Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 long weekend in moab, pt. 2

In an attempt to get into the outside before things got really hot, we got up at 6 a.m. on Friday to load up hiking gear, biking gear and snacks.  We were in a booth at the Moab Diner for breakfast just after 6:30 a.m., watching the red cliffs on the west side of town catch the rising sunlight as we fueled up on eggs, bacon and sourdough toast.  After breakfast, our destination was Arches National Park to hike the Devils Garden trails.  We had checked at the visitors' center to see if there were any openings for the guided Fiery Furnace hike; there weren't, hence Devils Garden.

Landscape Arch

We were on the trail by 8 a.m. and could tell that it was going to be a hot one.  As we knew it would be, the trailhead was quite busy: there are a lot of arches to be seen on this hike, many of them only a short distance away from the parking area, so there are always lots of lookie-loos, especially at the start.  Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch are right at the start but we skipped them, having duly noted them several times before.  Landscape Arch (0.8 miles in) was delicately spectacular as always and is the last arch on the "improved trail."  From here, the trail is "primitive," which just means it's an actual hiking trail and not a built sidewalk; the trail is not difficult but there is a little bit of slickrock scrambling and there is scarcely any shade.

Ooh! Shade!

We did the short spurs off the main trail to Partition Arch and Navajo Arch, noticing that we and three other pairs of hikers were all doing about the same pace - all the other hikers/tourists had been left behind.  Double O Arch, the larger oval looming over the smaller one, is two miles from the trailhead.  At this point, we opted to continue on the even less traveled (but still easily followed) primitive loop trail, out along Fin Canyon and through a pinyon pine-lined draw that must be full of water in the springtime.  We got back to the truck around 11:15 a.m., just in time too since H finished his water with twenty minutes of walking still to go.  As we headed out, tourists were still pouring in, many without hats and with very small water bottles.  We wished them well and hoped they weren't going to attempt too long a hike.  Hike stats: 7.72 miles, 2:45 hiking time, 3:11 total time, 2.8 m.p.h. moving average speed.

Fin Canyon. Duh.

Our next stop was Dead Horse Point State Park, to ride the new MTB trails they put in on the other side of the access road from the Intrepid trail system.  After changing into biking clothes, reapplying sunscreen (at 1,000 feet higher than Arches, it was slightly cooler but still hot and exposed) and refilling our waters, we headed out on Ravens Roll (easy), connecting to Crossroads (intermediate-easy) and Whiptail (intermediate).  These new trails are laid out nicely, through sagebrush meadows and slickrock with good flow, but I struggled in the sandy bits; every time I thought I might be able to let it roll a bit, I'd hit sand and my back tire would swerve.  I went back at the Twisted Tree/Whiptail intersection but H opted to keep going to the end of Whiptail, and found some seriously stunning views.  We met up back at the truck (A: 10.6 miles; H: 13.4 miles).  The new west-side trails are more challenging than the original Intrepid system and are a great addition to the Moab area singletrack offerings.

H riding Whiptail

After all that exertion in the day's heat, we needed some refreshments (beer and salty snacks).  We drove up into the state park a little further until we found a likely looking picnic spot with a covered table and a little juniper tree for added shade.  We were entertained for a while by a cheeky little bird (most likely a juniper titmouse) who brazenly stole our potato chip crumbs.  Then, to our great surprise and utter delight, we realized that a cute-as-a-button kit fox had decided to join the party, lounging under the juniper tree.  He was tiny - H thought that at the very most he might weigh five pounds, and probably not even that - and cat-like, and quite relaxed even with our proximity, although his giant ears never stopped moving.  After about fifteen minutes, the fox had had enough company and trotted off into the desert rocks.  It was a real treat to observe him so closely and would end up being one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend.

Cutest. Kit fox.  Ever.

The rest of the day involved going back to the motel, cleaning up, having a couple of beers on the porch/veranda, and strolling over to Main Street for a bar food dinner at Zax (friendly service, okay food, local Utah microbrews).  Then there was nothing left to do than go back to the room and crash hard.  Desert fun really takes it out of you!

And then there's the view from Whiptail

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