I awoke Monday morning at a KOA campsite.
It had been dark when I had come and set up camp. And extremely windy. I woke up in the morning to the stunning view of big brown rocky cliffs towering over the road and campsite. Wow!
I thought of all my coworkers from my last job, shuffling into their offices on this Monday morning.
I was in Moab!! I had wanted to visit this place for years! I was up early and ready for an exciting day hiking and exploring Arches National Park. I was pretty excited. The entrance to Arches National park consisted of a long road that wound upward into the mountainous cliffs. I stopped at the first lookout to examine the natural fault line that ran through Moab alongside the main road. Very cool!
The expedition I took in Arches National Park was a hike towards “Delicate Arch”. Man this park was huge. I drove past so many scenic outlooks, and my heart cried a little bit every time I drove past one, but there wasn’t enough time to see it all.
After the dizzying and strenuous hike up to Angels Landing in Zion, the hike to Delicate Arch wasn’t hard at all. I had been expecting something much more arduous. But the hike was a lot of fun. It was unreal to be wandering through these desert trails. Moab had a character unlike any other place I had been so far. There were awesome rock structures, and really cool views of the breathtaking desert. Man I absolutely loved this place.
I got to delicate arch and was amazed. It is basically this giant arch in the middle of the desert. It towered so high, and seemed completely out of place. How did such a giant arch end up in a big open area in the middle of the desert? The answer once again was years of erosion. But it was fascinating to realize that this was not manmade. Nature did this herself.
There were more cool arch trails to explore, so onward I continued. This next trail I found took me to many different arches. There was a partition arch, a double arch, and several others. I continued wandering and I recall exploring a difficult desert path that led me to an extremely large phallic column standing up high over the desert. Getting to here was tricky. Some of these trails were no longer trails. It was a scavenger hunt to find where to go next, and the journey consisted of looking for cairns, which were piles of stacked rocks to indicate the next direction to take.
I slowly wandered back toward the more populated trails. I got to a fork and asked two German guys if I could see their maps. There was a normal route, and there was also a 5 mile “primitive trail” which was supposedly very challenging and not for beginners. But I loved challenging hikes!
The truth is though, it was already getting kind of late in the day. I wanted to explore the 5 mile primitive trail, but I was tired and didn’t know how long it would take to hike 5 miles in the desert. But when the German guys decided to do it, I decided to as well. I could just follow them and it would be fine. At least I wouldn’t be alone!
The trail itself quickly vanished. The journey back on this primitive trail became a trek of climbing these huge stones and trying to find the next cairn. The German guys paused for a few moments, and I wandered a bit ahead of them. And then they were gone. I have no idea where they ended up going. I think they immediately got very lost.
Now I was alone on this 5 mile “primitive trail” in the middle of the desert, trying to find and follow these little piles of rocks (Cairns). I had to keep back tracking because I would miss the next cairn. I kept thinking about giving up and turning back. I didn’t want to get lost in the middle of this desert. I was all alone. Who knows where those German guys went. But I couldn’t accept giving up either. And the further forward I continued, the worse turning back began to seem. After a while, turning back seemed just as dangerous as going forward. I could get just as lost going backwards as I could going ahead.
Every time I lost a cairn and had to backtrack, I considered turning back. It was getting later and the thought of being lost in the desert was horrible. I had food though. I had water. And there was still plenty of sunlight. Plus, the truth is, I was also having a lot of fun. After a long time, a lot of backtracking, and a lot of second guessing myself, the cairns became much more consistent and easy to follow. I think the main problem was this trail was set up to go forward TO the arches, and I was using it in the reverse way to return FROM the arches.
Eventually a sandy path full of footprints appeared. It was nice to have a trail to follow instead of me just randomly climbing boulders and wondering if I would ever find the next markers.
I hadn’t seen anyone in forever. I thought about what would happen if I actually did get lost. I didn’t even have cell phone reception. Did people ever get lost here?
I never really got nervous. Instead the opposite happened. A deep feeling of peace came upon me. It was really relaxing and amazing. I was ALL ALONE. It was just me, with no other humans in sight. No potential interruptions from my cell phone. I was exploring this beautiful desert on my own, far from home, far from my old life. I had such a deep and profound feeling of peace.
I loved the journey, and over time I saw human beings far in the distance. It wasn’t too long from there that I was back to civilization. I’m not sure how much I walked this day, but my feet were once again jello. I had no more energy to hike, and it was getting dark soon, so I waved goodbye to Arches National Park.
That night was fun. Despite my jello legs, I got to spend some time walking around and exploring the cool town of Moab. I loved the vibe here, and found a blues bar for dinner with some awesome live music. What a great way to end a great day!