Arches to Rocky Mountain

Westward Wanderlust Day 21

Hwy 313 Outside of Moab, Utah

July 30, 2012

The sputtering blast of engine brakes jolted me from sleep.  The car windows beaded with condensation from our sleeping breath and I realized how warm I was. Our mobile bedroom had become a steam cooker on wheels, poaching our sleep and sweat-saturated bodies along the side of the highway. I rolled over and opened the door to find myself looking down on a barrage of semis, trucks, and other anxious morning traffic racing along Utah 313.  The wayside where we pulled off to sleep was paralleled by the busy highway on one side and to our surprise, a state bicycling trail on the other.  Ambitious early morning bicyclers glided past our car and stared curiously at the hot, groggy, bed-headed, mess of a girl gazing bleary-eyed up at the red rock walls that bordered the trail.  Yikes.

Good Morning Utah!

Good Morning Utah!

It was 8:00 am and 81 degrees as we resituated our car for travel.  We took a quick ride into Moab to grab coffee and breakfast to go. In addition to delicious egg sandwiches and coffee, Eklectica Cafe has a unique array of jewelry and collectibles for sale.

Eklectica Cafe, Moab Utah

Eklectica Cafe, Moab Utah

They also seem to know the needs of their tourist clientele.

Sweet!  Thanks Eklectica!

Sweet! Thanks Eklectica!

Then, we were off to our next park:

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Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches displays a fantastic collection of sculptured rock vistas.   According to geologists, the park stands over an underground salt bed, the natural architect of the many spires, arches, fins, monoliths, and balanced rocks that make this area special.

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

According to our park literature, “Salt under pressure is unstable, and the salt bed lying below Arches was no match for the weight of this thick cover of rock.  The salt layer shifted, buckled, liquefied, and repositioned itself, thrusting rock layers upward as domes, and whole sections fell into cavities”.

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT (Photo by D.R.J.)

Arches National Park, UT (Photo by D.R.J.)

As we drove through the brilliant red an orange landscape, we watched for the figures hidden in the rocks.  Many of the rocks have been given anthropomorphic or animal names suggested by their shape.

"The Three Gossips" Arches National Park, UT

“The Three Gossips” Arches National Park, UT

"The Organ" Arches National Park, UT

“The Organ” Arches National Park, UT

"Courthouse Towers" Arches National Park, UT

“Courthouse Towers” Arches National Park, UT

"Sheep Rock" Arches National Park, UT

“Sheep Rock” Arches National Park, UT

Next we checked out the Petrified Dunes.

Driving to the Dunes, Arches

Driving to the Dunes, Arches

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Petrified Dunes, Arches

Petrified Dunes, Arches

Once covered by endless sand dunes, this area was slowly changed over time.  Sand covered by layer of sediment was compressed and cemented by calcite and quartz.  As even more time passed, erosion washed away the sedimentary layers and uncovered the original bubbled landscape once again.  Originally carried by northwest winds blustering over the landscape over 200 million years ago, the ancient sand has solidified into rock, hence the name “Petrified Dunes”.

We continued on to one of the more well-known rock monuments in the park, the precariously impressive 55-foot tall block of sandstone, Balanced Rock.

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Balanced Rock, Arches

Balanced Rock, Arches

It’s challenging to name and describe all of the impressive features that surrounded us.

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Massive stone figures loomed over the desert like silent giants. They stood motionless, unable to shift from their post, yet seemed to transform and change with fluctuating light and shadow.

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Set against the colorful vista of the Utah desert and beneath cotton-cloud-webbed skies, there was little want for a more beautiful scene.

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

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Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Species of Prickly Pear Cacti?

Possible species of Prickly Pear Cacti?

Next we hiked around the Windows and Double Arch Trail.

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The Windows, Arches National Park

The Windows, Arches National Park

We again let our imaginations wander as we looked for figures in the rocks.

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

"Parade of Elephants"  Arches National Park

“Parade of Elephants” Arches National Park

"Parade of Elephants"  Arches National Park

“Parade of Elephants” Arches National Park

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

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Crispy Utah Juniper

Crispy Utah Juniper

Healthy Utah Juniper

Healthy Utah Juniper

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Slowly dissolved by water and weather over the years, the binding ability of the sandstone deteriorates.  Small cavities of eroded sandstone eventually penetrate the stone fins and become arches. Arches National park boasts over 2,000 of such openings.

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Laying under the Arches - Arches National Park, UT

Laying under the Arches – Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Moss in the desert! Arches National Park, UT

Moss in the desert! Arches National Park, UT

It’s impossible to really conceive of how big these arches are until you walk right up to them.

See little D?  These things are HUGE!

See little D? These things are HUGE!

Arches National Park, UT (Photo By D. R. J.)

Arches National Park, UT (Photo By D. R. J.)

Arches National Park, UT (Photo By D. R. J.)

Me feeling small in Arches National Park, UT (Photo By D. R. J.)

Arches National Park, UT (Photo By D. R. J.)

Arches National Park, UT (Photo By D. R. J.)

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

A beautiful place to just daydream - Arches National Park, UT

A beautiful place to just daydream – Arches National Park, UT

D trying to get it all in. Arches National Park, UT

D trying to get it all in. Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT (Photo By D. R. J.)

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT (Photo By D. R. J.)

Arches National Park, UT (Photo By D. R. J.)

Me and D in the Arches!

Me and D in the Arches!

In addition to the inanimate features, Arches also hosts a variety of flora and fauna.

Utah Juniper - Juniperus osteosperma

Utah Juniper – Juniperus osteosperma

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Erect Gumweed - Grindelia fastigata

Erect Gumweed – Grindelia fastigata

Broad-leaved Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)

Broad-leaved Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)

One of the most unique is the biological soil crust called Cryptobiotic soil.  This black soil is composed of algae, moss, lichen, fungi, and cynobacteria.  This tiny plant helps to combat erosion, provides nitrogen and other nutrients for plants, and absorbs moisture.  It grows on the un-trodden areas on the park, but can easily be trampled if you are not watching your footing.  One false step can wipe out many years of growth.

Cryptobiotic soil

Cryptobiotic soil

Sweet Park Signage

Sweet Park Signage

Mormon Tea shrubs, Utah Junipers, and Greasewood spot the sand with resilient tufts of green as smaller inhabitant scurry across the sand.

Fire Ants (Genus Solenopsis)

Fire Ants (Genus Solenopsis)

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Lizard

Leopard Lizard (Gambelia Wislisenii)

 

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

 

Arches National Park also is home to a collection of Ute Rock Art Petroglyphs.

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Sheep Hunt Ute Petroglyphs - Arches National Park

Sheep Hunt Ute Petroglyphs – Arches National Park

Carved sometimes between A.D. 1650 and 1850, the Native American rock art depicts horses and riders as well as some dog-like animals and big horn sheep.

Ute Petroglyphs - Arches National Park

Ute Petroglyphs – Arches National Park

Ute Petroglyphs - Arches National Park

Ute Petroglyphs – Arches National Park

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As we hiked, we surveyed the ground and surrounding rocks for other finds.

Arches National Park or the face of the Moon?

Arches National Park or the face of the Moon?

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Dragon fly

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Our careful investigation was rewarded with an animal we wanted to see, but only from a safe distance…a rattle snake.

Midget-faded  rattle snake  (Crotalus oreganus concolor)

Midget-faded rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus concolor)

A small subspecies of the Western Rattlesnake, the Midget-faded Rattlesnake has extremely toxic venom, though only one-third of all bites incur full venom.  In how difficult it was to get a good picture without getting too close, you can see how easy it can be to miss these awesome creatures.  With their excellent camouflage and fierce reputation though, I’d most certainly rather be actively looking for them than surprised by their arrival.

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

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Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

It was about 1:30 pm and 85 degrees when we headed for the Delicate Arch Trail.

The trail is well-traveled and easy to follow, though often crowded.  We hiked to the base of a large, smooth sandstone hill (known as slickrock) and began to climb up. The trail is then denoted by cairns, or stacks of stones that led us over the slickrock.  The trail culminated with a 200-yard sandstone ledge that wrapped around the curved rock walls and ended at the Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch Trail

Delicate Arch Trail

View from Delicate Arch Trail

View from Delicate Arch Trail

D setting up a photo.

D setting up a photo.

Delicate Arch , UT

Delicate Arch , UT

That's one resilient tree!

That’s one resilient tree!

View from above

View from above

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Arching 80 feet overhead, Delicate Arch is probably one of the most well-know arches in the park.

Me under the Delicate Arch

Me under the Delicate Arch

D under the Delicate Arch

D and Me under the Delicate Arch

D under the Delicate Arch

D under the Delicate Arch

Photo by D.R. J.

Photo by D.R. J.

Me taking in the view

Me taking in the view

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D at the highest point above Delicate Arch

D at the highest point above Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch (Photo by D. R. J.)

Delicate Arch (Photo by D. R. J.)

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

After taking some time to enjoy the view and climb around on the slickrock, we headed back down the trail.

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Black-throated sparrow - Amphispiza bilineata

Black-throated sparrow – Amphispiza bilineata

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Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

We took one last drive through the spectacularly unique scenery, visited a few more rock structures, and headed on our way.

Arches National Park, UT (photo by D. R. J.)

Arches National Park, UT (photo by D. R. J.)

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT (Photo by D. R. J.)

Arches National Park, UT (Photo by D. R. J.)

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Arches National Park is perched above the Colorado River, and as we perused our maps, we realized that we would essentially be following the path of the river to get to our next and final destination on our trip, Rocky Mountain National Park.

UT to CO

UT to CO

UT to CO

UT to CO

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We headed northwest on Hwy 70 toward to Colorado state line.

Why thank you, Colorado!

Why thank you, Colorado!

We continued through on Colorado Hwy 6 through Fruita and Clifton.

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

I hear the train a comin', it's rollin' round the bend...

I hear the train a comin’, it’s rollin’ round the bend…

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Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Me in a Colorado Tunnel

Me driving  in a Colorado Tunnel (Photo by D. R. J.)

Photo by D.R.J.

Photo by D.R.J.

Colorado

Colorado

We followed Hwy 6 for a while before consulting our maps again.  We decided that we really could just follow the Colorado River to the park, and turned off of the highway at Wolcott and headed north on 131.

Colorado 131

Colorado 131

Driving the dirt road through the rolling tree-covered hills, we marveled at the lush green grasses and trees and the silver-grey mountains.  Like most things, you don’t realize how much you appreciate something until you are without it, and place is no exception.  We had been in the desert for so long it seemed, we did realize how much we had missed the forest and mountains.

Colorado

Colorado

DSC_0247

Colorado

Colorado

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana)

Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana)

Colorado Educational Signage!

Colorado Educational Signage!

 

Colorado River

Colorado River

We twisted and turned through the mountains and valleys, the mighty Colorado River as our guide.

Colorado River

Colorado River

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

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Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Colorado

Antlers AND Jerky?!

Antlers AND Jerky?!

Colorado

Colorado

Around 8:00 pm, we entered Arapaho Recreation Area and camped at Willow Creek Campground.

Colorado

Colorado

The sun was setting as we pulled into the campground and made camp.

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Willow Creek

Willow Creek

The moon looked to be almost full and shown brightly on us as we prepared dinner.

Colorado Moon

Colorado Moon

Campsite, Willow Creek CO

Campsite, Willow Creek CO

Chef D prepared delicious campfire quesadillas and hashbrowns,

Chef D

Chef D

which were followed by scrumptious s’mores (thanks Ava & Rob!) to top off the night.

Yum!

Yum!

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We sat mesmerized by our campfire late into the night, knowing full well that this was going to be our last night in a tent on our trip.  We held onto the night until we couldn’t keep our eyelids open, then climbed in to our trusty tent that had provided us with so many nights of restful sleep in the great outdoors these last few weeks.

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Westward Wanderlust Soundtrack – Day 21

Driving through Arches National Park –

“Question” – The Moody Blues

“Little Wing” – Derek & the Dominos

Coasting through the hills of Colorado-

“Bluegrass Stain” – Mark Ronson

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