Using 100 degree temperatures to avoid crowds at Arches National Parks and other great ideas in Utah

Jim and I had two days in Moab, in southern Utah, after scoring AP essays, and we planned to see two awesome things in the area: Arches National Park and Little Wild Horse Canyon. Arches was first on the list; as soon as Jim woke up, we would head up there. The problem was that grading 100’s of AP World History essays in Salt Lake had caused Jim to fall into the Odinsleep.

While Jim was recharging the mystical Odinforce, I took this picture so that he would get to see the way Moab looks before noon.

Eventually, Jim did wake up and wanted breakfast, and, fortunately, the Love Muffin served breakfast until 1pm. That fit our shedule.

In addition to catering to vacationers awakening from the Odinsleep, the love muffin has the best breakfast burritos I have ever had. Odinforce recharged.

So if the good news was that we managed to get breakfast at noon on a Friday, here was the  bad news – it was going to be a bit hot in the afternoon.

But I hear great things about dry heat.

I had been to Arches before, so I knew that it was an amazing national park with lots to see pretty easily. A tourist could see most of the rock formations there without going far from their car, which was to our advantage on a hot day. As we pulled into the park, I noticed that it was not nearly as crowded as it had been when I went years ago over Spring Break, and this was also good news.

The plan was to hike up to Delicate Arch first, and the crowds were light enough that we easily found a parking spot. It’s possible that it was easy to find a space because we were doing a 3 mile hike with almost zero shade on a 100 degree day. Possible.

In the parking lot, I was approached by some Europeans who were horrified that someone had left their dog in their car with the windows cracked. They asked me if this was just something Americans did, as if keeping dogs in hot cars was as part of American culture as large portion sizes. I assured them that no, this person did not reflect American culture, but was instead an asshole in all cultures. Then we found a park ranger to watch the dog and reprimand the dog-abandoning hikers. Finally, it was time to start the hike.

That’s a less encouraging sign than I was hoping for at the beginning of the hike. Ok, sign, we have a compromise for you. We will not hike early or late but we will bring more than 2 liters of water per person.

The sign was not exaggerating the need for water. You could almost feel the water departing from your body on this hike.

And that was only thirty feet from the car.

Still, the hike was very cool, with large parts of it going over the misleadingly-named slickrock.

Dumb enough to hike at 2pm in 100 degree heat; not dumb enough to do that hike on slickrock that was actually slick.

In order to hike in direct sun after spending a solid week shut in the convention center in Salt Lake scoring AP essays, we had purchased spray sun screen to preserve our pallor. Jim chose to enhance the degree of difficulty of the hike by spraying the sunscreen directly into one of his eyes. And by directly in his eye, I mean that if Jim had been attempting to fend off an attacker with sunscreen, this is the type of direct hit that would yield optimal results.

After consuming more than the “Heat Kills!” sign’s recommended water intake for the hike, after seeing many cool rock formations, after using much of Jim’s water in an unsuccessful attempt to flush the waterproof sunscreen from his eye, and after stopping many, many times, we made it to Delicate Arch. The arch is massive, much larger than I was expecting.

Hey! That should be on a license plate or something! 

The time I visited Arches in the spring, people gathered around the base of Delicate Arch so that it was impossible to get a clean shot of the arch. All it took was the risk of again of agonizing heat stroke to get us a clear picture!

The return trip from the arch was a bit easier.


By the time we returned to the car, we had consumed most of the water we brought with us. There is a campground on the northern end of Arches (apparently there are people crazier than hikers who risk walking through a 100 degree desert; people who choose to camp in a 100 degree desert), and there were water fountains by the campground. We refilled our water bottle to do the significantly shorter and shadier hike to Landscape Arch.

Proof that we didn’t die on the way to Landscape Arch. Suck it, “Heat Kills” sign!

The rest of the day’s “hikes” would be much easier. Double Arch can be seen from the parking lot, and it is awesome.

Also: there’s shade.

Right by Double Arch is a short loop that goes by Windows and Turret Arches.

PLOT TWIST: I used Turret Arch as the window through which to photograph Windows Arches.

The next day, we drove the two hours to Little Wildhorse Canyon, a slot canyon near Green River, Utah. On the way, our semi-satisfactory rental car, an older model Prius, chose to randomly select songs from my phone over Bluetooth. The song it selected for this trip was… Barney’s Airplane Song, from McKenna’s regrettable Barney phase. The only way the Prius could have made a worse selection would be if it had chosen Barney’s Mr. Knickerbocker. So, when we started the car – Barney. Occasionally in the middle of a drive – Barney. Over and over again – Barney. It was some kind of horrific take on the I Got You Babe scenes from Groundhog Day.

Finally, after nearly putting my index finger through the Prius’ touchscreen trying to stop the latest Barney “song” before it could assault our eardrums once again, we arrived at the trailhead for the canyon. There, we were confronted by this ominous sign.

This was even worse than the “Heat Kills” sign. At least we had water bottles to cope with the heat; we decidedly lacked canyoneering skills, and we probably would not be able to acquire them before starting the hike.

Might as well get started. If the heat didn’t kill us…

We quickly found that for this hike, having “canyoneering skills” meant that a person was as ambulatory as an eighteen-month-old. Literally. There was an eighteen-month-old navigating the canyon.

Here’s Jim, ready to totally crush the eighteen-month-old at Canyoneering.

Let’s see that eighteen-month-old canyoneer WITH A SELFIE STICK!!!

Ok, the eighteen-month-old may have an advantage in this narrow canyon. May.

4 thoughts on “Using 100 degree temperatures to avoid crowds at Arches National Parks and other great ideas in Utah

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