I like to take vacations for my birthday in August. One year, I convinced my sister NJ to go to Moab with me. We were excited for our vacation. We were camping for the weekend and staying at a KOA in Moab, Utah, and it was our first time going there. Our destination: Arches National Park. I had seen pictures and postcards of the arches and various people posing by the arches and decided it might be fun. NJ went along for the ride.
When we started Saturday morning, the weather was a bit rainy. We thought it prudent to take our jackets – and left the sun-screen. Another item left behind was food – we weren’t really that hungry. But we did remember to bring water.
My car had been suffering with arthritis for some time. Meaning, I could usually roll the power windows down, but couldn’t get them up for hours. I rolled my window down as far as it would go – about 1/4 way and paid our entry fee to the park. The window, of course, didn’t roll back up. A slight drizzle of rain fell and I got a little wet as we drove in the park. We had a map with us and decided we’d follow the road as far as it went, and stop along the way.
Our first stop was at the Windows. Luckily, enough time had passed that I managed to get my window up. I was more concerned about rain getting in than an intruder. Who would want my car?! Then again, the only place my car has ever been broken into is Utah.
We eagerly walked the small hike up to the Windows and took our photos. This was pre-Facebook so the pictures are actually still on my camera. We decided against walking to Turret, as that seemed a little more distant (little did we know what was in store for us!).
Again we drove and I turned on my windshield wipers because of the rain. Somewhere we were to find a formation called “Elephant March,” and I wanted to be sure to take pictures of it for my niece, MM. MM loves elephants. She was supposed to be with us (and her mother) but they got a better offer to do something else and ditched us.
Most of my pictures ended up being various angles of the elephant rock. “Oh, this angle is better, look at that,” (click) “Oh, look at it now!” (click). You would have thought it was a real elephant herd moving.
My list of must sees consisted of seeing the Delicate Arch. Which was our next stop. I looked at the clock. It was still morning. “We’ll be back at our kabin (KOA thinks it’s cute to misspell “C” words. Konfusing kids everywhere, I’m sure!) by two or two-thirty at the latest by this rate!” I exclaimed.
The parking lot to the largest arch was nearly full but we found a spot. “I don’t see it,” I said as I looked at the map again. We got out and read the sign explaining about the arch. We were going to have to hike. That’s okay, we said enthusiastically. After all, we were camping. The sky was still spotted with clouds, so we tied our jackets around our waists. NJ grabbed a bottle of water. “Want one?” she asked.
“Nah, I don’t think I’ll need one,” I said making sure I had my camera. “I don’t usually get thirsty and I don’t want to carry a bottle.”
We locked up the car and walked over to the sign again. One and a half miles. We could do that. I quickly calculated my usual walks. This would be easy.
The two of us started off, so eager, so energetic. We took a small detour to see petroglyphs and an old cabin along the way. An old cowboy had actually lived out there due to health reasons. When his daughter and her family came to stay with him though, she hated the area and convinced her dad to move with them elsewhere.
Oh, the two of us were setting quite the pace. We came to an area where the trail was on rock. We diligently followed the trail markers (piles of rocks). There were also plenty of people coming down and passing us. It was easy to follow the trail even though it wasn’t a dirt path any longer.
We got to the top of the rock and were feeling a bit tired. I discovered NJ doesn’t like walking up hills, she lagged behind every hill we came to. Another thing we started to notice: the clouds disappeared. The sun was beginning to punish us silly people for trying to exert energy. But we had to be getting closer. For it being the biggest arch, I thought it would be coming into view very soon.
The two of us continued on. Then an odd thing happened. We were the only two walking the trail. The path had become a dirt trail again, easier to follow. But there were still piles of rocks to follow also.
We came to a small line of rocks. I thought it was odd because unlike the piles of rocks, these were laid end to end. “What does that mean?” I asked NJ who had just caught up. “This looks like a dam or something.” We were still the only two on the trail so I made a decision. On the other side of the dam was a pile of rocks, albeit, a smaller pile than previous ones.
I stepped over the dam, though I still wasn’t completely sure. We continued to walk a dirt path down and up as is the case when walking in the mountainous desert. NJ fell behind again. After several moments, and climbing another hill, I thought it strange that we had not seen another person for sometime. I thought NJ was about to faint as she seemed to be forcing herself to make each step. I looked ahead and there was still another dip and another larger hill in front of us. “This doesn’t feel right,” I called to NJ. “What should we do?”
Her face registered panic.
“It’s the biggest arch in the park, why can’t we see it?”
She looked around.
“Should we go back and try to find the trail again? (By this time, my trail had become narrower and narrower almost disappearing completely). Or should we keep going? It’s gotta be over that next hill.” Of course, that’s what I had been thinking for sometime. “It’s the biggest arch, why can’t we see it!” I repeated like a crazy person.
NJ was barely moving. I decided to backtrack. It didn’t take long until I saw some people walking towards us. I watched them like a mountain lion studying its prey. They were walking in our direction, looking at us as if we were crazy, then they turned. Turned?! I focused on the tree they turned at so that I could find it when we got closer. I beckoned to NJ to follow me and headed for that tree.
The tree was by the dam we had stepped over. I stepped over the dam again and realized it was telling us to turn. Oops! Silly me. I misread the signs. NJ caught up to me and didn’t look like someone who was in the mood for mistakes. “Sorry,” I said as nicely as possible. But then I realized it wasn’t all my fault, why didn’t she speak up? “I could’ve used some help reading the markers, you know.”
We made the turn and again found the trail. The last part was walking up more rock, it was a rock ledge actually. NJ was behind me again.
Finally, we walked around the corner and there it was! The biggest arch. “That is big,” I said. Why couldn’t we see it from where we were?
We took as many pictures as we could before we started back down. As much as NJ dislikes walking uphill, she loves walking downhill. She took the lead for most of the walk back (except for one hill we had to climb, I passed her. As soon as we were going downhill again, she passed me). I was left to myself to think of our hike, the sun which felt like it was melting my clothes into my skin, how thirsty I was (NJ shared her water but I didn’t think it would be fair for me to drink that much of it, since she was the one carrying it), how my feet were aching, how hard it is to walk on rock (it seemed to jar my whole body), and how I didn’t think I was ever going to see the car again.
But another thought came to me. The thought that I am on this path, this journey of life with trail markers leading me along. If I lose focus, or go after other markers, I could lose sight of my goal completely. I could not even see the arch (even though I had to be close) from where we had stopped. There was only one path to follow to get to our destination, and I made us work harder than we needed to work.
Our experience also reminded me of the John Wayne saying, “Life is hard. It’s even harder if you’re stupid.”
After we got to the car, we decided if we couldn’t see anything without walking, we didn’t necessarily need to see it.
After relating our experience to the family, MM used it in her talk for sacrament meeting. Though she improvised a few facts. We were not “looking for a shortcut,” – we were just too stupid to read the markers – and we didn’t “jump over a wall.” It was merely a step.