After a quick five mile drive from Moab, UT to Arches National Park and missing the hidden park entrance, I began to drive the narrow and winding miles within the park. There is a sharp contrast in the temperature and environment of this park and the roads and mountains of Colorado. On the day that I visited, the temperature reached over 95 F. Colorado was between 35 and 70 F. The millions of trees lining the Coloradan roads were replaced by rugged desert landscape.
I began my quest for the world famous Delicate Arch with stops along the way. As I was driving, I was reminded of scenes from one of the old “Planet of the Apes” movies. At a specific point on the road, grand rock formations that resembled lower Manhattan’s “Canyon of Heros” came in sight. This site within Arches Park is named “Park Avenue.” As in the Planet of the Apes movies, it looked like what should only remain in someone’s imagination. A once prosperous city destroyed by forces beyond anyone’s control.
Continuing my drive north into the park, I proceeded to the “Windows” section. From the parking area there is a one mile looped hike to the base of the windows and arches. The scale of the windows’ arches is awesome. It is hard to imagine how the forces of nature carved the holes to make the windows and how the forces of gravity do not take it down. The people below looked like tiny desert rodents when compared to the grandeur of the rock above.
My last stop in the park was Delicate Arch. From the parking area, the 1.5 mile hike rises 480 feet. It has no shade and is on open rock and has exposure to heights. It started with a warning, “bring at least one quart of water per person. Heat and dehydration can be fatal!” I brought no water. I also did not think of sunscreen or a hat. I learned no lesson from my Pikes Peak mishap.
On the streets of New York City, it normally takes me twenty minutes to walk the same distance. As I started my climb up the rugged trail, with the sun directly over my head, I felt the rays bake my noggin. For nearly the whole hike, the arch is not visible but the sun is and I thought if not bringing water was a good idea. I continued the climb, first through bushy terrain then on what can be described as rocks. The rocks became a type of massive bolder called slick-rock, resembling a concrete sidewalk. Except, it was not flat but angled at nearly 45 degrees and spanned a distance that was about a fifteen minute hike before getting to the plateau. While walking under the noon sun, I felt it beat down on the back of my neck, as the sunburn on the top of my head started to extended down to my shoulders, arms and legs. I paused and wondered if I was past the half way mark or should I turn back.
I continued up to find Delicate Arch by hiking an otherwise unmarked trail by following the cairn tail markings. I continued up the trail as it became very rugged and then turned into a ledge in a steep cliff with no protection from a drop that was several hundred feet. The ledge’s wall brought much needed shade, cool air and a place to sit to recuperate from the one hour non-stop hike up from the base of the trail. I made it this far. I thought, “who needs water” and the Arch must be near. As I paused, a man in his late sixties whizzed by, carrying a back pack and a camera, asking me if the “Pub” was around the corner. A bar wasn’t but Delicate Arch was.
As I rounded the corner, the arch, extending a least a hundred feet above the ground and just as wide, was finally visible. Like a rainbow without the full prism of colors, it shined orange in the early afternoon sun. The hike up was worth the discomfort brought on by the sun and heat. I composed a few photos and sat down, relaxing and enjoying one more of nature’s wonder.
As I looked down on the arch, I thought about my hike back to the car. It would be down hill and should not be as exhaustive as the trip up. On the way down, I saw the look on some people’s faces that were making their way up and thought “did I have the same dismayed look of on my face?” I made sure to give some words of encouragement to one person who looked like a 50+ year old father to the energetic young children that were with him. “You’re almost there,” I said. He smiled back a “Thank You.” He was no where near the Arch, but there was no need for me to tell him the truth.
After an amazing day in Arches National Park, I needed to position myself for the trip back to Denver. My flight back to NYC was on the following day. As I exited the park, I was given a choice of roads to drive 25 miles to I-70, CR 128 with steep and winding roads paralleling the Arkansas River or US 191. It was late in the day and to avoid driving unfamiliar and possibly treacherous roads, CR 128 would have to wait for another time. I drove the disappointing US 191 to the interstate and continued to drive to Glenwood Springs, Co and would conclude the nearly 200 remaining miles to the airport the following day.