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krisek Arches National Park - A travel report by Krys
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Arches National Park,  United States - flag United States -  Utah
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krisek's travel reports

Utah - Underappreciated. Arches National Park.

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Arches National Park is one of the greatest parks in the United States of America. It is also one of the most barren and exposed to the sun, but it is particularly astonishing.


The Delicate Arch
The Delicate Arch
Arches National Park preserves over two thousand natural sandstone arches in addition to a wide range of unique geological formations. It is located on the top of an underground salt bed.

This salt bed, created by a sea, which flowed into the region some 300 million years ago (when the continents had different shapes and small dinosaurs roamed the planet) and then subsequently evaporated. Since some of the deposits were also rocks or some of the compressed debris became rocks over the millions of years and the salt bed shifted downwards, it exposed the rocks, which then eroded into arches, pinnacles, domes, etc. There are many of them, and some are so remarkable that it beggars belief that it was the mother nature who created them.

Trekking in the park is a great pleasure, but the lack of shade makes it a little hazardous. This is because of the sun. I think it takes just under an hour from the entrance to the Delicate Arch. It is a gentle climb, but the park rangers would not let people in, if they did not carry enough water with them. Those were the rules. Full stop. I had a couple of 1.5 litres bottles and that was just about acceptable. There were no places selling water past the gate and one could trek in the park entire day.

And on a sunny weather, you indeed needed the water. The ground easily heated up well above 60C (140F) and it beamed the solar energy right onto you. There are a number of sights in the park and one needs an entire day to see the majority of them, the arches, natural bridges, flat rocks, rocks balancing on other rocks...

The park featured in the book about natural wonders, and ever since I saw the picture of the Delicate Arch on the cover of the book, I knew that was the place I was going to see next. Then, I was not sure how I was gong to do it.

Favourite spots:
The Three Gossips
The Three Gossips
Among the most famous landmarks of the park are the Three Gossips. It is a flat rock sticking from the plateau with three larger and round rocks on top. These become the heads of the ‘three gossips’, which resemble three human figures standing one next to another. It is really a great formation, because the main ‘body’ rock is flat and smooth. There is no surprise why this pretty rock was named that way. Nature did not leave much for the imagination... They really look like these are three persons gathered together to talk about something. They even seem to be leaning towards each other.

The Three Gossips were slightly out of the way. They did not lay on the trekking paths I took that day. I knew they existed though, as they were mentioned in the park's publications and in the guidebooks. I was not planning to see them according to my first itinerary, but they were so well advertised. So, I pin-pointed the location and drove there.

What's really great:
Phallic rock with no name - very intriguing
Phallic rock with no name - very intriguing
Actually, there are a number of geological formations in the park, which require little imagination to put a smile on one’s face. Some of them need to be seen from a certain angle, though.

For example, near the famous Double Arch and Three Arches formations, there is a straight and red rock sticking off the ground like a large, thick, and fully erect penis. What is funny about it that it is really obvious what it looks like and it is among the few formations in the park that have not been officially named. I would name it ‘solid phallus’. I include a picture of it, to illustrate what I mean.

Although the majority of the natural wonders in the park are arches, there are other incredible and photogenic items. They are relatively easy to find in the park. It undoubtedly takes over one day to see it properly, however the authorities created the paths cleverly, to lead visitors to the most obvious attractions. Like in any other National Parks in the United States of America, actually.

Sights:
Arches National Park travelogue picture
The main trail is just a road, where one drives to certain car park, which then opens to a foot trail leading to the less accessible or requiring better protection formations. This makes visiting the park very easy.

In addition, like in all other national parks actually, the park ranges give out a park map, which clearly indicates the attractions, routes, trails and view points. This is all very well organised.

When I came to the park, it was around noon and the sun was high. Its rays did not create any shadow of mine and the park was bathing in harsh light bleaching the colours of the rocks and soil. I wish I could stay there a little longer to see how the rocks change colour in the lower sun and how the sky contrasts with the red, or rather salmon-coloured, sandstone.

Also, some of the photographs might have been better to give the place more justice. Because it is a truly wonderful place to visit. I am writing this story after having travelled to many countries...

Accommodations:
Arches National Park travelogue picture
There was a hotel near the park and the Devil Garden Campground ($15), but I did not stay there. The nearest inhabited town was Moab. There are few motels in Moab, and most of them realise rather well that the Arches National Park is in the immediate proximity. This obviously translates into very strategically designed pricing.

For this and the other reason, I decided to stay a few miles away from the park. The other reason was that I wanted to be closer to four other parks - the Mesa Verde, across the border in Colorado, the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, the Natural Bridges National Monument, and the Monument Valley, spreading from Utah into Arizona. The Super 8 Motel in Blanding ($65 for a large room with two double beds) was in the right position. It was almost in the same distance, measured in time and not miles, from the sites. It was basic but adequate. Its official price was significantly reduced for the lucky holders of a mysterious coupon. See below for details.

Nightlife:
Arches National Park travelogue picture
There is no significant nightlife in the park, although the gates are never closed. Well, officially the paths are never closed, as the park officially stays open 24 hours a day, plus of course many sights can be seen from the main road. Since it is also possible to camp in the park and one can create own nightlife, like it is often done in many other parks. With consideration for the local wildlife and precautions with regard to wild cats, poisonous serpents, scorpions, etc. It depends of course on the crowd present at the camp.

I really cannot say what happens in Moab, but this is Utah - the Mormon state with booze hard to find and partying being much less popular than in any other state in the USA. And, obviously, the Arches National Park is just in the middle of a desert!

Hangouts:
The Three Arches
The Three Arches
The Arches National Park is smaller than many others in Utah, or in the USA, actually. Yet, it is one of the more popular, so it may seem that it can get really crowded. Open spaces and lack of trees, contribute to a feeling that there is nowhere to hide and contemplate the incredible wonders of nature in this part of our spectacular planet.

But still, there are a number of spots that are perfect for hanging out and admire the views. One of them is a hill above the Delicate Arch. On occasions, the arch is not swarmed by tourists and sitting on the top of the hill and looking down at it as it miraculously stands on the edge of a huge precipice is mind-boggling. It is an exposed spot, so sun protection is essential. The other spot I liked was the Three Arches. This superb rock formation offered some shade and was a perfect spot to sit down, relax and re-balance water levels in the body. It is slightly less popular place as well and offers the eeriness.

Restaurants:
Balancing Rock
Balancing Rock
There were no restaurants at the park when I visited. The simple food was sold at the visitors centre, but it was nothing spectacular, just snacks and beverages. The official statement from the park is that no food, gas or lodging is available at the park and visitors are required to make provisions in Moab, particularly for water. The visitors centre closes down before sunset and on Christmas Day it is closed all day. Even at the Delivs Garden Campground there are no eateries or kiosks. There is a very good reason for this, though.

Food is never scattered in National Parks in the United States. Given the fact that the visitors often misbehave as far as food is concerned, the National Parks Service does not take any chances to give them opportunity to mess around with unintentionally or otherwise feeding of the wildlife. Full stop (or in American English - period).

Other recommendations:
Arches National Park travelogue picture
The fee for the Arches Park is currently at $5 for an individual or $10 for a non-commercial vehicle and its up to 4 adult passengers, both are valid for a week. Although it is totally worth it, the US National Parks Service issue an annual card the 'America the Beautiful' for all of the National Parks and National Monuments in the country, which costs $80 for a non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers (up to 4 adults). This card was formally known as the Golden Eagle Passport.

When I rented a car at the Los Angeles airport, at the AVIS agency, I found a book full with accommodation coupons. First of all it was a great indication where the budget hotels and motels were located and how much they might cost. The greatest thing about the book was that the coupons often gave up to 50 percent discount on the official prices. I often called up the motels to make a reservation (often essential) and when asked for a quote, the official price was dropping when a coupon was mentioned.

Published on Saturday July 12th, 2008


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Fri, Jul 18 2008 - 08:16 PM rating by aufgehts

Hi Krys,
Really nice....this was another place in Utah we wanted to go to but just didn't have enough time. When were you there? We might have passed each other on the road! But yes, Utah is a never-ending source of beauty and surprises.

Mon, Jul 14 2008 - 08:44 AM rating by eirekay

Great report on one of my favorite places! You have captured it brilliantly!

Sun, Jul 13 2008 - 07:22 PM rating by rangutan

Excellently written, amazing images and full of tips.

Sun, Jul 13 2008 - 03:57 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Good information. Thanks.

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