Day 13 - Arches NM - Moab, UT

This morning we got up very early and loaded the kids into the car. Our first stop was the City Market to buy sweet rolls and orange juice for breakfast. We ate in the car on the way to Arches and on the drive through the park to the Delicate Arch trailhead. It was a gorgeous morning, still cool, but cloudy, promising respite from the sun for at least a while. When we arrived at the trailhead, we made sure that everyone had had plenty to drink with breakfast and carried as much water as possible with them. We also loaded up on snacks.

When all the preparations were completed, we began the long uphill hike over the bare sandstone. Daniel was very excited. This was his favorite hike and he wanted to introduce us to it himself. There was no sign of our objective as we walked steadily uphill on the path worn into the rock. We were surrounded by fantastic swirling patterns where wind and rain had exposed the layers of sand as they had been laid down. Along the way we would stop to marvel at the exposed layers while we also caught our breath. After a while we began to hear people asking how much farther it was to the Arch. Kathy told us about their first hike, on a hotter day than this. They walked and walked seeing no sign of the arch. Finally they leaned against the rock wall in what little shade they could find. They decided to go on just a little farther to see if they could see the arch. In a very short distance along the wall they came to a small hole, having a diameter of about 3 feet, in the upper part of the wall. Their first thought was, "Did we walk all this way for this little arch?" Then, on climbing up to look through the hole, the expanse of the landscape opened up before them with Delicate Arch perched over a bowl of sandstone and framing the rest of the incredible landscape. With this encouragement, we continued upward. Soon we saw the small hole in the wall. Walking a few steps further, we turned the corner and saw Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch

With the arch in view, the kids became all energy again. They entered the sandstone bowl and began their now ritual exploration of the sandstone patterns, first walking around the inner edge of the bowl. I didn't feel that I had enough grip on the soles of my shoes to safely walk around the very sloping bowl on whose edge the arch is poised. I settled on a sandstone ledge to watch the kids celebrate the successful attainment of their goal. Daniel circumnavigated the bowl several times, on the interior side. Kathy and Rebecca made the trip farther out toward the arch. For a while Rebecca disappeared below the rim and behind the arch. After I began to become concerned, she finally reappeared. After these ritual trips, the kids behavior became more free form. Daniel walked back and forth beneath the arch, looking upward all the time. They climbed some of the stone towers that are also perched on the rim of the bowl. From my vantage point all of these features are located on the edge of a precipice; the kids seemed perched high above a drop of hundreds of feet. However, Kathy appeared unconcerned so I didn't worry too much.

Kids perched on rock tower

After a long period of exploration, while the temperature steadily rose, we decided to talk the kids down from their perches and begin the downhill walk back to the car. We took the opportunity again to examine many of the erosion features along the trail on our way back. When we got back to the car, Steve and I offered to show Daniel (and Rebecca and Kathy) another view of the arch, one they hadn't seen before. As we drove the short distance to that trailhead, Kathy told us that, when Rebecca was out of sight behind the arch, she had actually gotten herself into a difficult position. She had reached a place, not far from the edge, where she couldn't figure out how to retrace her steps. Kathy had managed to talk her back up to the rim of the bowl.

Other view of Delicate arch

We had a much shorter hike this time. We came to a sandstone ridge where we could see Delicate Arch from the other side. We could see people walking around under the arch. Kathy and Rebecca pointed out someone walking near the place where Rebecca got stuck. It certainly looked precipitous. There was clearly a drop of several hundred feet at the edge. The arch took on an entirely different aspect from this viewpoint, and this area was much less crowded. On the way back down the trail, a large gopher snake crossed the trail in front of us. Much to the distress of the snake, I'm sure, the kids wanted to see it and peered through the vegetation to see it as it tried to hide.

While we ate lunch, we debated our options for the afternoon. We decided to drive up to the campground where we could hike into the Devil's Garden, a linear hike taking us through a set of sandstone fins and to a succession of arches, including the famous Landscape Arch, the longest free-standing arch in the world. Again, this hike was crowded. We managed to find a parking space near the trailhead and packed our snacks and water again. When Kathy and the kids took this hike last time, it became very windy and the blowing sand was a serious problem. The trail is indeed very sandy, at least in places. When we reached Landscape Arch, we found that the entire trail beneath the arch was blocked off, a walk the kids had been looking forward to. There had been a recent rock fall from the arch, already very thin at the top. Large pieces of rock were lying on the trail. The kids looked longingly at the trail, but they couldn't go there. The wind had picked up some so we decided to go back to the car. We still needed to get a room for the night. We decided to also get dinner and then go out again after we had eaten.

Tonight we chose a standard western style restaurant down by the river. Again we were early and managed to avoid the crowds. We decided to drive out to Dead Horse Point for the evening. We drove out north of Moab, past Arches, to the road in to Canyonlands National Park. Again the drive was spectacular, through huge sandstone formations. We turned off toward Dead Horse Point and drove over the high plateau.

Dead Horse Point

When we reached the end of the road, the short walk to the edge of the canyon led us to spectacular views to the east, south and west. The river lay far below. Between us and the river lay an intermediate level on which a road could be seen. In fact, we had taken that road once before, the last summer that we taught math to Upward Bound students at Navajo Comunity College. We drove down the Shaefer Trail from the upper level in Canyonlands and then made our way slowly back, on a road that had not been cleared recently. We did not get back to our motel until after 8 PM that evening and our son, David, was about ready to call the sheriff! This evening we just watched the sunset and the light play on the multiple levels of the landscape before us. We could see for well over 50 miles horizontally and for hundreds of feet vertically. The return drive was equally spectacular in the rapidly failing light.

Tomorrow morning we would leave Moab and Arches behind and head toward Capitol Reef, via Hanksville! However, we have aready begun talking about spending their next spring vacation in Moab and visiting all the places we couldn't get to this time as well as revisiting those we already know well.

No rain tonight.


Recommend this site to a friend!

See our map and guide reference section for trail maps and other useful information available from has over 3,500 maps.

Utah Atlas and Gazetteer, DeLorme Publishing.

Roadside Geology of Utah, Halka Chronic, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, MT

Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey, University of Arizona Press.

A Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest, Alex Patterson

Images in Stone: Southwest Rock Art, Polly Schaafsma, David Muench (Photographer), Browntrout Pub.

Indian Rock Art of the Southwest, Polly Schaafsma, Univ. of New Mexico Press

Kokopelli: Fluteplayer Images in Rock Art, Dennis Slifer, James Duffield, Ancient City Press

Legacy on Stone: Rock Art of the Colorado Plateau and Four Corners Region, Sally J. Cole, Johnson Books

Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Utah: The East and Northeast, Kenneth B. Castleton, Univ. Utah Press

Postcard-Images in Stone Southwest Rock Art, Browntrout Pub.

Rock Art of the American Southwest , Fred Hirschmann (Photographer), Scott Thybony, Graphics Arts Center Pub.

The Rock Art of Utah: A Study from the Donald Scott Collection, Polly Schaafsma, Univ. Utah Press

The Archaeology of Rock-Art, Christopher Chippindale, Paul S. C. Tacon (Editors), Cambridge University Press

In Association with

On to Day 14
on14 picture

Back to Day 12
back12 picture

© 1995 - Karen M. Strom