Inger and Jeff Latreille
Magnificent Mother Earth
~Monday, April 25, 2022~
The group campers all seemed to have left. We didn’t realize just how popular the group site would be next to us with new groups coming and going each day. They definitely know how to have a good time. Love the energy and camaraderie they all share, as it appears they all seem to mingle and share the same roaring campfire each night.
Our plans of bike riding to Arches will have to wait until Tuesday (our final day). But our 4:00 time slot of getting into the park is still on! In fact, we love Arches so much, we’re adding another 4:00 slot for Tuesday. We’ve nixed the idea of getting there earlier in the day since sunset is an amazing time to be in the park, adding even more drama to the already dramatic landscape.
But first, how about a little background about Arches, especially for those that have never seen this awe inspiring place. Why here? Why does this area have some of the world’s greatest densities of natural arches? The park lies atop an underground salt bed that was deposited across the Colorado Plateau 300 million years ago when a sea flowed into the region, eventually evaporating. Water, ice, extreme temperatures and underground salt movement are responsible for the compressed sculptured rock scenery we see today. What has taken millions of years to sculpt, continues to change…..towering spires, pinnacles and balanced rocks barely perched above their eroding pedestals. It’s all magnificent!
Arches is open 24 hours a day, so once you’re in, you’re in. And we knew we’d soak up every last bit of sunshine, hiking until the moon came up. And since there are no concessions in the park, bringing a few sandwiches for a dinner in the park seemed to be a good idea. We arrived about 20 minutes before our scheduled time, knowing the lines would still be a bit long (at least they’re not down to the highway). The timing was perfect as we passed through the gates at 4:05 (they give you an hour window to arrive). This would be Jeff’s 4th time seeing the park, and my 2nd. We came here about 15 years ago with our kiddos, staying at Devils Garden Campground. Ah, very fond memories, including getting eaten to death by no-seeums that time of year (June). Today, we thought it best to drive to the very end of the park, and over the 2 days, work our way back to the front. The traffic was sparse and the lighting beautiful that time of day, so we picked a good time to be in the park. At the very end of the drive is a section known as Devils Garden where we decided to spend the majority of our time. Devil’s Garden, with the backdrop of the snow capped La Salle Mountains has the perfect ingredients for an amazing hike and offers a lot of “bang for your buck”! The experience is basically hiking between fins (tall slender walls of sandstone) to discover hidden arches.
The entire loop is 7.8 miles which encompasses a primitive trail, evidently not very well marked. It was one of the reasons we decided not to take that route, but also didn’t think we’d have time to do the whole thing. What WAS doable was everything else in this section.
First stop, Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch (right next to each other). Pine Tree Arch is easily accessible with its ground
level opening. Tunnel Arch is appropriately named for its big tunnel-like hole in the middle. But it’s a teaser as you can only see it from a distance. Then climbing even higher from our starting point of 6,000 feet, we then found 3 more hidden gems……the famous Landscape Arch, Partition Arch and Navajo Arch. Landscape Arch is a perfect example of the constant changes happening in Arches National Park. Back in 1991, a dramatic event occurred
where a rock slab 60 feet long, 11 feet wide and 4 feet thick fell from the underside leaving behind an even thinner ribbon of rock. A few hikers thankfully had sufficient warning that day as they heard cracking above their heads about 30 seconds before the big section gave way. giving them plenty of time to make a run for it, and capturing it on camera. 😳 But even with it big section missing, it still holds its first place ranking as the longest arch in the park; a full football field length. Partition Arch with its Entrada Sandstone is absolutely gorgeous. It’s one of the few that you can actually climb to, while looking over Cottonwood Wash. The Navajo Arch has a “kid’s playhouse” feel with its tunnel-like access, which Jeff seemed to enjoy. Then finally, the difficult climb to Double O Arch/Dark Angel Overlook. It’s not everyday that you get to climb along the top of a fin to get to your destination. If you have a fear of heights, this would not be the hike for you. Once again, we were thankful for that grippy “slick-rock” as we climbed some steep inclines to get to the top of the fins. We both agree that the fins are just as amazing as the arches, especially when you’re on top of one. You have the option of seeing the arch from a slight distance or climb down through a Garden of Eden type setting to get right under it. Double O Arch is the second largest arch in the Devil's Garden area with the higher of the two openings measuring 71 feet across as opposed to the lower opening which measures 21 feet across. With the sun calling it quits for the day, we thought we’d better head back to the car. And we weren’t the last one’s out there. We made excellent time getting back at a reasonable time.
Before heading out of the park, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane to see Devils Garden Campground where we brought the kids so long ago. At the time, it was all about tent camping. But today, it’s all about whether or not our rig will fit. It appears there are several sites that will. Plus it’s nice that the sites are reservable. Another trip, another time.