A lot of geological features in Utah are saddled with descriptions involving the Devil, or other denizens of the netherworld. We visited two last week. In Arches National Park, we hiked in the Devil’s Garden. The next day, we visited Goblin Valley. Why Satan gets to lay claim to this region beats me.
Maybe in the heat of summer, these areas feel a little hell-like. In January, with temperatures in the 30s, a coating of snow, and hardly any other tourists, it felt like a slice of Heaven. Thus my opinion that if Satan lives in the Utah desert, he must winter in Barbados.
We went to Arches on the spur of the moment. We were not disappointed. The trail through the Devil’s Garden was snow packed and icy most of the way. We veered off on Primitive Trail.
Arches is one of many national parks that suffers the burden of popularity. We were delighted to share the trail with only a half dozen other hikers. Yes, it was cold. Yes, the trail was treacherously slick. But we enjoyed heavenly solitude.
The sun glistened off pristine snow. Blue sky contrasted with red sandstone and green pinon pine and scrubby bushes. We saw rabbit and deer tracks and scat, finally spotting one winter bunny under a bush. Ravens amused themselves watching hikers and hoping for a dropped granola bar.
After a couple miles tramping through snow, we realized we were lost. Or as lost as one can get with the aid of GPS devices. We headed back the way we came, with another hiker who was also baffled as to where the actual trail was.
We reluctantly returned to civilization, joining our friends in Moab. They suggested our next outing on Friday. We drove to Goblin Valley. Summer temperatures are well over 100 degrees. I suppose in that season, the landscape takes on a sinister cast. In winter, with a light dusting of snow, it was charming.
Row after row of bizarre, wind and water sculpted mud and rock resembles mushrooms and creatures. If you were heat and thirst crazed, they could look like goblins. We wandered around, hitting dead-end canyons and climbing petrified dunes. Again, there were maybe a half dozen people sharing the park with us.
A cautionary note: We are experienced hikers. We have the proper winter gear and backpacks loaded with survival gear. Even for a short hike on groomed trails, you don’t take chances, especially in winter.
These parks may have sinister names, but the Devil must not like cold weather. Come in the right season, and you might find a little bit of Heaven.
More photos in the slideshow below.
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