Rock and Sun: Journey to Arches National Park
It was my last road trip in America before I returned to China. To make it a wonderful journey, I decided to go with the two people I cared about most: my boyfriend and my best friend. The three of us made a great traveling team.
This time, our destination was Utah, with its many breathtaking landscapes. Since we only had one weekend, we chose to travel to Arches National Park, which includes over 2,000 arches. When we saw photos of the park, the magnificence of rock formations reaffirmed our travel plans. I also found inspiration in Desert Solitaire, a book by Edward Abbey. Abbey worked as a park ranger in Arches from April to September, and described the primitive landscape of this canyon land. He referred to it as his home, and said it was the most beautiful place on earth.
When I visit a place like Arches National Park, I feel that the history of the human race is such a trifle compared to the history of earth and the masterpieces that nature has created.
After several hours on the road, we arrived in Utah in the late afternoon. We decided to go to the campground first and resume our journey the next day. It was difficult to find a nice campground during the high season. We finally found a spot close to Arches National Park.
After pitching a tent, we started the campfire. With help from the wind, we easily made the fire. We planned to prepare a BBQ feast. We sliced vegetables, made burgers, and put shrimp on skewers and put them all on the grill. The mouthwatering smell of food filled the campground. We digested the delicious meal with cold beers.
After this heavy meal, we took a walk to the nearby lake. It was a man-made lake surrounded by large grasslands with grazing cattle. We watched the stunning sunset and headed back to the tent. I didn’t get much sleep that night and woke up when the first gleam of light hit the tent. After eating breakfast, we started our full-day adventure in Arches National Park.
In his book, Edward Abbey wrote, “A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.” With his words in mind, we stopped at several places and took trails to enjoy the scenery. My boyfriend wore slippers on all the trails, and refused to change into hiking boots. He likes to do things differently than others and protests that hiking does not require professional gear.
We first stopped at the Balanced Rock and took the short loop trail. From this trail, we could see different angles of Balanced Rock and reach its base. Next, we took the Delicate Arch trail. The Delicate Arch is the most famous arch in the park. It seemed like all the tourists were going there.
I thought of Abbey again with his idea of solitude in the desert. He had already forecasted that tourism would change Arches forever. Arches has become a world-famous national park and almost every road is now well paved and easily accessible even with wheelchairs. Thinking of this, I felt that I would never have a chance to see the real desert, the real wilderness that Edward Abbey described. Sitting afar from this iconic rock, we overlooked the magnificent landscape. From this point of view, I could see the many unknown places without legal trails to reach them.
The most gorgeous trail is the Devil’s Garden. Along this seven-mile trail, we witnessed lots of spectacular arches, such as Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Landscape Arch, Partition Arch, Navajo Arch, and Double O Arch. Landscape Arch is really unique and it is the longest arch in the park. It looks dangerous and makes one wonder how it can stand as it does.
Partition Arch is my favorite arch. The arch creates a natural frame, through which there is a beautiful rock formation. There are also some trees near the arch, which create shade for tourists to rest on the cool rocks. Compared to some other arches, Partition Arch is quiet and the valley view through the arch is stunning.
The trails that we hiked in the park were not difficult. However, the hot weather tired us out. Fortunately, we brought plenty of water, and also carried a big watermelon. After finishing the Devil’s Garden trail, we returned to the parking lot, cut the big melon into pieces and shared the sweet moment together. People passed by and watched us eating the big watermelon, which made the melon taste even sweeter.
When I visit a place like Arches National Park, I feel that the history of the human race is such a trifle compared to the history of earth and the masterpieces that nature has created. The landscape of the American West stands for the spirit of freedom and wilderness.
Just like Edward Abbey write, “Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear–the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break….I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.”