lost, for a little while

the golden circle’s greatest hits: arches
June 10, 2011, 2:46 pm
Filed under: trips

Helloooo, Utah!

After I left Telluride, my journey took me across the border into southeastern Utah. More importantly, it took me to my first stop in a magical area some call the Golden Circle, or the Grand Circle. Go into southeastern Utah and you can’t throw a rock without hitting a national park. Yes, that statement is factually accurate.

My arrival in Moab, Utah marked the beginning of a 12-day romp through the national parks of southern Utah and northern Arizona: Arches, Canyonlands, a drive through Capital Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and both rims of the Grand Canyon. If it sounds epic, that’s because it was.

My aunt and cousin decided to fly out and meet up with me at Bryce Canyon and accompany me until the end of the Grand Canyon. Aunt Barby kept calling it a vacation, but I still think they came just to make sure I didn’t fall off any (more) cliffs or get gored by a big-horned sheep. Either way, their company was much appreciated.

Let’s see some highlights:

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Less than three hours after I drove down the mountains of Telluride, I was parking the Blueberry in the lot of the visitors center at Arches National Park. The ranger-led hike I’d signed up for wasn’t until later in the afternoon, so I asked a park employee for some advice on things I could do until then. His idea of a good time was for me to hike from the visitors center up to something-or-other Arch, loop back down to this-here-intersection, and then make my way to the Fiery Furnace parking lot, where my group would be meeting. Actually, I’m not sure what his real recommendation was; my eyes were glued to the map he was pointing to, and the fact that the different spots were not even remotely close to each other.

Maybe I could, y’know, ease my way into the whole outdoors and exercise thing, instead.

I joined the other cars and trailers in doing the lazy person’s way of park-exploring and drove the winding road around to some of the viewpoints. By the time I reached the parking lot for the trailhead to Delicate Arch, I was feeling overly confident.

Hiking. Yeah, I can do this.

My water pack was full, my straps were all cinched, I was ready to go. According to my park information, the trail is three miles, roundtrip, and it’s supposed to take an estimated 2 to 3 hours to complete. I think I made it in a solid hour and a half, jogging on the way back from the Arch when I realized that there was a very good chance I’d miss my hike. I bypassed some very confused-looking people who had just passed me the other way not too long ago, but just smiled and waved as I huffed along.

Into the Fiery Furnace

The ranger-led hike of the Fiery Furnace is a three-hour route through narrow crevices, across deep cracks in the rock, and around a maze of rocks and sandy washes. Strangely enough, I met not one, but two women on that hike who were also traveling around the country solo. One was a retired journalist who had sold her house and was traveling the nation in a trailer she had bought. The other was a young woman, probably in her late twenties, who had taken a week off of work and driven, alone, from St. Louis out to the Grand Canyon.

Based on the reactions I’ve gotten so far, it seems that most people either love the idea of what I’m doing, or think I’m crazy, but no one really understands what it’s like. These ladies did, and it was fun talking with them as we hiked.

Landscape Arch

Last day at Arches, it poured. I got out early enough that I made it to the Devil’s Garden and saw Landscape Arch before the deluge, but got caught in it as I searched for the elusive (to me) Double O Arch. Note to Arches NPS folk: you need to mark that trail better. Note to self: Turn back the second you think you’re going the wrong way. Note to God: Thank you.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out at the Red Rock Bakery & Net Cafe, where the tables were filled with SAR dudes, backpacking Australians, and the usual rotation of outdoor-loving locals. Great people watching, great coffee, great place to dry off and lick my wounds.

Next up: Canyonlands.


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