Tuesday, June 17, 2014

US Hwy 191: Arches National Park, Moab, UT

Arches National Park is a stunningly beautiful place, a battlefield between geology and meteorology. The result is immense, stellar formations of sandstone, once thrust up from below by deep geologic forces only to be perpetually beaten and carved from above by wind and rain.

The land is constructive, the sky is destructive. Mother earth creates, father sky molds and shapes. The allegory practically writes itself.

The park is named for its iconic arches, of which it is by far the largest collection in the world.

Far more numerous — and no less beauteous — are thousands of monoliths, easily seen from afar or inspected more closely from roadside turnouts. To a few, walking paths give direct access.

I was here 32 years ago during a road trip with my friend Ken. We camped and hiked extensively throughout the park, and I was blessed to be the beneficiary of his vast geological knowledge.

The rock formations may be ever changing on a geologic time scale, but they look the same to me. That's undeniable evidence of temporal relativity. Time is different for vistas and visitors.

What does look very different to me is the park itself. When once we were two of a handful of people in the park, today there were hundreds, maybe thousands. Where once we had the access road to ourselves, today it was impossible to find a parking place in many of the viewpoint and trailhead lots.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my return visit. Seeing what I'd already seen and knowing what I already knew, it was less of an exploration and more of a reunion. Like most reunions, it was less about observing how the rocks had changed and more about recognizing how I have changed. In that sense, it was a visit more internal than external, more meta-physical than physical.

Fresh off my reunion in Arches, I'm going to skip making a similar return visit to nearby Canyonlands. It's a good park, but my sense is that it would be anti-climactic to double-dip the nostalgia.

Instead, I'm going to bum around a bit in touristy Moab and do a few chores -- like try to get some of the wind-blown dust from the past few days out of my camper -- before continuing north tomorrow… Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

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