The breathtaking views inside Arches National Parks are hard to describe beyond the word, “breathtaking”. The park has safe, easily accessible hikes to its monuments, except to Delicate Arch. Thanks to the other monument hikes, I was unprepared for the “strenuous” hike description in the guidebook for Delicate Arch. A more accurate description would be, “If you made it to Delicate Arch, good for you! You didn’t die! Now the tough part is the descent…”
No joke. The hike up to Delicate Arch is not for the meek or for people with weak knees or for someone afraid of heights or for someone with suicidal thoughts or if you are with someone you wish would die, for you may be tempted to give them a quick shove…just make sure you have the car keys.
You embark from the parking lot along the trailhead and see people who look like ants waaaaaaaay up ahead of you on a slope and think, hell, if they did it, I can do it. Then you get up there and are huffing and puffing and see little kids in Crocs skipping past you, or people making their descent who look a little discombobulated or some careless teenager who found a spot on the rock that sounds hollow and jumps up and down on it, which provides a sense of extreme awareness at how thin some layers of rock are and imagine this kid finding a path to Middle Earth the hard way, and then you realize that you are only half way up to Delicate Arch.
The week leading up to the Delicate Arch death trap hike was challenging. My daughter and I drove a rental truck filled with her personal belongings and furniture to Denver for her to start her first post-grad school job. She crossed over more than a state line as we entered Colorado on I70. The physical part of the move was exhausting, but [as her mom], it wasn’t anything like the emotional adjustment of accepting her transition to becoming a taxpayer. This alone was enough to deal with, but I didn’t have time to catch my breath and accept this new phase of her life, because the next thing I knew, Adam had flown into town, we arrived in Moab, and suddenly I was turning bright red and cursing the fact that I had made it to what I thought was the end of the hike when the rocks suddenly narrowed to a death-defying ledge, barely room for 2 people across, without a guard rail. I was having flashbacks to hiking the Grand Canyon (a tale for another time). As I see this, I start to say out loud, “Are you F*…..kidding me!” but just as I uttered the consonant sound of an “f”, I heard the voice of a young child directly behind me, so I abruptly ceased speaking out loud.
This dangerous ledge was the only way up to Delicate Arch, and at this point, I am so pissed and yet so determined to see the goddamn arch, that I am practically yelling, “Out of my way, people!” among obscenities under my breath.
My legs are shaking, I was emotionally spent, and had a very little reserve. Adam, bless him, quietly walked around me to get to an optimal angle to shoot the arch. Thanks to smoke from the Dixie fire, we were unable to experience clear skies, so our plan to take shots of the Galactic Center of the Milky Way was scrubbed. We opted for sunset and sunrise photos instead.
I did capture a couple great shots of the arch, one of them is on my Instagram feed of a little girl who had made the climb IN A DRESS with non-sensible shoes, apparently for her own IG shots. She posed in all sorts of adorable ways, but the one I captured of her was when she looked up.
To the woman from Brooklyn demanding a helicopter for her descent, if it had flown in, you would have had to fight me for a seat! There are two ways down from Delicate Arch, but one involved death. Since the helicopter didn’t arrive and it would be dark soon, I took my chances on the ledge, but had to dig deep to get the internal confidence to do so without vomiting. I clung to the rock and kept my vision down in front of my feet. I’m grateful that there are plenty of amazing locations to shoot the Milky Way, as there is no freaking way I am making that climb in the middle of the night. No. Way.