Moab Happenings Archive
Return to home


Landscape’s Soundscape: Sand Dune, Broken,
and Tapestry Arches
by Kathy Grossman

Broken ArchRecently I set out to bag a named formation new to me in our geological park: Tapestry Arch. From Moab’s Center and Main Streets (Point Zero/Zero of downtown Moab), I head north on Main/US State 191 for 4.6 miles, turn right onto the Arches Entrance Road, and proceed about 16 miles towards Devil’s Garden. Just after rounding the western edge of Fiery Furnace, I turn into the Sand Dune Arch parking area and trailhead.

As I shoulder my pack, however, I hear radio DJs Big D & Bubba coming from a couple of women ahead of me. Now I love country western music as much as the next gal, but not here, not in Abbey country, not in Arches, not in nature. Nothing competes with natural, high-desert aural delights, such as the cheeky raven who brazenly walks and grok groks along the trail with me for several yards, so beautiful in his glossy blue-black finery.

winterfat (Krascheninikovia lanata)But hold on, you say. Listening to music or a podcast through ear buds isn’t bothering anybody. Perhaps, but I believe no playlist in the world—no TED Talk, no insightful political presentation—can compare with the wind and the birds, even just the scritch scrunch of your own footsteps. Get in touch with your surroundings, listen to the inner voice, and of course, honor the delicious silence. The best playlist for hiking in Arches is no playlist for hiking in Arches.

On this winter’s day, a half-inch of snow dusts the town and a great lamby cloud sits on the La Sals. I’m looking forward to few cars and no crowds. I want peace, introspection, and the natural soundscape. I scrutch scronch along the wide, gravel path lined with wooden rails and festooned with winterfat (Krascheninikovia lanata), a low blue-gray shrub. Its Latin name honors the Russian explorer who “discovered” Kamchatka (surprising news to the native peoples who already lived there). As the path narrows to a skinny passage, I squeeze between sandstone fins to find wide, sandy spaces, hide-and-seek alcoves, slots, odd-ball hoodoos, then, voilà, Sand Dune Arch. To me, this seems more rocks kissing than a solid span, and maybe a good Valentine’s Day destination. Last summer, I remember thrusting my hot feet into the dune’s cool sands. Ahhh! But today I keep my boots on.
Tapestry ArchReturning to the main trail, I walk an open, grassy flatland, and reach a signed T junction where I turn right to Broken Arch. The “broken” part refers to the crack at the top. I reach the base of the 60-foot-wide arch and gawp upwards to enjoy its majesty and hear the distant rrrrrr of a campground generator, a few muffled shouts of joy coming from kids back at Sand Dune Arch, and the faint wheeesh of a jet, tens of thousands of feet above me,

The trail continues below the arch, but up steep slickrock. Now I truly enjoy solo hiking, but thankfully “Timber,” a trail angel and first-timer to Arches, appears to lend me his trekking pole and a strong hand up (after I had been ready to look for a way around this feature). I proceed along stony hills and sandy washes, heading northwest to the new-to-me arch, Tapestry. It’s a cliff wall arch, fronting a sandstone cliff whose striations perhaps suggest the horizontal wefts of a weaving. It sits proud and gorgeous between two alcoves, so I pull out my pad and colored pencils to sketch a painting.
I could make this a loop by heading for the campground, then circling back to Broken Arch, but today I decide it’s an out-and-back, so I slide down the steep section under Broken to return to my truck. My boots’ shusssshh shisssshh through the sand, scrunch scrunch on gravel, chatt chatt on rock, then my nylon jacket’s zift ziff zift ground my reverie. I stride back between the ragged clumps of winterfat, gentle wind gusts hissshing through their fuzzy foliage. And speaking of winter fat, this lovely, modest hike was a great way of dealing with my own.

Kathy Grossman

Kathy Grossman is a former country-western singer-songwriter who writes, hikes, and draws cartoons from a house set among pastures between Mill and Pack Creeks. She’s been in Moab since 2011.

Return to home