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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Arches National Park ~ Day 3

Monday morning started with a beautiful sunrise:

After breakfast, we decided to hike Park Avenue in Arches National Park. Plein Air Moab is happening right now, where local and national artists are spending a week painting amazing scenery outside. We saw one painter at the entrance to the Park Avenue trail:

Some more scenes from Park Avenue:

The red rocks are worth seeing in color, but I enjoy experimenting with black and white landscape photography, too. With some clouds, Monday morning was a perfect opportunity to try some shots:

A view of Courthouse Towers from the bottom of Park Avenue (the names could be a little better, I think):

Then we headed over to the section of the park we hadn't seen yet near Windows, another of the iconic park attractions along with Delicate Arch. On the approach to windows you pass the Cove of Arches:

While this area is considered desert, there aren't that many cacti. The one exception is prickly pear:

I also found one yucca plant:

Another interest growth is cryptobiotic crust. These tiny colonies are actually some combination of cyanobacteria, lichen, algae, fungi, and moss. It can take years for a crust to grow as big as in the photo below, and a single footstep can completely disrupt all this growth. Signs around the park warn hikers to stay on trails and avoid walking across this fragile, but critical, element of the environment. Crytobiotic crust stabilizes the sand, retains moisture, and fixes nitrogen for the desert ecosystem.

Along the one-mile loop we hiked near Windows, I soon had to stop looking down and start looking up to appreciate the views of the arches:

North and South Windows

South Window

Nearby was also Turret Arch:

While leaving the Windows area, we stopped at an overlook to a part of the park called the Garden of Eden:

After lunch, we did some exploring outside of the National Park. We drove Highway 128 along the Colorado River, for the red cliffs walled the canyon on either side of the river:

The scenery was breath-taking:

Our destination was Fisher Towers. They're made up of two different sandstone formations and are the remnants of a 225 million year-old flood plain deposit. While we didn't see any climbers on the rocks, we passed a few hiking out. Word is there's one really scary part near the top where you have to walk across a ledge that's 18 inches wide and 20 feet long, with sheer drop offs on either side.

Here's another look at the scenery along Highway 128. My dad said it reminded him of Monument Valley, which is also part of the Colorado Plateau:

The Colorado Plateau is a region of high desert that spans parts of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. It's known for its amazing geological formations, and as a result is home to the densest concentration of national parks in the country. In addition to Arches, some of the other parks within "Red Rock Country" include Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon.

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