Thursday, 12-June – Arches N.P. + Corona Arch Trail
Trip miles: 50 miles
Route taken: US-191 N → UT-279 → US-191 S
Average Gas mileage: 27.5mpg
Weather: warm (65F) in the morning, hot (100F) with no breeze
- hiking the Arches NP Park Avenue Trail
- hiking to Corona and Bowtie Arches
- finding the dinosaur footprints and Jug Handle Arch along Potash Road
- seeing a Blue Heron again today
There was an almost-full moon last night ushered in by perhaps the most colourful sunset of our trip so far. We wished we were in the park to snag photos of the full moon through the arches. The bats were out again at sunset. It was cool enough in the tent to sleep comfortably under a sheet. We followed our usual morning schedule, so were driving into Arches NP by 7:00. There was only one other car at the Park Ave. trailhead. We only met two people along the hike. By 8:30 we were on Potash Road (UT-279) driving south along the Colorado River. The Corona Arch Trailhead was about 10 miles down the paved road. We were not the first car in the parking lot but we only saw one couple returning from the arch. When we were in view of it we saw why – a guided group of thrill-seeking tourists was getting ready to rope swing off the top of the arch. Whatever. The first jumper really enjoyed his jump; then he somehow managed to get his rope in a knot so he could not use the extender to lower himself to the ground. He had to climb back up a rescue rope until the tension was off his primary rope to release the knot. After 15 minutes or so he managed to untangle the knot and lower himself. An embarrassing anti-climax to the jump. We started to climb up the 'moki holes' in the slickrock to get up onto the arch ourselves, but the rock was already very warm to hug up against so we headed back to the parking lot. Returning back on Potash Road we walked up the steep little trail to see the 3-toed dinosaur tracks in a large flat rock that had originally been at the top of the Colorado Plateau, then stopped at a turnout along the road to view the Jug Handle Arch.
For lunch we stopped at the Lions Park Trail Hub and walked across the Colorado River on the new bicycle bridge to see the river and what might be hiding in the tamarisk trees at the flooded edge. A magpie flew by. We could hear lots of birds but couldn't see any. The Lions Park Picnic Area is (and I am being kind because only Phase One has been completed) not very scenic. From the “historic” picnic tables it is not possible to see the river, but the traffic on US-191 is very loud. Briefly, through a break in the tamarisk trees, we saw a blue heron fly along the Colorado. (Tamarisk trees are an extremely invasive exotic we saw everywhere during our travels.)
By the afternoon, threatening clouds were building over the cliffs to the west. A cool reprieve for us at the campsite! What a treat to get a thunderstorm, wind and rain to cool us off. After freshening up with a shower we were ready to explore the Farmers' Market at Swammy Park. It was disappointing to find only a fair (sports event fair maybe?) and no farm stalls set up yet in the park. We would come back in an hour or so.
While the weather blustered itself out we treated ourselves to dinner at a restaurant. We chose the Broken Oar, near Swammy Park, because of their self-proclaimed “best sweet potato fries in town”. The menu has a few choices in all the major categories and all choices are a bit pricey. The ambience was very comfortable and the service friendly and attentive. I ordered the Buffalo Burger with fries. Hubby ordered the vegetarian pasta dish. A starter house salad was served instead of the usual bread. Considering the prices I thought using canned olives in the salad was a tell-tale sign that many ingredients were not as fresh as they should be. The iced tea was excellent – brewed from real tea bags and not sweetened.
Driving around the perimeter of Swammy Park at 18:30 we saw there were a few farm stalls set up but mostly the offerings were crafts, not produce, so we didn't fight to get a parking spot. Instead we stopped in at the City Market for ice and bread. We will make our own sandwiches for our short hike tomorrow. The remainder of the day will be a prep day to get laundry, email and shopping done for the final 2 weeks of the trip.
Park Ave Trail – This 2-mile (RT) trail descends 330 ft from the Arches NP Scenic Drive down to the Courthouse and Organ formations across the road from Sheep Rock. Early in the morning the trail is shaded by the enormous rock formations on both sides of the trail, giving the feeling of walking along a street with skyscrapers on both sides. It was a quiet and cool morning walk.
Corona Arch Trail – This 3-mile (RT) trail into Bootlegger Canyon in BLM land is accessed from a gravel parking area about 10 miles along Potash Road, aka UT-279. It climbs most of its total 440-foot elevation gain steeply at first to cross the railroad tracks and reach the slickrock. There is a section of slickrock with enough of a slope that a cable has been installed for the less steady hikers to use, but on this dry day there was no fear of sliding down the rock. Further up the trail is a ladder to make a steep slickrock climb easier. The arch comes into view at the top of the ladder. The trail passes Bowtie Arch first, which is more of a skylight than an arch. Corona Arch is a partially free-standing buttress arch -- quite impressive. The arch's opening is 110ft x 110ft and it stands 140 ft high. The trail continues under the arch to the back side, where 'moki holes' have been carved into the rock beside a rope to allow hikers to climb to the top of the arch.