The air was cooling in the desert as the sun had set when we found a nice spot for the night on the side of Highway 128. We parked the bus next to the Colorado River and decided it was probably time for another shower. The desert is really hot, after all. We waded in to the rushing waters and felt the icy chill as water splashed over our heads. We got about as clean as you can get in a river and headed back to the bus for sleep. Headlights of passing cars shined into the windshield as we thought about how we possibly made it here.
“Can you believe we are here in Utah, halfway across the country?”
“Not one bit”
And then we slept.
Arches National Park
The sun was rising as we made our way through town and up to the entrance of Arches National Park. Boasting a thousand Arches, we were excited to see the structures that defy gravity. The bus climbed onto the mesas that we slept below last night. It was another race against time as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, threatening our ability to drive. The scenic drive through the park let us stop at Thor’s Hammer and the Windows Section as we skipped through the orange sand beneath our feet. Double Arch was so big that people used to walk across it. Millions of years of erosion at work lead to these stunning and temporary arches. Next up was the famous Delicate Arch, as seen on the Utah license plate. A quick hike lead us to the less crowded viewing area across a valley.
“Those people look like little ants over there”
“We probably look like ants to them, too”
It was still early morning when we chugged up to the end of the road. Devil’s Garden was a 9-mile loop around a concentrated section of arches in the park. A gallon of water each and a pocket map and we were on our way. Careful to stay on the trail, we wound our way through this desert garden. A close look at the soil beside the trail, and we could see the micro life growing. It looks like black and crunchy dirt, but its actually decades of work of fungi to provide life to desert plants. One step on these little guys could ruin years of progress as the biological crust provides nutrients for native plants.
We trudged through sand and rocks as we viewed 8 beautiful arches along the way. Partition Arch was my favorite. I climbed right in the window and looked out to the park below me. The stunning view left me only wanting more. More arches, more peaks, more hikes. We continued on, following a young family on the same hike. At one point, I looked at my hands to see that my fingers had swollen to twice their size. My rings were about pop off my fingers, so I resorted to holding my hands above my head the rest of our hike.
It was still early afternoon when we finished our hike and climbed back into the bus. We quickly headed down to the visitors center parking lot to wait out the heat. We managed to find the only shady spot in the parking lot and took our time wandering around the wonderfully air conditioned museum. We learned about the history of the arches, and then went back to do it again a few more times as the temperature was about 105 that day. Safe to say we melted in the bus.
Later in the evening, it seemed that another traveler in a classic Mustang was waiting out the heat too. We struck up conversation with Chuck and his two young sons. He seemed to be drawn to the road for the same reasons – freedom from responsibility & reality of normal life. They had also been traveling around the National Parks, but in a smaller ride. They gave us some tips for scenic roads towards Canyonlands National Park and we bid them farewell as they drove off into the red dust.