Arches National Park – Utah – A Natural Wonder of the Western States

Arches National Park is one of the finest National Parks in the country.  It is also, quite frankly, one of the greatest places on earth.  Why it isn’t a Wonder of the World I will never know.  As previously mentioned my husband and I embarked on an epic Southern Utah Tour last year.  Arches National Park was premier on our list of spots to visit.  I had been told of stories of this place for years and was expecting a lot.  I was not in the slightest bit disappointed.  I only wish we had more time there and it was closer to where I live so I could spend more time there.

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Immediately upon entering the park one is dumbstruck by its beauty.  The first jaw dropper you come across is the Three Gossips and Courthouse Towers.  A commanding view of the valley is cut by three human like figures who appear to be talking to one another or talking about someone else.  Perhaps some time long ago there was another tower in front of them that gave them something to gossip about?  Courthouse Tower is a wonderful example of how these shapes are constructed.  It is evident that the different strata in the stone is of different widths, thicknesses, and densities.  This allows for bits to crumble and fall at different levels causing towers, arches, Hoodoos, standing rocks, fins, etc.

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As your mouth is just beginning to water one takes in Balanced Rock.  I can tell you I would have had my mind blown if this was all I ever saw in the park.  The gossips may be wondering when the rock will fall because surely it will be any moment now?  Balance Rock is a giant bolder precariously balanced on a very very small base.   As you walk on a path around it you realize it is quite possible it could fall while you are standing there and you start wondering how fast you can actually run.  It was also at this point of the park that you really start understanding the complexity of color in the park as well.  All of the rock is red and orange but it is a million different shades that come together in a glorious rainbow that would make Bob Ross proud and make Ansel Adams want to shoot in color.  (No I did not enhance the color in these photos!  The darker photos were taken in the morning and the more orange were taken at sunset.)

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I could sit and stare at this rock formation forever but there is more to see at the park and not nearly enough time to see it all in.  Skyline Arch is one of the first arches you come to when driving through the park.  It is a mere hop from the road up to the arch.  It certainly wets your whistle for what is to come.

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Sand Dune Arch was probably one of my favorite Arches despite the fact it is not the largest nor the most delicate or precarious.  It is a thicker stubbier arch surrounded by sand of the finest quality.  The sand, the arch, and the surroundings are all practically the same color.  In fact, if you stare at the arch at certain angles and in certain light it almost disappears.  It is an easy hike to get to and I would recommend it for anyone.

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Devil’s garden Trailhead is one of the greatest hikes I have ever taken.  That’s big talk Jenny.  Why?  Well it scared the heck out of me, that’s why.  I am no expert hiker by any means.  The map said easy to moderate.  I thought, “I got this.”  Well, I got it that’s for sure.  At times a fear of heights nearly crippled me.  There are no safety barriers on this walk.  It starts off slow walking you past Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch.  Navajo Arch, Partition Arch, and the glorious Landscape Arch is where most people turn around.  Well, how could I turn around having just seen Landscape arch?

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This is where the hike got really spicy.  I had to cross a rock barrier with a significant drop.  It was very windy and not at all safe.  So, I did what any self respecting woman would do.  I crawled.  There was no turning back at this point because I didn’t want to go back over this cross again.  Double O Arch is your reward for nearly losing your life and she is glorious.

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One continues on the primitive trail to view the Dark Angel, Private arch and glorious sets of Fins.    This hike manages to elevate you, scare you, and humble you all at the same time.  But, I really would not recomend it for the faint of heart.

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On day two after recovering from my previous anxiety causing hike we embarked on the 4×4 Trail going to Eye of the Whale Arch.  It seems that the trail is not passable in a Jeep Cherokee albeit we surely tried!  So we settled for Eye of the Whale Arch without making the entire loop.  It was no settlement at all.  It was glorious and private because the regular visitor would not brave the road and the day tripper would want to see the more popular features of the park and skip this.

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Later in the afternoon we embarked on the hike to Delicate Arch.  After staring at this arch on the license plates of nearly every Utah registered vehicle this arch was a must.  Well, it turns out my nerves were still shot from the previous day’s hike.  This walk was pretty easy most of the way albeit it was very much uphill the entire way.  But the final ascent to the arch makes the hiker hug the wall for fear of falling to their death.  Delicate arch likes her privacy.  Unlike some of the other arches she does not let you view her majesty until the very last second when hikers walk around a very tight and very tall walkway.  And then, miraculously there it is.  It was far larger than I expected it to be and far more glorious.  Even the landscape behind the arch just adds to its majesty.  It is no wonder Utah drivers desire its photo on their license plates.

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Please friends.  Visit this park.  Take care of this park.  Enjoy this park.  For it is surely a wonder of the world.  If not a wonder of the world it is undeniably a wonder of the Western United States.  I will forever consider this visit as one of the best places in the United States that I have ever visited even if it did scare me to death a time or two.

http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

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Great Basin National Park – Nevada

On our journey to Utah from California a sanity stop was required.  The journey on highway 50, at times, is uneventful.  Open range and flatland for hours and hours makes Great Basin National Park a virtual oasis in the middle of nowhere.

Great Basin National Park is still in Nevada almost to Utah near the town of Baker.  The park gets its name from the dry region it is located in.  The park and the area in general is known for its bristlecone pines, some of which are more than 5,000 years old making them the oldest living organism.  While these trees aren’t as glorious and beautiful as our tall redwoods or a weeping willow or even a Japanese Maple they make up for it in sheer persistence.  If they could only tell stories of what they have lived through…

Great Basin National Park is also known for its cave systems.  I visited Lehman Cave and managed a tour during our short visit before we embarked on the final part of our journey for the day.  The cave is 550 million years old and is made of marble and limestone.  The caves are well worth a visit and display beautifully.

Lastly, the Great Basin National Park boasts as being one of the darkest places on earth.  There is literally nothing around for miles and miles and miles and I can certainly see why they are proud of this distinction.

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Goblin Valley State park – Utah

Some time ago my husband and I embarked on an epic camping trip to Utah.  He had been camping to Utah a few times and spoke about it with high regard.  So, we finally set part for the two day journey to Eastern Utah from Northern California.  We visited Great Basin National Park, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon, surely to be blog posts for another day…

One of the more random and interesting locations we visited was called Goblin Valley State Park.  It turns out just getting there was a doozy.  The park is located in the San Rafael Desert off of Utah State Route 24 nearest to Hansville.  It was one of those locations that looks about an inch from where you are on a map but it felt like it took thirteen hours to get there.  Once there, though, we were not disappointed.  We were nearly the only visitors other than a few hard core folks taking in some 4×4 trails on the back part of the park.

For us, the most interesting part of the park was the Hoodoo Goblins at sunset.  We took a walk through the Hoodoos enjoying their personality and mysticism. Mother Nature has created strange and interesting shapes here proving she has a sense of humor.  When the light is right one can understand why they call them Goblins!  The rock formations were created 170 million years ago and still stand proudly today.  Hundreds of these mushroom shaped formations stand each one with its own personality.  Some are fifteen feet tall some or are two feet tall.  Some are narrow some are plump.  Some are solid and some are precariously levitating.   The rock creatures are set in front of gorgeous Utah cliffs slowly eroding away creating an ever changing piece of natural art.

Shortly after visiting and enjoying this glorious park I read on the news that Cub Scout Leaders, entrusted in the care and education of young impressionable young people, had recorded themselves vandalizing an amazing Hoodoo.  I watched the video and it shows The Cub Scout Leader goofing around and pushing one of the 170 million year old formations over in a show of muscle and might.  Thankfully, this person was convicted of crimes for his actions and I can only hope the young people learned to protect and respect nature as a result.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goblin_Valley_State_Park

http://stateparks.utah.gov/park/goblin-valley-state-park

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ex-scouts-leaders-who-knocked-over-ancient-rock-get-probation-n56596

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/18/goblin-valley-boy-scout-leaders-destroy-rock_n_4122488.html

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To Bucket List or not to Bucket List

I love the idea but don’t particularly care for the term bucket list.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know if it is because the word bucket is not a very pleasing sounding word or if the association with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman is just weird.  Or perhaps, I feel too young to have a “bucket list” per se.  Either way I was inspired by Lesley Carter’s “Bucketlist Publications” blog pieces hyper linked below and also by a recent Christmas gift to write down some of the items I want to do in my life.  My husband bought me one of those tear off daily calendars based on the book “1000 Places to see before you die.”  So below is the current, as of today, ever changing list of things I would like to do.  (The sooner the better!) I reserve the right to modify this list on a regular basis especially WHEN I hit the lottery!

https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/26270610/

https://wordpress.com/read/post/id/26270610/17841/

Jenny’s Travel Wish List (In no particular order)

  1. See Victoria Falls in Africa
  2. Go to Egypt
  3. Photograph African Wild Animals IN Africa
  4. Take my husband to Italy so we can show each other the parts of Italy each of us has been to that the other has not
  5. Visit New Orleans not during Mardi Gras
  6. Visit Prague
  7. Visit Sri Lanka
  8. Visit Washington DC
  9. Visit Australia & New Zealand
  10. Spend more time in France
  11. Visit rural New York
  12. Take a camping trip across the United States
  13. Visit Victoria BC
  14. Visit Alaska
  15. Take my husband to Joshua Tree National Park
  16. Go on a trip at least every 5 years with my German friend Manuela
  17. Take my niece to Paris with Manuela
  18. Visit Quebec
  19. Go to Ireland with my family
  20. Visit New Foundland and Nova Scotia
  21. Go to India with friends Leena and Sadhna and their Dad Charles
  22. Visit the Fjords in Norway
  23. Visit Mexico City
  24. Visit rural England
  25. See a Cubs game with my brothers
  26. Go Leaf Peeping in the upper Northeast
  27. Live in another country for at least 3 months
  28. Trip “Around the World” perhaps after I retire and can give it the time it needs to do it right