“Nngghh…” I groaned as I was dragged from my peaceful slumber. “What time is it?” I questioned, voice slurred with sleep.
“Six in the morning,” my dad answered, “so you better hurry up or else we’ll be late.”
Why was I waking up so early while on vacation again? Oh yes, because my family and I had to get to Arches National Park in Utah before 7:00 AM so we could hike the three-mile-long Delicate Arch Trail before the temperature rose too high. It was June 27, 2009, the ninth day of our cross-country vacation, where we would see as many National Parks and learn as much history as possible within twenty-three days. With that thought in mind, we left the Sleep Inn hotel in Moab and embarked on the ten minute drive to Arches National Park. When we arrived at the trailhead, we armed ourselves with plenty of water, two hiking sticks, and hats. Now we were ready to tackle that trail.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
About a half mile into the hike, I realized that this trek was unlike any other I had ever walked before. The definitive path vanished, and the trail seemed to disappear right in front of a massive expanse of gray rock sloping uphill. Faced with this new setting, the only thing we had to guide us were some scattered rock cairns. Before long, we reached the top of the hill of rock, where we were treated to a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. While we were enjoying the scenery, we made sure to drink plenty of water so that we wouldn’t dehydrate, especially since Arches National Park was so hot and dry.
Resuming our journey, we moved on to a more level, red rock. This section of the trail was just as open and majestic as the last section with the gray rock, but we were all thankful we were not going uphill anymore. At the edges of the trail stood huge towers of stone, making me feel extremely insignificant compared to nature.
Finally, we reached the last section of the trail: a six-feet-wide, two-hundred-foot-long pathway with a vertical wall of rock on one side and a vertical drop on the other. No rails, nothing to hold onto. Just thin air separating me from the safety of the trail and a certain doom. Steeling my resolve, I started walking, practically hugging the stable wall of rock on my right side and definitely not looking down on my left side. I was almost shaking, and I could feel my muscles tense up. Finally, forty exhilarating steps later, I stepped onto more comfortable ground. I breathed a sigh of relief, but before I could celebrate my small victory over my fear of heights, the renowned Delicate Arch, which was previously hidden around a curve in the trail, seemed to appear out of nowhere.
I gasped. The arch was beautiful; no pictures could do it justice. I suddenly had a longing to see dawn breaking behind the arch, bathing it in red light. Or maybe the arch at night, framed against a full moon and the stars – more stars than I would ever see in my life. Since we were in a National Park in Utah, where light pollution was minimal, the night sky would probably blow my mind away. Shaking myself out of my reverie, I took a slow, deep breath of fresh air, and smiled. Heading back to the car with my family, I felt better than I had in a while. Nature really did have healing powers.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.