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Published: October 13th 2012
Delicate Arch at sunset, our first hike on our first day, after arriving in Moab, is in Arches National Park. Arches contains the world's largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. Although more than 2,000 arches are located within the park's 76,518 acres, the park also contains an astounding variety of other geological formations. We are dwarfed by the colossal sandstone fins, massive balanced rocks, soaring pinnacles and spires as we drive to the trailhead.
We hike in slowly, passed by others as we stop to photograph the beautiful red rock landscape. Small cairns--stacks of flat rocks--mark the trail as it crosses slickrock areas or where it makes a turn. An hour before sunset, the base of the arch is already teaming with visitors, many with tripods and expensive cameras, many posing beneath the arch. The talking, laughter and even a babbling baby perhaps is how social life would have sounded on the ancient cliff dwellings such as in Mesa Verde National Park. A hush as the sun descends. The arch is empty. A lone person walks up and poses for a photo. The crowd hoots for her to leave. When she realizes she is the cause of the derision and
leaves, the crowd applauds.
The next day we hike to Morning Glory Arch in the Sand Flats Recreation Area. This arch is a single sandstone span 243 feet long--among the dozen largest natural rock openings in the Colorado Plateau region. Another popular hike, many hikers have brought their dogs. Our start is late, 11:00 am, and many hikers are already departing. When we reach the arch we realize why most came early: the arch is in now shadow. Of course, it is called Morning Glory. Nevertheless, we take photos and eat lunch, and are treated to adventurous soles rappelling 100 feet down from the top of the arch.
Friday. Rained in! We open the motel room door to a downpour. A huge cold rain system has moved into Utah during the night, so we must contend with intermittent rain and gusty wind and colder temperatures (57 F). We decide a drive to the Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park is a better choice than hiking in heavy rain. The mythical- sounding Island in the Sky is less than an hour’s drive from Moab, and offers views that encompass thousands of square miles of colorful canyons, mesas
and buttes formed by the convergence of the Green and the Colorado Rivers over millennia.
By the time we arrive at Upheaval Dome, the skies have cleared. We hike in for about an hour, marveling at the drama of the landscape. Geologists and seismologists most commonly believe the immense crater crater was caused by a meteor impact at least 150 million years ago. Structurally, the dome is unusual: layers of sandstone rock have been pushed up into a circular structure called a dome, or an anticline. Surrounding the dome the rock layers are arrayed in a downward warp, called a syncline. The rim of Upheaval Dome is three miles across and more than 1,000 feet above the core floor. The central peak in the core is 3,000 feet in diameter and rises 750 feet from the floor.
As we settle in for lunch on the edge of the crater, we realize more rain is coming. Sleet descended as we return to the car, stepping carefully along rocks now slick from the downpour. Driving farther south, we are again out of the rain at the Grand View Point Overlook, the tip of the Island in the Sky--overlooking where the
Green and the Colorado Rivers meet. We spend a pleasant hour strolling along the rim and taking pictures before the rain clouds approach once more. The rain enhances the magnificent colors. The evening news reports that Moab was hit the hardest by the rain in Utah. We were fortunate to spend the day on high ground and to find breaks in the heavy rain.
Moab is one of our favorite places: a unique combination of beautiful red rock scenery, two national parks, and the Colorado River with beautiful scenic drives, mountain biking, hiking, four wheel driving, or various types of river trips. Downtown Moab offers a great collection of restaurants, shops, galleries, and a variety of lodging options.
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