The light was exactly right, too, shining right into the whole structure. Of course, being so close to the road, the place was just swarming with people, and the trail went right into the arch, so that people could climb up the base and onto the various arms of it all.
I had Jet run between us with the camera so that I could get this picture of John. That was pretty cool. At one point, I just lay down on the stone, staring straight up at the sky between stone, and resting for a bit. We were all pretty sore from the long hike on Tuesday, so it was nice to just rest for a while.
We walked across the center island to get over to the Windows trail, and got to see Turret Arch, the two Windows arches. It was a very well paved trail, and people were wandering off it in all directions. Some of them climbing up into the arches when the trail end was clearly marked before the stone of the arches. Jet asked us, "Why do they do that?" And neither of us had a particularly good answer. The sandstone is so soft, that all these people were going to wear it away, doing damage not only to the stones themselves, but to the soil and biosphere around them. There were signs at all the sites explaining that the crust on the soil was actually a colony of living things that supported the trees and plants so that they could survive this kind of desert.
The dying trees on the places where people had gone off the trail was mute testament to what kind of damage people were doing without really even thinking anything other than, "I want to climb that!"
Luckily it wasn't summer. It was spring, and cool enough that it was actually a pleasant hike nearly straight up slick rock and stone. Most of it was solid footing, compared to the Devil's Garden, but it was nearly straight up. What amazed me was seeing men in business suits and dress shoes without a bottle of water in sight, or dozens and dozens of families with kids and maybe one water bottle between them. Admittedly, the further up we went the fewer people there were. I saw people stopping all along this particular slope up, hiding in any bit of shade they could find, and one dad giving his kid the last of his water just on the way up.
So we edged by on the inside of that crazy path. There were no rails or guards, just open air drop to the one side and stone wall on the other, but when we got around that corner, and up over a rock edging, there it was... the Delicate Arch, sitting on the rim of a steep cup of stone. And right beside us was a Ranger, moving quickly, with a full pack and harness and belaying gear.
The steep slope of that basin was, on one side, a very steep drop and a wall of stone down to the bottom of that cup. And some woman had stupidly gone down that wall and was stuck right in the middle of it. Had been stuck for the last half hour, and was a spectacular warning for all the kids with their parents. There was a man above her and a man below her, and the ranger had to secure a line and belay down to her in order to get her out of there. The good thing was that there was a bottom to the basin.
Jet and I stood next to the Arch, looked over that slope and Jet said, "That's the Slide of Doom." I agreed.
The arch itself was amazing. It's the only one we saw that was free-standing. It wasn't part of a wall, or, as Jet put it, "It isn't a hole in a wall, it's a hole in a rock." The off-kilter aspect of it was especially evident from the far side. Yes, both John and I went out on to that sloped ledge to get a shot, and John got the better shot because he put away the camera to concentrate on just getting out on it as far as he could.
The walk back was good. The ledge was more nervewracking on the outside edge, and the downhills were a little harder on my knees, but it just took a lot less energy to go down than to go up. There were still hordes of people coming up the slick rock, but we took our time, and got a good look at the valley and the meandering arm of the Colorado at the very bottom. The earth was copper oxide green, and the water murky and green as well. There were petroglyphs off on a rock on the hillside, and we took a look there as well.
We were pretty tired by this point, so decided to just do the few things near the entrance of the park and head out to other places tomorrow. We had to get out of our Moab hotel because they didn't have any room beyond the two nights we'd stayed there, so we had to find new accommodations further into Utah.
It was later in the day by then, and the sunlight was starting to slant toward the West. It's amazing to me how the changes in light really affect how things look in these canyons and valleys. And what a difference a few minutes can make. The photographers of the area really seem to know that as well, as the last place we stopped was the place most people hit first: Park Avenue.
When we got to Park Avenue, Jet was done for the day, so we left him with a book in the car, and John and I went down the staircase into the valley. There were half a dozen photographers, with full tripods, huge lenses, and lots of equipment all up and down the staircase, all pointed at this particular view at exactly this time. I wish I had a better eye for why they'd chosen that particular instant, but I really like what we got! I even set up the tripod and used the high contrast multi-shot spread function.
When I got back to the car, I had 22,000 steps and another hundred flights of stairs. That was pretty cool. I really am enjoying having the fitbit to see how well I'm actually doing.
The best thing about the hotel, though, was an indoor pool. As a family, we hadn't been swimming for a very long time, so we all dove in and enjoyed the waters. We all showered and were starving after.
John's brother, Walt, had been to Monticello before, and one of the unique features was a Taco Time! It's actually a Mexican restaurant that started in the Northwest! So it's not particularly authentic, but it was very familiar to us after a decade in Seattle. There are items on its menu that aren't anything like real Mexican food, but they're good American-Mexican food, and have always had a standard for using fresh ingredients when possible and making a good deal of the items in-house. They make their own shells, salsas, and other things every morning at the restaurant.
It has been years and years since I'd been able to eat at a Taco Time, and given the other range of restaurants in town, we decided to just chance it eventhough it was actually a part of a Shell gas station! *laughs* We went and weren't disappointed. Jet and I had the Crispy Beef burrito, and I had a Supreme Soft Taco. Jet added a crisp beef taco to his menu and John had the crisp bean burrito along with a new menu item, the carnitas enchiladas, and they were amazingly good. The crisp burritos are kind of like a flour tortilla taquito, crunchy on the outside and tasty on the inside. The carnitas enchiladas were lovely, rich with pork flavor, spicy with green chili, and the fresh veggies were really good. We were all very happy with our dinners.
The beds were great, too, hard enough to support the back, but soft enough my hips weren't complaining, and we were so tired after the last two days, we slept well. I ached pretty badly, but we had a plan for Thursday on how to ease the aches.