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Ok, look. I’m not going to tell you what to do, but if you get the chance – go visit Arches National Park!

The NPs are all beautiful, no doubt (at least the ones I’ve seen so far), but in terms of the awe it inspires and its pure how-can-it-be-ness, Arches is something else.

Here, let me show you.

The park gates are conveniently located right next to Highway 191 close to Moab, UT. Once you pass the gates, you will zig-zag up a slope, not knowing – nay – daring to imagine the awesomeness that awaits you at the top.

As soon as you reach the plateau that holds most of the spectacular rock formations Arches is known for, you’ll run into Nature’s gorgeous and strikingly named architectural designs on every corner.

Wildlife is relatively sparse in Arches NP, by the way. But along with the occasional jack-rabbit there are these tiny useful creatures there, which you should take extra-special care not to step on:

Make sure you keep off the mossy black spots on the rocks next to the trails. One way to make sure you do not disturb those little cryptobiotic fellas is exploring the park from a plane, of course.

That way, you will have great views of Fiery Furnace, for example, without the added danger of getting lost in this labyrinth and inadvertently walking out of it off to the right. Our pilot told us this happens sometimes to hikers who get lost there, because when you lose your way you tend to walk down hill. That is usually an o.k. idea, but not in this case, where down hill will take you out into a long stretch of deserted nothing. That thought is especially unsettling as a short hike in the right direction would take the wanderer straight back to the main road.

If memory serves, you’re allowed to hike Fiery Furnace only if accompanied by a ranger now.

Anyway, there are plenty of less dangerous to-dos on our list for a day at Arches NP!

Park Avenue, for example. Probably named for all of the high-rises assembled around a path you can hike along if you’re missing the Big City or just like craning your neck a lot.

This is what it looks like from the air, by the way:

You can park your car at the corner of Park Avenue and 42nd St, and hike all the way down to Broadway. 8)

Once you’ve passed the skyscrapers of Park Avenue, Balanced Rock will make you wonder, while you’re bouncing up and down at its base to see if today is not the day it will give in to gravity, how many generations before you have done this already.

Next, you will drive up to The Windows, and, at first, not comprehend that name at all.

Then, you’ll look more closely, and suddenly you’ll notice it.

You do envy them a little, but all in all, the oodles of tourists walking up to the rocks to have a look through the huge portholes from up close don’t bother you, because the day is short and you have made other plans.

You’ve decided to hike up to Delicate Arch!

Sure, you could just drive over to the lookout point, but you want to touch it, breathe in its magnificence. You want to stand next to it and see if you can hug its mighty thighs. You want to walk around it and wave to the poor suckers over at the lookout point, who will never experience the sheer monumentality this rock radiates.

Can you tell I’m a fan?

So let’s get crackin’, I’ll come with you (it’s noon, which is probably not the best idea, but we’ve packed two litres of water each and carefully read the sign).

 

This is looking like the perfect little adventure for today, so in the wink of an eye, we’re on our way up.

 

The first stretch is rather pleasant. It’s a broad, well-maintained dirt track with a couple of stairs carved into the red stone. The next leg is a little more challenging. We’re stepping onto a huge boulder, no shade in sight for the next half hour or so.

 

Looking back, we see that some are giving up and turning around. We know – we hope – that they are SO missing out, and soldier on.

 

Having conquered the boulder, we are rewarded with interesting vistas and a little shade from gnarly skeleton trees beyond the next bend.

 

This is the stretch we all know from various hikes – you see a bend in the road and hope to God it’s the last one. Then you come around the bend, and you see that it is not.

But this one is.

 

Here’s something you might not know. Delicate Arch is towering above a rock vortex of some sort, which is almost as interesting as the arch itself. When you turn around the last bend, this is where you emerge from the trail:

 

And because this is your view, which is absolutely stunning but also just a little bit alarming, some stay right where they are and enjoy it from here.

 

But may I ask something of you? If at all possible, vertigo, fear of heights and all,  p l e a s e  be brave and walk over to the arch! You will not regret it.

 

See? Didn’t I tell you?

You can not hug its mighty thighs, by the way.

You can even climb up a little ways further, and the view will just get better still.

 

I have no idea if the drive up to the lookout point (it’s over to the left, on the other side of the abyss behind the arch) is even worth the gas, because I didn’t drive over there. But the hike? The hike is absolutely the best use of your time in the park that I can imagine!

 

A close second is a flight over the park, which will let you catch a glimpse of Delicate Arch as well.

Our pilot was a former park ranger, and he took extra care not to fly too close to the arch so he wouldn’t bother the people who had hiked up there.

Gotta love park rangers, they’re the best sports!

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