Off The (Literal) Beaten Path | My Family Travels

Mom and I enjoying the beauty in the Furnace
Mom and I feeling quite accomplished
Beauty beyond imagination

In 2017, my Mom planned an epic trip to Utah for us to conquer the Mighty 5! As we made the long flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Salt Lake City, she shared more details of the trip, including a tour inside perhaps the most beautiful part of Arches National Park. She neglected to share the name of the “hike” as to not alarm or scare me. I am a theater kid, and as such, I spend most of my time singing and dancing away in my fairytale world! I am not a fan of feeling terrified because it just makes me way too nervous. On top of that, “outdoorsy” is a word I would never ever pick to describe myself so going on an unmarked “strenuous” hike really put me on edge.

Just past the turn off for the iconic and stunning Delicate Arch is a twisted labyrinth called the Fiery Furnace. There are no trails inside the Furnace and GPS doesn’t work well in the tall, narrow canyons. The Fiery Furnace is, quite literally, like going off the beaten path. It is named after the bright red hues that bounce off the rocks during sunrise and sunset. It’s the only unmarked hike in the park so, if you want to step even a foot inside the furnace you must have one of 50 permits allotted for each day.

Right away, you start the trek by scrambling up boulders, walking through tall, narrow canyons, and ducking under low miniature arches. I am not terribly athletic so I was literally shaking in my sneakers when we arrived for the hike. I quickly noticed the crazy climbing, tight spaces and intense drop-offs, all of which scared me. I was the youngest “hiker” and as such, I felt very troubled. I was afraid that my novice hiking skills would slow down the group. I was scared that my lack of upper body strength would be a barrier in getting me through some very tight spots. Mostly, I was terrified of slipping, falling, and dying…or at the very least, breaking a leg!

Thankfully, our guide, Krista, was an angel. She never once made me feel inadequate during the hike. Although I never really voiced my fears, I’m sure she must have sensed them. Along the way, she shared fun tidbits of information about the landscape surrounding us. She told us about the junipers that dated back a thousand years, explained how the rock formations were formed and amazed us with the fact that there are more than 200 documented arches in the park. During the hike, we scooted, climbed, slid, hopped, squeezed through tiny crevices, and trudged through rocks and dirt. But in the end, it was all completely worth it because around every bend and corner was another astonishing view or another surprising arch, filled with rich, bold colors.

I can’t recommend the Fiery Furnace hike enough, even for a novice. It pushed me to my limit. I truly didn’t think I could do some of the things I did and, while it was definitely strenuous, I did just fine and only came out with a few scrapes!

Accomplishing this hike is something I’ll hold deep in my soul. I am really proud of doing it in my lifetime. Even more special is that I accomplished it along side of my Mom and I know how proud she was of my perseverance. More exciting is that, in the end, this hike started my love affair with the National Parks, all of which I intend on conquering in my lifetime.

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