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Saturday, 1 Feb 2003
written by Teresa

Utah is visually stunning. Its beauty has a majesty and magic that both stills and energizes, lending it to wonderful activity or quiet repose. No list of superlatives begin to do it justice and no description begins to paint anything but a washed out, two dimensional image.

The La Sal Mountains from our camp We are in the near deserted campground at Arches National Park, nearly twenty miles from the nearest town, the silence broken only by an occasional raucous crow, establishing its territory and reminding us that we are mere interlopers. This is the most spectacular site we have stopped on since taking to the road and the view out of Sterling's office is liable to distract him from time to time.

In the distance, the sharp outline of the La Sal Mountains is silhouetted against the horizon, their darkness and contours accentuated by thin snow cover. At day break, streaks of bright scarlet and citrus cloud herald the rising sun, the dawn gradually illuminating the landscape, bringing life to the rocks and reflecting against the snowy peaks. The red sandstones display a full range of colour in the changing light of day, their rounded gentle curves resting easily against the powder blue sky. Rock outcrops, giant building blocks of the desert, fit closely together in enormous edifices or stand as solitary sentinels left alone through the process of time. Between these monoliths lie stretches of gently undulating desert floor, the orange sand further evidence of the elements at work, spotted with the greens of low lying Juniper, Yucca and Sage Brush. At dusk, a pink light gently kisses the mountain tops, making them blush with a gentle luminescence while the rocks glow orange, darkening to deep crimson as the sun bids farewell.

Walking in this land is a slow business partly due to the hard work involved crossing stretches of sand but also because each turn of the trail reveals yet another breathtaking view that demands to be seen and appreciated. Wall Arch Every sense is alive to the experience; ears to the silence, nose to the dry smell of the desert, mouth to the taste of clean air, skin to the brush of a cool breeze and eyes to views that recharge the soul.

Devils Garden Trail is seven miles in which to thoroughly immerse in the experience of the Park. Numerous arches show their different personalities, bridging wide expanses on the skyline or hiding their curves amongst the cool fins. The rubble of fallen rock strews the floor of some while others offer shelter to small twisted pines. The path travels between the sheer, imposing walls of the fins, through cool air rarely touched by the winter sun, leaving a dampness to the sand and deeper greenery to the vegetation. The washes are pitted with small potholes cut by water run off and the way meanders from these low points up, across and along the backbones of the fins into high desert plains with views of the mountains.

The walk up to Delicate Arch is easier in the memory than in reality. The path climbs from the valley floor, out across the bare slick rock, along cliff ledges, eventually turning a corner to present a startling view of the famous arch against a backdrop of the snow capped La Sals. Delicate Arch The arch stands on the rim of a huge steep sided bowl defying the best efforts of wind and rain. It is a much-photographed scene and one that deserves every ounce of attention. The last rays of daylight deepen the rock colour to a rich burnt orange making sunset the favourite time to make this pilgrimage. It is ordinarily an amazing vista but becomes stunningly beautiful in these last moments before dusk. The snow brushed mountains and the presence of so few people makes the experience particularly lovely at this time of year. It is a very special place and one that I am always moved by. I can never imagine tiring of it and no matter how many times I come round that last cliff face, I always feel a deep sense of reverence for the raw beauty before me.

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