Desert Pursuits Part II

Posted by on December 6, 2014 at 1:48 pm :: No Comments

Oddly, although the temperatures were rather cool in Moab, we spent the afternoon, following our Dinosaur Stomping Ground Tracks excursion, in a Fiery Furnace. The Fiery Furnace is an area of Arches National Park that’s covered in a labyrinth of towering sandstone fins. There are no paths or signs in this region and access is limited to special hiking permits and ranger-led tours. We’ve been trying to join one of these tours for years now but tickets are hard to come by. Finally, this time, success was ours!

Beyond this slit, three arches awaited.

Beyond this slit, three arches awaited.

The Fiery Furnace was impressive and worth the wait. Our three-hour expedition involved discovering quite a few arches, crawling through cracks, hopping over fins, and wedging up steep rock. It was fantastic! It’s easy to see why searches/rescues happen in the Fiery Furnace every two weeks on average though. Getting lost or breaking a limb would be simple in that sea of crevices.

We hiked down fins, over fins, and up fins in the Fiery Furnace.

We hiked down fins, over fins, and up fins in the Fiery Furnace.

Skull Arch is among the Fiery Furnace's numerous surprises.

Skull Arch is among the Fiery Furnace’s numerous surprises.

We finished our hiking day with what should have been a quick jaunt to Eye of the Whale Arch, which is also in Arches National Park. This arch is accessible via a short hiking trail that juts off a 4×4 road. Although only about two miles of four-wheeling is required to reach the arch’s footpath, it’s a rough enough journey to discourage all but the hardiest of off-roaders…and my too-assured husband.

The Fiery Furnace is both roomy and squishy.

The Fiery Furnace is both roomy and squishy.

The Fiery Furnace frequently required crab walking and undignified scampering.

The Fiery Furnace frequently required crab walking and undignified scampering.

Jason suggested that we check out Eye of the Whale and was convinced that our Forester could handle its bumpy access road. I, on the other hand, remained thoroughly unconvinced. Clearly, if I’m taking the time to convey this story in great detail, I was right but let’s proceed as if you don’t already know that.

Trekking through the Fiery Furnace felt like an adventure.

Trekking through the Fiery Furnace felt like an adventure.

Jason’s confidence bested my caution and off to Eye of the Whale we went. A little over a mile in, the road traversed an extensive wash area where it had been so distorted by the intermittent flow of water that our mighty Subaru seemed unavoidably destined for High Centerville. Yet, Jason remained irrationally undaunted. We made it halfway through the washy patch before he finally realized that, as ever, my assessment was correct. However, because we were surrounded by steep embankments, we ended up having to drive backwards for quite a ways to a point wide enough for turning around. Going forward was bad enough, trying to navigate in reverse was completely unsettling.

Balanced Rock, the size of three school buses, is just one of Arches many wonders.

Balanced Rock, the size of three school buses, is just one of Arches many wonders.

After all that, there was no way I was missing Eye of the Whale so we parked our car and trekked the last bit to its trailhead on foot. Eye of the Whale was pretty cool and provided great views through its opening of Herdina Park, the western section of Arches. So, at least, this ill-conceived outing wasn’t a complete flop.

Eye of the Whale is "fishy" on one side. This isn't that side.

Eye of the Whale is “fishy” on one side. This isn’t that side.

During our return drive, a souped-up Jeep passed us. Its passengers were plainly concerned about our ability to make it out. They made sure we cleared one particularly brutal hill before continuing on their way. The moral of this story? Wives should be heeded at all times. They are infallibly wise and always right. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re wrong.

Jason loved Intrepid's constantly changing surface.

Jason loved Intrepid’s constantly changing surface.

Intrepid just kept dishing out the awesome.

Intrepid just kept dishing out the awesome.

We spent our last day in Moab biking the Intrepid Trail System at Dead Horse Point State Park. Intrepid offers seventeen miles of mouthwatering singletracks. It provided us with nonstop delights, from its breathtaking and intimidating panoramas of Canyonlands National Park to its twisting joy of a path. While biking nine miles on the Big Chief, Great Pyramid, and Raven Roll Trails, we took in the Colorado River from 2,000 feet up and raced through playful rock gardens and undulating grasslands. Dead Horse Point is a mountain biker’s dream, a dream I hope to have again soon.

The views from Intrepid are unbelievable and worthy of pause.

The views from Intrepid are unbelievable and worthy of pause.

Oh Moab! No praise could ever overstate you, no frilly vocabulary could ever adequately describe you, and no amount of visits could ever make you commonplace. Between your stunning scenery and diverse diversions, you will forever remain one of my favorite spots on earth.

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