When we showed up at the Arches Visitor’s Center yesterday (Wednesday) for our Thursday ranger guided hike, we found out that they don’t do the Thursday hike on Wednesday, they only do it on Thursday. So we went back to the park today (Thursday) hoping that this was the day for the Thursday hike. Sure enough, they really do the Thursday hike on Thursday, just like they told us yesterday. Who said the federal government can’t manage anything efficiently?
So at 2:00 pm we met a nice park ranger at the Fiery Furnace parking area, where she promptly led us, along with twenty-three other young hikers, into the rocks. The Fiery Furnace gets its name not because it is like a burning oven, but because of the way the giant rock fins look on a clear day around sunset. A permit is required for this hike if you go on your own. We opted to sign up for a ranger-led tour, as finding the neat locations in this maze of rock fins can be difficult.
Our ranger guide, Kate, was an extremely knowledgeable young lady with the natural presentation skills of a great teacher.
Ranger Kate has a degree in Geology with a minor in Biology, so she was able to give us some great information about everything around us. Below she is explaining the make-up of the two main layers of rock in Arches. The lower rock is called Dewey Bridge, while the smoother rock on top is sandstone or slickrock.
Her talk helped us to understand the cause of the many balanced rocks found in the park.
Many times during the hike, the trail led into a small alcove at the end of a canyon, where Kate would take a few minutes to explain our surroundings. To get into the first canyon, we walked under the first of many arches we encountered.
Coming back out of that canyon, there was an option to go around the small arch by crawling through a small opening in the rocks . . .
. . . then scramble down a narrow rocky path. We decided to save our energy for later and by-passed the crawl through the opening.
We then made our way through an open area before entering another narrow canyon.
That led us to an area dominated by Skull Arch. Look at the picture below upside down to get a better understanding of the name.
Much of the hike was over slickrock. In a couple areas there were crude steps carved into the rock.
At times the nimble hiker and her youthful partner had to utilize their superb hiking skills.
In one area, the rocks narrowed to the point where they almost met, requiring some scrambling like a reverse crab-walk. Below Ranger Kate demonstrates for the group.
For the first section you could use a forward crab walk, as demonstrated by the nimble hiker.
The last part required the reverse crab walk, again skillfully demonstrated below by the nimble hiker (with Ranger Kate nearby, just in case).
In the next clearing Ranger Kate gave a talk on the survival adaptations of the Utah Juniper Tree.
We then hiked back through another slot canyon and into a clearing.
At certain times wide vistas in the distance were observable.
Spires and fins were all around us.
We hiked through another slot canyon and were treated to a neat surprise.
As we entered a hidden alcove, we were surprised to find a large arch overhead, appropriately named the Surprise Arch. This arch wasn’t even discovered until the park superintendent took a wrong turn during a December hike in some poor weather during the early 1960s and stumbled upon it. Completely surrounded by high walls, Surprise Arch is only visible from inside the canyon.
Ranger Kate had everyone lie down on their backs and be absolutely quiet. We then enjoyed the solitude of the canyon while looking at the blue sky above us outlined by the Surprise Arch.
This arch was the last stop of the hike, and we then began the climb back out of the Fiery Furnace.
Crossing an open area approaching the parking lot, a look back provided a great view of the Fiery Furnace with the snow-covered La Sal Mountains in the background.
This is one of the nicest hikes we have done during our visit in Utah. At a little over three miles, it is not very long, but the rock scrambling needed to get into the canyons provided a bit of a challenge. We highly recommend taking the ranger guided tour as the twists and turns of the trail are difficult to follow. But if you plan to do it, be sure to make you reservation well in advance. We made our reservations a couple of weeks ago and found that today’s hike was the only time available during our entire three week stay in Moab.