Arches National Park

In which our hero saunters through slickrock country, ponders a politically questionable placename, and encounters a frog.

May, 1999


After climbing Mexican Mountain John, Sally and I drove south of I-70 into the southern part of the San Rafael Swell, scrambling in the rock formations in Goblin Valley State Park, seeing some ancient Indian petroglyphs and basically just checking out some of Utah’s remote regions. Then we went down to Moab, and camped by the Colorado River at the Big Bend campground. This is located right across the road from Lighthouse Tower, an impressive spire John had climbed in the past.

The following morning John and Sally went rock climbing on Wall Street, dropping me off for a day hike across the Colorado River from Arches National Park up the Negro Bill Canyon. My first goal was Morning Glory Arch, about 2.5 miles up the canyon from the trailhead (4,000’). It was a quick, easy hike there, and I took a few pictures and then decided to get away from the pedestrians and hike further up the canyon, hoping to get off trail (of course!)

The hike was pleasant, but hot. On the way up the canyon I passed by a little slot canyon choked with willows. I marked the place in my mind and went on, eventually reaching some large rock formations and just scrambling around on the rocks for a few hours about five miles up the canyon. Then I came back down and checked out the slot canyon. There was a “trail” of sorts, but nothing that got any real traffic. Which was surprising because it was quite pleasant, with a little stream trickling through it. And anywhere in Utah with water and some protection from the all day sun means plants and trees, which meant there was some shade, too.

When I reached the end of the canyon, there was a little water pool being fed by a trickle falling from a ledge above it. The sound of the tinkling water and the coolness of the shaded pool compared to the desert around me made it the perfect resting spot. Especially since no one else was there. Well, almost no one. There was a big frog in the pool, with just his (or her!) two eyes above the water, checking me out. We watched each other and the surrounding area for about 45 minutes, and I am telling you, I envied that frog’s life, and felt special just getting to share its space for that time. Sound silly? It wasn’t – this is truly one of my favorite memories of anything I’ve done outdoors, anywhere. No goals, no big hike to get somewhere, just hanging out in a beautiful place with my new friend, the frog. It was peaceful, quiet and pretty – and if you can’t take the time to notice that when you’re outdoors, why are you there?

I finally decided to leave the pool and the frog in peace, and went back the way I came, merging onto the main trail and heading down, where I met John and Sally coming up looking for me. We then went and lunched in Moab, and started the drive back home to Colorado.

Round-Trip ~7 mi (~11.3km)
Time ~5:00
Starting Elev ~4,000’ (~1,219m)
Max Elev ~4,800’ (~1,463m)



Click on any picture below to see the slides full-sized.

Route Lighthouse Tower Underneath Morning Glory Arch Morning Glory Arch Cool Rocks Looking Down Negro Bill Canyon Frog's Home