Arches National Park

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August 16th 2006
Published: August 25th 2006
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Day 12 - August 16, 2006

Today we went to Arches National Park. There are over 2200 arches, more are discovered each year. If you come and discover a new one, then you can name it. We finally found a National Parks Passport for the kids (we've already been to four parks). Each park has its own stamp and cancellation mark.

We set out to drive into the park to view the sights and also make a couple of hikes to some of the arches (many cannot be viewed from the road). The arches and rock formations are so large that most cannot be adequately viewed from a RV, or even car or minivan. We drove past everything, however, to start at the back of the park and hike to Landscape Arch. This arch is longer than a football field, and quite a challenge to photograph. The hike was quite draining, however, mainly because of the heat.

We did see quite a lot on this particular hike (1.2 miles), including the amazing cryptobiotic soil. (Austin and Krysten used this on their Destination Imagination team to compete in the state DI tournament). It is amazing stuff. Bacteria attaches itself to crystals of sand so it won't be blown away; but this "soil" can also move, leaving a trail of slime behind. We also saw lizards and tracks from deer.

After the hike, we ate lunch and re-hydrated ourselves. Temperatures well over 100 degrees are not uncommon this time of year; we were fortunate that we were only in the high 80's. During lunch, we were finally able to choose a name for the RV: Mr. Furious (from the movie Mystery Men - really stupid, please don't watch!)
Some others in the running:

You can see why we had a hard time choosing. We also named our trip: "Drive Again. Tomorrow. Forever!"

We went to see more arches and cool sights and took millions (almost literally!) of pictures. The real highlight of the day, however, was the park ranger-guided tour of the "Fiery Furnance." It was approximately 2 grueling miles long. It started at 4pm and didn't end until 7pm. It was challenging, exciting, and (for me) even a little scary. We had to jump across gaps in huge boulders, walk along narrow pathways on the sides of cliffs, and walk thru crevices so narrow, I sometimes turned sideways to get thru them. At a couple of points, one had to use both hands and feet to get thru narrow spaces and to keep above the crevice in the rocks. Robert crawled thru one arch that was aptly named "Crawl Through Arch", and we all walked thru one that was called "Walk Through Arch." The hike was probably the most interesting thing we've done in a long time. Our tour guide, Alicia, was extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and capable.

Unfortunately, Krysten and Austin both were still not recovered from our morning hike, and were unable to accompany us. Robert, of course, said it was a cakewalk, and wasn't scary, strenuous, or scintillating; but even he was complaining about his legs being sore later that evening. Scott and I were both very stiff afterwards. Hiking shoes are a must for this hike, you really need the traction to make it on the rocks! I must say however, that caution can be a liability. Many times, it was easier and safer to run down steep slopes and jump across quickly, rather than going slow and cautiously. Momentum helps many times, even if you are slipping as you go. The ranger did mention that many people show up for the strenuous hike in sandals. They are sent back.

This hike is a definite "must do." (They will question your health and ability to do this, even to the point of discouraging you from doing it at all). This is because once you begin the hike, there is no turning back (or you will get lost or die). Just do it anyway.

We climbed into the RV, got Wendy's for dinner, decided to skip doing laundry, played some hands of rummy, and worked on our travel blog. (Which takes a surprisingly huge amount of time and work!) And we don't always have Internet access.

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