Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Anniversary of Arches

In early October some months ago I was sprawled, 20% on the couch, 80% on the floor, back at an indefinite angle, neck awkwardly bent forward, looking through a slideshow of 10 Life-Changing Utah Trails  and I said to Sean, "That. That is what I want to do with you."   So for our 11th anniversary, we packed our hiking shoes, aka whatever athletic shoes with laces we had, hats and visors and set off.  I can't tell you how magically wonderful it is to live by family and to be able to leave Julian there.  I will never, ever EVER take this for granted. We are in transition, the length of our stay here is in question. We have yet to discover any answers so that is where we are for now, and I am trying to enjoy and appreciate the things I have right now.

Our destination: Devil's Garden in Arches National Park. Guess who grew up with two thumbs in Utah and has never been to Arches, not once? THIS GIRL.

Our first stop was the temple where Sean and I got hitched one beautiful fall day.  We tried to re-enact one of the poses our photographer had us do and asked a guy who was doing some sketches if he might could take our picture. He was happy to oblige and I think we nailed it. 

One more stop before making the 3.5 hour drive to the magical land of visions and wonders (mindboggling that it's so close) was to the mall. This is going to sound really sad but how fun is it to go to the mall with just your spouse?? Oh man.  We ran around, went on stuffed animal races, had two rounds of Japanese desserts where the total of our order was $10.23 on October 23 and we gasped and exclaimed, "ten twenty-three!"  much to his confusion. We explained, too excitedly, and the nice kid gave us a dollar off, which was nice, but kind of ruined the significance. It did make me think of my pal Andrea though, whose birthday is 9/23. And we went into a teen store and bought ourselves ridiculous and cheap shoes. And then we set off.

We rolled in late and stayed in a hotel. We woke up early, put on what we thought might be "hiking clothes"(?) and set off.  I can't even begin to describe my feelings about being here. I feel like my soul has been starved of real, dead-serious earthly beauty for so long, it was all I could do to not just start opening up my mouth to the heavens and chomp my jaws wildly in the air, trying to take an actual bite. (you're welcome for that visual)

(I'm just going to pause a moment to make it last a bit longer)

And so we embarked on a 40-minute drive to the Devil. We followed our map of landmarks and took in the scenery around us. This rock blocking the morning sun is called, you guessed it, Balanced Rock.


I'm going to try to let the pics do the talking but I'll just get a few more words over with here because words are how I convey my feels.  How do I describe.  How. Hmmm...  let me think a minute.

*time passes*

Well, the article was right. Life-changing indeed. It was a spiritual experience for us both.  Do you ever have moments in your life where you find yourself face-to-face with something so strong and powerful that you feel completely stripped of everything else? Noise and worry, thoughts and distraction.  You're standing there exposed, looking at this creation, and all of a sudden you feel like you've been thrust into the middle of a conversation with God that you didn't know you were in and you might find yourself quietly saying words that you didn't know you had in you. You are humbled and reverent and you're given this urgent and very hungry appetite to see more and more.  It's a very raw, invigorating and important feeling to feel from time to time, I think. It had been a while for me.  A serious shock to my eyes and soul, it invited us in and we eagerly went forth.

The Devil's Garden is scattered with trails and arches and viewpoints and canyons, hills and vales, sometimes pools.  The whole hike, including all the spurs (which i learned are side trails to see a certain formation, most likely an arch. They're impossible to resist because you can't see the featured formation from the main path. You HAVE to go find out what it is.) is seven miles. We did it all. It was the best ever.


The hike started out walking on sandy trails. Fairly flat. We were excited but also serious about this hike:

You weren't supposed to go off the trail but some things we said, sorry, no can do. -- famous last words.  JK we kept safe but some things we just had to see. HAD TO.

Sean is tiny. Scratch that, what i mean is, that arch is big.

Sean was afraid when I wanted to climb up on this big rock early in the hike. It was off the path and therefore not allowed but we had to. It was scary. And, it's so weird how un-used to being in nature we were.  In some pics you may notice little tiny piles of stones. I can't remember the name of these but if you see them, you're on the trail, sometimes the "trail" being a big ol' rock that just goes up and up. If you don't see them, you're lost and you will probably slip and fall to your death.  And we were like, that's it?? No printed signs?? Rails? Guides??  Not that we wanted any of those things but they're just part of the kind of atmosphere we are accustomed to.  It took us a long time to trust ourselves with scaling rock walls and really scary looking trails that we were meant to put our faith in based on nothing.  We'd look up at a narrow stretch of rock with dozens of feet to chasms below on either side and be like, uhhh, seriously? That's the path? You want us to go there? And then we just had to do it and it was scary. Anyway, the big rock that gave us the million dollar view.

The view was CRAZY. 
The whole thing is like one big hallucination.
It can't be real. It cannot be real.
This paragraph looks like a poem.

Look at these wacky wood formations. What's that about, Nature? Huh?

We got an early start so didn't see many people at first but we did pass some hikers coming the opposite direction. At the beginning there is a fork in the road. You can go left or right. We went right, this other couple apparently went left and when we passed them close to our beginning they looked so haggard and beat. They saw us starting out and said, "good luck" and we said, "what's at the end of this thing?? some wild beast?"  or something like that that was funny and not rude as it sounds. It was kind of exciting/unsettling though. What were we in store for?

At one point we came to a pool of water.  It was dark in the middle and we had no idea how deep it is. We tried scaling the walls but they were much too steep. And again, we were completely out of our comfort/knowedge zone. We had no idea what hikers on this trail were meant to do, you know? Like, oh, is this normal? Ok then. -As we scale a completely perpendicular wall held on by some kind of hiker's gravity. 

Hiker's gravity, a term i just made up, is what keeps hikers onto rocks that are curved, slick, and just seem impossible to climb. It really felt physically impossible, that it would defy all laws of physics to just hop up onto this wall with non-hiker shoes and not slip back down to your death.  But we did it. As mentioned, early on we didn't trust ourselves but gradually that trust grew and we became more comfortable leaping over wide gaps from rock to rock, using our momentum and a prayer to get us there. It felt amazing.

After many failed attempts to wall-scale, and still unsure of the pool's depth, we took off our shoes and tip-toed around the pool's edge to the opening on the other side.  It seems silly now but we seriously were stumped, and stunned. They expect us to do what??

This is Sean trying to walk along the edge without slipping into the puddle. Finally I took off my shoes and sidled along the edge and he had to follow because there was no other way.

It was now when I began to remember my old nature-loving, live-in-the-wild self. Little Kid Jen. I've missed her. 

We saw so many arches. I couldn't keep track of them all. But they were all magnificent.

I don't remember what I was doing here. It looks like a failure at trying to be "lifting" the arch with my finger, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't doing that.  Maybe the arch looked invisible and i was pointing it out? That seems more likely.

Here's a crazy panorama to bug out your eyes:

 This was one of my favorite parts of the hike. Lots of rock-scaling and crazy 3-dimensional views that went on forever and ever. Never before have my eyes gazed on such a sight. A brand new visual experience. You just can't tell how many layers of rock there are. Infinity, that's how many. I loved the tall narrow passageways and the feeling those giant rocks enclosed around gave us.



This was a cool arch. It was big and glorious to stand under

This wall is on the other side. I climbed up because I had now become one with the hike and had Hiker's Gravity. 

This was toward the end of our hike. So hot, so tired. And I found the perfect hole to take a nap in:

This was the last biggie of the hike. I think they called this one Double O or something like that? Two holes, see. They were huge. You hiked up a wall on the other side to view it. This pic was taken from down below:

And from the big wall across the way:

I think you can see a tiny person standing on the middle part?

As mentioned, we broke a couple of "stay on the path" rules. Here was another one of them. What's in there?? We had to know.

One of the last spurs and one we debated taking because we were finally losing energy.  But of course we did it and it took us to this crazy monolith called Dark Angel.  And we saw a rabbit along the way. On this path I remember being very loopy and we had a ton of really good jokes and quotes but I remember none of them.

Panorama of the valley with Dark Angel over to the side:

I'm not sure when I took this pic and  i may have already used it but oh well, isn't it pretty?

This was one of the scariest off-the-trail spots. This long, increasingly narrow rock jutted out with very steep, deep drops on either side. 

Here's a pic taken at the edge of that one that we snapped and then fled immediately so as not to slip down to the fathoms below. so scary!

And that brings us to the end of my pictures. If you're looking for a total soul rejuvenation and overhaul of the spirits, go here. Find a way and do it. It was the best thing we'd done in a long time. Thanks again, Red Rock Country.  We'll see you again real soon.


Valerie said...

I've got a lot to say about this, but firstly, I wish you were wearing the visor from the re-enactment photo in your original wedding picture. I don't want to make you feel bad, but where was your foresight, Jen?

Mom Westwood said...

My family loves Arches and Moab so much, they have never let me convince them to visit Bryce or Zion's parks. Double O Arch hike is a favorite memory. Only Jessica (16) & Becca (12) went with me on that hike and my husband Neal stayed back at the motor home with the other 8 kids, including 2 year old twins. No cell phones and no idea of how long we'd be gone. Absolutely loved hiking and feeling one with nature, and being amazed at only cairns for directions. Loved your new phrase "hiker's gravity!" Beautiful pictures from you brought fun memories for me. Thanks!

)en said...

A visor--the one thing missing from my wedding.

Cindy, i love your comments! You tell such good stories in just a mere paragraph. 8 kids + 2-year-old twins in a motor home?? Go on!

lindsey v said...

How have neither of you aged at all in 11 years?

Cheryl and Dave said...

I, too, have lived in UT all my life and have never been to Arches. The shame!! You have inspired me to get my act together and explore this awesome place. I love to read your blog. It always makes me laugh :-D

)en said...

Oh what, these old things? (Our faces)

)en said...

Cheryl! What the crap, man. How did I miss this?