Southbound, to Arches National Park
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
On a beautiful crisp fall morning I move south, out of Yellowstone and quickly find myself in the middle of the Grand Tetons. Rest assured, they are as impressive as their reputation would have you believe. Wanting to move a good distance south, I spontaneously think Granite Hot Spring might be a nice place to visit. At the end of a very rough gravel road I find a commercial resort, complete with concrete swimming pool. Of course, I am much more interested in the natural spring that lies next to Granite Falls, a short distance away.
I cross the small river in bare feet, which immediately go completely numb. I jump up and down on the spot for a few minutes inducing painful pins and needles while trying to eye off the soaking potential of the spring. Hot water flows 5 meters (15 feet) down a rock face to a two-person rock pool. Every attempt has been made to deny access to the river water, but I quickly find the attempt is futile. I soak for only five minutes, unable to tolerate the uncooperative freezing water finding it’s way in from bottom of the pool.
The setting is first class, very close to the spectacular falls and I’m sure the spring can be amazing, when the river is cooperating.
I camp nearby, at a beautiful campsite on the river’s edge and endure another night well below freezing. My tent is covered by a thick sheet of ice in the morning so I am happy to linger in the morning sun while it slowly melts and evaporates.
I’ve been thinking about it over and over and today is the day – I want to drive a long way south to escape the relentless advance of winter. I find Wyoming a beautiful, relaxed state and am pleased I get to drive the length of it from north to south. Entering Utah the mountains fade in my mirrors and give way to arid desert, with bizarre rock formations the likes of which I have never before seen.
The earth here is bright red, desert red, and I am strongly reminded of the town I grew up in in rural Australia.
Words can’t convey how elated I am to be out hiking in shorts and t-shirt upon my arrival in Arches National Park – the first time I’ve felt the hot sun in what feels like weeks. I’ve been looking forward to a solid hike and set out to tackle the Devil’s Garden Loop, 8.8 miles of packed sightseeing. The trail begins wide and flat allowing for the many hundreds of people making the short trip to Landscape Arch, a clear and deserving favorite. Soon the trail is narrow & faint as it twists and turns it’s way from one natural arch to the next.
The loop is very spectacular and it feels great to pound out a fast pace in the hot morning sun.
I’m told Delicate Arch is one of the best in the park and so I find it impossible to pass up the 3 mile uphill hike. I’m surprised when I soon pass a sign “Petroglyphs”, leading down a small, unused trail. I’ve always found things of this nature extremely interesting and can’t believe more people are not taking the tiny detour. I find the drawings (circa 1650-1850) extremely clear and detailed and can’t believe there is not another person in sight!
The hike up is very impressive, climbing over rock, sand and skirting the edge of a very high cliff with no safety fences in sight. The arch itself is impressive to say the least, so I sit to enjoying it, chatting to a German couple for the better part of an hour.
I’ve had a really good feeling for the entire day and it’s capped off sitting on the warm rocks in the early afternoon chatting and laughing so easily.
It turns out my National Park Grand Tour™ is just warming up…
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