The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

August 3, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: 78.4
Miles hiked: ~12

Today was wet. I spent the majority of the day walking through the Virgin River in the Zion Narrows. It’s a 10 mile “hike” down the river, round-trip. To get to the hike, there’s another two mile, round-trip, walk along the river you have to do. I’m honestly not sure how far I went, but I’m confident I made it close to the very end. It’s a very busy hike, in the beginning, and I hiked until I was alone. Then I kept hiking. I spent five and a half hours hiking in the water, only stopping for brief moments to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.

The water is fairly shallow for most of the way and averages at most two feet high. The deepest section came up to my belly button, which is probably around 40″ or so. I walked pretty slow through that section as the water increasingly got higher and the coldness crept up my body.

I don’t feel like writing a lot today. Instead, here’s 40 pictures for your enjoyment.

Observation Point, Zion National Park, Utah

August 1, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: 78.3
Miles hiked: 8.0

Due to the possibility of flash floods in the Narrows at Zion, I used today to hike up to the 6,508 ft Observation Point. Although it was a tiring climb and it’s over 700 ft higher than Angels Landing, I don’t feel it was as rewarding (read: “challenging”). It does have nice views at the top and there’s a really beautiful canyon you get to walk through just before the halfway point. There’s also a significantly less amount of people on the trail compared to Angels Landing.

The trail starts out similarly to Angels Landing, hiking up a set of long, steep switchbacks that are part of the East Rim Trail. Roughly half way up the switchbacks, there’s a side trail for The Hidden Canyon, but it’s closed this year for construction. There’s a lot of beautiful views as you hike up, but unfortunately there’s not a good spot to look back down and see all the switchbacks.

Shortly after the switchbacks, there’s a gorgeous canyon you get to walk through. This is probably my favorite part of the entire trail.

The rest of the climb up follows a walkway built around the edge of the cliffs. It’s nonstop up and there are several more switchbacks along the way.

Eventually you’ll reach the top and follow a dirt path for about 10 minutes to walk out to Observation Point. From there, you can look down directly at Angels Landing and can see the people over there if you focus enough.

As I said earlier, I don’t feel it was as rewarding of a climb as Angels Landing. It was definitely a challenge and has great views, but Angels Landing has an added level of risk that just makes it more worthwhile.

I’ve hiked almost all the trails in the Zion Canyon area that are listed on the park map. There are three small trails I haven’t done and the 10 mile Narrows. I still have 18 days before I need to be in San Diego, so I’m not exactly in a rush.

Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

July 31, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: 93.7
Miles hiked: 5.4

Last night was another warm night. It stayed over 95° in the van until at least 2am, the last time I checked the thermometer. When I woke up at 6:30 this morning, it had dropped down to a “brisk” 89°. It’s gonna be such a relief when I get to California and out of this desert heat.

I headed back into Zion shortly after waking up. My only goal for today was to hike up to Angels Landing, which stands at 5,790 ft. I did not expect it to be as awesome as it was. Flat out, if you ever go to Zion National Park and aren’t scared of heights, hike up to Angels Landing. It was an awe inspiring view and simply making the climb is worth smiling for. To stand at the top, on the edge, looking straight down over 1,400 ft below really makes ya feel alive. I used to feel that way all the time after climbing Koko Head; complete and utter relaxation, intermixed with joy and the feeling of accomplishment.

The beginning of the trail walks you into the canyon and leads up to a set of long, steep switchbacks. I dare you to try to do them all without stopping for a break (stopping for pictures counts as a break, which is what I did).

After the switchbacks, there’s a small bridge and a short distance of relatively flat ground before you arrive at Walter’s Wiggles (yes, that’s what they’re really called). Walter’s Wiggles is another set of steep switchbacks, but they’re much shorter. They’re named after the park ranger who was responsible for the trail when it was first created almost 90 years ago, if I remember correctly. This is also the last tough section before reaching Scout Lookout, which is where many people stop at after seeing the last section of trail in front of them.

Here’s a cooler picture I found on Google that shows the Wiggles from a different angle.

From Scout Lookout, you can see the last 0.5 miles of trail that leads up to Angels Landing. It looks far more insane in person. Try to look at the pictures closely and focus on the people to gain perspective of its size. And then remember that this is a very narrow ridge and each side has a 1,400 ft drop. This is by far the best part of the trail.

The climb up was slow and crowded. You don’t have many opportunities to pass people, due to the narrow width of the climb. At the same time, people are climbing down the same path you need to climb up, so be patient. The view at the top will be worth the wait.

I didn’t stay at the top very long, as the sky was grey and I didn’t want to get stuck up there in the event it started to rain. I just had a quick snack and headed back down. The climb down is significantly more challenging than the climb up. Other than your footing has changed, you’re looking down the entire way. I tried getting a picture that showed what I mean, but I don’t think it really captured it.

Once you get back to Scout Lookout, the hike down is easy, but has a lot of impact on the knees. I took a lot more pictures on my way down than I did on my way up.

Today was a great day. I’d rank it as one of the top three of the entire trip so far. There’s another hike on the opposite side of the road called Observation Point, which is over 700 ft higher than Angels Landing. I still want to hike into the Narrows, but Observation Point is now on my list to do before I leave here. The Narrows is 10 miles, if you do the entire thing. Not to mention the two miles you have to do to get to the Narrows and back. The visitor center had a sign saying there’s a high risk of flash floods tomorrow, so I’m not sure what I’ll get done.

Zion National Park, Utah (Part 2)

July 30, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: 128.5
Miles hiked: 4.85

I spent the day yesterday working a random asphalt job nearby. I have an entirely new outlook towards road construction. It is some hardcore, back-breaking work which my “pampered” lifestyle has not accustomed me to, especially in 100° or more. The people who do that stuff for a living should be paid more. And I don’t mean the employers, I mean the actual laborers. If you ever have a chance to talk to anyone working on a road crew, tell them thanks. We drive on roads and parking lots every day and the amount of work that goes into it is purely amazing.

Today I went back to Zion. I was honestly pretty sore from yesterday and barely hiked at all. I wasn’t that concerned with taking pictures, either; I just wanted to be in the moment.

The first hike I did is called the Watchman Trail, a 2.7 mile hike up to an overlook that gives views of lower Zion Canyon and the Towers of the Virgin. The trail starts out walking along the Virgin River. I don’t think the trail is as popular as others, as there weren’t many people along the way. It was a very tranquil walk along the river. I stopped and sat for awhile on the way back just listening to the water flowing.

On the way up, I caught the sun shimmering over a ridge line. This was one of the only photographs I took today, as it was too beautiful not to share.

At the end of the Watchman Trail, there’s a short loop trail that doesn’t seem to be documented in the park guide. I talked to the ranger at the information center and she wasn’t sure on the exact mileage, but agreed it was at least 0.4 miles. Granted, I walked the whole thing before I knew anything about it. You can’t go anywhere new by walking the path you already know. Oh, and I did think this tree root looked interesting.

After I finished the Watchman Trail, I headed over to the Pa’rus Trail. Both trails are accessible from the visitor center. The trail is actually a bike path that follows the Virgin River up to Canyon Junction, about 1.75 miles away. I only walked the trail one-way and ended up taking the shuttle back. It’s not a very interesting trail and is directly in the sun the entire time. I didn’t take a single picture along the way.

The temperatures in the van have been soaring in this heat. Yesterday when I looked, it was 108° F in there (100° outside); the max temperature in the van has been 112° F. The biggest downside of the increased heat is the fridge consumes more electricity to keep things cool. Since I haven’t been driving a lot lately, the batteries are relying entirely on solar power to charge and the fridge has been using all of that power by itself. At 6am this morning, the batteries were too low to power the inverter any longer and I had to shut it all down to give the batteries a chance to charge back up. Luckily, I don’t keep much in the fridge and was able to throw everything in the cooler. Without the fridge running, the batteries had a completely full charge from the solar panel by noon today when I got done hiking.

I also rigged up my fan to run directly off of DC power so that I can still use it when I shut the inverter off. That fan is my lifeblood at the moment and is the only thing that makes the van remotely bearable to sleep in. I’m gonna monitor the voltage tonight to see how much only running the fan and the lights uses up. Tomorrow night I’m gonna kick the inverter back on with nothing plugged in and test how much power it uses up to determine if it’s worth leaving on or not. Other than the fridge, I only use the AC power to plug in my laptop on occasion. Typically I charge it up while connected to the internet at McD’s or Starbucks, but an outlet isn’t always available.

Tomorrow will be the last day of the first month of living in the van. I’m fairly excited about it, to tell the truth. It’s insanely refreshing to know that “home” is wherever I want it to be.

Zion National Park, Utah (Part 1)

July 28, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven (since last post): 219.0
Miles hiked: 5.8

I took the last couple of days off. I spent one day in Cedar City, uploading my posts for the two previous days, then just relaxing. Another day I drove down to St. George and spent most of the day there. I ended up going to a pawn shop and buying a guitar so that hopefully I can force myself to learn how to play with all this free time I’ve been having in the afternoons. I’ve been buying guitars for 12 years, always telling myself I need to learn, then never actually learning, and eventually selling the guitar or giving it away. I’m hoping this time will be different… we’ll see.

Last night I decided I was gonna hit up Zion in the morning and so that is exactly what I did. Being that Zion is one of the more popular parks in Utah, I knew I needed to get there early to beat the traffic. I woke up shortly after 6:30 this morning and headed directly for the park, which is only about an hour Northeast of St. George. Since I got there before the visitor center even opened, there was plenty of parking available.

Zion is quite different from the other parks I’ve been to so far. In my opinion, they have a much better system in place to manage traffic and congestion. Most of the park you’re not allowed to drive private vehicles on without a special permit, unless it’s after October 25th. Instead, they have a free shuttle service that continuously drives through the park and you just get on and off at whatever stop you want. They say a shuttle comes by almost every 15 minutes, but I never had to wait more than five minutes. What I loved the most was that I didn’t have to fight for parking at each stop and I wasn’t using any gas to get around the park, which means I save money. I wish all the parks had a system like this, especially Yellowstone.

Since I had never been to Zion before and honestly knew almost nothing about it, I decided to take an easy day and focus on simple hikes and exploring the majority of the park to decide where I wanted to spend more time. My first stop was at the Emerald Pools Trails. There’s a Lower Pool, Middle Pool, and an Upper Pool. The Lower Pool has a lightly trickling waterfall that the trail goes behind, which is pretty cool. Altogether, it’s a 2.2 mile, round-trip, hike to see all the pools. On the way down from the pools, I decided to take the mile long Kayenta Trail over to the next shuttle stop and just get picked up from there.

From where the Kayenta Trail ends, you can jump onto the West Rim Trail to connect up with the Angels Landing Trail, a steep, narrow ridge to the summit that is not recommended for people who are afraid of heights. I skipped it for today due to the length of it, but I wanna hike it either tomorrow or the next day, depending on what else I try to cram into the day.

I jumped back on the shuttle and headed up to Weeping Rock. It’s a very short (0.4 mile, round-trip) hike. This is also the location to hike up the East Rim Trail, which has the Hidden Canyon Trail connected to it. I wanted to hike the Hidden Canyon, but apparently it’s closed this year for construction. I know at least part of the trail has a narrow ledge on the side of a cliff that has chains anchored into the cliffside for safety. Sounds awesome, right?! But, alas, I’ll have to come back here a different year to do that one. Most of the pictures I took at Weeping Rock didn’t come out or I didn’t like them.

Next stop was Big Bend, shortly up the road. It’s just a bend in the river, but it gives you a view of Angels Landing from the ground level and a couple other formations. I hiked down to the river area and followed an unmarked path for a short while, snapping up a few pictures along the way. I really love the one with the trees.

Then I headed up to the Temple of Sinawava, the last shuttle stop on the Zion Canyon road. There’s a two mile, round-trip, Riverside Walk that, as you may have guessed, follows the river into the canyons. At the end of the walk you have two options: 1) Turn around, or 2) Continue on by walking in the river for the next five miles in what they call The Narrows. When I talked to the lady at the visitor center this morning, she said the water only gets about waist deep, but it’s important to pick the right day to go, as there’s a risk of flash floods any time it rains. This is a hike I want to do for the pictures, but hiking 10 miles today just wasn’t the goal.

My last stop for the day was back towards the front of the park at the Court of the Patriarchs. I missed the stop on the way up. It’s a quick stop with a short hike up to an overlook area to get pictures of “The Patriarchs”, which are three large peaks grouped together.

Now that I have an idea of the park, I know where I want to focus some more time. I definitely want to hike the Angels Landing Trail, as well as three trails accessible at the visitor center area, I’d like to hike the Narrows, and I want to drive the Mount Carmel Highway that connects the Zion Canyon section of the park to the East side and has a 1.1 mile long tunnel in the middle of it. I’ll probably spend three or four days here to do it all.

I’m WAY ahead of schedule and even after I hang out in Zion for a few days, I have almost 20 days before I need to be in San Diego to meet up with Szilvia for the next portion of this adventure. I haven’t decided what to do with that free time yet or where to go.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

July 25, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: 31.5
Miles hiked: 9.2+

Today I did Capitol Reef, sticking to Hwy 24 that goes through the entire park. Off of 24, there’s a road that goes down part way through the park but it’s focused more on historical stuff that I’m honestly not that interested in. There’s a blacksmith shop, some old school buildings, the campground, and some other stuff down that way. There’s a couple other spots in the park to check out some Petroglyphs and an old stone building, but again, it just doesn’t interest me. I was there to view the natural beauty created by time, not some crap created by humans.

I started the day early and headed into the Grand Wash Trail before 8am. It’s a 2.2 mile trail, one-way, that follows a dried up river bed through the canyons. The trail is fairly wide almost the entire way, with the exception of an area near the center called The Narrows where it gets significantly more narrow (in case you didn’t guess that by its name). It was a very shaded hike with almost no incline at all.

At the end of the Wash, there’s a parking area and an information sign for the connecting trails. I was only planning on doing the Wash, but after reading that the Cassidy Arch was only 950 feet up and another 3 miles, round-trip, I decided it would be worth it to beat my feet a little longer. The arch is named after the infamous train robber Butch Cassidy, who supposedly had a hideout in the Grand Wash.

There were a couple of people rappelling down into the cavity behind the arch. They said they were rappelling all the way down into the canyon and there were several spots to keep going down, eventually making it back towards the parking lot that I initially hiked to through the Wash. Seemed like a much easier way to get down, if you ask me. I, unfortunately, hiked all the way back down and out like a sucker.

I was pretty tired after hiking the 7.4 miles for both of the trails, but it was only 11am and thought I’d check out at least one more thing so I headed up to the Hickman Natural Bridge. It’s only a 1.8 mile hike, round-trip. I don’t actually know why they decided to call it a natural bridge when it’s just another arch. Either way, I think arches are cool and it was worth the hike. There was an interesting field of black rocks for a good portion of the initial hike. There was also another, unmarked arch early on in the trail. I thought it looked awesome (so awesome, its the featured image at the top of this post).

I ended the day by 2pm, going back to the same place I camped out at last night. There was no cellphone reception anywhere near the park and no towns nearby that have more than a gas station or small restaurant, so I wasn’t able to Internet that afternoon. This also meant no cheeseburgers. I settled for a couple tuna sandwiches and some chips. I didn’t even write, it was just too hot and I didn’t want to do much.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

July 24, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: 278.8
Miles hiked: 5.3+

I camped outside of town last night and awoke slightly after 6:30 this morning before heading back into town. I meant to get gas while I was in town last night, but completely spaced out and forgot about it. Canyonlands’ closest entry point is 31 miles from Moab and since I knew nothing about the park, I wanted to make sure I had enough gas to get there, drive around, and get back.

The biggest thing I noticed was the lack of people. There was almost no one at all in the park compared to Arches. Every place I stopped had ample parking, with the exception of Upheaval Dome, which I had to circle around twice waiting for a spot to open. I only did the Island in the Sky area of the park, as the second entrance for The Needles area is almost 100 miles away from where I entered. There’s also a section called The Maze, but it’s very remote and the only roads out there are for four wheel drive vehicles.

My first stop was the Shafer Trail Overlook. This is a 4×4 road that goes down into the canyons and leads out to the White Rim Road, a 100-mile long road that follows the white rims of the canyon. I’ve seen pictures people have taken from the trail and it looks awesome, but Henrietta would not be able to make the drive. The trail itself reminds me a lot of the Moki Dugway. Google for pictures of the Shafer Trail, as the view from the overlook does not compare.

It’s an interesting drive through the park, as almost every stop focuses on the canyons, but the drive itself is entirely plains.

Next stop was the Mesa Arch, a very easy 0.5 mile hike out to the arch I’ve seen on tons of postcards. The second picture of the arch below looks like dragon skin to me.

From there, I headed down to the Grand View Point Overlook, a fairly easy 2.0 mile hike along the rim of the canyon. It’s hard to capture the depth and magnitude of what you’re looking at in photographs. There’s a bulldozer in one of the pictures, but it’s impossible to see except in the original picture size; that’s how small it looks compared to everything else.

Next I headed over to Whale Rock, a 1.0 mile hike up a huge rock (kinda looks like a whale… imagine that).

Just around the corner from Whale Rock is Upheaval Dome, which was by far the most crowded of all the stops in the park. There’s an 8.3 mile loop around the entire area, but I was not feeling it. Instead, I just did the two overlooks which is only about 1.8 miles. There was a really awesome tree at the first overlook. I’ve seen a lot of cool trees in the past few days.

My last stop was at the Green River Overlook. It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the river is green, if you didn’t guess. I’m not sure what causes it, as I didn’t read all the  information boards (assuming one of them said why).

It seems like most of the stuff in Canyonlands is more for those who have offroad vehicles. In most of the pictures you can see the 100-mile White Rim Road and it gets so close to all of the places in the park. The Maze is another thing that would be awesome to see, just based on the name, but Henrietta is not a Jeep. Oddly enough, I did sell my Jeep to build her.

I ended up driving over to Capitol Reef National Park later in the evening. I got there around sunset, and although it was sometimes blinding to drive with the sun kicking my eyes’ asses (yes, my eyes have asses), it was an extremely beautiful drive through the park. Capitol Reef is a narrow, but tall park, so the drive across it is less than 30 miles. I drove all the way through the park just to get an idea of what was there and got gas on the opposite side before driving back and camping out at a small parking area just outside the East side of the park.

Arches National Park, Utah (Part 3)

July 23, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: 56.0
Miles hiked: 7.5+

Last night was wicked hot in the van. It was about 100 degrees as I tried to sleep, drowning in a pool of sweat. I had the roof vent open to try to get some of the heat out, but it was almost just as hot outside so it took most of the night for it to cool off. Around 3am, someone started knocking on the van. Since I figured it was the cops trying to harass me for “camping” on the street, I just ignored it. That’s how you solve problems, right? Ignore it until it goes away? Well, that’s how I do. After five minutes or so, whoever it was gave up and went away. See? It works. Needless to say, I’ll be parking in a different spot tonight.

I woke up and headed to the park at 6:30 this morning, trying to beat both the heat and the crowd. After stopping at the visitor center to get water and eat breakfast, I headed down the road to the Devils Garden to hike all 7.2 miles of trail. This is the very last stop on the main road in the North half of the park.

Even getting there so early, the parking lot had more than a few cars already there. It appeared I had some competition.

The trail starts out as a cool walkway between canyon walls and as soon as you round the first corner, there’s an awesome sandy area that looks like a great place to cool down. Since I had just started and it was still cool outside, I kept walking.

My first stop was at Landscape Arch, which is very recognizable due to its narrow top. On the way there, I passed by several cool rock formations and saw three mule deer. One of them crossed the path directly in front of me and I was able to get his picture. I also saw a couple bunnies and lizards running around today.

As I continued on, the trail started to get more interesting. Up to the Landscape Arch, the trail is a well-maintained gravel pathway. After that point, you are climbing up rocks and following cairns to stay on the trail.

Eventually there was a side trail that splits off to see Partition Arch and Navajo Arch. They’re only a combined total of 0.5 miles and worth the effort. I was there to hike the entire Devils Garden trail and recommend anyone who goes does the same.

Partition Arch… and a cool log. The wood spirals!

Navajo Arch.

I continued on to the Double O Arch and passed many more beautiful sights along the way. There’s actually another (unmarked on the map) arch on the way called the Black Arch, but the trail doesn’t go close enough to get a good picture. I absolutely love the colors in the base of the Double O.

Next stop, Dark Angel; a huge, dark rock sticking straight up. Looks kinda perverted, if you ask me.

The trail continues on until another side trail splits off to go to Private Arch. Although the arch is awesome in itself, walk through it and then walk up the rocks to the right. There’s a huge labyrinth of sandstone towers that reminds me of scenes from a Riddick movie.

From that point on, there are no designated sites to see as you follow the Primitive Trail back to the main entrance. The trail does get a little more difficult in a couple of spots, but it’s not that bad. One spot was a very steep incline, slanting perpendicular to the direction you have to walk, and there’s a very painful looking drop if you were to slip. Another section has a large, slanted rock mound you have to climb up and over to find the trail. It’s too slanted to place cairns on, so you don’t know it’s the trail until you climb up on it. I ventured off trail for a little ways to check out a canyon area, so I added at least 0.3 miles to the total distance I did today. The last section of the Primitive Trail was like walking through a desert. It’s an entirely sand pathway and the sun was beating down hard by that time.

Once back at the beginning of the trail, I did the last two side trails. The first is for Tunnel Arch, which is pretty high up and the trail is more of an overlook area.

The second trail is for Pine Tree Arch.

By the end of it all, I was quite tired and glad to be done for the day. Took me about four hours to complete the entire loop, stopping very frequently to take pictures and waiting at some of the arches for other people to get out of the shot.

There’s only two trails in the entire park I didn’t hike: Fiery Furnace, which is about 2 miles if you do the guided tour, and the Tower Arch trail, which is 3.4 miles. Tower Arch is way off in the West side of the park and doesn’t have a paved road to get to it. If Henrietta wasn’t such a monstrous van, I’d attempt to take the dirt road out to the tower. There’s also a 4×4 road that leads out to it. The park guide says the road has soft sand, so I’m not gonna risk putting Henrietta’s weight on it, as I don’t want to get stuck out there.

Out of all the other places in the park, it’s hard to decide what was my favorite one. Honestly, I love the entire park. Every day has been fantastic. This is why Utah is one of my favorite places to be.

Arches National Park, Utah (Part 2)

July 22, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: 49.1
Miles hiked: 5.0

Today was a short day, as I’m saving the last 7.2 miles of designated trail for tomorrow. I headed into the park around 7:30 this morning after camping out in town last night. I focused on the Northern portion of the park, minus the Devils Garden area, which is what I’ll do tomorrow.

After eating breakfast, I made my way up towards the Delicate Arch. I arrived at Wolfe Ranch around 8am and there were only a few other cars in the parking lot. From Wolfe Ranch, there is a three mile, round-trip, trail that goes all the way up to the Delicate Arch. It’s basically climbing straight up for 1.5 miles. There are a couple of overlook areas that don’t require as much hiking, but I wanted a good view and apparently so did everyone else. Within 10 minutes of parking, the lot began to fill up and I knew I had to start booking it so I could beat the crowd up there. Unfortunately, the sky wasn’t as gorgeous of a blue as it was yesterday, so the pictures didn’t come out quite as impressive as I was hoping. Still, looking at the arch from up close was 1,000 times better than looking at it from the overlooks down below, like I did in 2009.

After leaving the Delicate Arch, I headed to the Salt Valley Overlook.

There’s a viewpoint for Fiery Furnace shortly after Salt Valley, but there were signs stating parking was only for permit holders. Fiery Furnace is a maze of rock towers roughly two miles long. You can take a guided ranger tour for $10 or get a permit to go on your own for $4. Apparently the Primitive Trail around Devils Garden has similar rock formations, and since it’s free, I decided to pass on Fiery Furnace.

I did, however, stop a few times along the road between there and the Sand Dune Arch. There’s multiple spots to pull off and get photos of the beautiful rocks along the way. I’m not sure what any of them are called, if they’re even named.

Upon arriving at the Sand Dune Arch, I decided to change into my hiking shoes. I wore my lightweight running shoes doing the Delicate Arch hike and my feet were a little sore from walking down the 1.5 miles with tight shoes on. Not my best idea. You’d think I would have learned after smashing my feet up on the Appalachian Trail, but you’d think wrong. Anywho, the Sand Dune Arch is really beautiful and it’s like walking on a beach between canyon walls. I can’t believe we passed all this stuff up the last time I was here. It’s only a 0.3 mile hike according to the brochure, but the sign at the site says it’s 0.2 miles, one-way. Not sure which one is telling the truth. WHY MUST YOU LIE TO ME?!

From the Sand Dune Arch location, you can also hike out to the Broken Arch… which has a misleading name. It’s a complete arch, but it has a crack in it at the very top and that’s why it has its name. It’s a 1.2 mile round-trip hike out to the Broken Arch.

On the Broken Arch Trail, I came across a really awesome looking tree and I just felt it worth pointing out separately. I just find it very intriguing. Look at the colors and how the wood is formed. Neat-o!

My last stop for the day was a little up the road at the Skyline Arch. The hike is only 0.4 miles round-trip, but this is probably the only arch so far that actually looks better from far away. The closer you get, the less you can see. The arch is fairly high up, hence the name. According to the sign at the trail entrance, it used to be half the size it is today, but in 1940 a huge boulder fell out of the arch, doubling the size of the opening.

Tomorrow should be my last day in Arches, but I’m not going very far from here. Canyonlands National Park is right around the corner.

Arches National Park, Utah (Part 1)

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

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.