Double, Windows, and Turret Arches

June 29, 2018. We started off our second full day at Arches at an area that has easy hikes to four different arches: Double, South Window, North Window, and Turret. All four of them also had the added bonus for the kids of having spots for them to scramble over lots of rock.

Double Arch was first. Pretty freaking amazing, right? I don’t even mind all the people in the photo so much; they do a good job of giving the scale of this arch (arches?). It’s a relatively easy scramble to get under the first part of the double arch. Aaron was even able to do it with Auggie on his back… and Auggie’s getting pretty heavy these days, so this is not an unimpressive fete.

The second part of the arch is a bit more a scramble. Gigi seemed like she was about ready to attempt it, but I discouraged her… going up a scramble is lots easier than coming down one, and it was pretty steep. This is about as close as we got.

So, instead the kids climbed one of the walls off to the side of the arch. And, yes, my heart was a bit tight in my chest watching them climb so high, but it was an easier climb than it looks like in this picture. I did keep telling them to slow down and take their time. There was an even higher perch that some other people climbed up to, but I didn’t let the kids go up to that one. Time to go to the next arch, kids!

Next was North Window. This was a pretty popular hike with lots of people around, and there are stairs to make the journey easier.

We had gone to a ranger talk the night before at the campground amphitheater, and, during his talk, he had mentioned that one of his favorite things is to lay down under an arch and take a look at it from that perspective. He also said that the Windows arches are one of the best places to do this. So I thought of him while I laid under North Window and took this picture.

Aaron and the kids also enjoyed a break in the shadow of the arch. No, those are not Auggie’s arms growing out of Aaron’s head. He just hidden in the backpack behind Aaron.

Next up was South Window. Maybe we just got lucky in the timing or something, but it was pretty empty. I guess people make the trek up to North Window and then figure they are done for the day? In any case, there was maybe one other small group of people there with us. After all the people around Double and South Window, it was blissfully peaceful.

The kids had plenty of rock scrambles all to themselves, and I never get sick of these closeup views of the arch.

Turret Arch was next. It’s located just opposite of the Windows arches, so you have great views of one from the other. It was a bit more busy than North Window, but not as busy as South or Double arches.

There’s a bit of a scramble if you want to make it to the top. Aaron wasn’t able to do it with Auggie on his back, but the kids and I went up there, and, once you get up there, it’s a great area for the kids to practice their scrambling. Plus there’s a fantastic view of both Window arches if you are in just the right spot.

After Turret Arch, it was starting to get close to Noon, which is time for a siesta in Southern Utah; the hottest time of the day is usually between about noon and 5pm, so it’s best to find somewhere to rest in the shade or air conditioning while it’s in the mid to high 90s in the sun (at least when we were there). While planning the events for the day, I saw there was a dinosaur museum outside of the nearby town of Moab. In my mind, I pictured a nice air conditioned building with some exhibits that the kids might enjoy and maybe even learn a few things while we avoided the afternoon heat. The reality turned out to be quite different.

The first sign that something was off was that the very large parking lot was almost empty. It was obviously open (we did see a few people), but not as many as I would expect in the height of the summer tourist season. Aaron dropped me and the two older kids off; we was going into Moab to run some errands while we stayed at the museum. We walked inside and went up to the ticket booth. There was no one there. Hrm.

While we wanted for someone to show up that we could give money to, I looked at the pricing on the wall. There were several categories of tickets with the cheapest one apparently not including the stuff inside. So a bunch of the museum is outdoors in the baking hot heat, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid. There was some stuff inside… maybe it would still be okay.

A guy finally showed up, and I asked him for three tickets: an adult and two kids for the “deluxe” package that includes the inside stuff. But as I was getting out my credit card, I noticed that there was a “family” price that was a bit cheaper (maybe $5 or $10) less than what we was charging us. So I asked him if I could get that family price instead. And then I had the weirdest conversation in which he told me that the family discount required two adults. We needed more people to get the cheaper family price. I said that my husband might be eventually joining us, but that he was running some errands. Apparently that didn’t count. The whole thing felt really weird and awkward and, when it came down to it, horribly expensive for a largely outdoor museum. So I gave into that gut feeling I had, apologized to the kids, and hustled them both out of there and called Aaron to come get us.

The ticket guy followed us out the front door. After making my decision, I wasn’t in the mood to be talked into anything, but he just grabbed a pack of cigarettes out of his pack. It was a great family place, let me tell you! Luckily, Aaron had been taking advantage of their free WiFi in the parking lot, so hadn’t gone anywhere. Once we got in the car, I explained to the kids why we weren’t staying there. Gigi, in particular, was pretty confused and had been looking forward to it. But they seemed to understand after I talked it over with them. And the more I thought about it, the more weirded out and angry I got over the whole thing… single parent families apparently have to pay more than two parent families to enter a freaking museum? How crazy is that?!

So we all drove into Moab instead, and I had Aaron drop us off on the main drag where I introduced the kids to the joys of frozen yogurt in a lovely air conditioned restaurant. Putting bits of chocolate and M&Ms and sprinkles into your ice cream? That’s the best thing ever! Afterwards, we walked down the street and found a bookstore. When I asked the guy who worked there where the kids section was, he smiled, pointed towards a back room, and told us to stay as long as we wanted. Small book stores are the best. Sadly, this was the only one we encountered during our entire trip… they are a dying breed.

The kids immediately gravitated towards the sequel to Dragons Love Tacos;  they curled up on a spot on the floor and started reading it to each other. I browsed the young reader shelves in the hopes of finding something a bit longer for Des that he might enjoy, but, being his contrary self, he refused to consider any of my choices. Gigi, however, piped up: Can you pick out a book for me? I want a book!

So I found Captain Underpants. Shorter than the books I’d been scoping out for Des, but I figured it would be an easy introduction to chapter books that she could read on her own. Of course, as soon as we got back to the campsite later that day, both kids read it from cover to cover at least twice, Desmond having apparently changed his mind about the merits of reading.

After the bookstore, we continued our walk down Moab’s main drag. It was a good time for a snack or maybe an early dinner. So I found a nice-looking spot with air conditioning and pizza and sent Aaron a text. He had finished his errands by then, so he and Auggie joined us shortly after we got a table, and we decided to go ahead and had dinner.

When we headed back to the van afterwards, we spotted a Hawaii license plate, getting one of the last ones on our list. And then we headed back to camp. It was after the hottest time of the day, but it was still pretty early with plenty of light left, so we decided to stop at Balanced Rock. It’s right off the road, so the path around it is more of a stroll than a hike, and the kids didn’t complain (very) much.

One thing that I didn’t get a picture of that I really regret is all the people at Balanced Rock taking pictures of each other. It seemed like there was a memo going around that I didn’t get describing the proper way to pose by holding up your palm flat to pretend that you are actually holding up the rock. At one point I looked around and there were at least four people (of different parties) posing this way at the same time.

And that was finally the end of our big long second full day at Arches. I loved the morning hikes and the beautiful campground, and I fully plan on going back someday when we don’t have a two year old in tow.

Our First Arches Hike

Since we’d gotten in so late the night before, we had a late morning waking up. We set up camp a bit better, had some breakfast, and decided to do our morning hike at the trailhead located conveniently just a couple of campsites away from us. Morning hikes are essential at Arches in the summer since it gets blazing hot during the day. You basically want to be chilling somewhere in the shade from about noon to four, at least, if not longer.

So we started out at Tapestry Arch, which is only about half a mile from the trailhead. It’s a pretty easy hike, but it does require a bit of scrambling over so-called slickrocks, which I imagine really are pretty slick during a rainstorm, but which are pretty easy to climb on a hot, dry day.

We saw lots of cool cacti and yucca plants around the trails, eeking out an existence in defiance of the hot, hot sun.

We followed a trail of stone cairns that showed us the way. This is particularly useful when walking up on the slick rock. Without the cairns, it would have been pretty impossible to figure out the right way to go.

After a short bit, we arrived at Tapestry arch, and I had a good time looking up at the arch above me and taking pictures. Des, Aaron, and Auggie needed to go back to camp for a potty break, so it was just Gigi and I exploring Tapestry arch up close. Another family got there about the same time we did, so we took turns taking pictures of everyone for each other.

Next, after going back to camp for a water break and a rest, we went back to the trailhead and went after Broken Arch, which is a little less than a mile away. Des really liked the idea of rebuilding any cairns that we found scattered (he’s all about constructing stuff), and the two of us got behind the others while he spent time rebuilding a whole bunch of them.

Broken Arch is so named because the top looks a bit like it’s broken into two pieces. This is a bit of an optical illusion; it only looks broken from some angles, but it’s really not, as you can see from the picture below. It just has this weird twisted shape. Anyway, we had a good time climbing down through it (it’s a bit of a scramble); the trail to the next arch, Sand Dune arch, starts after climbing through Broken Arch.

The trail from Broken Arch to Sand Dune arch is only a very flat mile, but it’s a brutal mile in the sun; there’s no shade. At first, there are some cool rocks to wind around and look at as well as some neat lizards.

(Am I crazy? Who does the rock in the picture above look like to you?) After that, it’s just a brutal field filled with scrub. A trivial walk in 70 degree weather, but it’s a lot different when it’s 95 degrees and very little wind. This was also getting later in the day, so close to that noon time when you really need to slow down and take a break.

(I later discovered a big fingerprint on my camera lenses, so, unfortunately, all my photos from this hike seem a bit hazy in the middle. Curses!) Sand Dune arch is actually really easy to get to from a car. You can basically drive up and park next to its entrance. So there were a whole lot more people there than at Tapestry or Broken arch. It’s pretty cool, though. You walk up to the arch through these tall fins.

The arch itself is, aptly, in the middle of a bunch of sand. The whole area is just really cool to look at, especially if you had any talent or desire to do some climbing on slickrock.

Afterwards, we walked back to camp. The second time through the open plain area was just brutal. We didn’t have to talk all the way back to Broken Arch; instead, we took a second passage through some other rocks back to camp. It had just hit noon, and the sun was brutal.

The hike itself was fairly trivial, but adding on the sun made is very intense. I was really happy to make it back first to the trailhead and then to camp.

Afterwards, we had a bit of lunch. Our neighbors came by and borrowed a mallet to stake in their EZ-up. Later, they offered to buy some ice for our cooler for us since they were driving to Moab, but we had already decided we were going into the visitor’s center after lunch. Moab was a short drive from there. Just in case, we exchanged phone numbers; the reception at our campsite wasn’t good, but we could get a single bar of 3G if we were lucky… enough for texts, anyway.

We went to the visitor’s center, got Gigi’s (new) passport book stamped and then went onto Moab to buy some ice and a few other things at the store. We actually ran into our neighbors there, which was kinda cool, and then they knew they didn’t have to get ice for us. When we headed back to camp, we discovered our poor EZ-up had become a victim to Arches’ sometimes brutal winds.

The camp host came over, looked it over, and said: Yup. We generally lose about 10 of those things a week. The wind just does a number on them. Luckily, we had a second structure, and we didn’t really need two now that we were past the rainy section of our trip (probably!) but we had learned caution from our experience, and we didn’t leave it up when we left camp after that.

We were not the only victims to the storm. Some other neighbors came by as well as borrowed some Gorilla tape to repair their tent that had ripped during the wind gusts. We apparently are prepared for most anything at this point. And we really were, although we did have to borrow a tool from our first neighbor in order to get the mangled EZup apart so that it would fit into the dumpster. (No easy recycling of steel, unfortunately. Recycling in general is not great at the national parks.) Aaron made sure to pick up a similar tool on the next trip to Moab the next day. His tool box will not be defeated again.

Salt Lake City and Getting to Arches

After our battery incident with the van in Glacier, Aaron decided to invest in a solar trickle charger. Rather than try to find one at a local spot while driving through, we decided to order one through Amazon while we were briefly in cell phone range while we were in Moose in Grand Teton park. Salt Lake City had a locker at a 7-11 where we could pick it up.

After stopping at a Walmart near Box Elder to pick up some supplies (easy place to park the trailer!), we went into Salt Lake, which was on our way anyway. It turned out to be hard to make a left turn into the parking lot, so we had to make a little detour for a better position getting into the lot. In the process, we went down a side street with large speed bumps. Bump! Bump! Ooops… after one of the bumps, we noticed our A/C stopped working. Then we noticed our engine temperature was MUCH higher than it was supposed to be.

After getting to the Sev, we stayed in the parking lot for a bit, hoping to cool things down, but that only made things worse. It was too hot to check oil or water levels, so we continued on cautiously. After a bit, the engine temperature went down again and all seemed well. We started thinking that there was an oil leek causing the problem. (Later on we discovered it was actually a faulty relay that was preventing our engine fan from turning on and off properly.)

In any case, we continued onto Arches without any other issues, and the engine temperature remained normal. We had a late start and weren’t scheduled to get in until after 9pm, but then we relied on Google too much. When Aaron turned off the main highway to take the smaller road to Arches, we instead discovered a dirt road. This definitely did not look like the right way. It turned out that Aaron had put “Devil’s Garden” into Google Maps instead of “Devil’s Garden Campground,” and this made a large enough difference to put our navigation off by a bit. Ooops! We backtracked and found the correct exit about 15 minutes behind us. Add in another rest stop break and we got into Arches at around 10pm, way later than we’d have liked, but at least we made it in one piece.

This was a view from a rest stop about an hour out of Arches. Beautiful country!