Those who read my stories will notice that I renewed my love affair with the Utah National Parks in late September this year. My first full day in Utah I stumbled on to the Red Canyon area, a few miles before the Bryce Canyon national Park. The iron laden stone surrounds the eyes and my morning excitement was a short hike. The thirst was fed but only momentarily, as I wanted to see more..more…and more of this beautiful area. My objective was to gorge on the scenery of canyons, hoodos and arches.
It struck me that none of the Red Canyon park areas hikes seemed to be difficult to accomplish if one is reasonable fit. After all , the objective on any hike is to absorb the surroundings and not to pound the body into submission. The truth was that I wanted to test my fitness before I went to tackle Bryce Canyon. This area of Utah runs from 7,000 to 10,300 feet so for a seaside dweller like myself, altitude is initially a problem.
Going back to the Red Canyon Visitors Center to examine the options I was surprised at the amount of literature available. Past hiking history had told me that people generally pick the easiest, shortest hike and my love of photography wanted to find an area that was not subject to hordes of people. To me, any trail is best remembered when every photo does not have a person taking a selfie occupying the frame. I wanted to have memories of the unspoiled nature of Utah. I never take selfies because I want to remember the memorable places that I have visited and I find it strange when my face covers the entire scene.
The reality is that the further away from the visitor center you are prepared to travel, the more likely is the reality, that you will have a great hike. Off the beaten track there was a hike called “ The Arches” that promised outstanding scenery, a pile of hoodos and arches cut through the rock mass, both natural and man made. The cruel part of any vacation is that time is always an enemy. There is always so much to see and so little time.
To access “ The Arches “ trail head, one retraces eastwards on the main road SR 12 to an old, dirt road that has a small sign “ Lossee/Castro and then roll up your windows. This is a dry, dusty dirt road that will paint your car a lighter shade of red, from the road dust. One drives north slowly, for maybe two miles and then there is a turnoff , with a small sign to the Lossee Canyon Trailhead. My impression is that in the spring, this would be one muddy area as there is much evidence of ruts caused by spring, water runoff. There is a small parking lost for maybe 10-12 cars and signage is basically non-existent.
There was one car in the parking area which basically made me challenge my judgment in selecting the hike in the first place. It was impossible to even see where the hike started and the parking area was beside a deep, dried out, spring river. As luck would have it two people emerged out of the rocks and advised that the trail head was across the dried river going north. The best part was that they said the hike was spectacular!
“The Arches” hike is not long at .7 miles one way but its location at the face of Lossee Canyon means that hiking elevations are both up and down, and switchbacks are a way of life. The zig-zag back and forth climbing trail is developed to retard greatly soil erosion due to water movement. It also enables the hiker to go much higher without climbing up rock faces. It strikes me that the Red Canyons are a story that is being told and retold as each season passes by. The rain soaks into the porous vermilion stone which eventually splits and forms hoodos and arches. For the person who loves magnificent, rough scenery, Utah is a dream.
There is simply nothing more relaxing than hiking through the splendor of Red Rock formations, like those found in Red and Bryce Canyon. This trail is for hiking only, so one does not share their place with horses or four wheel, off road vehicles.. In fact, I saw only one other person the whole hike. The canyons were our thus personal domain. The trail itself is named after fifteen arches found along the hike, some were man made and some were created by nature. Be prepared to go up and down the canyon sides and be teased by spectacular scenery at every turn.
Viewpoints that simply inspire you are at every twist in the trail and rock formations that can be only described as intriguing are the buffet offered by this hike. Basically you walk about the sides of a red cove until you work you way to the top. Total elevation reached is a nice 7,300 feet. The trail is lose and undefined so don’t let the awesome views take away your concentration ….unless you wish to slide your way down to oblivion.
The arches do exist and they somehow become bothers and sisters to the hoodos. The hoods become like soldiers that guard the land., Tall red soldiers ! As I stood and looked over the land I reflect on the fact that this land was one the domain of the aboriginals. No wonder that they had such an attachment to the land. We should be ashamed that we took it from their ownership.
The weather was perfect and the days was one that I will hold in my memories. This Red Canyon experience was a surprise and a non-expected treat. It will never cease to amaze me, this Utah. I remember, as a young man, going to movies where parts of the USA were referred to as “ Big Country”. In my mind Utah qualifies as this kind of country. If you love nature and are prepared to get off the beaten track , you can have your mental socks “ blown right off” ! Take that chance because it is worth it!
Leaving the trail and walking back to my rental car I realized that life was good. I had been on the land all day and had time to reflect, take many photographic memories and do something inherently healthy.
Bryce Canyon was the next step and I was sure, it was going to be the crown jewel. I spent months waiting for this, so in my mind I kept telling myself “Come on, let’s do this!”
And yes, life was damn good that day !