Day 3 - Arches National Park
October is busy in Moab. You can go any time in the heat of the summer and have the place to yourself. But when Utah is on fall break, and much of Colorado is on fall break - it was booked out. No camping spots even down along the river, no lodging. We met a couple who were going to have to go to Grand Junction for nearest lodging on Friday night.
To add to this, Arches is the most accessible of the three park areas, by far. Many major features like the Windows and Balanced Rock have a parking lot at their base. Even Delicate Arch, one of the true must see features, is a relatively straightforward hike, 25 minutes out of Moab. On Friday and Saturday of this trip, the vehicle lines to get into Arches were 50-60 cars deep. At Needles, they didn't even have anybody at the park entrance station to check your pass or sell you one. Honor system by going to the visitor center and checking in. So we saved Arches for Sunday, which was also our return trip day that is about 8 hours with stops. Arches National Park has the largest collection of stone arches in the world - and you do have to earn a view of most of them. This could easily be "3 Days in Arches", just not on a busy weekend.
Our plan was simple: keep the campsite reservation for Sunday night in order to not have to break camp early and then hike later, drive 10 minutes down the road and hike Delicate Arch, have lunch, break camp, and head home. But we are in Devil's Garden Campground, and we've never explored Devil's Garden. That parking lot is always full. Pull out the hiking guide book, and it says that if you do the whole primitive loop that Devil's Garden is one of the most spectacular hikes in any national park. Well, we can walk there from camp, it's a half mile or so. Done.
TIme for some coffee. After yesterday, this is going to taste really, really good, except it isn't, because it is Starbucks Via that expired in 2013. Of course, some planning errors are better than others. Steeped cigarette butts would probably taste good after yesterday's glorious epicness. Anyway, it's sunny, there is rain in the afternoon forecast, and we leave for the trailhead on foot at about 9:30. The trailhead map shows signs for the superhighway trail sights, aka the "white sock" trail, which are spurs to arches viewing pens. And then the primitive loop. We figure we can get out to the primitive loop and see what's what.
Also, the sign advises that the primitive loop is "difficult hiking", and that it is not advised when snowy or wet. My wife points this out, and I retort "After yesterday, I think we can handle it." Gee. No way that is going to be tested today now that I've said it.
This area is awesome. It is almost entirely fins, and the trail heads out between two of them, nice and cool in the morning, and then opens out to this (fins on the left).
Well now. This is looking like a good day.