After a night in probably the worst motel room ever, we returned to Arches to hike into the Petrified Dunes and backcountry camp for the night. The website and guidebooks discourage backcountry camping in Arches - it is a small park with limited backcountry areas and requires a lot of water - but once we talked to actual rangers they had tons of suggestions and we were so glad we basically pack our full backcountry gear everytime we go camping, so we had everything we needed.
If you check out this map
, our destination was pretty much exactly where the pin is. This is my GPS watch's record of our first day
(the battery died halfway through the second day - dream REI purchase? Solar panel charger). You can see where we tried to climb out of the canyon and wandered all over :)
We entered the canyons with the plan of going up the third one and seeing if we could climb out of it to camp for the night (no trail, only rules were camp on rock more than 300 feet from arch, water, and archaeology sites). The canyon was actually quite lush, with lots of water crossings and signs of beavers.
About a mile in the canyon walls got much higher and we started taking breaks to scramble up them and explore.
We resisted the urge to soak our feet in the water.
Eventually we began to wonder how we were going to climb back out...
Looking back toward the main canyon, from about halfway up the canyon wall:
In our attempt to find our way up on top of the canyon we explored caves, shelves, and arches - did I mention there was no trail and not a sign of another human being - well except archaeologically speaking (we saw a campsite that was probably 200 years old)?
This was as close as we got to the top - Nick went exploring and decided we had a 95% chance of making it. We decided it wasn't worth the risk, since the fall was over 200 feet.
It helped that we had spotted a flat rock area at the bend in the canyon, so we knew we had an option for the night. Since we still had daylight - and we are completists - we went to the very end of the canyon and found an even better spot to camp. Desert camping - you may need to carry a lot of water (5 liters per person per day - heavy!), but no bears, bugs, or people? Heck, due to the canyon walls we were able to sleep in!
On the way back out we took a slight higher route, enjoying the Spring wildflowers.
26 hours later!
We had a few hours of daylight left so we checked out Double Arch.
And Delicate Arch.