Saturday, July 24, 2010

Moab: Arches National Park

Established in 1971 and covering 119 square miles, what is now Arches National Park is a spectacular example of the effects of weathering, erosion, and time. The origins of this park extend back 300 million years, when salt, water, wind, and other geologic forces combined to form the landscape that exists today. A fifteen-minute video about Arches National Park provides an excellent introduction to the formations and should be viewed before exploring the Park itself. Displays in the Visitor Center give more in-depth explanations about the flora and fauna present in the Park, and the well-stocked gift shop offers tourists souvenirs of their visit. Driving by car on the paved roads through Arches National Park, with stops for short hikes and photographing the vistas, requires a whole day, and that only touches the most popular areas of the Park.

ASJ filmed at Arches National Park in 1972. Before I left home, I made screenshots of scenes in the third season episodes of what looked like unique rock formations, which I hoped I’d be able to recognize when I visited the places where ASJ filmed. Although I was not able to positively identify all of the locations in the screenshots, one of the places cannot be confused with any other setting: the Three Gossips in Arches National Park. I probably spent close to one hour there, taking photographs and admiring the panorama!

Three episodes that included views of the Three Gossips are High Lonesome Country, The McCreedy Feud, and The Clementine Ingredient. One of the photos I took is almost an exact replica of a view in High Lonesome Country (see photos at right and below; the top photo is the one I took and the picture underneath is from ASJ). Not much has changed in 38 years! Note the wide horizontal rock formation at the base of the Three Gossips as well as the pile of rocks on a mound at the bottom in both pictures. That not only the pillars comprising the Three Gossips but also the surrounding rock looks virtually the same almost four decades later just proves how slow the process of weathering really is.

I tried to imagine Heyes and Kid riding here but it was difficult to visualize because the area was so crowded with visitors. Since the Three Gossips is situated within clear sight of the road not too far from the entrance to Arches National Park, there were always many people around. I was curious as to how ASJ could have filmed there so I asked and was told that nowadays, productions have to film in remote areas where there wouldn’t be lots of people present and also that they have to obtain permits and post signs, which I know is standard practice when filming. When I said that ASJ had filmed in the Three Gossips area in 1972, I was told that back then things were very different and that there were far fewer people visiting the Park then than there are now.

The McCreedy Feud also has a screenshot that just about matches a photo I took of the Three Gossips. My photo is of a closer view and is not obscured by trees. But still clearly visible and looking the same in both pictures is the diagonal line of one rock formation at the far left of the pictures and also the two smaller formations to the right of the Three Gossips (see photos at right and above; the top photo is the one I took and the lower picture is the screenshot). The two large squarish-looking rock formations in my photo aren't visible in the ASJ screenshot but I think that's because the pictures were taken at different distances.

There are many other beautiful sights in Arches National Park. One of them is Balanced Rock (see top photo at right), which is farther along the main driving route. Also very interesting is the Devil’s Garden area (see lower photo at right)—I couldn’t help but think of Devil’s Hole when I heard the name and saw this place. Actually, this is only the beginning of Devil's Garden—you can hike farther in from the parking area and see a lot more, though I didn’t do that.

There is evidence of human habitation in the area by the Archaic and Ancestral Puebloan peoples but the only white settlers who made a home for themselves in Arches National Park were the Wolfe family, who lived there from 1898 to 1910. A root cellar and the second home they built still stand and can be visited (see photo above.) It is amazing that they were able to eke out a living for so long in such a harsh environment.

There were many other places I did not have the opportunity to visit at Arches National Park and someday I hope to be able to go back and see them.

Official website of Arches National Park:

More information about Arches National Park: