Monday, July 11, 2011

GAWA2011, Day Nine: So Delicate

For the first time since San Diego, we were staying somewhere for more than one night. That meant that waking up and getting ready for the day did not require a mad scramble to jumble together all of our belongings and mash them back into our suitcases in hopes that everything would zip tight again.

Something else that staying in Moab did not require was using shampoo. That's right, you heard me correctly: using shampoo. In my infinite wisdom, I'd advised Alissa that there would be no need to bring shampoo and conditioner in our already over-packed carry-on bags when hotels generally provide them anyway.... the keyword in the aforementioned sentence being generally. It turns out that the Motel 6 chain does not provide those simple amenities. They did, however, provide bar soap, which had an interesting affect on my bouffant... to say the least.

At any rate, what with staying in the same hotel more than one night, one would think we slept in and made the most of not having a checkout time. One would be wrong. We decided instead to make the most of being less than a mile from the entrance to Arches National Park by getting up in time to catch the sunrise. Well, most of it.

In retrospect, we were glad in the end to have arrived at the park just after daybreak, since driving into the park requires maneuvering a series of graded switchbacks, both unlit and unguarded. Fortunately, it was Alissa's day to drive. I helped her by clutching frenziedly at the the armrest and pushing my feet against the floorboards in an effort to keep the car in the lane. It must have worked, because we made it safely into the park.

Once inside, we realized that in coming to Arches at sunrise, we'd made one of our best travel decisions to date. Not only was there no charge for vehicles entering at that time of the morning (I know, right?!), but for at least the first two hours, we had the run of the roads, trails, and sites without seeing another living soul. Unless jackrabbits, lizards, and deer count.

Sunrise at Arches

Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light

We walked the path to Windows Arch, watch the sun bathe the landscape in color, and munched down granola in the peaceful stillness of dawn.

Window Arch

Breakfast View

We also saw a rock formation that looked like half of a cat face:

Half-Cat-Face Arch

A bit later, we sloshed through the sand to the appropriately-named Sand Arch, feeling decidedly Indiana Jonesesque (although this wasn't the arch where Indy scenes were shot... but still):

Temple of Doom

Our last activity of the morning involved a long trek out to Broken Arch and a bit beyond.

The Trail to Broken Arch

Exploration

Right atcha!

Alissa's Arch Jump

While on the trail, we chatted easily about the trip, nature, life, and our mutual disappointment in not yet seeing any bighorn sheep. We imagined looking up to see one posing majestically along a rocky outcropping, hooves together and head up proudly, silhouetted against the sky and radiating power like a monarch on his throne.

Well, that never happened. But we did see a deer. It was mildly invigorating.

Wildlife Encounter!!!

By 10:30am, we had come to the realization that granola would not be enough to get us through the day. We decamped from Arches for downtown Moab, hitting up the appropriately-if-unimaginatively-named Moab Diner for some brunch. While Alissa slathered over the pancakes, I opted for a perfectly seasoned breakfast skillet. Since the coffee far outclassed anything I'd had in the West thus far, and the food proved hot and tasty, those factors alone would have made our trip to the Moab Diner a success; however, we had the added benefit of observing what appeared to be a local ritual.

Apparently on one's middle school graduation day, the local custom is to visit the Moab Diner before the ceremony, dressed in fancy graduation clothes and sporting a home-made paper graduation cap. Teenybopper after teenybopper came shimmying through the glass doors dressed in sundresses, pretending not to notice the gawky boys who were variously arrayed in dress pants, untucked button-downs, and--in once case--in dress pants and a faded Run DMC t-shirt. The girls posed for snapshots, arms slung around each other's shoulders. The boys alternately lurked gawkily in corners or dashed in and out of the diner while laughing obnoxiously. (Really, all I needed to tell you was that there were middle school boys and girls in the restaurant and you would have been able to visualize this scenario quite easily on your own, I'm sure. But there you go.)

After napping through the hottest part of the afternoon, we arrived back at Arches late in the day, planning to attempt the difficult climb to Delicate Arch and stay up there until sunset.

The good news is that we made the climb, and both of us made it to the top, although one of us needed to take continual breaks and sometimes made little yippy panic noises when she had to walk beside sheer drop-offs.

Once at the top, I found a place to sit which felt relatively safe. The idea was to gather my courage before making my way over to the arch itself.

So delicate...?

The truth is that no matter how much gathering I attempted, I never made it over to the arch. As a matter of fact, the longer I stayed up at the top, the worse my nerves got. This had less to do with the dizzying heights and the dangers inherent in simply being at the top than it did with the behavior of the other tourists who arrived while we were up there. By and large, the foreign tourists minded their P's and Q's, hiking carefully around the rim and sitting well back from the edge. The Americans, however, stumbled and jumped around as if such things as gravity and the laws of physics did not apply to them. They clambered around awkwardly, sometimes not looking where they were going. One couple had brought their toddlers to the top. TODDLERS< not even with those tacky child leashes on. And that dad had a sling on one arm. At one point when his little daughter (distraught and crying... no wonder: she was probably exhausted from both a long day at the park and the ridiculous climb) tried to dart away from him, he yanked her up by one arm, sat down, threw her over his knee, removed his injured arm from it sling, and gave her several smacks on the bottom. At that point, she had a complete meltdown and began struggling to get away from him. I couldn't watch. Several times, people stumbled and nearly fell over the edge, and I am not even exaggerating. Alissa will back me up on this one (...if she even reads this, which is doubtful. Apparently my blog posts are "too long," but whatever).

Nowhere near sunset time, I'd already had enough. More and more people were arriving at the already-crowded summit, and disaster seemed imminent. I was not about to have my vacation ruined with the memory of watching an overweight, wheezing tourist topple over the side to his death.

Fortunately, heading down the path was much easier than heading up. And we did not come down empty; we brought with us several valuable memories, including:

  • Watching a group of scruffy twenty-something guys hassle a friend of theirs as he flirted with some teenage girls across the rim.
  • Experiencing the moment in which a chubby woman sitting on a rock behind us farted magnificently, the sound reverberating off the surrounding boulders. Her reaction was to laugh uproariously and lament that since her husband had just left to head back down the trail, she had nobody to blame it on. One of the twenty-somethings sitting about ten feet away turned and smiled at her. "It's okay," he said easily, "we're all tired scouts up here."
  • Witnessing three identically-dressed, vapid teen girls come around the corner from the trail and behold the Delicate Arch for the first time. The loudest of the three commented, "It's sooooooooooo delicate....? SO delicate," in the tone of voice which left the listener wondering if she knew what delicate meant.
After our descent from the Delicate Arch, we stopped by the Double Arch--where scenes from Indiana Jones were shot--before leaving the park, grabbing some dinner, and returning to our room to carb up, rest our feet, and (in one case) call our boyfriends.

Oh, and wash our hair with bar soap. Again.


See the full Arches set here



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