Day 11 - Arches @ SunriseSeptember 21 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 8 °C
We were awoken at some crazy time this morning to a wind storm whipping our tent and blowing what felt like a few pounds of sand inside. Nomes got up to move the car to try and create a wind break (and ended up sleeping in the car!) It felt like we'd just fallen back asleep again when the 5.30am alarm went off and we dragged ourselves up and packed up in the dark & wind and headed to Arches National Park for sunrise.
We'd heard Delicate Arch was one of the best places to see the sunrise, so we headed straight there behind a surprisingly long line of fellow early risers. The Delicate Arch hike is one the most popular long hikes in Arches National Park ("ANP"). A series of small switchbacks eventually give way to a long steady climb up slick rock (thanks to those who insisted I got proper hiking boots for this trip, they've been worth their weight in gold!) The final stretch of this 3 mile trail skirts a narrow slickrock ledge with a steep drop off to the left. The wind was still pretty brutal at this point (not to mention cold!) but thankfully it pushed you closer to the rock face side of the trail, not the edge! Becky discovered the hidden (and unpopulated!) gem of "Frame Arch" - an aptly named smaller Arch up a steep slick rock slope which gave you a great view of the rising sun and perfectly framed Delicate Arch in the background.
Despite the early hour, many tourists had made it up to Delicate Arch before us. After sitting in Frame Arch watching the sun rise, we joined the line of tourists taking turns to get a photo within Delicate
Arch itself. Again everyone seemed so polite and friendly, willing to take photos for each other and strike up easy conversation. We made many friends and exchanged photos and stories. Too often the conversation started with "where are you from?" after hearing my Aussie accent, and was quickly followed by a comment to the tune of "why on earth did you move from Australia to Virginia, of all places!?" Let's just say I love my husband... 😁
We hadn't eaten breakfast before taking on the hike, so Nomes and Bek headed back down toward the car while I stayed a while longer to get a few more photos (and make more friends!)
The next (and final) stop in ANP was the Landscape Arch found along the park's longest trail "Devil's Garden" which has spectacular views of eight arches. We stopped for a quick breakfast before setting off. Among the world's longest natural stone spans, Landscape Arch is a spectacular ribbon of rock acessed by an easy hike along a well maintained trail. The trail starts through sandstone fins that stand on end like giant wedges and provide welcome shade and towering walls of various hues of red and yellow. The trail opens out before Landscape Arch providing a panoramic view to distant ridges and a wide open sky.
You used to be able to hike under the Arch itself, but in 1991 a 60ft slab of rock fell unexpectedly and almost injured nearby hikers, resulting in the closure of that particular trail. Our initial view of Landscape Arch felt a little disappointing, but we hiked closer to it's base and were able to get a much better view of the azure blue sky through the Arch that spans an impressive 306ft.
After a quick stop at the visitors centre we headed out of the park and ran a few errands, getting fuel and a few other necessities, before hitting the road for a 4.5 hour trip to Paige, via Monument Valley.
14,489 steps before noon, now that ain't bad.
We cruised through the highway leading to monument valley listening to Rascal Flatts' "Life is a Highway" and stopping at the scenic pull-offs to take photos through the sun roof of our Rav 4. The iconic monuments towered from the horizon and reminded us of Pixar's animation "Cars" which is set against this stunning backdrop. We got to the Monument Valley visitor centre, paid for our ticket, and proceeded to sit in line to wait for the scenic drive through the valley (only 15 cars were allowed at a time.) After a 40 minute wait we were super disappointed to be turned around - despite selling us a ticket no one is allowed on the scenic drive past 4.30pm ("due to COVID"). Oh well, more time to drive to our Airbnb. Off we set to Page, Arizona.
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