Warning – this post is more of a rant!
We had been to Moab nearly ten years ago and had missed the Delicate Arch as it was closed due to severe road damage. This time was stayed at the KOA in Moab and scheduled to bug out at 6:00 to beat the crowds. The Arches entrance is open 24/7 and we drove right through followed by a few cars. The starry skies were interrupted by foreboding towers as we snaked through the legendary landscape in the twilight. We reached the parking area and were thankful that it was only partially full. It was in the 30’s and we had a 1.5 mile hike to get to the arch for sunrise. I have Renauds (really cold fingers) and had my USB hand warmer in my pocket which proved to be invaluable.
We did not realize what an uphill slog this would be and at elevation it proved to be quite a work out. Bob went ahead as he has better capacity than me to get up the escarpment. I somehow passed people and found myself alone; some of the poles were missing the trail signs so I took up tracking footprints in what sand there was.
It’s not a place accommodating to people who fear heights or have physical impairments. After nearly an hour I turned the corner and was blinded by the sun; I felt my way along the narrow trail and reached the viewpoint. There were at least a hundred people sitting along the rocky outcrop and people were already leaving. The problem was the sun comes up over the back of the butte and takes a while to light up the arch. More people came in and many climbed down to the arch itself for look-at-me photo ops.
This is where I had a problem: It’s dangerous to be climbing around the arch and then people kept going out there for selfies and photo ops to the point that those at the viewpoint started yelling at the people to stop so the rest of us could enjoy and photograph from a respectable distance. You can easily get a good picture from the viewpoint including the obsessive me, me, me selfies.
In my opinion, while they are starting to restrict access to the parks anyway, I think they should fence off access to the arch itself – there is no reason to climb on it or deface it. People notoriously deface monuments to the point the Navajo started restricting bags into the slot canyons as they caught a couple chisling away pieces of the canyon for souvenirs.
“Bilagaana” is the term the Navajo use for white man or white man ways and the accompanying greed and egos that create imbalance – this concept now extends to any race that does not respect the boundaries of the land where they are visitors.
We are all just passing through, no one is going to remember most of us in a hundred years but they will remember all the crap we leave.
I got my token I-was-there shot of the arch though there was no moment of zen to listen to the wind and take in the landscape or remind me of a profound moment; instead there was the scolding of children, the insistence on photographing themselves instead of really appreciating the arch, the cavalier climbing along the rock face and in one case almost slipping off, topped off with an overbearing tour guide who wouldn’t stop talking about himself…and it was cold.
My universe shrunk and I felt small – but it wasn’t because I was assessing my existence against a vast galaxy of stars.
We decided to do this trip because the overcrowding is such that even though we visit, we may not really get a chance to truly enjoy these monumental landscapes for much longer.
We hiked back down and on occasion were blocked by people who stood at the narrow passages with little concept that other people were trying to get by.
When we got to the bottom we broke off to see the petroglyphs that certainly didn’t garner as much attention or selfies.
When we reached the parking lot around 9:00 it was full; people parking in RV spaces where they weren’t supposed to, people driving the wrong way in the lot trying to hijack available spots as they opened up (I almost got run over by an SUV). There was a line at the toilets. It was like being in a shopping mall at Christmas.
We stopped off for breakfast at the viewpoint to the Devil’s Garden where it was clear and beautiful and only a few other people. While our experience at Delicate Arch was a disappointment – the landscape was not; another incredible palette conjured up by an imagination I can only sell my soul to the devil to possess.
We stopped by the visitor center for our fridge magnet. Unfortunately the magnet board came unhinged from the wall and we’re having to come up a way to secure it better.
We left waving to the mile long line of cars trying to get into the park. On the way we passed by Wilson’s Arch and of course Wilson was excited.
We headed out over the high altitude farmlands of Colorado to the Four Corners, then onto Farmington by way of Shiprock. We had gone through four states!
Bob was wondering why there wasn’t more signage or accessibility to the rock itself; because it is sacred and we are back in Navajo country – it is an abomination to climb or deface it as it would risk bad mojo to the Dine’ so they don’t want Bilagaana coming in and messing things up. Lord knows rock climbing associations have been trying for years to gain access. We went down a paved service road to get closer and turned onto a dirt roundabout for a better view.
There was garbage everywhere; empty bottles and cans against the backdrop of a sacred monument.
I rest my case.