Morning Glory Arch hangs in a cavelike culdesac at the terminus of the Grandstaff trail. William Grandstaff was one of the early settlers (post-Native American) of the Moab area, and to see the twisting canyon with its perennial stream cutting through it, I’d say it must’ve been a pretty neat place to call home. The hike was maybe 4 miles roundtrip and not too taxing, with the occasional stream crossing and boulder hopping. Spots of ice still remained in areas of the canyon floor not lucky enough to receive more than an hour of sunlight a day, if that. The trail and the arch were solely ours to enjoy for as long as we pleased; there wasn’t another car in the trailhead parking lot when we arrived. We were surrounded by noiseless wonder- the only sounds being the bubbling stream, the occasional rustle of leaves in the lazy wind, a raven calling from above, or our own labored breaths as we climbed up over a ridge. After spending some time under the arch, examining the quiet spring that seemed to pop arbitrarily through a crack in the sandstone just past ol’ Morning Glory, we retraced our steps back to the trailhead and hopped in the car.
After a lunch break, again at the Eklecticafe in Moab valley, we set our sights on Arches National Park. This was a trip sans Charley, as pups are not allowed on trails in most National Parks. She needed a rest anyway, and settled in for a nap at La Quinta. Meanwhile, Cadence and I found ourselves cruising north through Arches, past Courthouse Wash and the Towers, the petrified dunes of the high desert, Balanced Rock (a monstrous rounded boulder perhaps 50 or more feet high, rested on a rock pedestal of about equal size), Panorama Point (with views of the dunes and the distant Sierra La Sal), and Delicate Arch (most photographed arch by a longshot). These were all places we’d been before on previous trips. Certainly worth the time and each of them truly special in their own right, but we were seeking something new. This left one area of the park we had yet to explore: the Klondike Bluffs and Tower arch.
Tucked in the relatively remote northwest region of the park, the bluffs are 8+ miles down a dirt and rock road, crossing the great expanse and desolation of Salt Valley. As was expected, we didn’t see another car on the entire dirt road segment of our trip. After mistakenly heading up a 4-wheeling road and nearly getting stuck in the muddy and ill-defined tracks (what a horrible place to be stranded!), we found our way to the Klondike Bluffs trailhead and set off up and over the bluffs and into a garden of boulders, crumbling towers, and cracked earth. Mild anxiety accompanied us on our walk, as we quickened the pace so as to avoid running out of daylight. With the next closest humans being nearly 10 miles away, we wanted to ensure a safe return to civilization by dusk.
We arrived at tower arch, 1.7 miles further into unknown territory, and relaxed for fifteen minutes to catch our breath. It was so quiet; undisturbed. It was as if god had hit the mute button.
Everyone needs a happy place. After our moment in solitude at Tower Arch, Jamie professed that she now had a new happy place; somewhere she could go to in her head to take a timeout.
“Should we spike up?” I asked as we hit the bluffs on the way back to the car. Ice coated the slope we were planning to descend. We both stretched on our spikes over our boots and strode confidently down the rocky switchbacks to the car, waiting by her lonesome in the dusty parking lot. We made it back to pavement before sundown, and caught the sunset on our drive down and off the table that Arches calls home.
That night, after dinner, we drove back up to Arches to catch the stars. Having minimal light pollution and being in the high desert, Arches is often proclaimed as one of the best places to see the stars. On this night it did not disappoint. The Milky Way was easy to spot, along with a few thousand other stars whose names I’ll never know. Being up there, in the middle of nowhere, in complete darkness, with the constantly rumored alien presence, made us a bit uneasy. We stayed for a brief time, then punched out of Arches before we became guests on a UFO.