Our short touristy hike to Double Arch, The Windows and Turret Arch two days ago simply whet our appetite for more Arches, so after a Canyonlands hike in between we returned for the longest hike in Arches National Park, the Devils Garden Primitive Loop, which by necessity returns via the Double O Trail.
We were a bit slow getting moving this morning so by time we made the 70 miles from the cabin we were staying, we were lucky to get a parking spot at the trail-head, with barely a half-dozen spots open. We hit the trail right away but the crowds were already forming so we kept a good pace. We were about to turn onto the Primitive Trail but off to the left I caught a glimpse of Landscape Arch, and thinking people would soon be all over it we took a short jaunt out the Double O Trail to take some photos. It turns out after one section of the arch had fallen people are no longer allowed any closer than the trail itself so our view was unfettered. Then looking up the trail we saw the hordes of people on the first fin so decided to go back to the intersection and head on out the Primitive Trail first and return via the Double O.
The first half mile of the Primitive Trail gave us a surprise with the flat silty-sand trail because the park brochure warned us to expect narrow ledges and slick-rock scrambling. Ah yes, that will come soon enough, but first we make an easy descent toward Black Canyon and follow the creek bed for a while. As the walls closed in we got the sense we would be forced to climb soon.
The first climb was very easy and we were soon back in the sandy wash. Then we come around a corner and are faced with a bowl with a small pool of water maybe 2-3' deep. It appeared someone had already attempted to skirt around the pool but had fallen in with a big splash so with a steep wall on the left I cast my eyes up the slope to the right. It was easy enough to climb the slick-rock but it looked too steep down the other side. So I dropped back down and took another look at the pool. There were two large driftwood logs in it so I figured I'd check to see how stable they were. I got just over halfway around the less-steep side and the log started to move away from me. As I began to slide toward the water it was all I could do to make a quick hop back and just get the soles of my shoes wet. Dang! Wet sand on the soles is going to make things more difficult now.
By this time a few more hikers had arrived and it became a group effort to figure this out. By getting as far around the pool as I did, I got a side view of the slope I had first thought was too steep and realized it wasn't that bad. So after walking around on dry sand enough to clean off my soles, I scaled the easy part of the slick-rock and started down the other side, sliding on my butt. About 6 feet from the bottom I saw soft sand and just ran down the rest of the way, which worked out great. As well as it worked for me, none of the others were about to duplicate it, so it took some time for the rest to slowly slide down. A younger couple quickly made tracks while Tracey and I followed with a Park Ranger and an older guy we thought was hiking with her.
A little more easy cruising then began the climbs, the first being quite simple. When we came to the second one we were faced with a hundred foot walk/climb along a half-shoe width ledge before having to change direction and climb the same distance above the first section. The older guy didn't waste a moment before saying nope, I'm turning back! I wasn't too sure myself and hesitated but Tracey was not about to turn around so I just got on with it and realized it was over with so fast I didn't have time to be scared. That's when I realized the guy was going to have much more trouble climbing the other direction past the pool of water than this climb and thought, good luck!
Now that the guy had turned back we realized the Ranger hadn't been hiking with him, she was just taking the loop on her first day back after the shutdown. And so the rest of the hike we had our own very knowledgeable tour guide who showed us things not listed on any of the informational park brochures. See the photoset for the goodies.
When we reached Dark Angel an overweight man & his ~8 year old daughter arrived as well and asked if we had seen a group of Boy Scouts. The agreed meeting point was Dark Angel and they had been ahead of him. Oh well, we set off on the return trip and moments later a hiker came up to the ranger and said he was probably going to make her day more difficult and told her someone in the group of Boy Scouts had a bad ankle sprain. Although this ranger basically gave tours and informational talks to grade-school children and did not have First Aid supplies, we took off to see if we could help.
Just on the other side of Double O Arch the ranger located, wouldn't you know it, not a Boy Scout but one of the three leaders
. By this time another hiker with some knowledge of sprains had already got his ankle wrapped, but upon attempting to stand the guy got light-headed, so it was obvious he wasn't going to be hobbling far without real help. That's when the overweight guy showed up, and since he sold orthotics and happened to be wearing one as a preventive for a weak ankle, he gave it to the other guy to put on. That's when I realized of the three leaders we really only had one who seemed fit and qualified to deal with not only the situation, but now we have a group of young boys milling around with no common goal (reaching Dark Angel), plenty of energy, fit to be tied and simply ready to find whatever trouble they could to stay occupied.
Anyway, the Ranger got out her radio but being in a low spot she told them she would climb up on the fin (which was part of the return trail) to make a connection. Whether it was battery issues or what, she didn't know but trying both batteries she had it did no good so she tried her cell but no joy there either. Although I had not been carrying my cell phone on any of our hikes, for some reason I dropped it into the bottom of my pack that morning. So I dug it out and what do you know, I had a good signal. I figured it was due to I-70 being in our line-of-sight and probably cell towers somewhere along the highway.
So I gave it to the Ranger to call the Park office. It took some time to get through, but it wasn't who she needed to contact so asked them to call that person and have him call her back. To make a long story short, suffice to say it took 45 minutes to make contact and be assured somebody
would be coming to assist, although we had no idea in what way they would. Since the Ranger was already over her allotted hours for the day she continued on back with us. About a mile from the trail-head we met two Rangers with a pair of rubber tipped crutches. Hmmm, they were about to have some fun helping the guy hobble up and down the fins.
Oh well, by then it was none of my concern.
[Rant]However, it just brought to mind that over the last 11 years since I moved to AZ there has not been one single occasion where I encountered Boy Scouts where most of all of the leaders simply had no clue what being a scout leader entails. I saw incompetence, ignorance, little if any First Aid equipment or knowledge, no clue how to deal with energetic young boys and in a few cases, practically gave up when they couldn't figure out how to deal with a situation. One time after helping pull their vehicle up from where it was to drop down 50+ feet, what does the guy do but drive it off again 100 yards later... At that point, having already wasted an hour we simply drove off to let them figure it out on their own.[/Rant Over]
I guess I'm old enough that back in my day our leaders were very experienced and well qualified. I suppose they don't have that any more so it reverts back to, ok, this parent hasn't helped out in a long time so it's his turn. (And that's whether they are qualified or not)
We had a great time with the Ranger and when we found out she had relatives in the Valley and comes down from time to time we exchanged information and offered to be her guide when in town.
Again I posted just 40 photos here on HAZ.
Full set of 121 hike photos: http://changephoenix.com/jpserver/web/public/file.php?id=615
Devils Garden video: http://changephoenix.com/jpserver/web/public/file.php?id=616