Risky Roads, Unmarked Trails, and a Hidden Beauty Beyond Belief

14 May 2012 in Trails/Hiking, Traveling


On Our Way to Getting LostOur plan today was to hike Skylight Arch. As mentioned in the previous blog Glen Canyon seems as though they couldn’t care less about hiking. Millions of dollars on accommodating for boats, twenty bucks in crappy photocopies for trails. Here is the directions we had to go by for Skylight Arch:

To get to Skylight arch, drive 7.6 miles north of the Carl Hayden Visitor Center. Turn left on an unmarked dirt road. Follow it to a corral. Take the left road and drive it for another 0.25 mile. On the right is a mesa. The moderate hike to the top will lead you to the arch. As this is an inverted arch, you will be standing on top of and looking down through it at the same time. Enjoy the great views of the surrounding area as well.

Where is Skylight Arch?Notice the reference to an “unmarked dirt road”. Once again they can’t even budget $50 for a sign to mark the road? Well, that we found on our own. We also found the corral and another road branching to the left. Unfortunately this road, unlike the first, was not graded, but a curvy, single lane (barely) mixture of gravel, loose sand and exposed rock. With no where to turn around and not wishing to navigate it in reverse we soldiered on until we came to a roller coaster dip which spanned from gravel to loose, deep sand, to exposed humps of rock and back to gravel. Well we had come this far, let’s give it a try I guess. Going into low gear I crawled down the slope and upon entering the deep sand I increased my speed as gradually as I could, not wanting to go too slow exiting up the opposite side, but not wishing to spin my tires and dig in. Getting the front end up on the exposed rock I slowed it down a little and hit it at an angle. The truck had just enough clearance and we hit it at just the right angle where we didn’t catch the middle of the frame on the rock. Phew. I only have to do that one more time on the way out.

The next obstacle was that of another steep dip, but this time with all deep and loose sand. This would be our stop, as it must have been for others judging by the tracks. There was a level, solid area off the road and so we parked and hiked the remainder of the road back.

A Tree in the DesertAs mentioned they don’t believe in marking trails and this time the deep sand left little for aid in following the steps of others. So we wandered back. The directions merely stated there was a mesa on the right to summit. The mesa was quite apparent, but the route to its summit was not. So we wandered aimlessly in. Originally we scurried across the sloped side of the mesa towards a gap, but this route seemed improbable. So we cut back across. The directions directed us to the top so we tried another route that initially seemed passable, but eventually proved to be too steep. Frustrated by our inability to find our way we gave up. The area was beautiful with cove-like caves carved into the rock, one containing a large tree, but our impatience, paired with our anger at the lack of any markers got the best of us. Had we just gone back to scramble around and explore fine, but we had been denied our end goal.

So we managed our back to the highway, safely passing the risky roller coaster pass once again, and heading off to another area. We hadn’t planned any other hikes that day and it was already well into the afternoon, so we looked over the BLM map and decided to drive down House Rock Valley Road not really knowing what to expect.

Turning off and fearing another hair raising off road trek on par with that Glen Canyon had provided we were pleasantly surprised by the many benefits BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land has over that of the NRA (National Recreation Area). First off a sign marking the road! Second a parking lot with more signs identifying where you are and where the road leads. Third the road was well graded, so well that we even came across several cars traversing it. Not to mention a grader grading it that very day. That said it was still slow moving, but much, much better than 99% of the gravel roads we’ve driven since leaving.

Road to BeautyAnd the views, the views got better and better every mile. Just when we thought this may be the most beautiful view from a road in a hundred square miles, it got better. First the hills are rolling and a miss match of red rock and creamy mesas. Then some burnt masses of domed rock and thin ridges of craggy stone. And finally, roughly 12 miles in, a little pass the parking lot for Wire Pass is one of the most striking views we’ve seen so far. A mountainous mass of red rock, red beyond comprehension sits looming above the desert floor. Midway down are massive mounds of rock painted by mineral deposits in the most vivid, surreal colors I’ve ever seen. My mouth was agape. I had to pick my jaw up off of the ground and brush the sand out of my beard. It was a stunning reminder of why we do this. Why we abandoned our possessions, our home and all that we know to see the country. There is simply too much beauty and wonder in this world to ignore and leave unexperienced.

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14 May 2012 Trails/Hiking, Traveling

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