The (almost) Ultimate Arches Loop
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Brendan Swihart
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
The (almost) Ultimate Arches Loop on 10/24/2012 10:54:19 MDT Print View

Spent a couple gorgeous October days last week exploring Arches...more snaps and full trip report here
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HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: The (almost) Ultimate Arches Loop on 10/24/2012 11:03:51 MDT Print View

Nice pics but sounds pretty dicey on the water. Maybe in the spring when snowmelt is a doable option in southeastern UT?

Brendan Swihart
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Re: The (almost) Ultimate Arches Loop on 10/24/2012 11:14:29 MDT Print View

There was actually tons of water; that night was the only time I couldn't find any, and I could have backtracked 30 minutes to plenty. I decided to carry 3 liters for the rest of the trip to be safe, but never ended up taking out the full 2L platy out of my pack because water was frequent enough to just fill my Nalgene.

That said, water would a major problem on this route 90% of the time. I knew there had been significant flash flooding two days prior and potholes would be full. Late winter/early spring would probably be okay, but I'd do some checking before I headed out.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Beautiful on 10/24/2012 16:27:42 MDT Print View

Thank you for sharing your trip report. I've always wanted to go to Arches; backpacking it seems like a more appropriate (and intimate) way to see the area. I really enjoyed all of the B&W reflection imagery.

It sounds like most of this loop was off-trail. Is that correct? Is navigating the area pretty straightforward other than the required effort to find ways in/out of some of the canyons?


I gotta say, the high desert-like scenery and rock formations you guys have out in the SW are awesome. We've got a couple of small areas around me that have similar-type scenery (on a significantly smaller scale); they're among my favorite places to visit. I can spend days exploring the various cracks, crags, canyons, caves, etc. I reckon I'd be on sensory overload to have that large of an area filled with all of that scenery!

I noticed you mentioned pulling water from the potholes or depressions at points in the trip. We often rely on water pooled up in these potholes (aka tenajas) to explore otherwise dry areas that are pretty much devoid of creeks or springs. Some of the depressions in the sandstone are deep enough to hold quite a bit of water well after the rains or snow. You can tell humans have long relied on these tenajas for water, as some of them are ringed with deep mortar holes.

Anyway, nice trip. Thanks again for sharing it.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"The (almost) Ultimate Arches Loop" on 10/24/2012 19:04:45 MDT Print View

Your trip looks just extraordinarily beautiful. I've done a couple of day hikes out of Island in the Sky area and Arches. I've always wanted to do more. The skill set for desert hiking is different from my home-range in the Sierras and the PNW. But now that I have a gps, maybe accomplishing your kind of hike is within my range after all. In my limited experience (without a gps) I found that the notion of wandering up a blind canyon or two was a bit intimidating. Seems like you had no problems improvising on your route and finding your way. Could you maybe write a bit about route-finding on this kind of trip? and any other non-mountain skills (you mentioned water) required.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
The Golden Arches on 10/25/2012 04:08:36 MDT Print View

Great trip report as always. I loved some of the images you caught in the pool reflections. Your blog is setting the bar high.

Brendan Swihart
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Beautiful on 10/25/2012 16:11:02 MDT Print View

Thanks all for the kind words.

Nico, it was pretty much all off trail. On the west side of the park I walked about a mile of 4x4 road and I walked a mile or so of trail in the Klondike Bluffs area. The larger scale navigation is pretty easy. The 10 meters in front of you is the hard part; lots of big cracks, avoiding soil crusts, and finding your way around/over slickrock domes can be tricky.

Jeffery, a short answer (maybe I should put together a bit more later...): you're right that a canyon country skill set is pretty different from the Sierras or PNW. Honestly I don't think a GPS would be much help, at least when it comes to getting in or out of canyons (unless, for example, you know ahead of time where the entrance is and you're using it to get to that point), If you have the time, there's not much risk in walking up canyons. I recommend it. Finding ways out can be tricky, and ways in even trickier (it's usually much easier to see a route out from the bottom than a route in from the rim). At least a little bit of familiarity with the geology of the canyon is helpful (some layers are more likely to have breaks/routes out). Game trails are often helpful. Vegetation is helpful. Really the best thing to do is do some established routes and pay attention to the trails in and out of canyons. In most places, the same entry/exits have been used by people and animals for hundreds or thousands of years. Sometimes it requires lots of walking back and forth on benches to find breaks in the next layer. It just depends.

Water...hmm...again no easy answers. Some scattered ideas: canyon bottoms are usually the easiest bet (depending on the canyon...some prior research is pretty essential) and often have water in the spring and fall. On benchlands above canyons, geology is helpful here too...I know the Navajo benches in the Escalante area or Robber's Roost are far more likely to have potholes than other formations. Cottonwoods can be helpful. If I look at google earth and there's zero green in the bottom of a canyon, I know I should be cautious. Reading prior trip reports or reliable books (Steve Allen) is helpful.

Overall, like anything it's a matter of building a toolkit of skills/experience/knowledge over a period of time. I'll also say that my experience is 95% on the Colorado Plateau. The last couple winters we've backpacked in southern Arizona and Big Bend, and while much of the above still holds, a lot of it is completely different. The diversity among deserts is pretty staggering.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: Re: Beautiful on 10/25/2012 18:38:43 MDT Print View

So good I read it twice, earlier this morning and just now.

Thanks Brendan.