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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Beyond Tower Arch: Where Outdoor Life Sometimes Slips Through The Cracks...

I told her it was going to be a long day...a four to five hour loop-hike from camp... 

But the sun was out and Bobbie was ready to shake off some of the snow from home in Lovely Ouray. She has the best of both worlds right now, coming and going from winter to spring. What the Hell, it only takes three hours. Me? Not till the lawn needs mowing, and for that to happen more snow has to melt. 

Before leaving on our trek, I pointed out the destination from camp. Tower Arch is nestled amongst those monolithic, bobble-headed hoodoos, just left of the shadowed area. Bobbie had seen my photos on a blog post (or was it Facebook?) and was keen to a newfound backcountry wash route that I stumbled upon a while back. You won't believe your eyes when you see Marching Men from this route, I told her. So off we go, "into the wild blue yonder..."

Even though I had recently hiked it, I enjoyed playing tour-guide for Bobbie. When it comes to outdoor stuff, we tend to enjoy the same kinds of things, and I appreciate someone to share it with. 

We explored potholes, probed between "Fins," tracked waterless new-to-her washes. We chose some random fins just to see if we could find a way through. Failing, we reached a stretch of severely pocked white sandstone, and I knew we were close to a remarkable feature. 

Balanced Rock defies reason and gravity, teetering on the brink of toppling to the ground, where it would lose it's allure and become an average fallen boulder among a mass of others. There's a Life analogy in there somewhere, but I couldn't put it into words...

Balanced Rock (my name)

We decided to try another between-the-fins route. This time we were able to scramble through to Marching Men. I zoomed in on sunlit bobble-heads that hover over Tower Arch.

Rambling Woman

Marching Men:  E. Norm. Us.

Bobbie brings a little scale to one of the Marching Men. Note that it has not foundation and rests upon unstable soil just like Balance Rock. 

I didn't realize just how massive the pillars of Marching Men were till Bobbie stood by one. It, too, had a cake of dried mud foundation, thus doomed to the same fate as Balanced Rock...someday.

Since it was on the way, we stopped to take another peek at the petroglyphs under Sombrero Rock. Still no footprints...cool.

A red sand breezeway leads us to Tower Arch

There's another smaller arch just before Tower,  and it's just as cool. We couldn't find it on the map, tho, and wondered if it had a name.

Tower Arch.

Ahhh, impressive. We had planned on having lunch there, but on a whim decided to wander around some more first. I noticed a "ramp" against the back wall under the arch. It appeared benign so we decide to see if we could climb it and where it led.

The sandstone "ramp," steeper than it looked.

Well, you know what they say: appearances can be deceiving. It was pretty steep and certainly had us rethinking my "Trust Your Shoes" philosophy regarding climbing or descending sandstone. It offered a different perspective for photographs, till the sun went behind a cloud and everything kinda went Blah.

Somehow (long story) we made it up the ramp and beyond a short but steep (and rather airy) crux. Finally we could stand up without clutching at hold-less slick rock.


From there we rock-scrambled and bouldered our way on up to a narrow pass. The views were stunning...as in OMG! We looked at each other, mouths agape, speechless. Finally, Look! There's ET!

We saw footprints so it wasn't like a route we "discovered." Of course we followed them, working our way up through a bouldered slot between ET and a wall made up of smaller bobble-heads that I had yet to name. 

Passing under ET was humbling. I mean, we can see it from camp, so to be that close, well, those were some pretty cool "dots" to connect. Just as cool was the wonder of how far we could go. So we kept going...following our curiosity. With so much rock overhead, not to mention all around us on the ground, I sent a No earthquakes prayer to the Universe.  

Next up, an extremely narrow slot blocked our way. Maybe slit would be a better word. We sized it up...figuratively and literally. 
Do you think we can fit through there? 

Not with our packs...

I shed my pack. The only way to find out.

It wasn't a place for claustrophobes, nor Dolly Parton types. for that matter. I had to squelch panic a couple times, breath deep, Mark. 

I lost considerable skin, "inch-worming" my way up and out of that crack. Oh well, something to go with my mountain bike scabs. It took quite a while to maneuver out of this "trap." Once done, I began to wonder about how to get back through it. 

Bobbie shed her pack and entered the crack. Being shorter was a disadvantage. I wasn't sure she could make it pull herself up.

For lack of good handholds, I offered my boot. But she seemed to be wedged...and uncomfortable.

Why one needs to keep the upper body in shape...and the lower body, or should I say "Booty,"  :)

This is either another fine mess we've gotten ourselves into or the gateway to Heaven or both. 
Come on, Bobbie. You can do it!
I reached down and gave her some help.
To be continued...  


  1. Leaving us hanging, again!
    I love all those cool red rock formations you hiked through. It's nice to see you were alone at Tower Arch. Remember all the people there the day we did that hike with you guys?

  2. I remember that ramp well! It was definitely a heart in the throat climb as we moved up the ramp hoping all would hold. There is lots to explore up above.

  3. Beautiful area! and I can hardly wait for the outcome of this hike!

  4. Amazing post. A whole different world to me . Thanks for sharing! I just blew 170 dollars on expediding new passport for month in Europe you only live once as you have reminded me many timea

  5. You guys! You give me the screaming willies when you do stuff like this. I know you lived, because you posted, but really!

  6. .....standing by or I should say sitting by in Guerneville, CA......don't keep us hanging too long .....

  7. Gorgeous red rock photos! Looks like the slot is not for the "faint of heart".


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