Canyons 2015: snowy mountains and sandstone fins

We slept well and dragged ourselves out of a nice warm toasty bed in time for breakfast which is served ‘family style’ (round a table, all sitting down together) at 8am. Our room is in an outside ‘cottage’ (actually attached to David & Kim’s house) which meant crossing the garden to get to the main B&B house for breakfast. On the way I took a photo of the Moab rim, which had a light dusting of snow on it. The air was clear and frosty and the sky was blue. It looked like a good day ahead!

Breakfast was tasty – some egg thing, muffins and fruit with juice and coffee – and we chatted with the other three couples staying last night. Eventually we went to get ourselves ready for the day, which involved layering up a lot. At least the cold air and need for long sleeved clothes meant a reduced need for sun tan lotion!

Our first stop was at the visitor centre in Arches National Park to check that the road to the Delicate Arch trailhead was open after yesterday’s rain. We were aware of several closures recently due to flooding but were told that they had left it open. Our first photo stop was at the La Sal Mountains viewpoint. This afforded spectacular scenery not just of the La Sals (as you would expect) but also of the Courthouse Towers and Three Gossips, combined with potholes on the nearby rock.

 When we reached the road to Delicate Arch it was slightly flooded and cover in mud and sand, but readily passable, although it was completely flooded and impassable just beyond the parking area. We put on even more clothes and set off, first crossing the now fast flowing creek carrying lots of sand and silt, which is usually just muddy patch, then through the Salt Valley with a view back up to the Windows section, and up ‘the Great Slab’ (not its proper name but what I call the massive rock face that has to be climbed en route to the arch.

 Once at the summit, the Arch itself looked just the same. The same spectacular, serene and majestic sculpture. And with a backdrop of the snow covered La Sal mountains. I took a wander around to the arch itself while Andrew sat back and took in the view. 

After a while, we decided to make our way back down to the car and we headed to the end of the park road at the Devil’s Garden area. First we stopped near Fiery Furnace for yet another look at the view.

Here, the air was even colder, trapped between sandstone fins all day, it really hadn’t warmed up. We made our way towards Landscape Arch. Part way there we were stopped by a couple who asked us if we had any tracking skills as they were trying to identify some prints in the snow. 
 I peered at them and was about to make some observation when Andrew chimed in “about 5 feet nine, male…oh, you didn’t mean those tracks?!” Funny man! Anyway, today’s brownie points will be awarded for track identification. And no, not the human prints…

After looking at the arch (best photographed first thing on the morning, but never mind) we set off along the primitive trail, a mostly sandy, undulating walk which offers views towards Colorado, the Book cliffs (remember those? We flew over them on Sunday) and back towards the mountains. Along the way we spotted chipmunks and a couple of rabbits, who seemed to want their photo taken. Our progress was eventually stopped as we had expected, by the large pool of water that Andrew once attempted to jump across… Given the rain and snow yesterday expected that the dry wash would be wet and indeed it was. On the other side were a couple trying to work out if there was a way across, but decided to turn around too, so we parted ways and all headed back the way we had come.

On our return, the sandstone fins were starting to turn orange in the late afternoon sun and contrasted with the snowy mountains.

 Back at the trailhead we dropped all our stuff in the car and I then headed for the toilets. At that point I spotted a group of four deer, but now had no camera with me. I ran (yes, even after all the hiking) back to the car for it, and then back again, but three of them had wandered off. The last sprang up to the top of a sandstone fin and I just managed a few photos. Shooting at full zoom, handheld, in fading light they are a little blurry, but I was happy to catch the moment.

 We drove out of the park, stopping at Balanced Rock and the La Sal viewpoint again for some final photos in the late afternoon sunshine.

After a brief trip to the City Market, a sit down and showers, we went to Past Jay’s for dinner. I had a broccoli craving so opted for rigatoni with vegetables. Filling and tasty. It is now already gone 9.30, so will soon be time for bed.

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