It’s 4am and I am leaving my hotel Oljato Utah. I have a two-hour drive north from where I am and all I see is darkness all around me. No one is awake it seems and as I load my stuff into the rental car, the cold air makes me wish I was still in bed. I need to try to be just north of Moab Utah no later than 7am but the 4 hours of sleep, as great as they were, did not get me rested enough for my long day.
I travel in the dark thru Monument Valley unable to see the stone towers made famous by John Ford, not even the stars are out but I know that they are out there. Black is all that my car lights shine on as I roar on US Highway 191. The towns pass by one by one, Halchita, Mexican Hat, White Mesa, Blanding, Monticello, and finally, Moab greets me. I stop for gas, food, and a quick rest but I can not linger for very long as I see the first rays of light in the sky, the sun is coming.
It is an early Friday morning and I pull into Arches National park along with hundreds of other outdoors lovers rushing towards the arches that give the park its name. Slow cars get passed by and side roads suck up cars as people race towards the different trailheads that the park offer. I am at the Windows Trailhead as I stumble out of my car, walking as fast as I can towards the double stone arches waiting for the light of day to come pouring thru their natural formations. I am out of breath after the rapid stone steps when It all comes into focus, stone arches, unlike anything I have ever seen in front of me. I stop to look around me and I just smile inside, out of breath but in awe of another wonder of this world.
I only had a few hours to wander around the park and those few hours went by so fast. It was 7 am when I started to roam around the park and before I knew it was Noon and I had to start to get going. My day of driving had only just started, as I was on my way to Twin Falls, Idaho, to see my parents so another 7 hours in the car was ahead of me. I only made my way out of the park and as I stood at The Courthouse formation I thought about all I had seen on this day. Lots of sandstone pushed up towards the heaves and very few arches. All the trails were full of people. Every moment when I could stop to wander around was packed will tourists like myself wandering around the park, taking in the wonder. So I stopped where I could and felt ok with everything I had seen.
The park was much more than just arches, It was a landscape that really reminded me that this earth on which we wander, is older than all the creatures that roam the world. There was a time when the land was quiet, with no cars, no cameras, no trash, and no people. Just a land waiting to be discovered, a land that had moved because it is alive. From deep in the earth these rocks had come up, pushed up, and then over millions of years worn down to what we see today. and for millions of years after we are long gone it will keep on getting worn down.
So much more than a name. Come here for the arches and stay for the best in nature. Often I go to new places and I walk away feeling disappointed in what I have seen but this time, no this time I walked away feeling like the early morning rise was worth it. The name upfront says Arches National Pak but I found beauty in everything from the high peaks of the faraway mountains down to the dirt under my shoes.
It’s noon and I am on my way out of the park. Inside the park, cars are driving around trying to find parking at the trailheads but outside at the visitor center it’s quiet. The wind blows cool air as people rush to the bathroom and I point my car towards Idaho, knowing that I leave behind the stone that will be here long after I am gone.
Arches National Park is the kind of place that people travel from far away to see, they travel by car and by plane to see. They travel because looking at a picture does not grab you enough, it does not strike you and remind you that this land is ours to protect. I hope to someday go back again and walk among its arches and towers, wonder at its stars at night. I hope to whisper thank you once again as I leave the road toward my next adventure.