Arches

(Inspired by: Nick Roberts Peru)
DECEMBER 31, 2015

Our world is beautiful. Initially, straight forward as that statement may seem, I’ve resolved what is straight forward always holds a much heavier underlying description and analysis than what lies at the surface level of just words themselves.

My sister, Dad, and I took a short 2-day trip down to Southern Utah. The trip from Salt Lake City is a scenic 4-hour drive through slithering canyon roads in the Rocky Mountains, seemingly endless grass valley straights, and mammoth red rock formations. Aside from the ambiance of the drive itself, the destination, Arches National Park, located beside the quaint town of Moab, UT is a spectacular enigma incomparable to that of much else. The entrance to Arches National Park is surprisingly anticlimactic for the beheld interior elements of the park. We enter at the very lowest point between two 1,000+ foot walls of red rock that funnel the freeway and the national park’s visitor’s center. Within less than a quarter mile from the entrance, we ascended the platform to get to the top of the base foundation of the red rocks’ formations. Upon reaching the top of this foundational cliff, vast amounts of towering formations and red rock faces come into focus. The clear blue sky and deep purple and white of the shadows and snow scatterings perfectly highlight the rocky garden of red for as far as I could see. We first committed to hiking Delicate Arch. When we started the hike, all we could see were the flat rolling faces of smooth red rock and grassy patches covering the beginning portions of the trail. About half way into the hike we climbed an enormous inclined smooth rock face that ascends us up into a much higher area of hiking lands. The last portion of the hike is a small natural path that winds upward in the shadows, right on the edge of a massive rock wall.

Path

I love how the entire hike goes without seeing the Delicate Arch; as if nature had purposely created that shadowed cliff path to inculcate anticipation in preparation for the end revelation of its own magnificent artwork. The arch stands high upon this cliff, mysteriously aloof from any other rock structures. It is a door frame that forever remains purposely door-less as if inviting the world into the blue of the sky. The delicate enormity was breathtaking and yet eerie in an in-explainable way.

As we drove to the next momentous structure we stopped to view an elaborate collection of rock formations that looked as if they had been the creation of a child’s red mud drizzle castle. The collection is known as Devil’s Garden. Formed from the millions of years of weather and elemental gardening efforts, the sculptures stand bundled like a springing of tulips from red flatness.

Devil’s Garden

Next we went to explore The Windows. It was then sunset and drastically below freezing. The Windows were lit up a fiery gold red and the blues of the shadows richer and darker that had been earlier. These formations were, in fact, windows formed within the massive walls of red rock. I had tried to free climb into a high up tunnel like window, which wasn’t the best idea at the time given the ice, temperature, and potentially treacherous fall; so my attempted tunnel excursion led me to about half way up and ended with a large scrape on my chin thanks to the so welcoming climbing conditions. The Windows were in their own way, and yet somewhat similar to the arch, eerie.

Windows

I was looking, not through my own eyes, but through the eyes of these giant cliffs at the setting sun. Eyes of time. The night to come was to be a mere blink in the time witnessed. The years, events, and creations The Windows have looked out upon are unfathomable. We as people were and are nothing in the grand extent of the world. So infinitesimally insignificant. We consider our lifetimes, our actions imperative within this world, and yet it’s the world’s grand simplicities that truly add the value to the time itself.

The next day we made the upward trek to Dead Horse Point. Dead Horse point is a separate National park on the opposing side of the two lane freeway divide. The point lies upon a 4,000 foot high red rock plateau surrounded by the Colorado River and the Green River. The Plateau itself is called The Island in the Sky. Once having ascended the winding road upward and onto the plateau, the name is immediately evinced. The top of the plateau reveals long rolling pastures. The island’s edges reveal a rather less forgiving surrounding of 4,000 foot vertical rock faces. Dead Horse point exists at the very edge of the Island in the Sky overlooking the connection of the two rivers below. The myth behind the morbid name of the point was relayed to me by my father. The wild horses of southern Utah would roam and graze The Island in the Sky and the surrounding plateaus, however when cowboys came to raise cattle in the area atop the plateaus, competition between the feed for the cattle and the horses became a detriment. Thus, the cowboy’s solution was to rid the area of wild horses. The horses were fiercely herded onto the point and with nowhere to flee, were forced to run straight off the perilous island edge. The Island and its surroundings are enormously beautiful.

Eastern side of Dead Horse Point

This must be why nature in its purest form has continually been the subject of artists since the dawn of time. Trying to replicate the innate grandeur of the non-replicate-able is profoundly impossible by the attempts of mankind. All of this, formed by conditions of such catastrophic proportion can be so blissfully serene in the creations of their destruction. There is something so exquisitely fulfilling in the mystery of untouched earth. Knowing that man, despite the impact we ‘think’ we hold on the worlds outcomes, is and means absolutely nothing. What more can we do but relish in the art that so constantly encapsulates us. Insignificant in the eyes of time, and actions of no further contribution than for selfish appeasement, we wander. If I am to be forever a wanderer among this radiance, then I will be one who holds my value in time through the moments I hold within this beauty. A contribution of joy and addition of perspective.

Note going into the New Year…
“It’s the journey, not the destination” (Cort Pouch) … “and it is but the moments of enigmatic existence that we shall value in possession within this journey” (me).