I was itching to get outdoors on Thanksgiving weekend and, since I had just recently discovered the location of some new-to-me rock art in Arches National Park, I decided to head that way. My brother-in-law, Mark, joined me and we left town ridiculously early at 5:30 AM to avoid waiting in line at the entrance station with all the tourists traveling for the holiday weekend. I had several short hikes planned, the first of which was an exploratory hike into Salt Wash from the Delicate Arch trailhead. However, as we drove south and it got lighter in the pre-dawn, I could see that more snow had fallen than was in the forecast. Since the hike involved a steep slickrock descent I scrapped that idea and instead we hiked up Courthouse Wash to Ring Arch. It was 33 degrees when we started and at first I was chilly, wearing just a t-shirt under a long-sleeved button-up, but as we hiked I warmed up comfortably.
Where the trail crossed Courthouse Wash we found flowing water just narrow enough to jump over. We worried that as the day warmed the flow would increase. The snow and frost made for beautiful scenes but it melted quickly as soon as the sun rose over the clouds. We got to Ring Arch and admired it for a bit, and Mark shed his jacket and I traded my beanie for a baseball cap. Just the short climb up to the arch was enough to break a sweat.
Next we hiked some more to some petroglyphs. In many places the patina has flaked off the cliff, I’m sure taking some of the petroglyphs with it. We hiked back down Courthouse Wash toward the park road, and when we reached the wash crossing found it flowing about the same as before.
We drove a while to the next hiking destination, some petroglyphs hidden away in an unusual location. It wasn’t an area in which I would have expected to find any rock art, but there it was, a low cliff with petroglyphs that have been re-covered in patina. It was difficult to photograph the rock art, both because of the lack of contrast due to the patina and the direct sunlight on my camera’s viewscreen. In some cases I just shot blindly hoping to capture the scene I was aiming at.
Our last hike was to search for a granary that I’d read about but I wasn’t certain of the exact location. We were searching the usual locations–in shallow alcoves and crevices between boulders–when I looked up and spotted the granary up high across the canyon. The construction was unusual, with large vertical slabs mixed with courses of small rocks in horizontal layers, all joined together with adobe. I was pretty stoked to find it! That makes two granaries in the park that I’ve found this year.
We returned to the park road and started driving home, but ran into a traffic jam at the bottom of the steep hill just north of Panorama Point. In the morning when we’d passed by that section of road it was very icy so we assumed there was a traffic accident. Traffic wasn’t moving at all so we u-turned and backtracked to the Delicate Arch road. The Delicate Arch parking lot was completely full, and the Delicate Arch Viewpoint parking lot was nearly full, so we drove a short distance down the Cache Valley road and parked at a wide spot and ate lunch in peace. From there we could see where the main park road was closed and traffic was backed up. I considered driving out through Salt Valley but didn’t really want to get my truck that muddy, so we just waited there until the road reopened then hit the road and headed home.
Photo Gallery: Arches Backcountry V