Sure, UtahOutsider checked out Lake Powell last year. But we’d yet to visit Moab and parts in southeastern Utah.
With Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire tucked in the glove box, we headed to the country’s park showcase (There are a whopping five national parks in southern Utah – Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Capitol Reef, and Bryce).
Way back then (Abbey worked as an Arches park ranger in 1960’s), the author complained about cars and tourists. I thought I was prepared.
But apparently, I spend way too much time on my own, exploring wilderness on my own terms, without strangers, without noise, without official direction. The scene was a shock to the psyche.
Around dusk on a Sunday evening, we arrived at Wolfe Ranch and trekked up the red rocks to Delicate Arch. Germans, Chinese, Australians, Latinos, Utahns, Texans, and Arkansans trudged, too, with inappropriate footwear, expensive cameras bouncing off their chests, and plastic drink bottles at the ready. (I found this last point particularly amusing since it was just a short hike with temps in the 40s, yet clearly our fellow visitors were respecting park notices to the letter: “Drink at least one gallon of water per day! Carry and drink water during all activities such as hiking!”)
When we got to the famous arch, I considered it as an agnostic might consider an image of Jesus (in a tree, in a cloud, etc.). What makes it any more special than all the other natural wonders around here?
Delicate Arch swirled with human pollution of the audio and visual kind. I listened as tourists murmured, chatted and yelled (“Hey, could you move so I can get a good picture?!” Flashes interrupted the view. Noise was like gurgling water in a dirty, frothing stream.
An exponentially better time was had at Kane Creek, a BLM area south of Moab. We hiked there for a few hours, enjoying sightings of rabbits, hawks, a quiet, ice-encrusted creek and no humans.
Another great walk was found at the foothills of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, also just off Route 191 (Moab’s main street) south of town.
Future visits will improve the perspective and change the lens. I’m looking forward to washing off some cynicism.