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U.S.A.: Arches National Park

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Arches National Park | U.S.A. | Americas

[Visited: July 2009]

After a long ride from Las Vegas, we arrived in Moab in the dark of night, and when we woke up very early the next morning, we could see only a hint of the coming day. We drove towards the entrance of Arches National Park, and as we were driving up, the dark of the night was slowly giving way to a faint blue-pink light that was announcing of the sun being on its way. The sky was covered in clouds, and after making some short stops, we ended up at the Devils Garden trailhead, and decided to go for it. The air was still cool when we walked through a small canyon, and we spotted our first arches at Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. We ourselves were spotted by a deer who jumped out of the bushes right in front of us. Walking towards Devils Garden took us past Landscape Arch, at 100m the largest arch in the world - but it is not difficult to imagine that this arch will once collapse. It looks vulnerable, and indeed, big chunks of rock have fallen from it since 1991. We passed what used to be Wall Arch on our way up, and made a side-trip to Partition Arch and Navajo Arch where we saw some of the many lizards of the park, and arrived on top of the rocky landscape shortly thereafter, giving us great views over the surrounding landscape of rock fins and plains. It was starting to get hot when we reached Double O Arch - which is an amazing natural structure of two arches one on top of the other. Climbing it proved to be pretty easy, and once again, the view from the top was great. By that time, we were starting to feel hungry as we did not have breakfast, and we rationed the little water that was remaining on our way back to the trailhead and to Moab where we had a well deserved lunch.

Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Sun setting over Delicate Arch

The spectacular landscape of Arches is formed where once was a huge sea, and the rocky landscape lies on top of an enormous salt bed on which arches, monoliths, rock fins, and balanced rocks were able to form. The combination of this salt bed, its heavy rocky layer, and erosion caused the formation of the landscape as we see it today. This process continues, and arches have known to collapse even in recent history. After a short rest, we continued our exploration of Arches National Park in the afternoon, and first stopped at Park Avenue. A huge rock wall with what seems like skyscrapers on both sides of a valley make for a difference from the rocky arches found elsewhere - and surely, this landscape looks awfully beautiful. We continued towards Balanced Rock. While we saw several other rocks in a seemingly impossible balancing act against gravity and erosion, Balanced Rock is a sight to behold and walking around it gives a good view from all angles. From here, we continued to Wolfe Ranch, from where we walked up towards Delicate Arch. Especially the last part was fantastic, and when we arrived at Delicate Arch, the area was full of people patiently waiting for sunset in the rocky bowl. Unfortunately, there was a line of people wanting to pose right under the Delicate Arch in some sort of odd pose for their picture to be taken, and as sunset was drawing closer, there were more and more shouts to give everyone an unobstructed view over this amazing natural structure. I walked around it several times, looking up in awe at this massive rocky formation. The orange glow of Delicate Arch with the backdrop of a blue sky was a sight to remember. We managed to be down just before it was completely dark.

Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Enormous Park Avenue in the late afternoon

We rose very early again the next morning, and were the first to visit Balanced Rock, and enjoyed the view of the contours of the rocky formations against a dark blue sky with only subtle hints of the first sun rays. We parked on an empty parking lot at the Windows Section, and saw Turret Arch before arriving at the North and South Window. These actually are large holes in a massive rock face. We waited in patient anticipation for the sun - it took a long time to appear, and when it finally did, it seemed to set the rocks around us on fire. As the sun was climbing in the blue sky, we continued our walk around this rock formation, and then went to the Double Arch. This is a very interesting formation: thousands and thousands of interaction between climate, erosion, and gravity formed a hole in the ceiling, and carved out two big holes, thus forming arches all around. We climbed up on the rocks, and enjoyed a great view over the landscape towards the Parade of Elephants and a dramatic fault on one side, and the Windows Section on the other. Especially the layers of soil you can see at the fault, give an idea of how this area has been developed over the last millions of years, and how this slow process will continue for a long time to come. We reluctantly returned to Moab and were on our way to new adventures - but we were missing the rocky Arches National Park right from the start. One of those places to come back to!

Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): The largest arch of the park: Landscape Arch - but how much longer will it last?
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Balanced Rock - the most famous of the many rocks balancing on a precarious base
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Path to Delicate Arch hacked out in the rocks
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Double Arch seen from the inside
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Looking out from Partition Arch
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): North and South Window at sunrise
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): View of Double O Arch from below
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Dawn over the contours of Arches National Park
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Arches landscape seen from Double O Arch
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Arches landscape seen in the early morning
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Three Penguins towering above the road
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Petroglyphs representing animals made by the indigenous Ute people
Picture of Arches National Park (U.S.A.): Landscape view from Double O Arch

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