Sunday, May 13, 2012

2012 - March 19th - Devils Garden, Arches National Park

My cousin Brad had come to visit over the Saint Patrick's Day weekend.  We had already gone on several hikes... you can read about those here and here.  On his final full day in town, we decided to head on over to Arches National Park.  It really is an exceptional place and worthy of a visit or five in your lifetime. 

I already posted a few photos of our journey to the park (which you can see here), so this post will detail a hike that we took through the Devils Garden. 

Weather was going to be a little touchy during the day... scattered rain and snow showers had already started to develop across eastern Utah.  The previous day's storm system was clearing out, but in its wake, cold air aloft was leading to convection.  Still, the intermittent light and cloud left for some beautiful vistas of the landscape... like these two images of the Courthouse Towers area...

The Three Gossips & Sheep Rock (left), The Tower of Babel & The Organ (right)

The Organ (front) & The Tower of Babel (back)

The Devils Garden is the northernmost vehicle-accessible area of the park, at least as far as paved roads are concerned.  It exists as a long series of sandstone fins that stick up in parallel ridges.  Here's an example of the terrain:

Of course, there are a ton of arches in the area, some hidden and some very well-known.  I wasn't specifically after the arches, however.  I had heard tell of a petroglyph panel near the Dark Angel, a sandstone spire at the end of the trail.  Though I was interested in the arches, my main goal was to see the 'glyphs.

As we set out on trail, it was a little cool.  Temperatures were only in the upper 40s and small patches of fresh snow could be found in recessed areas.  The previous days' storm had caused sand to drift over the trails, making them almost untrodden.  We passed by the famous landscape arch, which I neglected to image since I had already done so on a previous journey and under somewhat better lighting conditions.

 Landscape Arch (March 2011)

I had not done the entire Devils Garden Primitive Loop yet, however, so that was our goal for the day.  We planned to visit each of the small side trails as well.  The first took us to Navajo Arch.

Navajo Arch

A kind family took a photo of me and Brad looking rather tough. 

After Navajo, we continued back and took a second off-shoot to Partition Arch.  I had imaged that arch before as well, but from a much different perspective.

Partition Arch (March 2011)

This time, we took the trail to the "back" of Partition Arch.  The light was kind of terrible thanks to a passing snow shower, but I tried to get the best exposures possible. 

See the falling snow!

The view east from Partition Arch.

After Partition, we rejoined the main trail and continued northwest up into a dense network of fins.  The trail actually ascends and rides the crest of several of the fins, affording us with fantastic views.  It helped that the sun occasionally showed its face. 

Looking into Fin Canyon.

West, across the Salt Valley to the Klondike Bluffs.

A shower to the south.

More weather to the southwest, over the Salt Valley.

Black Arch viewpoint.

After a little trouble, we found our way to Double O Arch.  The only reason I say trouble is that we encountered someone coming out of the back country and assumed he had come from the trail.  But, we found our way eventually and landed at Double O.

After waiting for a few minutes, I finally got the light I wanted.

Double O Arch

After I got the shots I wanted, I tried to return back through the little O of Double O but found that I couldn't easily ascend a ledge.  It had been a lot easier to jump off of!  So, I found another way out of the area and rejoined Brad on the trail. 

Double O, one more time.

The official "end of the trail" is at Dark Angel, which is not too far from Double O.  So, we continued on. I think it is pretty obvious why Dark Angel is named as such.

Dark Angel

Now for the petroglyphs.  From what I understand, the petroglyphs aren't openly advertised by the park service.  It's unfortunate, but often times, cultural resources like these are often harmed by people.  So, I can understand why they aren't openly described.  In that vein, I'll be vague about how to get there.  I figure that if you have a keen interest in them, you'll be able to find them.  Just walk west from Dark Angel and explore a little.  Just make sure to stay off the soil crust!

We found them without too much trouble and I was surprised at how many there were.  I had only expected there to be one panel, but there are many.  The light wasn't great when we arrived, so we explored areas to the north and I found a couple of interesting places to occupy my small lens. 

It's a squeeze, either way.

Eventually, the sun came out and I set started snapping images... lots of them.  I've included most below.

Dark Angel Petroglyphs

Just when we though we'd found them all, we'd come across another panel.  The area is spectacular and well worth the trip off-trail.  Again, please preserve not only the petroglyphs but the soil crusts as well.

Satisfied with our discoveries, we sat for fifteen minutes or so and had lunch.  The view to the south was spectacular. 

Done with lunch, we headed back to the trail and passed near Double O Arch once again.

Looking northwest along the fins, Dark Angel on the left.

We also stopped at Double O once again to get a picture of Dark Angel through the little O.

From there, it was on to the "primitive" loop of the trail.  The loop heads northeast from Double O and passes a couple of small arches.  The first spur on the trail takes you to Private Arch, was I found to be pretty fantastic. 

Private Arch

Look closely and you may see Brad taking a siesta.

Back on the main trail, it continues east and then drops southeast into a wash.  There are several exposed areas that area little uncomfortable to walk on as the sand makes the slickrock slippery.  As we were coming down into the wash, we spotted another arch off to the right that did not have a trail.  We carefully navigated a few fresh sand dunes to find the unnamed arch.  Eventually, it would discover its name to be Box Arch.

Box Arch

The trail crosses Fin Canyon and then begins to climb back to the south toward the main trail. 

The sun was spending more time out and the small showers seemed to coagulate into large, more organized cells. In fact, there seemed to be a big cell to the south near Moab.  The light was absolutely gorgeous. 

Three days of hiking had made us a little tired and I was out of water.  Luckily, the temperatures were only in the upper 50s to perhaps low 60s.  The storms certainly captivated my attention too.  We took one last stop at Pine Tree Arch to complete the full loop with all spurs. 

Hard to beat that lighting!

Once we got close to the car, my mouth began to salivate at the nearby convection.  Due to the high, exposed nature of the area, I was able to pull a radar scan and found there to be several strong thunderstorms in the area.

To chase or not to chase?  That was the question.  To be continued...

Here's a useful map: (click for a larger version)


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