The Art of Exploration · a diary of day trips, natural places, and miscellaneous adventures

The Hike to Delicate Arch

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 in Utah
The Hike to Delicate Arch

Have you ever had that dream where you’re hiking to the Moon? Maybe not. But anyway, it was a bit like that, like hiking to the Moon. Or Mars perhaps, because it certainly was a long way. And red.

You can view Delicate Arch from two routes. One route involves a paved road that ends at an empty parking lot followed by a short hike through flat terrain. We didn’t choose that route. Instead, we chose the route that involves a long, steep hike. Our particular hike was made longer by the fact the trailhead parking lot was full and we were forced to park a further half-mile down the road. Additionally, our particular hike was made steeper by the fact that it was as hot as hell.

Throughout the hike, you don’t see Delicate Arch at all until the last few steps of the hike. It’s one of those facts that’s printed in all the guidebooks: that the trail is so carefully positioned as to take your breath away when you round the final corner and come upon the arch.

What this means is that you keep hearing this factoid repeated like some kind of mantra as you encounter fellow hikers:

“How much further to the arch?” You ask a fit fifty-something man as he pauses to take a drink.

“Oh, about a mile, a mile and a half. Did you know that you won’t see Delicate Arch at all until you turn the last corner of the hike? They planned it that way. The people who designed the trail.” The man smiles a wide smile and lifts his water bottle in the air, toasting the fact.

You frown and hike on. You hike over a vast slab of slickrock. You hike onto a tabletop of scrub and sandstone. You hike along a ledge that curves around a butte.

The heat is getting to you. You start to hallucinate. Random lines from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid run through your head:

Don’t tell me how to rob a bank. I know how to rob a bank.

You start reciting some of the lines out loud. People begin to look at you funny:

Kid, the next time I say, Let’s go someplace like Bolivia, let’s GO someplace like Bolivia.

Finally—when you think you’re just about ready to crack, when you’re convinced that Butch has tied too much dynamite to Mr. EH Harriman’s safe and Joe Lefors is crouched behind the big sagebrush to your left—after all that hiking and all that frowning at kind-hearted hikers, you turn the last corner of the trail to find out it was worth it after all:

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