The scenic route

Against a waning sun, we rode across the line. Out the rear window I stared, at the dimly lit silhouette of my home of the last three months. Under a planetarium of stars, the truck turned left, “Moab 50 miles”.

Out a hotel window I caught my first glimpse of the Martian esc landscape, as a hazy red sun crept above the crimson rocks. Expecting a line at the gate, we drove right through; not even an attendant stood by. In a vacant visitor’s center lot, I found myself drawn slowly toward a wall of rock, pulling me closer, until it filled my horizon. I hovered there, just for a moment, completely engulfed by the magnitude of it all.

On the side of a cliff, we wound our way up. Moab in a distant valley below, and Arches national park right in front. Out my window the sun crept higher, spreading its warmth evenly across the yellow grass plains and the many red walls which sprouted spontaneously from them.

At the end of the road, we grabbed our bags, and set out on foot against a hearty breeze. Through narrow canyons and on top of boulders, we squeezed and wedged our way all over the park. Far from any trail, or any people, our tracks met those of what appeared to be a predatory cat.

An endless vista of sandy plains to my right, and a wall of remaining rock to my left, I trekked on in this valley of time. Lost in the sound of the wind, a horde of bison roared across the plains, with a tribe of Ute natives in close pursuit.

In a secluded canyon, I ran my hands across the cool course rock, slowly advancing the transformation process as I walked barefoot slowly through it’s soothing wake. Up into a deep blue sky I lost track of time, as a hawk swirled around in the infinite air.

Through a desolate canyon, we carefully climbed, throwing chunks of red sandstone into the seemingly bottomless pit. In a narrow corridor, we somehow got passed, by a vintage jeep and a driver who showed no regard for the ledge. At the top of the road we took in the view. The endless sea of red rock. The daunting depth of the canyons. The towering snow-covered peaks on their fringe.

Perched in an arch, I watched the sky erupt in an aura borealis like sea of pastel blues and pinks. And as the colors faded into a blanket of stars, I thought about how amazing it is to experience the west. To feel the course texture of the arches with your very own hands. To wander into the desert with no time or no map. To make your own path, and to live your own experience. And to realize that even after all these years, the west is still wild.

Two days later I sat in my bedroom, frantically unpacking, and then packing again. On the cusp of an international move, our little detour cost me two days of preparation time, but as I now sit here at my desk in Korea, I so fondly remember that time we took the scenic route.