Friday, April 15, 2016

Fri 15 April - Moab, UT - Delicate Arch and dodging the rain

A prediction for rain in the southern Utah and northern Arizona regions for today. And wet is what we got. Not much, but some. Including cold temperatures and wind.

Hiking still beckoned despite forecasts of poor weather. There was a short 4.8km hike to Delicate Arch inside of Arches National Park recommended to us as "a must". So we took a punt that the rain would not come first thing in the morning and drove up there for an 8am start. A good thing we did as it is a popular trail and it was good to have only a handful of people around instead of the later crowds. 

We followed up the hike to Delicate Arch with another even shorter 1.8km walk. To North Window and South Window on something called the... Windows Trail. This is how it all looked on the map with the 2 hikes. 

National Park Week in the US runs from 16-24 April this year. That means free entry to all US national parks for that period. For us, this started one day earlier in Arches National Park as there were nobody there collecting entry fees. Or we were too early at 7.30am and they hadn't started work yet. A sign said "if unattended, pay at the next national park".  Sorry, nope. The U.S. National Park Service will get plenty of extra funding from us before we return to Australia.

The hike to Delicate Arch commenced at Wolfe Ranch parking area. A civil war veteran, John Wesley Wolfe, settled in this hostile environment by the end of the 1800's. Wolfe and his family only lasted until 1910 before leaving, but his old hut and an adjacent barn are still there.

And here we are ready to rock'n roll. Well, not roll among all the rocks if we can help it.

Arches 2

Behind Di, in the photo below, the hike to Delicate Arch goes up along that hill. The path follows some small rock cairns.

Arches 3

Great views even on an overcast morning. Rain threatened but it was still holding off. The car park is back at the bottom of the first valley. 

Arches 0

The Visitor's Guide from National Park Service described the hike to Delicate Arch as "difficult".

We did not agree with that. For us it was "medium" or "intermediate". Yes, there is small elevation gain of 146 metres and yes, there is some exposure to heights. But we have hiked many other trails in the U.S. which are truly difficult.

Still, you end up here. Quite a sight... Delicate Arch to the right. Obviously.

Arches 4

If you walk forward from above and look back, this is what you see. The rock drops away quite steeply on both sides. 

Arches 5

Delicate Arch and mini Hans. 

Arches 6

And to prove Di made it...although she did spend a bit of time scooting on her ass.

Di suffers has a little bit of vertigo and she didn't like the narrower stretches with the steep drops. Fair enough, the Visitor's Guide did spell out "some exposure to heights".but she braved it.  See photos below. 

But she did hug the rock wall a bit. 

Arches 7

Walking back down towards Wolfe Ranch parking area, it became obvious how insufficient the cairns system was. Fine in clear weather but 3 small rocks on top of each other would not do it in heavy rain or poor light. Not that you would want to be here in heavy rain. It's slick rock. 

Arches 8

Back at the car for a cuppa and cinnamon roll while consulting the map. Time now is only 10am and a few sprinkles of rain meant that perhaps we can hike somewhere else.

Arches 9

The Visitor's Guide lists the Windows Trail as easy and we had recommendations to walk that one too. Short 1 mile hike that takes in the North Window and the South Window arches.

Not far to walk as you can see. That is North Window in the distance.

Arches 10

A "selfie" in front of North Window.

Arches 11

Hans inside North Window, but this could be anywhere.

Arches 12

The Windows Trail takes you around the back of the North and South Windows in a loop back to the parking area. At the back of the Windows, we saw almost no-one. Funny what a short distance away from the maintained path you can go and be almost by yourself. Except that we found and chatted to a National Park intern, Kathy. Funny young girl who loved the outdoors a lot, soon on her way to Portland, OR.  We preferred this back "primitive trail". Lovely views. 

Back in the car feeling a bit chilled - the wind was howling and the temperature was less than 10c degrees so we made our the way towards the exit of Arches National Park.  On the way we made a final stop at "Balanced Rock". Di suggested that Hans try to make the rock "unbalanced". The proof: One of those crappy "straightening out the Pisa tower" photos. Pretty bad, hey?

Arches 99

The rock is really just balancing and looks like it could fall at any moment. Fortunately Utah is stable seismologically. 

Soon, the rain started to come down and we drove back to the motel for lunch. Bread rolls and a hot cup of soup in our room. We warmed up. Perfect. 

Tomorrow the weather forecast is "better" and then we try again. A bit longer hike this time.

We had an early dinner (5.30pm) at Paradox pizzas, which we enjoyed. Huge as usual. 

But we were puzzled by the laws in Utah for service of Alcohol.  Whilst we ordered at the counter a waitress had to take Hans' name with his beer order and then bring it separately to our table. 

Hans' name was written on a tag for the table and was only removed once our pizza arrived. It had to do with Utah's "intent to dine" laws. No food, no alcohol. 

Apparently, somebody from the authority policing Utah's alcohol laws can arrive unexpectedly at any time, see that you drink alcohol but have no food and ask you to verify that you are the person whose name is on the tag. Otherwise... 

The local micro beer was very good in Hans' view. Beer has come a long way in 15-20 years in USA. 

Back in our hotel room we looked up the laws. See Wikipedia for details, which are quite detailed and odd, but the biggest "shock" was to find our we broke the law. Turns out you can't transport alcohol into Utah. Not liquor, not wine, not even beer. We had a bottle of wine in the boot of our car when we drove from Arizona. A bottle that we bought just across the border from Utah. We are drinking the evidence in the room now.

Utah is an odd and interesting, fascinating place at the same time...

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