The Annual Girls’ Adventure Tour took us to Moab, Utah, this year. My sister Lisa and I had camped in the area a very long time ago, at Dead Horse Point State Park, but she hadn’t been back since then. And her two kids, my nieces Katie and Susie, had never been to the desert.
On our second day in Utah, we hiked in the Fiery Furnace area of Arches National Park. While researching the hike before our trip, I found out that visitors are strongly advised to go with a guide, as there is no trail and it’s very easy to get lost among the very high maze-like sandstone walls. A hike with a park ranger costs $10, but those were booked through July, so we arranged to go with the Moab Adventure Center. More than $10, but worth every penny. (If you don’t go with a guide, you must get a permit at the visitor’s center.)
Our guide, Kenna, led our group of fourteen through the Fiery Furnace for three hours or more. We scrambled up and down rocks, squeezed through some very narrow slots (which meant crawling on hands and knees for those of us over the age of ten), and tried to figure out how to maneuver our bodies through some narrow canyons where we couldn’t touch the ground (butts on one rock face, feet on the other, scurry like a spider). We had a great time! Kenna pointed out various odd formations as well as holes we could crawl through. She also explained how the features were formed. A massive salt bed was laid down by an ancient seas; it was then covered with residue left behind by millions of years of floods, winds and more oceans. The residue compressed into a rock layer on top of the salt bed, and over time upheavals, collapses, wind and erosion led to the formations we see now.
Sharp-eyed Susie found what Kenna said was evidence of those ancient seas: a tiny brine shrimp, living in a small pool of water.
Kenna also pointed out the cryptobiotic soil, the living ground cover that is easily damaged by boots, and advised us to hike on hard surfaces only.
The hike covered about two miles and was not particularly strenuous, but it did require some scrambling on rocks and walking on ledges. It was also a cool respite from the blazing Utah June heat — we were quite comfortable throughout, and some even kept their jackets on.
The Moab Adventure Center guided hike is $77 for adults, $57 for kids. Call 866-904-1163. Highly recommended.
Arches National Park has ranger-led hikes through the area. To see if this is a good hike for you, take a look at photos and a video about the hike. To reserve a spot, go to Recreation.gov or sign up in person at the Arches visitor center ($10 adults, $5 kids).
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