Monday, June 2, 2014

Foot and four-wheel adventures in red rock wonderland—Arches NP

May 25-29, 2013
Portal RV Resort
Moab, Utah

Into each life a little rain must fall. After two fun-filled two days, a storm blew through the area bringing mostly rain and a little bit of thunder and lightening. With all the folks here for the Memorial Weekend, we weren’t feeling like dealing with the crowds anyway, so we welcomed a quiet day around the motorhome in this lovely park. The other bad weather news was predicted temperatures in the high 90s for the rest of our time here.

Gay and Joe invited us to go on a combination four-wheeling and hiking excursion in Arches following their friends from Belgium, Guy and Catherine, in their rented Jeep Grand Cherokee. Guy wanted to test the limits of the Grand Cherokee’s ability for off-roading. The plan was to take an unpaved road seven miles through Salt Valley to the Klondike Bluffs where we would hike to Tower Arch.

arches map salt valley

This day was our first real exploration of Arches as we had only taken a brief ride through the park for a quick introduction a few days before. Since this was Memorial Day, we were a little concerned about the crowds, but going on an unpaved road made a huge difference as we had very little company on this pretty drive through the middle of the park with a view of the snow-covered La Sal Mountains. 

It’s pretty hard to read this warning on the map posted above: “Soft sand in wash crossings. Impassable in heavy rains.” After going about four miles on the unpaved road, we encountered these conditions in person.

Guy and Joe were the first to get out to survey the challenge. Catherine is in the background ready to take photos of Guy’s attempt to get the Cherokee past this obstacle.

Catherine takes the role of spotting Guy—helping him with tire placement so the Jeep can clear the rocky holes without getting high ended.

Gay and Vic take on the role of cautious observers while Guy demonstrates his persistence in trying different strategies to make it up this hill.

Things kind of go from bad to worse in terms of being stuck, but still no need for a recovery. It definitely helps one’s confidence to have another Jeep nearby with a winch and strap.

After at least five attempts, Guy decides to admit defeat. Joe acknowledges Guy’s tenacious spirit with a handshake.

The group discusses our options since it too far to hike all the way to Tower Arch in this heat (8-10 miles roundtrip). Plan B: drive to the parking area for about a three-mile loop hike to Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch.

Walking into Sand Dune Arch requires hiking through a large slot canyon. I am typically claustrophobic with rock walls closing me in, but these wide slots were quite stunning.

The Sand Dune Arch is appropriately named as the whole area under the arch is like one big sandbox—a favorite among kids.

When we arrived at the arch, Vic took this photo of the three girls—Gay, Catherine, and me—against the canyon wall looking out from under the arch.

Our next destination, Broken Arch, was an easy hike of about a mile. The first part of the trail cuts across a large meadow that leads through fin canyons with sand dunes and slickrock.

When we arrived to Broken Arch, we were surprised to see that the “broken” part was actually connected. The shape reminded us more of a heart, so each couple posed kissing under the arch. Here is a photo of the arch with no young lovers posing underneath it.

broken arch2

On the way back, we accidentally ended up on the loop trail which takes you through Devil’s Garden campground. I am not sure how much I would like being out here in this heat away from a water source, but it looks like these folks were well-provisioned.

As we were hiking back to our vehicles via the campground, we came upon this sign for Tapestry Arch, a bit of a surprise as this arch is not listed on the park map. We were too warm to hike in to see it, but here is a zoomed in photo of this arch. Supposedly, the views from the other side of Tapestry Arch are quite expansive.

That evening, I made ribs and German potato salad for the group. It was too hot to sit outside until it was almost sunset—after 8 p.m. Good thing everyone was patient. Guy even offered to help put the final touches on barbecuing the ribs. (He is dressed as though it is cool outside only because he and Catherine had too much sun on the trail.)

guy making ribs


Our plan for the next morning was to get out on the hiking trail to Delicate Arch around 8 a.m. Guy and Catherine were going to leave that day but decided to join us. Sweet.

The Delicate Arch trail is a three-mile loop that is rated “moderately strenuous” because of a 480 ft. elevation gain on open slickrock with some exposure to heights. Our biggest concern was the heat (with temperatures predicted to be near 100 later in the day) as there is almost no shade on the two-three hour hike. We were glad we were on the trail by around 9 a.m.

delicate arch sign

This old homestead, Wolf Ranch Cabin, dating back to 1889, is the first thing you see as you start up the trail to the arch. You can peer inside this humble one-room cabin and speculate about the hard life of its original occupants.

Like other trails where you hike on slickrock, you follow the cairns that mark the trail. (Even though Memorial Weekend was officially over, there were plenty of other folks on the trail leading the way.)

Along the trail, we were surprised to see a pond with fish and frogs and a few blooming prickly pear cactus.

cactus flower


We took our time on the hike up and enjoyed visiting along the way.

Even though this was Gay and Joe’s fourth time here, our first glimpse of the arch brought lots of oohs and aahs from everyone.  Definitely worth the hike.

delicate arch hiking group

Gay commented to me that reaching a hiking destination like this makes her feel “fully alive.”  I couldn’t agree more. We both felt like breaking out in songs from the Sound of Music.

Of course, our group, minus Joe and Catherine who were busy taking photos, had to take our turn for a group photo under the arch. Some kids were doing handstands and back bends for their pose. We seriously considered it, but the ledge was a little too narrow to pull it off. Ha.

delicate arch group shot

Our hike back down went much quicker as expected, but our knees definitely could feel it. I used one of my hiking poles and found it quite helpful—especially in areas that were not slickrock like this section.

The next day was our final one in Moab. Vic had made an appointment to have the motorhome and Jeep washed in the park, so we knew we would not be off touring around. I was a little disappointed not to have another day to hike in the Arches, but the warm temperatures made it easier to settle in for a day at the park. Knowing how much we were going to miss Gay and Joe, we spent most of the morning on their patio enjoying their company, the shade, and the antics of the Tan Clan. Day-aaang. I did not get a group photo of their four “canine dependents.” (That’s “dang” with a southern drawl the way Gay says it—a new favorite expression of mine.) I did manage to catch Jack on Joe’s lap—clearly one of his favorite spots.

joe with jack

Catherine and Guy also stopped by to say their “adieus” before heading south to Flagstaff.  Now we have new friends to visit on our next trip to Europe as they live in Gent, Belgium and made sure to tell us about their lovely guest room. Sounds good, n’est-ce pas?

We needed to get an early start the next morning as we planned to travel the full 465 miles to Vegas in one day. Fortunately, Gay and Joe are early risers so we were able to say goodbye to these fine folks  in the morning and thank them for their incredible hospitality during our stay in Moab. If you ever get the chance to meet the Taylors, Belle, Pearl, and their adorable Tan Clan, don’t pass it up.


  1. You are so sweet Pam. You are very generous in your praise and comments. We certainly hope for another opportunity in the not too distant future to visit with you again...

    The sunlight in your picture at Sand Dune Arch is beautiful! Special memories!

  2. Wow, hot in Moab! Amazing that there was water on the Delicate Arch trail given the dry weather and high temps recently!

  3. Isn't Moab one of the most beautiful places you have ever seen? We LOVED that area. We did all the hikes you did and many out of the park. Be sure to go downtown and visit the Visitor's Center. They have a great list of "off" hikes. Morning Glory Canyon Trail is so different than the other hikes. Actually it is green. You can also get the Rock Tour pamphlet.

    Don't miss Fisher Towers Trail. Pretty challenging but neat.

  4. Wow your pictures just confirm that Arches is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I was feeling really envious since we would have been out there had we not solarized. But then I read about 90 degrees for the rest of your stay and I started glistening just thinking about it. Thanks for taking me along so I would get to see it even though I didn't make it this year. Safe travels.

  5. So glad you got to see the Delicate Arch up close and personal:) It sure is a climb up but it is so worth it. I love the photo of all of you with arch in the background. It's great that you had Joe and Gay as guides. You got a nice sampling of the area. Boy, it sure was hot. We'll be returning next spring but in April. Safe travels to Vegas:)

  6. We love Moab and ended up departing early (right before Memorial Day weekend) due to the heat. We were boondocking thus didn't have A/C available and the dry dirt was flying. Great post on a beautiful area.

  7. The hike up to Delicate Arch is one of my favorites ... worth it for the reward at the end.


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