I left Needles quite happy. It was great being there, and everyone I talked to said the same. Quite a park it was!
My next stop was Moab, Utah. It was where I’ve been wanting to go for a couple of years now. The riding out there is fantastic, and it’s a sort of adventure rider paradise. Moab itself isn’t too special. It’s an oasis in a desert. As you ride in to the valley surrounded by high red rocks on all sides the dark green trees filling the lowest part of the valley. It’s an oddball place, but it had everything I was to need: a hotel, a laundromat, autoparts stores, and a supermarket. It had been several days since I’d seen any of those things.
After visiting the visitor center and finding out a plan for touring the national parks nearby I found the Virginian Hotel. This hotel isn’t the nicest in town, but is sure is less expensive. The Best Western 1 block away was $80 more! I checked in early, updated the blog, ate some lunch, and headed to Arches National Park. Arches was supposed to be 95° that day and 105° the next. That influenced my decision to not put it off.
Arches is only 4 miles from downtown Moab. To get there you cross the famed Colorado River. The river is green at this point, probably from all the damming upstream that blocks the sediments. Arches appears on the right, and you notice they’ve prepared for crowds. Besides being nearly downtown Moab, Arches is very close to interstate 70, and any passerbys can stop in to see most of the sights without losing much time in their trip across the country. It’s also famous even being younger than most of the other parks. This all spells crowd, and thankfully I was there on a weekday in the heat of summer or it would have been worse that I experienced.
Normally I do my best to take pictures of parks without people in them. That way the natural beauty can stand out. That is nearly impossible in Arches, so I decided to show what it is really like: a barren wasteland full of plump sunburned people and a few interesting geologic monuments to wind and time.
The ever necessary entrance shot with my bike.
Thankfully I was able to get one with just the bike, and a nice woman held her kids back and took a photo of me – something I’d neglected at the entrance to most parks.
Climbing into Arched NP you leave the valley below which hosts the visitor center and entrance roads. The sight from above is pure desert. You learn from signs posted along the road that this area used to be near a sea, and sand dunes covered the area causing the strange hershey kisses shaped rock features.
You also pass large balancing rocks that have somehow withstood the erosion that comes with ages of wind and rain.
This is the first inclination that there will be something special to see here, and it does get more interesting as you proceed into the park.
First stop is the windows. They stand near each other aligned north-south and facing the other two cardinal directions.
Nearby are two other arches, doubles in fact. One sitting next to another. They are nice to and have names, which I forget.
Here at Arches hiking is not like at other parks. The trails are paved and very short. In fact, from the road you can see most of the interesting sights. This is uncommon and breeds a different type of visitor. In my experience at national parks, and the number visited has grown large, only the people most willing to hike some distance see the best and most beautiful parts. That is not true at Arches. Most of the people I encountered were elderly or with young children. And except for the heat Arches definitely caters to them. Very few people were my age; but that is not uncommon.
I saw as many arches as possible in the afternoon I was there. There are hundreds if not thousands, but most are small and not impressive. Saving the best for last, I finally parked at the Delicate Arch parking lot and prepared to do the one challenging hike of the day: a 3 mile round trip uphill climb. It’s not uphill both ways of course, but the heat did add a factor most people weren’t ready for. I met some retired police officer Harley riders passing through from New Jersey to California who were wearing black shirts and riding boots. They had just gotten back from the hike and complained about the difficulty. I wasn’t worried.
It really was uphill to the endpoint of the trail, and I paused a few times to catch my breath under the guise of taking pictures. I’d been hiking a lot recently and was pretty fit, so I felt for the people who had to sit in the sun for long periods to rest. On the way up I came upon a mother daughter combo. They were both dressed in hot pink, and the girl’s face was these same as her shirt. She was complaining about the heat and how the hike was too far. The brothers and father went on ahead. This girl was probably 10, and both she and her mother will never see Delicate Arch. It was just too hard for them. I think they had planned poorly and not eaten at all since breakfast. So I passed them the only snack I had – a strawberry pop-tart, which they shared and were grateful for. I left when the rest of the family returned, but only after finding them some shade. They had been sitting in 100 degree heat on a bare rock with trees just 20 yards away.
The rest of the climb/hike was without adventure, but the scenery got better as I went.
Finally I reached the Delicate Arch. It was worth the hike!
People are courteous enough to allow you a chance to take a photo without anyone else. Actually, there is a sign asking you to do that. Even still, some people hogged the spot below the famed arch for immeasurable amounts of time. So I got one of me at Delicate Arch. I’m sorry for the ugliness, can’t be helped.
It is a very photogenic spot!
On the way back rain threatened, which was nice and cooled everything. I headed back to Moab to do laundry and buy food for the next leg of the trip. I also stopped for a dinner, a real dinner. I’d been eating camp food for several days and wanted something substantial. Chinese fit the bill, and the food was good, but I was surprised at an extra charge on the bill which turned out to be rice. Can you believe that? Rice doesn’t come with the meal. Oh well, the food was at least good, and my belly was happy. The next morning I changed my oil before heading out, something that needed to be done, and I had the time. Overall, my stay in Moab was pleasant and productive. Not a bad place to spend a day.