Let’s learn a little more about Arches NP by taking our time with an evening hike. We chose Park Avenue, near the entrance of the park, for a sunset hike. The trail is about 1 mile one-way, and it takes you down some steps and along the canyon floor, over rock and sand.
Once you enter the canyon, begin looking for cairns to help you find your way.
Every few paces, you will pass specimens of plants prevalent in the area holding the sand and soil in place and providing refuge for lizards, snakes and rodents, as well as nutrition for insects and grazers.
As the sun lowers and the air begins to cool slightly, the heat that the rocks have absorbed all day begins to radiate. Now the rocks are heating the path. By morning, the rocks will be cold surfaces, and you will be glad to rest against them as the sun rises higher in the sky.
Continue walking and you will also come across what is referred to as a pothole or ephemeral pool. These holes fill with water when it rains and run dry between rains. Amazingly, they hold life that can withstand these extremes. Potholes are home to microscopic invertebrates and other plant and animal life. Some of the creatures can become almost completely dehydrated and survive until they are rehydrated.
As you look up to see the moon rising higher and higher, scan the canyon edge for wildlife. See if you can spot the mule deer ready to descend in to the canyon in the photo below. Mule deer are easy to distinguish due to their much larger ears than whitetail deer.
As the sky darkens and you leave the mule deer to follow its instincts, bats begin to swoop into the canyon to clear the air of insects and the hoot of a Great Horned Owl alerts all the little creatures to find cover. The last of the sunlight is seen and the darkness descends on the red monoliths around you.
Although the night sky is dark, a dazzling show of stars appears to light your way out of the canyon. As you ascend from the trail, your mind is filled with the park’s many other animals that are becoming active, but you are leaving unseen. A ringtail out and about. Kangaroo rats scurrying between brush. Foxes and bobcats out on patrol. Even a mountain lion surveying its kingdom.
Your evening hike has taught you that even in the dessert, there is an abundance of life. Life is bursting all around you and waiting to be explored.