Arches National Park, Utah (Part 1)

Arches National Park, Utah (Part 1)

July 21, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, USA

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Miles driven: 68.7
Miles hiked: 3.8+

I took yesterday morning to get a few things done and spent the afternoon and part of the evening driving South to Arches National Park. I arrived around 5:30pm, which was just enough time to get to the visitor center before it closed.

Because this part of the state is so barren from normal societal things, such as Walmart, I had to get a brochure on some of the campgrounds in the area. I also got a map of the area where you’re allowed to just pull off the road and camp there for free. Since it was rainy, I decided to call it a night and camped at a nearby site for a mere 500 pennies. Normally it’s twice the price, but you get half off if you have the Interagency Annual Pass, which I do. Best $80 I’ve ever spent.

I awoke at 3am to discover the van batteries nearly drained. They were so drained, the inverter shut itself off; that’s actually why I woke up. Without the inverter, the AC power doesn’t work, which means the fan I had plugged in to stay cool stopped working. Upon awaking and discovering the batteries so low, I immediately hit the breaker for the inverter to ensure it didn’t kick back on, as converting DC to AC uses up extra energy. Of course, by ensuring the AC was off, I also sealed the fate of the few items in the fridge, which runs off AC (I don’t have a fancy AC/DC/propane fridge). Luckily all that was in there was a small amount of milk and some lunch meat. Almost all my food is designed not to need refrigeration for this exact reason.

I started the van to use the engine as a generator and charge the batteries up a little. Luckily I camped in the middle of nowhere last night, so no one was around for me to disturb as I had the van running in the middle of the night. The van’s lights come on automatically with no way to override them, so if anyone else was around I’m sure they wouldn’t have been too happy with lights blasted in their direction. After awhile, I shut the van off and went back to bed. The fan I have runs off eight D cell batteries for around 40 hours, as well as can run off AC. The batteries come in handy for situations like this and I was able to stay cool all night, despite the 80 degree temperature.

I woke up again shortly after 7am and headed back to the Arches visitor center to stock up on water and use the bathroom. The last time the van was filled up was six days ago and it took just over four gallons to top off the water tank. I’m trying to conserve water as much as possible and I’m slowly getting better at it.

I came to Arches back in 2009 on my first Wild Wild West road trip with Josh, but we were so pressed for time that we didn’t get to explore that much in each state and definitely didn’t have time for hikes. Now that I’m here again, I plan on doing the things I should have done the first time. Today I focused on the Southern section of the park.

My first stop was at Park Avenue, to hike the two mile, round-trip, trail down into the canyons. It’s an extremely beautiful hike surrounded by monumental cliffs jutting out of the earth on each side. I swear I was stopping every three feet to take pictures. This is the stuff I love about Utah and it looks so interesting and intriguing from every angle; I feel I need to try to capture it all.

As I was walking, I could see grey clouds rolling in with the crack of thunder every now and again. I knew my time was limited. Luckily, I made it the entire mile and back without getting rained on. I decided to press my luck and continue on.

Not too far up the road I stopped at the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint to get some pictures. By this point, the clouds were nearly on top of me and another crack of thunder sent one guy running back to his car. In the not too far off distance, everything became dense with rain. Since I wanted to get halfway decent pictures with some blue skies, I decided to use the morning to head into Moab to get gas and do some laundry in hopes that by the time I return to the park it’ll be blue skies once more.

It was around 1pm when I went back to the park. I stopped again at the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint to get more pictures without the crazy dark storm clouds.

Up the road a little further is the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint. From there, you can see Sheep Rock, Three Gossips, Tower of Babel, Courthouse Towers (obviously), and The Organ. This is also the pick-up location for hikers who hike Park Avenue as a one-way route.

Next stop was Balanced Rock, where I hiked the 0.3 mile loop around the base of Balanced Rock. I’d hate to be underneath that thing the day it finally loses its balance.

I continued on to the Garden of Eden, which although I realized is a biblical term, every time I hear “Eden” it only makes me think of the James Dean movie East of Eden.

At the end of the road is a large parking area that circles around for access to “The Windows Section”, featuring the North and South Window (arches), Double Arch, Turret Arch, and Parade of Elephants. I was a little disappointed not being able to get photographs of any of the arches without large gaggles of people climbing all over them. I’m sure this is one of the places you have to go out to really early or really late in order to avoid the hordes. There’s a couple different trails that total up to 1.5 miles to see all the arches, so make sure you do them both.

Side note: Because I don’t English good, I had to look up the correct usage of “hoard” vs. “horde” and I absolutely love that the site defined “horde” as being a “crowd of people … or a gang of rabid zombie kittens”. Ha ha. Jokes.

As I was walking away from the Double Arch, it began to rain again. I felt happy with today’s progress and decided to call it a day and headed back into Moab to do some interneting. I’ll probably camp out on the side of the street here tonight, as it looks like there’s no parking restrictions.

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