Sometimes it’s only in silence that you can listen. I’m lying on a warm table of flat sandstone in Arches National Park, and the wind is whispering a message to me that I don’t understand.
I think it’s because I haven’t been to church in over 3 months, and I don’t understand God’s message anymore, because you must practice the art of silent contemplation, and all I have done is listen to me for a long, long, time.
So I’m lying there quietly, hoping for a message, maybe some direction, and the wind is whispering ever so softly, and it bathes my body in cool waves, and that feels like love, but all I can see looking up at the sky is purple and blue, and even though this place feels mystical to me, I don’t get the clear direction I hope for, just a vague feeling of…peace, and maybe that’s all there is for me.
I stand up and look around, and if God really did make the world, it’s certain He made some places more special than others, because this place has a special spiritual feeling to it. There’s a kind of magic in the air. You can feel it, like electric wires humming in humid climes, and it surrounds you. North of where I stand, Delicate Arch stands on top of a monumental slab of tilted red Entrada Sandstone silhouetted sharp against a deep blue sky marked with white and grey cumulus clouds. Under my feet is a deep canyon gorge filled with trees lining a snaking dry creek, and to the east are the multihued sands of the Cache Valley and the Dome Plateau beyond. Far behind me to the south, black clouds are gathering around the purple mountain range 50 miles away, a harbinger of the rare rains to come from Le Sal Mountain. The earth is green, yellow, red, and gold in alternating bands like the layers of a cake, and the steep cliffs are contorted forms from a child’s wet sandcastle, the product of 500 million years of geologic time. During the Mesozoic Era, great seas flooded this area and left behind salt deposits up to a mile thick, which were crushed, cemented, and compacted by overlying strata, which were in turn flipped into vertical fins that were eroded into arches, pyramids, and columns over the succeeding millenia, and now you can enjoy a fantastic landscape of “ET” style figures, mushroom capped rocks, cauliflower shapes, and, my favorite, a bull’s scrotum, and you even get to see arches of all sizes and shapes, many from the comfort of your car.
This is another of those “easy on the feet” parks, where if you want to you could enjoy the trip from the comfort of your car, but you also have the option of short hikes. We take a couple of these, to see the Tunnel Arch, North and South Window, Skyline Arch, Balanced Rock, Pine Tree Arch, Turret Arch, the Devil’s Garden, the Fiery Furnace, and, our favorite, Sand Dune Arch, which is wedged inside of a narrow slot canyon accessible only through a two foot wide passageway, and where we take off our flip flops to enjoy the cool sugary sand sheltered from the sun by twenty story rock walls.
I liked this park way more than i thought I would. It’s in a desert, but that desert has a surreal beauty that’s hard to describe. It should be on anyone’s top three list of National Parks.
We got here from the Rodeway Inn in Hurricane, Utah, where we enjoyed a hearty breakfast of Cheerios, stale toast, and bad coffee dispensed from a broken machine. We headed east on I-15, and from there to I-70, and I was expecting a boring drive, but I’m glad to report I couldn’t have been more wrong, because this is another of America’s Great drives, where you can enjoy up to 80MPH legal speeds (which we stretched to 90) on some of the best maintained highways in the country and some of the most captivating canyon country in the world, offering a surprise around every corner, and huge vistas on every straightaway at elevations above 4000 feet. Make sure to stop at the San Rafael Swell overlook, which gives you a sweeping view of Castle Valley and its golden Dakota Sandstone mixed with green and red formations of the swell, and, far in the horizon, the Le Sal Mountain Range. It’s worth the stop, believe me.
Then proceed on to the park and stay at the Riverside Inn($90) in Moab, which is where I’m typing this from. Good clean rooms, fast WiFi, but stay on the mountain side away from the street noise.
Moab is a tourist town, small, nice, and clean, but make sure you buy your liquor before you get here, because the whole state’s run by Mormons, and they don’t sell liquor on sunday or after 7PM on Saturday, which is why I have no Chardonnay right now.
Do eat at Zax Sports Bar, where they will turn on your favorite game, the cute waitresses will give you awesome service, and they make a great pizza (all you can eat for $13 with miniature salad bar), so you, like us, can watch a real nail biter like Florida vs their usual patsy opponent (UAB), who they only beat 39-0. We’ll see how good The Reptiles are when they face a real team like the mighty Vanderbilt Commodores, who will make fritters out of them.
Now I’m tired, and I hope you enjoyed today. Tomorrow we head to Mesa Verde and Four Corners, Colorado. See you there!
Jon, the pictures are simply amazing. Thank you for taking us along on this adventure. In some weird way I would wish you would keep going…I mean keep going…and going…and going…so that this travelogue never end.
oh, and the writing is pretty damn good also
Hey, John! Glad you’re still reading…
I’m getting a little tired, to be honest. I think I need a rest for a few days, and should have planned more of that in. We’re almost done now. I’ll keep posting from wherever I am, and hope we stay in touch!