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Month: January 2017

Landscape Arch Trail, Arches National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 30

Landscape Arch Trail, Arches National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 30

We did it! We hit The Mighty 5 in our time in Utah! I know this isn’t an actual accomplishment but…it felt like one to me. Although it was kind of miserable, we managed to get a hike in at Arches National Park. This was Utah park #5 and my 52 Hike Challenge Hike #30 to Landscape Arch.

Landscape Arch

This arch, a natural geologic feature created mostly by various types of water erosion, is the longest arch in North America. It is also the longest span in the park. This long, very thin arch measures around 300 ft wide and is shorter only to four arches in China. Hikers used to be able to walk under Landscape Arch, but as this thin strip of rock continues to erode, slabs are falling from the span. Now hikers can only view the arch from a short distance.

The Hike

To even view at a short distance, however, you need to use your legs. The hike is about 2 miles out and back and is considered easy, but I found this hike to be a challenge. We had already been hiking in extremely hot, cloudless, August, desert weather for most of the day so I was quite fatigued (and sunburned, despite wearing sunscreen). Add to that the challenge of hiking on sand. Not only was the sand difficult to walk on, requiring more energy, it was incredibly hot. That meant I wasn’t only feeling heat from the sun above, but also feeling heat radiate UP at me from the hot sand below. Frankly, this made for a very miserable trek to the arch and back. However, as you probably guessed, it was worth it

The arch was as incredible sight. Unfortunately our pictures just didn’t turn out. The sun was at about the worst position in the sky for photographing this rock, but it was way too hot to hang around and wait for better lighting. Eric and I both thought this park would be really cool to hike at night, so maybe we’ll head back for some night time photography someday. But on this day the arch was an impressive sight that had a humbling effect.

It’s hard to comprehend the scale of time and power required to form these arches, especially one on this scale. The force required to move, fold and crack rocks in order to allow water to freeze, thaw and erode in those cracks is massive, and the process of eroding sandstone on a scale this large takes millions of years.

The Lessons

Despite my misery, I learned a lot on this hike.

  1. Hiking on sand stinks. It just does.
  2. I wore as little as publicly acceptable for this hike due to the heat. Some short spandex bike shorts and a tank top. I think this backfired on me when I was feeling the heat from above and below. In the future I think wearing a light, reflective layer would be more effective at keeping me cool.
  3. This hike nudged me to pick up an insulated Hydroflask because drinking really hot water on a really hot hike is just awful. When doing a short hike like this where I have access to cold tap water I intend to keep it cold as long as possible from now on.
  4. Hiking is convincing me more and more that challenging yourself is a worthwhile pursuit. I was proud of myself for grumpily persevering through this hike, getting a pretty cool payoff at the arch and making it back to the car in one relatively healthy piece. More than the easy, routine, uneventful outings, I reflect on this and my other challenging hikes. This seems to be a bit of a life lesson, too.

I can’t wait to get back to Arches as soon as possible, hopefully in cooler weather. It is a weird, amazing place that seems like I could explore forever and never see the same thing twice. Have you hiked at Arches National Park? Tell me about it in the comments!

Little Cottonwood & Lisa Falls Trail, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 31

Little Cottonwood & Lisa Falls Trail, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 31

For Hike 31 of my 52 Hike Challenge, Eric and I decided to hike Little Cottonwood Canyon, not far from where we were living in Salt Lake City. We decided to tackle Little Cottonwood Creek Trail. When we finished we noticed another trail to a waterfall just across the street and decided to tack that on, too!

Little Cottonwood Creek

Little Cottonwood Creek Trail is an easy hike with little elevation change, but does require hopping through some rock falls. The trail gets narrow with a sharp drop off and significant slant in a few places that may make some nervous, but we were able to navigate these no problem. However, I have no idea how the mountain bikers on this trail zoomed through those areas. Impressive and too daring for me!

The entire length of trail we tackled (about two miles out and back) follows Little Cottonwood Creek, with a few log crossings that made for nice photo ops. There are also some ruins along the way which are always an entire surprise in the forest.

Even on a sunny August day this trail was cool due to the elevation and shaded trail. We did encounter quite a few (friendly) bikers on this narrow trail, even midday on a weekday, so be alert and aware of those around you while taking on this hiking.

Lisa Falls

I had read about Lisa Falls but hadn’t planned to hike it on this day. However the trailhead was just across the street from the Little Cottonwood Creek trailhead, and it’s a short hike to the falls, so we couldn’t pass it up.

This trail turned out to be a lot more exciting than Little Cottonwood Creek. There is certainly more elevation gain here, although still not much overall. You’re picking your way through rocks and tree roots most of the way up to the falls. I enjoy a technical hike as it gives me something to focus on and think about.

When we reached the falls, we climbed out onto some sunny boulders. This was the perfect place to warm up a little bit and have a snack. The trail continues up the falls, but we had used up our time and had to head down. While I wouldn’t revisit Little Cottonwood Creek, I would love to go back to Lisa Falls and continue this hike.

Have you hiked around Salt Lake City or traveled either of these trails? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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