Delicate Arch (again)

Sand Dune Arch

When I finished my hike through the Fiery Furnace it was still early afternoon. The sky was clearing and I wasn't that tired. I decided that I would do some short hikes/car touring to fill out the day. Arches National Park has a lot of short hikes (and actually not many long ones). That can be a problem since most of them would not be satisfying for a whole day's activity. In fact, for exactly that reason, I still hadn't done several of them. But today when I was looking to round out a day of hiking, the short hikes would be perfect.

I started from the parking area for Sand Dune Arch. There was a group of rock fins nearby, a sort of miniature version of the Fiery Furnace. A trail led from the parking area a few hundred yards to a wash which went through a narrow gap between two rock fins. Narrow of course is relative. It was at least ten feet wide, which after my morning activites seemed expansive. After about a hundred yards I looked up a side canyon and there was Sand Dune Arch. It was the five minute version mini-version of the Fiery Furnace for the car-bound tourist, I guess.

I hiked back down the wash and out of the rocks, back to the main trail. From there the trail crossed a flat stretch of desert to Broken Arch, so called because there is a large crack in the middle of the arch. It probably won't be long, in geological time, before the arch collapses.

I originally intended to hike back from Broken Arch the way that I came but the trail continued under the arch and beyond. Soon there was a sign that indicated it went to Devil's Garden Campground. I knew that I could get back to my car from there so I kept going. It turned out that the trail did a two mile loop, passing the two arches and then cutting through some nice slickrock areas on the edges of the Devil's Garden to get back to the car. It was a nice hike and a pleasant surprise.

Looking back through Broken Arch

I got a bigger surprise when I got back to Boise. Looking through some old photos from a trip to Arches that Sandy and I did twenty years ago, I found pictures of Broken Arch. I had completely forgotten that I had done the hike before. I guess I am getting old. They say that memory is the second thing to go...

But back to 2017, when I had just finished the hike, for what I now know was the second time. It was late in the afternoon and I was pretty hungry. I hadn't eaten anything all day. But there was still a little daylight left. I resolved to suck it up and go to Delicate Arch. My friend Ivan has always wanted to see Delicate Arch. We have tried to plan trips there together but somehow they never happen. So when I go to Arches I always hike to Delicate Arch and send him a picture. I'm trying to get him motivated to actually make the trip. I have done the hike at least half a dozen times so I know it well. I knew that I had enough time (and enough energy) to do it before heading back to town.

Sandy at Broken Arch in 1996

Although the weather forecast had said it would be very windy today, so far it hadn't been bad. But I had been hiking mostly in very sheltered places. The hike to Delicate Arch goes up a long stretch of slickrock that is out in the open and very exposed to the wind. And it was roaring. The weather said there would be gusts to 45 mph and it certainly seemed like to me. Although the temperature was sixty degrees it was not warm. I was bundled up in my Scholler jacket and even though I was hiking hard I wasn't overheating.

Delicate Arch is an extremely popular hike but because of the wind there weren't many people doing the hike. So when I finally reached the arch I got a surprise. There was no one there! Usually there are 100-200 people spread out on the sandstone ledges, taking pictures or just admiring the arch. This time I was all alone with the arch. Very cool! Even with the winds and the clouds, that was an amazing experience. After a few minutes someone did come up the trail behind me. That was ok since it was time to head back anyway. It wasn't pleasant the way the wind was howling at the viewpoint. I hurried back to my car.

That night I had dinner at Pasta Jay's. The pizza always tastes better after a great day of hiking.

Delicate Arch - and look, no people!

The next day was my last in Moab. My plan was to check out of my hotel, do a hike in the morning, and then drive home to Boise in the evening. I had picked out the Moab Rim Trail, which is a combination 4WD/mountain bike/hiking trail. I figured off season was the best time to do it when non foot traffic would be at a minimum. It's in the Behind the Rocks area that I had seen from the Longbow Arch Trail.

Well things didn't go according to plan. Just by chance I checked weather for the route home and saw that a major snowstorm was forecast for the Wasatch mountains for the next two days. I had been snowed on when I crossed Soldier Summit on the way to Moab. This sounded a lot worse. I researched all my options and found that by taking I70 further west, it would add about an hour to the drive but I wouldn't have to cross any really high passes.

The next morning I checked the Utah Department of Transportaion webcam. It was already snowing at Soldier Summit and snowtires/chains were required, which I didn't have. I decided that I had to get home ASAP so I scratched the plan for the hike and started back home immediatly. I used my contingency plan from the night before and took the long way around via I70. That worked out well. I did hit some snow on I15 around Provo and again around Tremonton, but it wasn't bad and I made it home without too much trouble. It was a good thing that I hustled home though. Someone Sandy knew got stuck for a day in Eastern Idaho because I84 was closed the next by snow, exactly where I had driven through.

It's always a little bit of a risk to do a road trip in the winter but this one ended well. I did some great hikes and (just barely) got home before bad weather moved in. Now I have spring fever. I'm ready to do more hiking. Good thing that we have a trip to New Zealand coming up in two weeks. I'll get to do some spectacular hiking soon. And a lot more Dog Blog posts.