Thoughts about visiting the new arch that Noel de Nevers discovered in Arches National Park:
Arches may be even more beautiful in the winter. Ridges of snow ride the crests of scattered dark brown sandstone fins, while creases in the ground's flat rock are accentuated with white lines.Meanwhile, the ephedra may be a little drab, the rice grass brown, some of the brush without leaves. But the dominant vegetation, pinyon-juniper, is about the same year-round. Even in winter, clusters of blue juniper berries remain on the twisted bushes.
One big difference is that some of the slickrock should be considered super-slick rock, with the occasional ice, trickles of water, and muddy stretches of the trail. For some places you really need traction.
I hiked to Private Arch on Tuesday with photographer Gary McKeller and his dad, Glen, but foolishly left my hiking boots in the car and wore old sneakers.
The tread was worn on these products of Indonesia, and I later realized one heel was flapping. The grit acted like little ball bearings. Shortly after we started, when I started up a gentle slope in a gully, my feet flew out, and I slammed to the ground.
Something in the Bauman interior must have wrenched; or else the canteen dug into my side when I hit. My right side was racked with excruciating pain. I had to lie for a moment, waiting for this sharp jolt to go away. I felt it once again, leaning over at a slick spot and twisting to sling my canteen to Gary. But the ache never returned, and I had no bruises or tenderness.
A disadvantage of hiking through Arches in winter is that a strong wind immediately drops your body temperature into the Arctic region. While we were walking along the big fin on the trail to Double O Arch, the blast was so powerful it would freeze everything inside your nose. It came whipping across the unobstructed desert from the east, so powerful we joked that we were glad it was blowing us in the direction where we'd only break our backs if we were blasted off the fin.
The arch itself is fine. The first impression, other than its exceptional beauty, is that de Nevers and the people he took there for more than a decade were as careful with nature as they should be. There wasn't one gum wrapper, can, scrap of paper, or fire ring of smudged rocks. Remarkably, no trails were trampled through the cryptogamic soil.
Every arch-hunter's big question is, since this one is only 200 yards from a trail, why wasn't it noticed before? One possibility is that it was, but whoever saw it had the same reaction de Nevers did a dozen years ago: This must be a known arch.
Also, that trail is posted as a primitive trail. Signs warn about its dangers, where it branches off in the vicinity of Double O Arch.
The countryside isn't hard to cross, but it obviously becomes much rougher right beyond the arch. You'd have to be an experienced rock-scrambler, or have a group and ropes, to continue far beyond that area.
Finally, while walking on the more developed route to Double O, you can see the fin that holds this arch. But the end that has the arch itself is blocked by another fin. Arch-hunters might have scanned that part of Fin Canyon and concluded they could see the entire neighborhood.
When de Nevers finally realized this was a new arch, he was told he could name it. But the first three names he suggested were rejected.
They were Wasatch Mountain Club Arch, because he often led hikes to the arch for the club; Bates Wilson Arch, honoring the late Wilson, who was the first superintendent of Arches; and Mother's Day Arch, a name recommended by the de Nevers' son because the hikes were held on Mother's Day weekend.
These names were rejected. It turned out formations cannot be named after groups or individuals, even dead ones, and there already is a Mother Arch. So de Nevers decided on Private Arch, which is a good fit for this peaceful span.
As we were heading back from Private Arch, just beyond it, we noticed another arch high to our left (the west). I thought it was the top of Double O. Using binoculars, Gary said its shape was different.
When we talked with Superintendent Noel Poe in the Arches visitors center, he showed us "The Arches of Arches National Park," two volumes that are supposed to record the locations of all 1,800 of the park's arches (except Private Arch).
In a cursory flip-through, we couldn't find the other arch. What if? Nahhh - but - what if?
De Nevers wasn't aware of the arch. His groups don't return the way they approach Private Arch; they continue on the difficult route across the fins.
To be honest, Poe thought it might be Two Block Arch. But what if it's new?
We could call it Deseret's Newest Arch.