Thursday, November 21, 2019

Arches National Park: Devil's Garden Trail

"A walk in nature walks the soul back home." -Mary Davis

^ By mid-afternoon, with the worst of the desert heat behind us, my daughters and I are ready for a new hiking challenge. Due to the still-steamy temperatures and my busted arm, we decide to take the relatively challenging hike out to Delicate Arch off the table. Disappointed though I am to be denied my return voyage to that iconic formation, I take great relief in knowing that my grit and busted shoulder will not be challenged to that extreme.

Instead, we burst out of the starting gates on the 1.6 mile Devil's Garden Trail and head first in the direction of Landscape Arch.

^ Friendly faces greet us along the way.

^ Clouds sail by overhead, and the relief they provide is palpable. Since I overheat readily - my body just doesn't sweat much and the heat builds up inside me - I use my tried-and-true damp bandanna around the neck trick to keep myself cool. Works like a charm. 

^ When hiking, it's easy and tempting to get so wrapped up in arriving at the destination that we miss the glories along the way. That's why I 'm a huge fan of pausing every few minutes along the trail to simply look up and take in the surroundings. Plus water breaks. 

 ^ A firm footed trail and lowing red rocks for dayz.

 ^ And more friendly faces.

^ Eventually, the trail climbs ever so slightly and the vistas open up. 

 ^ And then, suddenly, right in front of us, there she is.

^ The largest arch on the planet. 

^ She's a slender slip of a thing, and became even more so in 1991, when a symphony of cracking rock led to a major rock fall. Though some interpret this to mean that Delicate Arch is nearing the end of its life and will soon be reduced to a pile of red rubble, others contend that the new, slimmed down version of the arch is more stable than ever and likely to strand strong for centuries to come. 

^ Only time will tell. 

^ Bye, arch. I hope I will see you again in my lifetime. But if not, say hi to my great-great-grandchildren.

^ Okay, back we go, retracing our steps along the trail, which always makes a return trip feel delightfully shorter than the trip out. 

 ^  When we're about a quarter-mile from the trail head, we take a hard left onto a spur trail to visit two more arches. 

^ Down a steep hill, a quick turn right, and we soon see the signs announcing that we have reached another viewing area. But where is the arch?

As we approach, Tunnel Arch shyly reveals her position and dramatically demonstrates her name. 

 ^ With each step, the opening in the rock becomes clearer and wider.

 ^ Until the trail dead-ends in a small, fenced viewing area and our sights are set clear down the barrel of the arch. A most satisfying sensation.

^ Again, we reverse engines, head back to the bottom of that hill, and go left this time.  

 ^ Vistas near and far keep us entertained as we close in on our final target, Pine Tree Arch.

^ Oh, there she is. A clever little grounded arch, resting her toes in the soft red sand, with a scruffy junior pine growing right there in her midst. Unlike Delicate and Tunnel Arches, this one is close and personal. Signs caution hikers to stay out from the area underneath the arch, and we try to obey, we really do. But the gentle approach beckons us, and we tiptoe closer to see what it's like to stand in the sand underneath this arch. 

Spoilers: It's amazing. 

^ And now with our hike among the Devil's Garden complete, we turn our satisfied souls back to the car. With any luck, there's time for one more adventure among the arches. 

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Road Trip 2019: read all about it.

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