Saturday, May 16, 2015

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Jason at the Delicate Arch.
May 8 - After arriving in Moab on Thursday afternoon, we got into our motel and then went into town. We carbed up at Eddie McStiff's with some pizza and walked around town a little. Moab definitely caters to the adventurers and other tourists but I liked the feel. There was some live music happening at a couple of different places.

Petroglyphs on the way to the Delicate Arch.
Friday morning we got up early to get into Arches before the masses and drove first to the Delicate Arch Trailhead. Delicate Arch Trail is 3.5 mile out-and-back and has been heavily traveled over the years so it is firmly packed and sections of it are scrambles over rock. The location of the arch is unique in that there is a large bowl beside it and you also get a great view of the background landscape of the National Park. There is a short side trail that takes you to some petroglyphs that were carved centuries ago.

Jason scrambling over a boulder.
We left Delicate Arch and drove to the Devil's Garden Trailhead. Here we ran the Devil's Garden Primitive Loop, which is a little over 7 miles that is a mix of heavily traveled and sparsely traveled. The section closest to the trailhead sees a lot of people as there is a grouping of arches here within an easy walk, including the Landscape, Navajo, Partition and Double O arches.

There were more people on the trail now as it was about 8am. Once we got past the Double O arch, however, we had the trail mostly to ourselves. There are a few lesser-known arches on the rest of the loop that we took side trails to see. The loop goes down into the fin canyons, which are fairly unique big thin pieces of rock that you have to walk between. The whole trail is a nice loop with little traffic on most of it and some unique landscape features. It is well worth doing.


Jason decided to start his drive home after lunch. They were calling for some bad weather in the Rockies and he was taking Interstate 70 through the Rockies and then on to Kansas. Jim and I planned to do the Syncline Loop Trail (about 9 miles) in Canyonlands, which was part of the 22 miles that we were originally supposed to do in Canyonlands on Friday before the unexpected rest day on Wednesday after the Zion adventure.

Climbing through one of the fin canyons.
After lunch we drove the 30 minutes or so to the Islands in the Sky District of Canyonlands. It was a pretty spectacular drive to the Syncline Loop Trailhead. The canyons are deep and rugged-looking. The Syncline Loop Trail circumnavigates the Upheaval Dome, a giant crater with a bluish dome in the middle. It certainly is a unique landscape feature.
Landscape arch.

Jason falling through part of the Double O arch.
The skies were starting to get cloudy as we drove to the trailhead. Although they weren't calling for rain, it certainly looked like it might be a possibility later. After Tuesday, we were somewhat hesitant to chance another thunderstorm in a canyon, but this was a much shorter run.

The trail, if you go in a clockwise direction, is very rocky at the start and soon you get a sweeping view down into the deep canyon. I could see the trail way down below and was thinking twice about the decision to go on but it was just too cool so we plunged down the trail. We moved quickly, although progress was somewhat slow because of all of the rocks and twists in the trail. We eventually made it down onto the canyon floor and ran more easily here. The trail basically followed a wash and was gently downhill and not as rocky as the descent.

We soon got to the camping area where there is a trail that goes up into the Upheaval Dome. We looked at the skies and decided we didn't want to put in the extra 3 miles out-and-back so we continued on. Now the trail started climbing and we tried to figure out where we were going to get out of the canyon. As always happened this week, we could not figure out where the trail went. We thought it had to cut back but it just went straight up what looked like an unclimbable wall. Somehow we got through it but it took a lot of scrambling over boulders. The trail then continued up and up, through wash after wash.

The climb out of the canyon on the Syncline Loop Trail.
We finally got to within sight of the trailhead. It was starting to rain now, but I wanted to see the Upheaval Dome from the top so I ran out to one of the overlooks. Now it got windy and started to rain hard. I got a couple pictures and ran back to the car. This was probably the most visually stunning 9 mile run I've ever done. It was well worth doing.

This was the end of about 90 miles over 3 days of running and over 105 for the week for me. Other than a quad strain that I got slipping in the mud while being rescued out of Zion, I felt pretty good. It was a fun week, full of gorgeous landscapes and unfortunately unpredictable weather.

Syncline Loop Trail.

Where does the trail go?
Overlooking the Upheaval Dome.

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