Astounded by Arches National Park - Eva Varga

May 25, 20131

Arches National Park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks.  Arches is a great family park. The rock formations delight kids as well as adults, and many short hiking trails provide opportunities for everyone to get out of the car and explore the park’s features.  We had more time at Arches and thereby took advantage of every moment.

This is the eighth post in the – Homeschooling on the Road – marathon blogging series.

One of the highlights of our stay at Arches was the Ranger Program we attended in the evening, Archeoastronomy.  It was a fascinating talk on how the Native Americans utilized their study of the stars and planets to better understand their environment; when to plant and when to harvest. The ranger shared their stories and helped bring the stars to life.  We learned how Ursa Major changes over the course of a year and how cultures across North America tracked the movement of the sun.   Delightfully, our little man was eager to help out when called upon.

Arches National Park

Hikes We Enjoyed in Arches

We enjoyed many short hikes and two long hikes while we were in Arches National Park. Our favorites were the long hikes … the views were just astounding and the strenuous hike made it all the more memorable.  Walking along the fins was a surreal experience; it felt like we were walking on the spine of the continent.

Delicate Arch
Starting Point: Wolfe Ranch parking area
Length: 3 miles round trip
Open slick rock with some exposure to heights. The first half-mile is a wide, well-defined trail. Upon reaching the slickrock, follow the rock cairns. The trail climbs gradually and levels out toward the top of this rock face. Just before you get to Delicate Arch, the trail goes along a rock ledge for about 200 yards.

Double O Arch
Starting Point: Devils Garden Trailhead parking area
Length: 4 miles round trip
Beyond Landscape Arch, the trail becomes more challenging as it climbs over sandstone slabs; footing is rocky; there are narrow ledges with exposure to heights.

A hike out to Double O is not without caution.  We came upon several people who chose to turn back or had refused to go any farther, choosing rather to sit and wait for their party to return.

Arches National Park

Biological Soil Crust

One of the most fascinating ecological discoveries we made at Arches National Park was learning about the biological soil crust.  This dark, bumpy layer is a community of organisms (cyanobacteria, green algae, microfungi, mosses, liverworts and lichens) living at the surface of desert soils. These crusts hold sand grains together (preventing erosion), absorb water, give seeds a place to grow, and provide nutrients for plants (they fix nitrogen). Biological soil crust is very fragile. One footstep may destroy it. Since it lives everywhere, it is important to stay on trails and not “bust the crust” while at Arches. Biological crust grows in places throughout the world. See if you can find it where you live. 

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