Moab and The Delicate Arch


Last summer, we had an amazing 10-day trip to see the Mighty Five National Parks in Utah. Since the parks are spread out quite a bit, we ended up staying at four different places, but the drive, the scenery, and the adventure itself made "living out of our car for the week" so worth it; we had a chance feel like real-life nomads--except, with excellent accommodations.

At 7 a.m. on June 15th, our plane departed Bradley International Airport; after a layover in Denver, our final destination would be the small, homey St. George Regional Airport. When I first purchased the tickets, we were supposed to arrive in St. George at 1 p.m., but three-time changes later, the arrival was moved to 4 p.m. It meant more time waiting for our layover in the airport, but even more, it meant we would be traveling through the evening and into the night to reach our first hotel in Moab, Utah.

When we arrived at the St. George Airport, we conveniently picked up our Hertz rental car, which was just steps away from the baggage claim. (I don't even remember there being a line.)  The gentleman at the desk gave us our key and said the car was right outside the door. It was the most convenient airport ever!  

Then, we programmed Moab Springs Ranch resort into the GPS and off we went! It would be a five-hour car trip (the longest of our trips) to cut clear across the state of Utah from West to East. The idea is that we would begin our Mighty Five adventure in Moab and then drive our way right back down to St. George again--covering all five of the National Parks in the process.

I downed a Five-Hour Energy drink (terrible, I know), and then took the wheel. We only stopped to get off the highway once--to have a yummy Mexican meal and use the bathroom. The rest of the time, we drove, letting our hotel know we would be arriving late (probably around 10:30 or 11 p.m.) to pick up our room key.

As I drove on Utah's I-15 N and I-70 E, I noticed three stark differences between the highways here in Utah and back home. First, on these highways, I could drive 80 MPH, and as it turns out, people do drive this fast. Often, I'd catch myself going a leisurely 65 MPH while irritated cars and trucks whipped by me in the left lane. Several times, my back-seat-driver son would tell me, "Mom, catch up!"  

"I know," I'd mumble, exasperated. It took energy to go 80 MPH--not just gas energy but human energy. I was already exhausted from our nine-hour plane adventure.

The second difference was the vast expansion of the highways. You see, cars and trucks only passed me out when they were around. For most of the trip, we felt alone on the highway--just us and the winding roads, desert, and mountains. I could understand why we were allowed to drive so fast--the roads were long, wide, and empty.  

The third and final jaw-dropping difference was the mountains. Yes, we did have to drive snake-like as the highway cut through them, particularly when we were getting closer to Moab, but the mountains turned into these ginormous medieval castles right before my eyes. I had to wake up my sleeping passengers to ensure I wasn't hallucinating. At this point, the sun had set in the horizon, so the "castles" took on a shadowy, dark mystery against the navy blue sky. They were impressive!

When we arrived at Moab Springs Ranch, an envelope with directions to our bungalow was waiting for us. I attempted to find the bungalow using the directions on my own but quickly discovered I needed everyone's help. It was hard finding the right road in the dark, and we seemed to be either driving in circles or backing out of dead ends. Only God knows how we eventually found it.

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We rested in the morning, ordering a yummy eat-in breakfast and then going for a dip in the resort's pool. In Moab, two of the Mighty Five National Parks are minutes away (Canyonlands is about 30 minutes, and Arches is less than five.)  The goal was to see Canyonlands on Day 1 in Utah, but the bus tours were sold out, and we were still pretty tired. Instead, we toured downtown Moab (which had an artsy, cool, hippy vibe), and big and Little Lew took an ATV tour, which brought them in the direction of Canyonlands. (I was fine passing over that ATV tour as we would be going on another one outside of Zion National Park at the end of our vacation.)  While the boys played in the sand, I went souvenir shopping--buying shirts and stickers of Delicate Arch before even seeing it in real life!

On our second and last full day in Moab, we woke up super early to drive to Arches. Since I couldn't get "timed entry tickets" into the park, our only choice was to enter before the National Park Rangers took their posts. (Arches does not "lock up" at night, so we could drive on through before the park officially opened at 7 a.m.)

My one and only goal was to see the Delicate Arch. I had read the actual hike to the arch (and not just the viewpoint) was a three-mile hike roundtrip, but it wasn't easy. For one, the hike is oppressive during the summer when the sun is up. Second," it contains a significant climb up a steep slickrock slope."  I read about this ahead of time, of course, but I have to say that this description didn't fully sink in until we attempted the actual hike. Starting around 6 a.m., we were able to beat the mid-morning and mid-afternoon sun, but the slope was STEEP and CONTINUOUS. We would climb until our legs felt weak, stop, take a few minute break, and then climb some more, then repeat, and repeat, and repeat. My husband, with his bad knee, had a tough time with this part, and I started immediately regretting the decision to do this type of strenuous hike right at the beginning of our vacation. He asked me a few times how much longer it would be, and in fact, all I could say was, "It has to be close. It's only supposed to be 1.5 miles away."

By the grace of God, we made it up the final part of the slickrock and then climbed upward some more to a narrow path that went higher and higher. (What? I thought in my head. Nobody said anything about this!)  The final part of getting to the arch meant we had to climb up this steep slope and spiral around a narrow mountain ledge. The view was gorgeous but scary, and the narrow ledge meant that it was very difficult to have two lanes of foot traffic--one for people getting there and one for people leaving. I held my breath and practically slithered against the rock wall, too scared to be near the edge, looking down. The higher we climbed, the more the wind kicked up, so now I felt like I was losing my center of gravity, too. What else could go wrong?

As we made it around the corner, there stood the awesome wonder before our eyes--the 46-foot high, 32-foot wide freestanding Delicate Arch--the symbol of Utah--the most recognized geological feature in the world! To touch the arch, all we needed to do was climb over a slight wall and walk out on a wide ledge--simple, right? I wanted to do it, but the wind kept on whipping, my knees started knocking, and my head started feeling light-headed and dizzy (half because of the wind and half because of my fear of heights). To my surprise, my dare-devil husband didn't walk out to it either. The three of us were perfectly content to get some photos with the arch in the distance, and those photos did not disappoint. It was one of the most beautiful and breathtaking landscapes I had ever set my eyes on!

In some ways, the 1.5-mile walk back was easier, but the downhill climb was still tough on my husband's knees. When we arrived back to our car, we celebrated with hoots, hollers, and high-fives! "We made it back alive," we chanted, "without any injuries!"  During our hike, we saw plenty of people give up--young, old, parents with babies and young children. Still, we--our middle-aged, non-athletic selves with cracking bones and failing knees-- made it. It was an accomplishment for the ages, and it made us stoked for the rest of our trip!

1 comment:

  1. We had to settle to see it from far away. I remember feeling out of breath just getting to a point where you could see it from afar! Great job making the hike!


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