FreezeFest III: High Desert Platypus Hike, Arches National Park, UT


We gather at 8 AM at the Visitor Center...well the trailer acting as one anyway. Our tax money is building a fancy facility next door, where I understand the most common question will be "Where are the bathrooms?" They have these wonderful weather forecasts on the bulletin board. Rain or snow, everyday. 40-80%, depending on the day or night specified. Makes someone who didn't know better want to go home. But we are not going into major drainages and although I have been called wicked, I have never been a wicked witch, so I will not be melting from a little water. Some from the canyon group expressed concern about our "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" approach toward going on this trip with such forecasts. Sets a bad example. Sorry if we came off that way. We were determined to go and then adapt, not plunge recklessly into some inflexible plan made days or weeks earlier. But here we are in a safe place, the weather has been warm. When wet, we have danced around the worst of it and with a bad forecast for this day, I peek outside into a blustery day, with mostly blue skies. Ummm, guess we will risk it.

We visit the elusive lair of the High Desert Platypus

Today's trip is an old classic called the High Desert Platypus. It parallels the Devils Garden trail, on the high backbone between the trail and Salt Valley. While it bumps into a spur trail once and comes close another time, it is mostly private with expansive views, and one can stay on slickrock and or in small washes the whole way, preserving the crypto crust.

Climbing a ramp to the top of a fin - a theme.

Atop a fin, the wind do blow.

Beautiful AND blustery.

El Rammoo and the famous Landscape Arch

From the parking lot, around the corner and up the slabs to the fins. Early on is a fin, hollowed out with a pothole in it. Usually holds water. This oddity is the home of the elusive High Desert Platypus. I used to visit the litter bugger often. It required one to go through certain "mental preparations" to get in the right state of mind to be able to see the fella. Kinda like medication, errr, I mean meditation. Alas, many years have passed since I have seen my old friend. Johnny Paper comes no more, but some old friends say he resides there still. Not surprisingly, we didn't see him, although I swear I saw some odd tracks nearby.

Landscape Arch

Navajo Arch - always a favorite.

One of the highlights is climb up onto and over what we call the Navajo Fin, as it takes you to the worlds best view of the worlds largest arch, Landscape. You get to look over and down to it. Seems to always be windy up here. With some class 3-4 scrambles, the view is yours. Further on, one can walk a fin and see tourists below. It, of course, is by accident that we land on the top of Double O arch. Coming from this oblique angle, one would never know it was there. It was a total coincidence that 2 of us landed up there, while the third, who happen to be carrying all the cameras, was down below. Everyone should know, that climbing on named features is a no no. We left as soon as we realized it. Fins beyond Dark Angel can also be linked with canyon systems near the primitive trail. These areas have many more mule deer than people. Mix and match and a great day is yours. Please make the effort to stay off the crypto and take only your friends. Enjoy.

Navajo Arch with visiting tourists.

Kids build cairns.

A bit of sun makes for a cozy nap spot.

Whoops, that fin ended up with a big, round hole in it.

Back on the trail, expansive views of fins and the La Sals.