Arches

I made my way through hours of slush, slop, and snot from Salt Lake to Moab. All of the worries I had about making the trip from Denver to Salt Lake never came to anything, but all of those potential scary things happened on this trip. Zero visibilityfor hundreds of miles, multiple mountain passes, black ice, freezing rain, blinding snow, cars off the road, tractor trailers throwing 200 pounds of slush on my windshield. It was endless, but I fell into this sort of driving trance, moving slowly but surely south as my New England driving skills autimatically kicked into gear. It felt like the trip took forever, but I barely remember it now. The Super 8 in Moab was like a beacon. When I coasted to a stop in the parking lot, my body suddenly let go of all the tension I had been carrying, leaving me weak, relieved, and completely elated.

The next morning I was up early, waking to bright sun, as though nothing had happened the day before. The roads were a little icy, but I made my way to the visitor's center at Arches National Park the moment the doors opened. A ranger let me know that the very first switchbacks were probably pretty sketchy, but that the rest of the roads would melt quickly in the sun. I found the opposite to be true, but I took it slow, stopping often to just revel in the enormous, magnificent, glory of the place.

It's so hard to express the true scale and grandeur of these parks. Sizewise, they provide the neck crane and slack jaw similar to trying to see the top of a canyon of high rises in Manhattan, only magically, it's in the middle of acres of wide open space and the huge forms are created by wind, water, and glaciers, depending on where you are. As you move around them, they change, becoming a completely different form.

I climbed past the North and South Windows and spent a little time in the quiet behind the North Window, listening to the wind, basking in the sun. The arches are stories high. It was in this place that I start to have a better sense of my size in the world. Not insignificant, but small. It's a perspective I need. My relative size in a physical way, but also the size of what can feel like overwhelming emotion sometimes - it's all small when compared to the huge spaces I'm inhabiting. It's humbling, and necessary, and right where I need to be.

I'd set myself up for a rapid 3-day speed tour of 3 national parks, so I had only a handful of hours to absorb as much of Arches as possible. Nevertheless, I made it to the Delicate Arch viewpoint and decided to make the climb. There were petroglyphs at the beginning of the hike. I cannot fathom how long they have been there. The hike was an icy, sometimes terrifying scramble, but the payoff, Delicate Arch, is utterly breathtaking. It's a gift that lights me up as I round an ice-covered curve of rock, stepping into the sun, and leaning against a ledge, catching my breath.

I scramble back down, grab a snack, and slowly make my way back to the entrance of the park. The roads had cleared for the most part. I took final shots, promising myself I'd be back someday to get all the way into the park. After standing on a pullout in one of those early switchbacks and telling Arches right out loud that I thought it was an amazing place, I hit the road for Zion, about 4 hours away.

I passed through canyons and over mountain passes on the way. There's no part of this corner of the world that is not beautiful to me.