Back in May, the National Park Service announced that military and veterans qualified for a free, yearlong pass to any park in the National Park System. We decided to augment my post-deployment leave with visits to several national parks.
We picked up our annual pass at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. The pass was stamped good through July 2013 and we plan to visit a few more national parks in that time.
Arches was a great time, though it was in the 90-100 degree range. However, the nights and mornings were cool and pleasant. In addition to touring the park, we decided to fork over the nearly $300 to take a guided, sunset tour by Hummer. Here are a few photos from the park and tour at Arches National Park:
This rock is probably four stories tall at the break. The interesting part of this is that the rock is off-centered from its column and still standing. It had to be either a massive earthquake or pushed over by strong tidal forces when this area was underwater. Either way, it’s amazing that it’s situated like this.
The landscape at Arches is phenomenal. The scenic views are breath-taking. Everywhere you turn is a marvel of God’s creation and forces that shaped this area. Deep canyons, long valleys, and towering rock formations are spread across 120 square miles.
This formation is known as Balancing Rock, for obvious reasons. Depending on the point of view, the rock is more or less balanced-looking. This photo I took from the view that makes the rock appear to be teetering on its edge. All throughout the park there are rocks that seem to defy the laws of gravity like this one.
This is an area known as the Fiery Furnace. The Fiery Furnace is a mazelike labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons. To enter the Fiery Furnace, visitors must accompany a ranger-guided hike or obtain a hiking permit at the visitor center. Because of time, we didn’t pay the $10 per adult and $5 per child for the tour. You can watch a video about this tour at the NPS site here.
One of our favorite places we visited required a short, 1-mile hike to Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch is the longest Arch in Arches National Park, measuring 306 feet from base to base. In 1991, a massive slab of rock fell from its underside, resulting in an even thinner ribbon of rock. Interestingly, there is another arch called Delicate Arch, even though this one appears much more delicate than it does.
In the evening, we took a sunset Hummer tour over a completely different section of the park only accessible by 4-wheel vehicles. I took this video of part of the tour in which the guide demonstrated the capabilities of the Hummer (actually, a modified, former Army M1097) in scaling steep rocks. I’ve had a HMMWV scale hills at Ft. Irwin at nearly 56% grades.
The view was awesome once we got to the viewing area. Unfortunately, rain clouds had settled in the far western sky, so we didn’t get to really experience a Moab sunset the way we intended. But, it was still a great view.
Over the next few days, I’ll be writing about the other parks we went to during this trip. The next post will focus on Grand Teton National Park, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here is the full photo album from Arches. All photos were taken by the author and may only be used with permission. Simply click on the photo to see the larger image.
If you are military or a veteran, check out the National Park Service website or visit the nearest National Park to get your pass today!