We awoke early this morning, excited to finally begin our road trip in earnest. We ate a little of the underwhelming breakfast at our Days Inn before heading to King Soopers for some pre-driving grocery shopping. We wanted to avoid subsisting all day on convenience store snacks, so bought fruit and carrots and pasta salad.
The girls were impressed by the small foothills visible from our hotel. They were about as tall as Maine’s highest peaks, but I knew they were merely a precursor to what was to come. As we climbed into the Rocky Mountains on Interstate 70, the girls’ mouths gaped wider and wider as the rock soared ever higher in front of us. It was spectacular, for sure, and more majestic than I remember. I’d driven this route many times, but don’t recall being so impressed by it all.
We drove through the Eisenhower Tunnel and over the Continental Divide, then tall evergreen trees gave way to scraggly bushes and a much more arid landscape. The girls and I discussed the possible geologic and atmospheric phenomenon responsible for this drastic shift, as we would continue to do throughout the day as we met with spectacular and diverse formations in the deserts of Colorado and Utah.
Shortly after entering Utah we headed south to Arches National Park. I’d never been, and was looking forward to getting out of the truck and hiking for a bit in the desert. My mother had recommended we do the short hike to Delicate Arch. We purchased our annual national park pass at the gate and drove through Arches. It can only be described with a string of superlatives. The red rock faces emerge from nowhere and extend straight up to the sky. I could have stayed for many hours, photographing the landscape and wondering about its formation. However, we were on a mission and had a time limit. When we got to the parking lot at the trailhead for Delicate Arch, we filled our water bottles and CamelBak reservoirs for the short hike.
It was hot! Nearly 100 ºF and no shade for relief. There was a breeze, which was like having a massive hair dryer constantly directed at each person. The hike was arduous, often ascending for long stretches over solid rock or sand or both. I asked hikers going the other way to please tell me it wasn’t worth it so I could feel justified in turning back to the parking lot and the relief of air conditioning, but they assured me that the effort would be rewarded.
When we finally got to the arch, what I appreciated most was the opportunity to rest. Delicate Arch is impressive, for sure, as are all the formations in the park. The area on which Delicate is perched is solid rock, and shaped like a massive bowl in a skate park. One slip and death would surely come, so being sure of every step is a must.
On our way to my buddy’s house in Draper, Utah, we were driving through canyons in Price, Utah. It was pitch dark and there were few cars on the road. I was tired. The girls were asleep, tired from a long day and many adventures. The stars were incredible, made visible from the lack of light pollution such remoteness provides, and the clear, dry desert air. Then I fell asleep. When I woke up, we were on the right shoulder of the highway, still traveling 60 or 70 miles per hour. In front of me was a plastic road marker, which I plowed through and over. As I turned the wheel to stop our rightward travel into a bouldery abyss and sure death, the vehicle began to swerve and slide on the loose dirt. I avoided oversteering and braking, and tried to calmly steer us out of the precarious and all-too-exciting situation. Good thing for all those hours playing rally sport racing games on the Xbox and Playstation. When I was able to bring the truck to a stop on the shoulder without hitting anything really hard, we all breathed a major sigh of relief. Jenna suggested I take a nap, right where we were parked. I knew that if one of the girls simply talked to me, or sang songs with me, I’d be fine for the hour or so it would take to reach our final destination. Skye switched with Hayley and became my co-pilot. We discussed what Mormon missionaries do, how Kirsten and I met, and what the first few years of our relationship were like. It was very nice to talk to her.
When we got close to Draper it was nearly midnight. Skye ordered us a pizza at Dominos and navigated me there. We got to Brian’s house, fed his lizard, and crashed, this time safely to sleep.