As promised in my last post, here we wander through the Fiery Furnace region of Arches National Park. We signed up for an afternoon ranger-led tour through the spires and hoodoos. Since we visited Arches in October, we were able to sign up for this tour in the morning. It’s advised to make reservations in advance if visiting the park during peak summertime months.
We were not crazy about following along with a good sized group – we tend to be loners – but this tour was our means to safely wander through this amazing collection of fins.
We set off with good hiking boots, comfortable socks and clothing, water, a raincoat, and a camera. You can get hot and chilly on the same hike, and afternoon rainstorms build fast and, often, furiously.
Downpours turn the narrow fin passages into raging rivers within minutes.
You can imagine how quickly water builds and flows, always finding the lowest spot to fill first.
One wrong turn could put you at a dead end with no way out but through quickly rising waters.
Remnants of the previous day’s rainfall are still evident in the sand around the plant in the photo below.
Natural rills capture water and give opportunistic seeds a place to grow and thrive.
You cannot possibly get the feel of this place unless you venture within its sandstone walls.
At times we gingerly scurried over crevices …
Other times we had to frog-crawl over crevices.
The ranger – what a cool job he has – led us to a spot he calls his secret garden.
This looks like a rugged landscape but, like other semi-arid regions of the Colorado Plateau, it is really quite fragile. Water-trapping potholes contain microscopic shrimp that only survive here. One touch from a human hand or foot can alter these tiny ecosystems to the point of demise.
Plants find a niche in which to grow. Nature sets out designs in perfect balance for all to imitate.
You see junipers of all sizes as they contort to the shape available for their growth. Utah junipers self-sacrifice one branch to insure other, more viable branches survive.
Mormon tea (Ephedra spp.) and Pinyon pines survive where nature placed them.
Native grasses nestle where sand and water permit.
We left the tour wanting to see more … so much more.
And Arches does not disappoint. At every stop, around every turn, behind every standing spire you find another subject for the camera.
Another design to model.
Another secret garden to explore.