Another day another fireball tabasco sauce hangover to cure, so it was hiking shoes on to drag ourselves into the fresh air. But not before Jon had turned up to take our picture on his large format camera, as promised the night before (we don’t look that hungover do we??).
The Delicate Arch hike is different from yesterdays Landscape/Double O loop, in that almost the entire path is across the rock face without a properly designated pathway. It’s easy to find your way by following the crowds of people, however even if you’re on your own there are cairns to mark the way. The lack of shade would make this a tough slog if the sun was shining, but lucky for us it was overcast and we managed to reach the top in only 45mins (modest hey?).
Getting our first up close glimpse of this seemingly out of place rock formation, it’s crazy to think that this perfect arch is all that remains of what would have once been just a huge slab of rock. It’s also a little sad to think that it won’t be here forever. We joined a queue of people lining up patiently for their turn to pose beneath it, only to witness the rudest old German moron walk straight past the entire queue and up to the arch, right in the middle of a poor girls photo. He then proceeded to stare up at the arch, walk around it a bit more and then take a few steps back and look up at it again, all the while oblivious to the girl waiting to get her picture taken and the queue of people shaking their heads and beginning to shout abuse. Even when it was pointed out to him and his ignorant wife that we’d all been waiting to take pictures, he shook his head at us all and walked off muttering under his breath like an arrogant twat.
Finally getting our turn, Sarah struck a pose then we headed down the backside of the arch to find a way down and around, managing to find a secluded place with nobody else around and an alternative angle for photos. Highly recommended if you’re up here guys, it’s pretty easy to find – looking at the arch from where you first see it, walk to the left of it and down the other side. From here you can traverse behind and below the arch, back towards the path, without having to retrace your steps up through the crowds.
Hiking done for another day we made it back to the van in record time and hit the road bound for another Utah National Park (we just can’t get enough), Canyonlands. The park is split into three sections, divided by the series of rivers and canyons running through it. Each section has it’s own draw – The Maze for it’s remoteness, The Needles for their striking rock formations and Island in the Sky for it’s accessibility. The Island in the Sky region is only a 45 minutes drive from Arches, so we arrived with plenty of time to stop before sunset, enjoying an early dinner whilst taking in the views at Big Mesa Viewpoint, which we had to ourselves. Staring at a huge chunk of stone the size of a shopping mall which appeared to have recently tumbled down the side of the mesa in a giant pile of red rubble, we were again reminded that this whole region is a decaying landscape.
Entering the park we didn’t have much time before sunset so we stopped at Shafer Canyon Overlook, where we watched a group of motorbikes tackling the hairy Shafter Trail Road, winding their way up the steep sides from the vast canyon below.
Driving out to Green River overlook, you pass through grasslands that make you forget where you are as there’s not a canyon in site. We spent the final moments of sunset marvelling at the crazy runoffs where rain spills off the plateau, converges into rivers, which then cascade over the lower canyon, finally forming one big river (Green River), reminding you that the power of water pretty much created this entire park. There actually appears to be two levels of canyon here, with the White Rim Road circuiting around the rim of the lower canyon. You need a pretty reliable 4WD or mountain bike to attempt this 100 mile loop, if you need a tow truck you can expect for handover upwards of $1,000. This part of the USA is so remote that the Henry Mountains, visible in distance, were the last mountain range to be added to the map of the lower 48 states.
As you can only stay overnight in National Parks in campgrounds and we didn’t want to fork out just to put our heads down, we made our way to Mineral Bottom Road turn off, just outside the park entrance, where we free camped under a canopy of stars with a group of dirt bikers and a couple of other vans for company.