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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Into The Fiery Furnace




The Fiery Furnace has been on my "must-hike" list for some years, but one thing or another always kept me from making the trek. Until last Friday, when everything came together and we enjoyed a great hike there.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the hike. It is great, I highly recommend it. It is one of the most scenic areas in Arches National Park. And right now is the perfect season to hike there, and in other nearby areas.

You need to go on one of the guided ranger hikes when you do the Fiery Furnace, and that's one reason it took me so long to venture into the area. The hike is popular and in the past it has been hard to get reservations. But the park service has recently started allowing people to reserve permits on-line days in advance, and that is a great improvement. Before, you had to be at the visitor center at just the right time, stand in a line, then come back the next day to make the hike. Now you just click your mouse and show up at the trailhead.

I generally avoid ranger-led hikes because the ranger has to tone things down to accommodate all of the people in the group. Such hikes tend to move slowly and avoid adventurous areas. They can also be noisy.

Our group included a wide cross-section of humanity, from babies in backpacks to young kids to senior citizens. And while we did move slowly and rested frequently, the group was surprisingly well behaved.

On ranger-led hikes, the chosen route usually focuses on highlights of the area, and that can be an advantage. We hiked right to some of the most spectacular points in the Furnace. When I go it on my own I like to wander and I see areas casual visitors might miss, but I also sometimes miss some of the highlights because I don't know where they are, or don't have the time to see everything I want to see.

I was surprised at the number of arches we saw along our route. I figured we would see some but I did not expect so many, and I did not expect them to be so grand.

Our group included kids 6-7 years old and they needed help but did fine. Anyone younger would have needed considerable help. A couple guys carried babies in backpacks and they had a tough time getting through some of the tight spots.

Along the route you scramble up rocks, scurry along narrow shelves, climb down ledges and scoot through narrow passages. I rate it as moderate adventure.

The scenery is fantastic and it was funner than I expected. Now I want to go back and wander around on my own.

- Dave Webb

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