Arches National Park

Wednesday morning came early, as one of Alex’s cats decided rattling blinds was the best fun-time activity to pursue at 6:30 AM.  Though, considering I’d awoken early every day of this trip anyway, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  Too quickly, it was time to say goodbye to Alex.  We had such a wonderful time together in and around the city and she was such a gracious host.  DeeDee and I piled our things into the Ford and set out for our next destination, Moab.  Why Moab?  Because it sits right next to Arches National Park!

I had marked the park down as a ‘must visit’ back in April of 2012.  That road trip never happened, but fifteen months later I was finally on my way.  The drive covered some of the same ground I drove from Grand Junction to Salt Lake City, but seeing it coming the other way was a new experience.  I saw things I missed the first time around and found places to stop and take pictures.  After a quick 4 hour drive (seriously, it just breezed by) we arrived.  We immediately stopped to get a picture of the entrance sign and met a family from Minnesota.  “Have you been in before?” the father asked.  When I said no, he grinned.  “Oh, man.  You’re going to LOVE it!”  I was already excited but random traveler excitement just added to my anticipation.  Once we actually entered the park, every license plate I saw was from a different state.  I heard as many different languages as I did in Washington, D.C.  It was amazing to share the sights with people from all over the world.

I also became less tolerant of the occasional sprinkles I’d driven through on the way down.  Surely it would clear up soon.  We stopped at a few early places and marveled at the unfathomably large rock structures and I used my hat to shield my camera from the maddening precipitation.  Thankfully, after about twenty minutes, the clouds parted and I was greeted with blue sky.  The amazing landscape that I could scarcely believe was amplified by the change; the orange and red colors of the rock formations blazed in the sunlight.  When we arrived at Balanced Rock, the rain clouds were almost totally gone.

At Balanced Rock, I noticed something strange.  There were small stacks of rocks EVERYWHERE.  I remembered this was something important, but I couldn’t recall specifics.  Turns out they are a hiker’s way of marking a trail.  In such a heavily populated area, though, it appeared that people started stacking rocks because someone ELSE stacked rocks; there were no discernable paths.  But I continued to see these little pillars of stone throughout the park.  We drove to several other rock formations and marveled at the strange shapes the earth had taken; rock spires jutted defiantly out of the ground, the last remnant of some larger structure that was literally weathered away.  The temperature rose as the sun got comfortable above us and it became clear we were NOT prepared with much water…but the park is easily drivable, so no big deal, right?  Right.

When we arrived at the Double Arches, I immediately suspected this would be my favorite spot in the park.  Not only is it an amazing rock formation, beautiful in color and shape, but it was also used in the filming of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’.  I already had a picture outside of the ‘library’ in Venice from the film, and I became giddy at this unexpected opportunity.  I gleefully set up my picture before going to the arches themselves.  I even climbed up to the highest point inside the arches, triumphant in another small victory over my fear of heights.  I enjoyed a few minutes of glory before realizing I now had to figure out how to get DOWN.  I made it, but not without some muttering and anxiety.  Such is life.

We toured the rest of the park afterwards, which included the Devil’s Garden, the Skyline Arch, and the Delicate Arch.  The latter is used as a backdrop for modern Utah license plates, so I expected it to be the most populated arch in the park.  As we reached that section of the park, I noticed it was an actual hike out to the arch; there was a view point, but it was a fair distance from the arch itself.  Our lack of water planning kept us from hiking out to the arch proper; heck, even the hike to the view point was rough enough.  I reached the top of the viewing area out of breath, the words of Richard’s long-ago letter echoing in my mind.  We both made it, though, and left Arches very pleased with our day’s journey.  Once we got to Moab, we ate a late lunch (which also served as dinner) and prepared for the next day, which would take us to Arizona and my most anticipated destination since…well, ever.

Monument Valley.

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