Awe in Arches

I used to think the United States was a barren wasteland of boredom. I thought anything west of the Mississippi was occupied by corn fields, and if I went far enough I’d find a beach or two. I was certain everywhere else in the world had far more natural wonders than the US.

It wasn’t until I became a writer that I realized hidden splendors dot this country. I began to dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail, camping in the Sawtooths of Idaho, and exploring the Barataria Preserve in Louisiana. When most people talk about traveling, they want to discover someone else’s backyard, but all too often they forget about the oasis they have in their own.

I tend to be the opposite. I want to know and see everything closest to me. Of course I want to see the world, but part of the world is what’s right in front of you in the middle distance. Arches National Park has always been in my periphery of places to explore, and recently it fell into my direct line of view.

Courthuse Towers

This section of the Courthouse Towers devolves into a canyon like a basilica, a safehouse for those to reinvigorate their soul. The Towers were formed by centuries of wind and water eroding the Entrada Sandstone to create these sheared rock faces.

North Window

The North Window offers a grand view into the canyon valley below. With the South Window on its right, both the North and South Windows combined give the set a new name: The Spectacle. This free standing arch was formed by three main events; first, a deep crack split the formation into different sandstone layers. Second, erosion hammered away at the layers, expanding the crack and isolating the sandstone walls. Last, released tension (water, frost, etc.) from the formations caused the sandstone to crumble and flake, eventually cutting out a hole in the larger formation.

View from North Window

This is the view from the North Window overlooking a vast canyon network. Arches National Park was reserved in 1923 as a national monument by President Hoover. It was not until 1971 that Congress expanded its boundaries and designated it as a national park.

La Sal Mountains

I spotted this view of the La Sal Mountains as I was heading back down the trail from the North Window. As I looked between two bulbous rocks that could only be defined as the nose of The Spectacle, I was overcome with awe and curiosity at the combination of the snow-capped mountains and the desert landscape.

Turret Arch

A castle in the sand, the Turret Arch, is parallel to the North Window. I observed the prominent stratigraphy and erosion lines while wondering at its creation. While sitting directly southwest of the North and South Windows, the Turret Arch is much younger and overlooks a valley dotted with spires and smaller rock formations.

Field of Blackbrush

The layers of Arches National Park are breathtaking. The snowy mountains juxtaposed against the millennia-old stratigraphy of the desert formations, are grounded by the blackbrush not yet in bloom. Nature is always an impressive designer.

The Sand Dune Arches are a natural cathedral capturing light in its walls and imagination in its hallways. Unlike the Courthouse Towers, the Sand Dune Arches are much younger and are in the middle stages of forming arches. However, the sandy path that winds through this area projects a certain beach aspect that is unseen in the Towers.

Delicate Arch

The Delicate Arch lived up to the expectations. I walked around the chasm to get another view of the arch and was floored by the grandeur of it all. Here, ten feet in front of me lay a chasm, 1000-feet deep. In front of me the arch was a window into the wilderness. Behind me, snow-capped mountains. An overwhelming peace swept over me and stayed with me throughout the length of the trip.

Photo by Author

Jeromy Slaby is the founder and project manager of Sonderers Magazine. He is also a freelance writer and photographer who specializes in travel and politics. He is currently working on receiving a BA in adventure education from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. See more of his work here.