Big Arch, Small Ambition

Delicate Arch

Over the weekend I made my fourth trip to Arches National Park in Utah.

The first trip was when I was nine years old, with my dad and my sister. I remember the hike to Delicate Arch as a forced march.

A mile and a half! Do we have to?”

Yes, we did.

I lagged behind grudgingly, and silently mocking the English accents of the tourists behind me. I’d have slogged even more slowly if not for them. I didn’t want them to pass me.

There is no view of the arch until you get to the end of the trail. When I rounded the final corner, my dad and sister were there. Wow! What a view.

Dad and me at delicate arch
My father claiming his trophy

Separating us from the magnificent arch were some sandstone boulders forming a natural guardrail — easily surmountable. Beyond that was a steep sandstone slope curving to the left, descending to the right, and ending at the base of the arch, maybe 50 yards away. Beyond the arch was another steep slope or cliff of unknown depth or danger.

“Can we go down to the arch?”

No. We couldn’t.

Two more times I tried to get close to the arch. In 2007, my traveling companions waited in the parking lot with the engine idling and the A/C running — unwilling to walk five minutes to one of two viewpoints where the arch can be seen at a great distance. In 2009, I managed to drag my stepdaughter half-a-mile to the other unsatisfying vantage point.

Last Saturday I was in Moab, traveling alone, and short on time. But I hit the trailhead at 9 a.m., and power walked to the arch in about 20 minutes. I was surprised how much of the trail I could remember from when I was nine.

When I reached the end of the trail, there it was, just as I remembered it — and my dad was nowhere around to tell me what I couldn’t do. I climbed down and used my camera’s timer to take this shot.

Delicate Arch
So there!

It was one of those times when I don’t take being an adult for granted. I was able to just do what I wanted to do — no one telling me I can’t; no one to inconvenience with my whims.

I hiked back to the car, and got on the road back to Flagstaff — back to the flip side of being being a grown up — but with my inner nine-year-old finally satisfied.

Featured Image: Lucas·G (CC BY-SA 4.0)


  1. Waterock Reply
    May 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Ted, That's great! And ironically, I was doing all kinds of things I used to do with my father in Glenwood Springs.
    On another note, If you haven't been to Natural Bridges National Monument, I recommend it.
    Nice camp ground and the hiking trail through the White Canyon is wonderful. And if you are into a longer back packing trip go to the Grand Gulch not far away.
    An old roommate of mine used to go out there every fall and I would tag along sometimes. Love it.

  2. Rron Reply
    June 15, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Great read! I eat dessert before dinner quite often.

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