You never realize how far 1.9 miles is until you’re walking under the searing desert sun of Southern Utah. Mostly because at the end of that 1.9 miles, when sweat is rolling off you like a waterfall and your hunger-weakened legs can’t possibly carry you any further (not to mention you ran out of water 1.8 miles ago), you remember the car is still parked 1.9 miles back. Because, unlike yourself, the car wasn’t foolish enough to be talked into hiking “just another 1.9 miles” because a crude wooden sign pointed down a dirt trail to something called “Double-O Arch.” It sounds almost yummy, like the golden arches, but this one satisfies your visual appetite. All of your other senses are dulled by sheer exhaustion, including your sense of direction.
In case you didn’t know, Utah’s scenic glory consists mostly of rocks, and an occasional Osmond brother. Everywhere you look there are rocks (even some in comically phallic shapes)! From pebbles to boulders they all fit together to form huge rock-strosities called “national parks.” And the government, in a brilliant display of profiteering, puts a wooden hut in front of those rocks and charges people $25 to drive up and look at them. $25 to look at ROCKS! And you thought the bottled-water makers were clever.
Sure, these rocks are cooler than your average neighborhood rocks but let’s be honest, for $25 you want to do more than just look at them, you want to touch them, play with them, walk all over them and bask in their shady goodness while they feed you grapes. It makes you feel like a regular Mars Rover… at least for the first 0.1 miles. That’s about how long my Florida-adapted lungs could hold up at 5,600 feet. My boyfriend, in an eye-opening disregard for my health, refused to carry me firefighter-style the rest of the way. Instead he took my hand and coaxed me, whimpering, across a long stretch of rock ledge that appeared just wide enough to fit a small infant. Here, I was treated to a stunning view of the back of his head. It’s the only place I dared to look because, frankly, I have a butt-puckering fear of heights and this part of the trail had no wooden rails or metal fences, just a perpendicular plummet to certain death on both sides! Who designs these things?!! If a bee had flown by I would’ve done the freak-out dance that almost every woman does when a bee so much as looks her way and sent us both over the edge. It seemed like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
We passed other people along the trail as they hiked back from the elusive Double-O Arch (including, to my chagrin, a group of 5th graders) and they always flashed a hearty smile – as if to prove they were absolutely NOT dying of heat exhaustion – and chimed out, “It’s not much further!” I began to realize they were all a bunch of two-faced liars. But we did eventually make it to Double-O. Well, my boyfriend did. I rested in the shade of a huge rock pondering how in the heck 5th graders made this hike and watched as he slowly picked his way down yet another perpendicular wall of rocks in order to get to the bottom and walk across a ridge of rocks that led to the OTHER wall of rocks shaped in the form of two O-like rocks.
But I have to admit, even from my distant – but safe – view, it was worth the hike!!! I had been to Arches National Park as a child and it was ten times more majestic than I remember. And about 100 times more exhausting, but that may just be old age.
That was the second part of my nine-day vacation last week. The first part was a four-day romp in Vegas. And – in the interest of keeping my job – that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Btw, the picture at the top of this post bares an uncanny resemblance to my mother. Scary.