoke to replied in heavily accented English, or did not respond to us at all. We had made the trip from the upper portion of the primitive trail to the car in 1 and ½ hours, which was pretty good time, considering the difficulty of some of the trail. There was a lot to see going in, but on the way out, with no arches or photo ops and spurred by the possibility of getting wet, we were really hurrying. It is a great trail, our favorite at the National Park as there are about 7 arches to view in 7.2 miles.

That evening, I lounged in the pool before a leisurely shower, and shortly after I returned home, the rain began and it rained on and off all night long. If this area only receives 9 inches of annual rainfall, it sure seems odd that it has rained so much since we have been here, but we have literally seen the grasses turn green in these few days, and several times, the La Sol Mountains have had a nice dusting of snow when the clouds finally moved off of them.

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