Utah 2023 – Arches National Park

Our trekking holiday in Utah combined new areas for me to explore and a return to some old favorites. Imagining any place more special than Arches National Park is challenging in the latter category. While Monument Valley elicited many memories from my youth, Arches marks a milestone in my adult life due to a friend’s book recommendation in 1992, before my first visit: Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. Abbey’s autobiographical description of two seasons as a park ranger in Arches sits prominently amongst the books that have changed my life. Anyone visiting the American Southwest or interested in humanity’s role in preserving the natural environment would be well served by reading this.

The book is often compared to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. It is written as a series of vignettes about Abbey’s experiences in the Colorado Plateau region of the desert Southwestern United States, ranging from vivid descriptions of the fauna, flora, geology, and human inhabitants of the area, to firsthand accounts of wilderness exploration and river running, to a polemic against development and excessive tourism in the national parks, to stories of the author’s work with a search and rescue team to pull a human corpse out of the desert. The book is interspersed with observations and discussions about the various tensions – physical, social, and existential – between humans and the desert environment. Many of the chapters also engage in lengthy critiques of modern Western civilization, United States politics, and the decline of America’s natural environment.

Wikipedia “Desert Solitaire”

The excellent Back of Beyond Books in Moab, Utah, is home to Abbey’s writing desk, on which sits a typewritten manuscript of Desert Solitaire. I stopped for a moment of silence in its presence before taking Joanie out for her first visit to the park.

Arches National Park: Devil’s Garden

To avoid the hordes of visitors that Abbey correctly predicted in 1968 would overwhelm Arches (partly due to his book, ironically), we opted for a long early morning hike in a remote corner of the park. From every angle, the natural bridges, arches, ridges, and fins continually stopped us in our tracks with their unworldly sizes, shapes, and colors. It was a truly marvelous day!

Tunnel Arch

Landscape Arch

Partition Arch

Double O Arch

Dark Angel

I think she found out where Australia came from…

The Primitive Loop Trail

Private Arch

Author: Chris

Until 2019, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia focused on Community Economic Development. Before that, I was a high-tech executive, small business owner, consultant and business broker.

4 thoughts on “Utah 2023 – Arches National Park”

  1. Stunning photos! So great to see that country!
    We were in Arches about 5 yrs ago – unplanned stop driving home from El Moro National Monument area. We said to each other, we’ll spend a couple of hours… 5+ hours later, we had to skedaddle to keep on time with our expected return home.

    Looking forward to your next adventure!

    1. Thank you, Carole. You’re so right – even though it’s a relatively small park, there are so many amazing corners to explore in Arches NP.

      I’m home for a few weeks this summer and trying to catch up on the blog… I’ll be posting very soon about a couple of hikes we did outside but close to Arches, then more Utah, a quick trip back to Namibia, and two new through-hikes in Italy that we did in the heat recently. Life is good!

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