Monday, July 24, 2017

Arches, HooDoos and Fins

North Window, Arches National Park. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Our first morning in Moab we made a beeline to Arches National Park. First stop, the Visitor's Center.

Judy at the center. Photo by Debi Lander.
Even at this point the red rock formations are breath-taking and we can't wait to see the "stars" but we stick to our routine; watch the introductory film and swing through the gift ship.

Debi checks out the exhibits while the real thing waits outside. Photo by Judy Wells.
Well worth it. It is the best film we have seen in our visits to national parks and now we actually understand how arches, the rarest of geological formations, develop. Water is the architect and if all conditions are perfect, it seeps into crevasses and weaknesses in the sandstone, expands and contracts with the weather and after centuries and eons an arch is formed. Ironically, the same forces that form an arch also destroy it.

It's an arch if over land, a bridge if over a body of water.

We also picked up a new catch-phrase, Don't bust the crust. You see it on signs all over the park because that crusty, blackish stuff you see on the ground is known as "biological soil crust." A mixture of bacteria, mosses, lichens, fungii and algae, it is essential to other plants and in preventing erosion. It is so fragile that one step can wipe out years of growth, a very important reason to stay on the marked trails and paths.

Reluctantly, knowing how many clutter our cabinets at home, we buy water bottles; there are is no food or beverage service in the park and it is already getting hot.

Arches' Park Avenue. Photo © by Judy Wells.
It is also getting crowded. It takes two passes to find a parking spot at the Park Avenue viewpoint. So named because the towering cliffs reminded someone of Manhattan's skyscrapers, we ooh and aah like everyone else as we take photos.

 Wanting to know more than brief info signs can relay, we buy and download Gypsy
Guide's audio tour of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It is a good buy although using it as a directional guide is frustrating as signals fade in and out.

Fins, the formations that can produce arches. Photo © by Judy Wells.
We are equally awed at Courthouse Towers viewpoint, vowing to return when light is better and traffic less to see and capture formations like the Three Gossips.

Petrified dunes. Photo by Judy Wells.
Petrified Dunes remind us that Arches went through several periods as an inland ocean.

Balanced Rock makes a good landmark. Photo by Debi Lander.
Spotting Balanced Rock ahead tells us the turn to Double Arch and the Windows is near.

Double Arch is a visitor favorite. Photo © by Judy Wells.
This is the largest and most crowded parking area of all and again, we need two circuits before a spot opens up. If you see nothing else, don't miss these. We  began with Double Arch, perhaps the most spectacular formation in the park. It is massive, on a scale you can't imagine until you stand at its feet.

Looking up. Photo by Debi Lander.
Many climb up into it. Debi did, I didn't and we both came away in awe, our cameras filled with astounding images.

North and South Windows. Photo © by Judy Wells.

Turret. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Across the parking lot are our second favorites, North and South Windows and Turret Arch. I head for Windows, Debi to Turret. It's a trek up endless steps to Windows, but these, too, are massive. Turret is easier to reach and at first glance, isn't that impressive but once there, the view is spectacular. You can see both Windows at once plus several hoodoos.

Wolfe Ranch. Photo by Judy Wells.
We tear ourselves away and head to Fiery Furnace and Delicate Arch. Fiery Furnace lives up to its name; cliffs block any stir of air and reflect the sun back at us across a wide canyon. We stop at what is left of Wolfe Ranch, the house a wounded Confederate veteran and his eldest son built, the corral and a storage cellar along Salt Wash, now Creek, on 100 otherwise arid acres in the late 1800s. They left 10 years later.

Salt Creek. Photo by Judy Wells.
Ute Petroglyphs. Photo by Debi Lander.
We cross Salt Creek and head up to a cliff to see Ute petroglyphs carved in the 17th century then headed on to the Delicate Arch viewpoint.

Delicate Arch. Photo by Debi Lander.
Hot, tired, thirsty and hungry, we decide to settle for a distant view instead of hiking up a long, steep trail across slickrock and rubble.

La Sal Mountains, Photo by Judy Wells.
We understand how the first Spanish explorers of this region refused to believe that in such a hot place snow could exist atop the mountains just south of here. They decided it must be salt and the local natives obligingly showed them salt deposits at the range's foot. Thus the name of the range, La Sal, salt. It is snow though, and they form a scenic but teasingly cool-looking backdrop.

The road to Devil's Garden, also on our list, is closed for construction. With a combination of disappointment and relief, we head back to Moab to spend the steamy afternoon like the animals here do, resting in a cool place.

After showers and respite, we walk through Moab and treat ourselves to a superb meal of lasagna and wine at a popular Italian restaurant. The food was a lot easier to digest than the amazing sights we have witnessed of what Nature can produced and the National Park Service is working to preserve.

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