Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Eastward Ho! Day 5: Arches National Park
Okay FIRST OFF let me just say that I'm awfully fucking glad I've been hiking almost every weekend this year because if I hadn't you'd be reading this in a somewhat different form...like engraved into my headstone, perhaps. I purposely didn't over-research this stop because I wanted something to be a surprise. Well....leave it to me to be "surprised" that everything I decided to do was either "strenuous" or "moderately strenuous" and the only difference I can detect between those two levels is the numbers of "where's the motherfucking parking lot"s mumbled under my breath. In case you were wondering, eleven for the former, seven for the latter.
I started the day with some sort of potato-bacon-cheese-vomit-skillet-y concoction at the local "diner." No counter! Means no diner! In my book, anyway.
I had done enough research to know that I wanted to hike into the Fiery Furnace, but it's ranger-led only, so you have to reserve in advance, which I did. 4pm. For a 3-hour hike. I went ahead and went to the park at 9am. I did an easy mile all the way around the Windows Arches, then a half mile over to Double Arch. La la la, no big deal, and Double Arch is pretty amazing.
Then back in the car and over to Delicate Arch, which if you are wondering what it looks like, just look at the Utah state quarter. Or look at the pictures below. I decide since I had so much time to kill - LIKE SEVEN HOURS - I would do the hike to the base of Delicate Arch. Three miles round trip. STRENUOUS. And they aren't kidding. A good mile of it was over a big "slickrock" and oh, did I mention it was overcast and lightly rainy? WELL IT WAS. And that is why they call it slickrock IN CASE YOU WERE ABOUT TO ASK. Which you were. It was HARD. And then, wa-la, there it is all of a sudden, a total surprise and you actually laugh out loud because it was so worth the hike. Lots of people at first, but it thinned the hour I was up there, down to just ten or so. Lunchtime! Anyway, I did a quick sketch and took some pics and then slipped and slid all the way back to the parking lot. I took my time, so this whole journey was over two hours; close to three actually.
Then some little side trips to Broken Arch (1.4 miles) and then I drove to the ends of where I could drive and then headed back to the place for the Fiery Furnace meet-up. Twenty-five people. Germans, French, ten Japanese (one was wearing a wig!), two indeterminate-nationality couples (I am confused by Belgians), a fatehr-son from Utah and me. We had a terrific ranger though I think they should teach her to say "don't touch the poison ivy" in Japanese because every time the Japanese did touch it, she'd just yell in English, louder. SIR! IT'S POISON! ITCHY ITCHY! ANd they'd keep right on fondling it like they were selecting salad greens. ANYWAY. Into the Fiery Furnace we went. It's a maze of hundred-feet high fins and I got lost EVEN THOUGH I WAS WITH TWENTY-FOUR OTHER PEOPLE and had to yell "hey LADY!" and it echoed around I guess until I was supposed to die and they came back for me. After that I stuck with the wig-wearing Japanese lady. It is impossible for me to oversell this hike. It's specTACular. Also? MODERATELY STRENUOUS. Which is no less strenuous than STRENUOUS but if they called it STRENUOUS, no one would pay ten dollars to do it. That's like paying to go to jail. This shit was hard...but beautiful. At one point, I had to put my feet on one wall and my ass on another and shimmy fifty horizontal feet on my ass. OR FALL TO MY DEATH. Eh, maybe.
Anyway, we threaded our way from canyon to crevice, arches overhead, little pools of water at our feet. It was a slippery three miles. But I'd do it again. IN ABOUT FIVE YEARS.
I do want to be sure that you all know how terrific I think Arches National Park is. There's not a lot of folderol; it's trails and nature and that's it. No lodge, no restaurant...but an excellent gift shop. I made out with this, part of the set that I collect....but only if I've been there. I ended up having a ten-plus-mile day, six of which were hard. So yay me.