I’m not sure if it was the devilish heat, the intense beauty of the rock formations, or the simple fact that I was experiencing it alone, but a day trip to Moab this summer ended up being one of the most kickass experiences of my life.
Wilson Arch, on the way to Arches National Park.
Once I arrived inside Arches National Park, I drove up to each point of interest and basically just got out and wandered around. The desolate beauty overwhelmed me, and I can remember sitting for long periods at a time gazing out around me and feeling so small. The sky out there. My god.. the sky. The clouds look as though they were placed there like stickers, suspended, so still. Coming from the forests of my home and entering this foreign landscape was utterly amazing. The sheer expanse of the desert terrified me, yet I forged on.
The path to Delicate Arch. What started as a simple mission of a one mile hike turned out to be one of the most difficult hikes I’ve ever done. My inexperience with desert hiking, coupled with the dry heat and altitude change was enough to bring me to my knees more than once along this trail. I accepted this willfully. I knew I had enough water. I set out in the heat of the day, going in, passing other hikers warning others like me to think twice if we weren’t prepared – this hike could take 2 or 3 hours. I laughed to myself, thinking I could do it in under an hour just like back home. Even on the toughest terrain in the forests, a mile was nothing.
The heat almost made me turn around halfway in. I couldn’t breathe. Every scrub brush along the way was a temporary shelter from the scorching sun, a small shadow of shade for my weak body. I took pics of myself in case those were the last ones of me ever taken.. the thought of heat stroke was in the forefront of my mind and felt completely possible. I really could die, I thought. I don’t know if the fact I wasn’t sweating or the fact I could still muster up a slight smile in my pics was the biggest motivator to keep me going, but somehow I did.
Thirty more minutes, one returning hiker said. Ten more, said another. Right around the corner, said a third. And when I finally did come around that corner in the hot windy desert that day, there was the delicate arch. One of the most awesome and perfect sights I’d ever seen. I laid on the warm rocks for an hour looking at it. I gave my thanks to it, to life, to everything naturally beautiful that exists in the world. I hiked out as the sun was going down and felt at peace.