Pulling up to Arches National Park, our hopes to use grandma’s senior lifetime pass were again foiled. In some crazy confusion, one line of the gate was left open but unmanned. In retrospect, we basically snuck into the park for free. Probably illegally.
Never-the-less, within minutes, we were stopped at a look out point for the Moab Fault. The somewhat steep and smooth, slippery rock was a natural pairing for my not-so-hiking-quality flat-bottomed Chucks and pricey camera in hand — but I made the trek to the top anyway.
Standing as high as possible, I soaked up the panorama view of the highways we’d just driven. A plaque nearby pointed out landmarks in the distance and explained the formations that had evolved over millions of years. I tiptoed past tourists near the rock’s edge and made my way back to the truck to share the details.
We cruised through the park in search of famed natural stone arches — stopping for photos along the way but not finding what we were looking for. Finally, we decided to drive toward a camp site in hopes of finding a picnic table for our Subway feast. Instead, we found a small ton of arches.
Parked with a near-perfect view of the surroundings, we unbagged our sandwiches and enjoyed lunch in the cool air conditioning of the truck. Rocks towered around us while tourists disappeared through them like ants in the distance.
Grandma had ensured us a few times that grandpa was not a fan of Subway. Upon finishing his sandwich, he offered rave reviews. We may have had Subway another 3 or 4 times before the trip ended.
We continued our journey through the park, now in search of Delicate Arch — the iconic arch used in much of the national park’s promotion. Finding its trails and lookouts, I chose a quick hike up some rougher terrain — still in my Chucks — while everyone else explored the restrooms nearby.
There are some very special things to be said about the tourists that hike some of these convenient and, by all technicalities, easier paths. I’ve never seen so much shiny, expensive gear in my life. Even outdoor mega stores don’t carry an inventory capable of single-handedly fueling the brand-perfect vacations of hyper competitive parents.
More than half way up the 10-15 minute hike, I passed crying children and their negotiating elders decked head-to-toe like Nike-sponsored athletes. I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. Here I was, in my flat-soled shoes, skinny jeans and tank top — in no way looking the part — but adventuring none-the-less.
Thoughts spiraled in my mind: no amount of gear will help you if you don’t actually want to get to the top. Nothing says you need a $400 tent in the back of your mom van to be able to see a cool sight. Maybe a stick of deodorant in the glove box, but that’s about it. For $4, you too can see the world and not stink when you’re done.
At the top, I claimed a few photos and stood for a minute to breathe while not looking through the lens. Older hikers with walking sticks climbed up behind me with a smile of relief and casual “hello.” You can always recognize the people that do this for the love of it. The shiny gym shorts of the extreme sports family were no where to be found.
Walking downhill, I soaked up my always-favorite part of a hike — looking refreshed and inspired while everyone else struggles upward in the opposite direction. I peppily made my way back to the truck and hopped in — fishing for my deodorant at the bottom of my back pack.
“I think we’re done seeing rocks,” I heard from somewhere in the truck. “Ok,” I laughed. “On to the next one.”