Arches National Park, 1 of 3

Devil's Garden

“Living is moving; time is a live creek bearing changing lights.” –Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

The car moved beneath our bodies; my body was rigid with anticipation. We passed the traffic outside of Boulder, slid through a rainstorm in Vail, and just as the sun was setting, we passed into Utah.

The scenery of the drive respectively reflected my mood. In the sweet, intimate beginnings of heightened anticipation, the mountains grew around us. The rivers flowed swift and dropped over cliffs, plunging down the climactic landscape. As we neared the last hour of our five hour trip, the mountains and pouring rain receded in the distance, the land leveled, and a delicate darkness settled around my car, which crawled along an empty road and swerved to avoid jackrabbits darting across the steady beam of my headlights.

We set up camp in darkness. We set up camp in the midst of a furious lightening storm that threatened to rip my thin backpacking tent right out of the ground. And we lay side-by-side, faces nearly touching and laughed at the pure adventure of it all.

In the morning we awoke to red dirt, red cliffs, red air. The world was red, and warm, and pulsing beneath our sluggish bodies, stiff from sleeping on the ground. We ate a hurried breakfast, threw our camping equipment into the car, and drove down Route 128.

128 wound along with the Colorado River. Buses hauling giant white water rafts whipped around the tight curves with the sort of nonchalance that only continuous repetition creates. I had to slow the car to a crawl as we came into the valley and drove at the feet of grandiose exposed rock faces. It was impossible to know if we were still on Earth, or if we had somehow awoken on Mars.

The sky hung crisp and blue against the sienna rocks. The ravens beat the hot air with their slick black wings and soared high above the Colorado, calling out to one another in thick, throaty caws.

We passed dozens of other campsites, tents erected along the water’s edge, large campers maneuvering the tight bends in the road. And I wondered if Edward Abbey ever pictured Moab so full of people seeking adventure.

Arches National Park Entry

When we finally passed into Arches National Park, I felt a deep sense of relief. My grip on the steering wheel relaxed, my brow settled into repose, and I filled my lungs with hot desert air. Since my first read of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire in 2012, I had been trying to get to Arches National Park. But between injuries, school, and a failed job, I never made it. I would get so close, I would be hours away, and then something would happen to keep me from getting in. After my last bad flare up of tendonitis, I wondered if I would ever make it at all. I wondered if perhaps I would have to experience it only through Ed’s books, which left me feeling incredibly hopeless.

But here we were, pushing onwards to Devil’s Garden, my knee tucked into a compression sleeve, and pain free. We found the last open parking spot and began our first hike.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Jane Rittelmann says:

    Lovely, Anja. Glad you finally made it, anxious to hear the rest. Got your postcard, thank you. Grandpa and I were hiking in Estes Park when the birch trees were golden, it was beautiful. Fall has come to Pennsylvania. Your Mom and I will have brunch together today.

    Love, Grandma


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