Continue part 2 with the fantastic trip for 9 days, 2 states, 6 National parks, 8 bird lifers, 106 bird species observed, 1816 miles driven follow by story of Mr.Dallas Harrell !
Day 3: Another early wake-up., this time for Arches National Park. We were at the Devils Garden trailhead well before sunrise to begin our hike to Landscape Arch in the cold, early dawn. As we hiked, the growing light began to illuminate the amazing landscape we were walking through. Rows of sandstone fins surrounded us. We arrived at Landscape Arch to find only two other people.
We stood in awe together as the sunlight cleared the sandstone fins and cast its first rays of the day on Landscape Arch making the sandstone seem to glow. As we made our way back to the trailhead, we were able to get better looks at the sandstone that surrounded us. Pine Tree Arch, Skyline Arch, Sandstone Arch, etc all provided great views as we made our way back through the park.
The short hikes in the Windows area brought us up close and personal with more arches. The scale of the arches was simply unbelievable and bluebird skies provided a perfect backdrop for the arches. After a few more stops to admire the stunning landscape we made our way out of the park for lunch in Moab where we very nearly committed violence when the person in front of us purchased the last blueberry lemon crodough (the sinful lovechild of a croissant and a donut) at Doughbird. Along the way we met 100s of cars making their way into the park.
After lunch we took a drive up Hwy 128 along the Colorado River and through Castle Valley into the foothills of the La Sal Mountains. After a couple hours of windshield views we made our way back into Arches National Park for our final hike of the day. As we prepared for our trip, the hike to Delicate Arch was a big question mark. Would Jason be able to navigate the narrow ledge at the end of the trail? As we started up the trail, huffing our way along the slick rock portion, we still didn’t know if he would be able to do the final 200 yards, but he was determined to try.
I’m not sure which of us was more nervous when we reached the narrow ledge wrapping itself along the sandstone cliff. With lots of will power, Jason faced his fears and hugged the wall all the way to the top. As we rounded the final corner we were greeted with the unbelievable sight of Delicate Arch clinging to the edge of the cliff. Also clinging to the rock, we stayed at the top only a few moments before we headed back for lower ground and less anxiety. Cloudy skies and another looming early morning sent us back to Moab early.
Day 4: Today’s wake-up was an extra early 4 am in an attempt to reach Capitol Reef National Park and hike before some predicted afternoon showers. We arrived at the Grand Wash trailhead before sunrise. We started our hike up the canyon in twilight and silence. We were treated to glimpse of sunrise through a gap in the canyon before the canyon narrowed, blocking out all but a sliver of sky above us.
As we made our way up the canyon, craning our necks upwards to see the top of the walls, the only sounds were the crunch of gravel under our feet and the song of a canyon wren bouncing around the canyon. We turned around just past The Narrows of the canyon and retraced our steps. Our next stop was the Hickman Bridge trail. The trail took us up and over a ridge before following a wash up to Hickman Bridge.
The view of the Fremont River from the switchbacks was one of my favorite views of the trip. The bridge was an interesting contrast to the freestanding arches we saw yesterday. Two bighorn sheep ewes added to the jaw dropping views along the backside of the bridge. With two hikes under our belt, it was time to treat ourselves to a pie from the Gifford House. With clouds building, we drove the scenic drive and Capitol Gorge road. We hiked the Capitol Gorge trail to Pioneer Register. It was neat to look at the names carved into the stone almost 150 years ago.
A noisy flock of Black Rosy Finches in the canyon gave us our next lifer of the trip. The score was Jason-2 and Dallas -1. Driving back towards Fruita, we made a few photo stops. Capitol Reef was quickly becoming our favorite park of the trip so far. We walked a bit of the Fremont River trail when the afternoon showers arrived as promised. A quick stop at the visitor center was next. We visited a few sites along Hwy 24 that we missed in the dark this morning.
Along the way a flock of Pinyon Jays entertained us for several minutes becoming my next lifer and evening the score. We headed out of the park towards Torrey as snowflakes began to mix in with the rain. A wildlife refuge near town gave us an opportunity to stay dry as we did some windshield bird watching. After dinner in Torrey we took advantage of a break in the clouds to drive back into the park and visit Panorama Point and the Goosenecks. The views were simply spectacular! As snow moved back in, we took advantage of the hot tub before retreating to our room to plot changes to the remainder of the trip due to a winter storm in Bryce tomorrow.
Story and photos by Dallas Harrell
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