Editor’s Note: Due to a broken computer and getting back to life upon the return of the trip blog posts for Leg 4 of our YLA are about 5 – 6 weeks behind reality.
We left Bryce Canyon en route to Arches National Park, one of the “must-see” places on our list when we began planning the Year Long Adventure. The drive between the two parks was spectacular and varied. Holding our breath, we traveled on roads with names like “Devil’s Backbone” across high mountain passes, trying to ignore the steep drop offs on both sides. Dad was able to commemorate his 40th birthday by standing in a field of snow on a mountaintop, a very unique opportunity for a Native Texan born in mid-May.
Celebrating 40 in Utah
The winding road took us through two more National Parks: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park. The rock formations were amazing, and the kids were inspired to name each feature they saw. We arrived in Moab in the early evening, just in time for a quick stop at the Arches Visitor Center before it closed.
We gathered Junior Ranger Books and park information so we could plan the best way to use our time the next day. We did not have a hotel reservation at this point, so we rode down the main drag of Moab, reading hotel reviews on Trip Advisor on our iPhone. Dad decided to approach the La Quinta Inn Moab with his freshly honed negotiating skills to seek a deal or upgrade, and ended up getting the two room suite for only slightly more than the price of the regular room. Once you go “suite”, it is hard to go back. Happy Birthday, Dad!!
We awoke Wednesday morning, hit the breakfast room, and stopped at a grocery store in Moab to get picnic supplies for lunch. This is an important step when visiting Arches because there is no food sold within the park. Our excitement started to wane as we approached the park entrance and raindrops began to fall on the windshield. A quick check of the outside temperature on the dashboard display informed us that it was 48 degrees outside. Things did not look good for a day at a park that involves a lot of hiking.
Rain, rain, go away!
We took the road into the park as heavier rain started to fall at a faster pace. Most of the major geologic formations lie along the main park road, a loop with stops at the best viewpoints. Because there were no Ranger tours available, Mom ran through the rain to purchase a driving tour guidebook. As we drove, we learned about the geological processes which create these incredible fin, window, and arch formations (simple explanation here), making them even more amazing to behold.
By the time we reached the parking lot for the first big attractions, “Double Arch” and “Turret Arch”, the rain had almost vanished. Decked out in our rain gear, we quickly hiked the short trail to “Double Arch”. We were able to climb up directly under the arch and were amazed at the viewpoint. The size of the immense arches is truly amazing when you are standing close to them.
"Double Arch" from a distance
Underneath the massive "Double Arch"
We then crossed the road for a quick climb to “Turret Arch” and another photo opportunity. By the time we reached the car, the rain had started to pick up again. Sadly, this would be the pattern for the rest of the day.
View from under "Turret Arch"
The next hour was spent driving through the rain, looking at the incredible landscapes, and stopping at viewpoints.
Sightseeing in the rain
Taking pictures proved difficult through droplet covered windows and/or driving rain. It was only raining lightly when we reached the viewpoint for the signature arch of the park, “Delicate Arch”.
Delicate Arch looms in the distance. To hike or not to hike? That is the question.
The viewpoint is still a mile hike from the actual arch, but we decided not to make the trek for a closer look. This was one of the best decisions we made on the trip as 10 minutes later, the torrential rains came.
Back in the car, we made our way to the end of the main road where the park campsites are located and found some truly hearty souls sitting under their tents in the heavy rain. The storm broke long enough for Dad and the girls to go search for one last arch, and they were rewarded with a pretty cool site.
The hike to the secret arch
One last arch
On our way back out of the park, the rain stopped a final time, allowing for a quick walk around Balanced Rock. This is an amazing site where a boulder the size of several school buses balances atop a rock spire. It is also a great trick photo opportunity.
Don't knock it over!
Arches National Park is a beautiful park, but not the best place to visit in the rain. Moab was a cool little town with a laid back feel to it. Hopefully we will get the chance to return some day during the dry season to try our hand at more hiking and perhaps river rafting at one of the many nearby sites.
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