Girls Trek to Moab - On Their Own

Camping and Hiking in Arches NP

By Xanthe Webb

Climbing near Delicate Arch You know the one. The time when your child finally comes to you and says, "I want to go camping." Well you as a parent think nothing new, but just say "Fine Sweetie. I don't think I have anything going next weekend." HA! Don't you just cringe when they retort, "No. You don't understand. I mean without parents."

Well that's how it was for me at least, an 18 year-old girl who spent her best spring break ever alone with her very best friend in Arches National Park

Here I will show you the success of our adventure and share how other young adults can safely enjoy a first adventure out on their own.

My best friend Rebekah and I attempted planning this trip to Arches weeks in advance for the sake of our friends who we wanted to come. I figured if I had an air-tight itinerary ready for them in enough time to help them butter up their parents into letting them go, we'd be set. Well it didn't work. Apparently parents are getting harder to work these days.

I'm sure my dad was a little relieved when I told him that there would no longer be boys in my group. But when I added that there would be no other girls than Rebekah he returned to his worried state. It was any father's reaction to his young daughter being alone, but he recognized that I knew he trusted me. He knew the years of experience I had behind me and most of all he knew I was going to do it whether he "agreed" to it or not.

So after friend after friend bailing out, and Rebekah and I deciding to spontaneously leave the next morning (which happened to be the 20th of April), my dad "let" us go with his subtle hints of advice. And the tent of course.

I picked her up at 11 am, as we had decided before, and we were on our way. We were free! We were…grown up and on our own. (I'm fairly certain we even screamed to each other in excitement once we'd shut the truck doors.) I can just say that we both felt so adult-like casually driving down Highway 6 like we did it everyday, even though minutes later would be the first time I'd put gas in a car! But even that didn't ruin the moment.

Since I'd never actually made a reservation for a campsite at the Devil's Garden Campground because of all our failed friend plans and our spontaneous leave, we just thought we'd wander up to the BLM campsites on Highway 128. Onto Landscape arch we headed. By the way, that was our mistake #1. It had never even occurred to me that we should have claimed a campsite in the early part of that day. In all my camping at Arches, 5 times a year, for about the last 18 years of my life, I had never seen my dad not find a nice place to camp! I felt ignorant. Oh, but I am getting carried away. First back to our first hike: Landscape Arch, carried through to Double O Arch, and back to the parking lot through the Primitive Loop hike.

It was Rebekah's first time to Arches and I was enthusiastic about showing her all my favorite things and secret places. Hiking is one area where I did plan everything perfectly. We had a lot of food, water, first aid, and bug spray, even though nothing too gravely serious could happen to you at the populated national park. I think I just wanted to feel like the real deal.

So we walked to Landscape Arch and then I showed Rebekah my favorite boulder to scramble up onto for the best view of the arch. We then decided to keep going to Double O because I knew she would enjoy the uniqueness of the arch itself. I was glad we went because we ran into some people we knew who took a grand picture of us on top of the lower arch once we'd managed to worm our way through a small hole by the side of it. I was a little claustrophobic, but it was well worth it. We felt on top of the world!

We quickly decided again to keep going on through to the more difficult Primitive Loop so we wouldn't have to go back the same way we'd came. It was a blast! There was almost nobody on the trail, even in the middle of April. We enjoyed looking for the next trail marker and time hoping down sloping edges. We were on our own time schedule and enjoyed meeting no one else's needs. We stopped when we felt like it and sang when we felt like it. It proved that small groups did have advantages- even though there were still definite disadvantages such as getting lost!

There is a drop-off somewhere along the Primitive Loop that you need to take carefully down to continue on the trail. Somewhere we missed it. We backtracked but could find it for the life of us. I quickly saw an alternative though. There was a crack between two cliffs that sloped down with boulders wedged between them. It looked convenient enough. I jumped on right over the first boulder and looked back before climbing all the way to the ground. Rebekah was climbing over the same rock I had, but I saw it quivering. Immediately I flashbacked to Aaron Ralston's story and said in a serious tone to "Get off the rock!" Rebekah looked worriedly at me and hopped off. I explained what I saw and we both climbed down and expressed our wishes of just finding the blasted trail! But we made it all the way to the parking lot after following the dry wash for a minute to the trail again. (At which point we flattened ourselves against the sand and enjoyed the cool softness.)

We were back on the road again. We had spent 5 (approx.) beautiful hours in and around Landscape Arch and the day was closing in around us. So on we went, out of the park and up Highway 128 towards the BLM campgrounds. We were… surprised might be the right word, to find all the campsites already occupied or reserved. We kept driving, looking for more campgrounds, but in vain. It was pitch black and we were a good 45 minutes up the canyon and away from Moab.

We didn't know what to do. It gets dark so early there and so we were exhausted. We mischievously came up with the plan to park my truck in one of the huge parking lots on the side of the river, and sleep in the truck. We thought that it was a quick solution that wasn't exactly illegal because it your vehicle could be there it really wasn't much different for us to be inside of it.

So, we mischievously parked in the corner of a lot, and began adjusting our belongings. But for the life of us we couldn't get the back seat to fold down. We both pushed with all our might, but with no avail. Well the next obvious solution would be for one of us to sleep on the back seat and one of us to sleep in the back. Now, let me clarify. They both weren't exactly "ideal." They were the same length but each had their own disadvantages. The back was wider but had two huge wheel wells on both sides. And the seat had no freaking tires to sleep on, but it was only as wide as your freaking size two derriere! Yes it was a rough start to a long night!

We tried to curl cozily in our makeshift beds and we talked and giggled. We mostly giggled out of nervousness because you see we were spooked. While we were setting up the truck we worked inside so that the car lights wouldn't come on. And every time a car would pass by we couldn't help but dive down for safety- covering the flashlights. We were two teenage girls who were afraid of being napped up in the middle of some BLM land, never to be heard of again!

So after reading, singing and a little praying, we started carrying on the genius conversation of "Well we could go get a hotel, do you want to?" "I don't know do you?" "Hmmm, I don't know do you?!" Finally I made Rebekah spill it out, "Yes. Ok. I really want to get out of here!" So we immediately jumped up and threw our things out of the front seat and drove (I won't say how fast) to Moab.

Huh? Now that's funny…but it certainly wasn't then. Every hotel sign seemed to have some funny message that " No Vacancy." Now I understand why people have written entire songs about those two words. It's frustrating. But boy, we kept on going and hoping. Every hotel- "No Vacancy." And if it didn't say, Rebekah ran inside to see, then came back out to report- don't hold your breath, ahhhh - "No Vacancy!" We came to the end of the Moab road. Sigh. "Well, Monticello is only about fort-… No!" I knew what I had to do and I hated admitting defeat!

Rebekah looked as I took out my phone. (Hey at least I had service.) I dialed 4, 7, 1 and then I paused- "Fine," and I finished the number. My dad is always good for advice. And apparently good for letting all your anger and frustration out, too! Both my parents asked me if I had checked every hotel. Well there were two. An expensive lodge that was absolutely guaranteed to be full and a little hotel that was right by us. We were told to drive back and see for sure and then if we couldn't find a room, to park the truck in the parking lot of the Moab Information Center and try the "Sleeping in the truck" idea again. "Ok," I said. That sounded fine. We continued talking on the phone as I drove back.

"Vacancy! Xan! Vacancy!" Rebekah suddenly screamed. Oh my gosh, I saw it. I swerved into the parking lot of a little hotel. "Oh gosh!" I yelled at my mom in the phone, "Finally!" Rebekah exasperatedly asked the front desk person "You have a room?" And we both oddly laughed and sighed when he said "Yes." He could tell we were desperate and said that their vacancy sign had only been up for about three minutes when we came, because someone had just barely made a cancellation. It was the last room in town! We lucked out. So we paid (with my mom's credit card number, seeing as how my debit card was lost in the mess of the truck somewhere!) and then we were off to our perfect one king-size bed, non-smoking, second floor room!

Well I slept marvelously but I guess Rebekah didn't. But we were both up happily in the morning to get ready to go. We were off again for Arches after our breakfast of pop-tarts. All we really had time for and wanted to do was Delicate Arch. We wanted to take our time again and not rush.

We thoroughly enjoyed that hike. Once again we would stop and climb up interesting hills and cliffs. We would pause and take pictures. But mostly we talked and had a great time. I personally enjoyed the Landscape Arch hike more, mostly because it isn't as populated as the swarming "Delicate." But Delicate Arch is an extraordinary hike that is populated because it is so known for its beauty. Both are marvelous.

So I think we learned two more lessons. For one, don't do anything camping that you're not comfortable with (figuratively or literally- my back still hurts from trying to sleep in the truck.) It is always in your best interest to put safety first. And second, enjoy yourselves on the beautiful hikes. Take your time, don't rush or it's not worth it. Well, ok. It's still worth it, but gosh take your time!

So we didn't go immediately back home. I owed a visit to Wendy's. Mmmm…yeah, then we went home. A long 4 1/2 drive again. I can really say that we didn't have that many regrets. Well, compared to everything we did right, we succeeded. I'm glad "we" was just the two of us, I'm glad the weather was perfect and I am gald we had loads of fun!