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Trekking Through Arches National Park, Utah
Trekking Through Arches
Arches National Park has been one of my favorite of parks. It is located just outside of Moab, Utah. Ever since I read Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire (1968), I have visited this national park perhaps a dozen or more times, each adventure bringing something new. Just a few weeks ago four of us left Denver for some camping and hiking in the Moab area. The very first night we drove into Arches past a rock formation called Three Gossips and parked our car to walk out under a sky of brilliant stars and a crescent moon. Though it was early May, we needed warm jackets in the night air of the desert. We spotted a fast-moving satellite whizzing across the sky.
The next day we chose the Double Arch trail from the Devil's Garden trail-head. The day was crystal clear with a temperature in the low eighties under a very bright Utah sun. Canyon wrens chirped as we shouldered our packs that held plenty of water, some energy bars and apples. At first the trail seemed crowded with lots of French and German tourists. Kids ran up and down a narrow sandy slit slanting between two dark walls of sandstone just a hundred yards from the trail-head.
We continued ever upward past aged, gnarled juniper trees squatting along the ridge-lines. Edward Abbey remarked that he did not like desert junipers so much because they reminded him of his stubborn, clinging father. Having a pleasant father, I could admire the twisting gray bark of these trees.
Soon we could make out the distant span of Landscape Arch with its thin vein of orange sandstone stretching out through space to the opposite side of a sandstone gap. We, too, joined scores of tourists to take digital images of this marvel. Shortly thereafter we took a less-traveled side trail up to Navajo Arch through which we could see vast portions of desert lands spreading beyond. One of us practiced his German by asking a bearded man about his very fancy camera atop a tripod. Both managed to communicate in broken languages about shutter speeds and F-stops.
After some swills of cool water and crunchy bights of energy bars, we descended back to the main trail and proceeded northward toward the Double Arch past pinyon pines and pincushion cactus with pink blossoms. Ravens squawked in the distance as we climbed up to a narrow sandstone ridge worn smooth by years of tramping feet.
We stopped to admire desert flowers with colors as bright as paints on an artist's palette. Bright white Sego lilies brought the desert to life. Onward we trekked along this spine of sandstone until we reached a spot where we had to descend a steep slope to step gingerly on to a balanced block of rock and hop onto a sandy floor all the while being closely watched by dark-eyed ravens perched in branches above.
Then we saw them. The double set of arches standing above a dark alcove. Brave young women and men, much younger than we, carefully slid down an angled ledge to jump out onto the main arch of the double arches and to skip out above sixty feet of empty space and laugh all the way across the arch.
It was nice to sit in the shade to watch all this activity in raven-like manner and munch on a juicy apple far into the back of the beyond of Arches National Park.
© 2014 Richard Francis Fleck