By Lee Scott
On my way home to Iowa for the holidays this year, I decided to stop in Arches National Park, Utah for a day and check it out. After talking with one of the park rangers my plan included checking out the Devil’s Garden Trail, Delicate Arch, the Balanced Rocks and other cool geological features in the park. Hiking to Delicate Arch was super cool and resulted in some sweet pictures, and the balanced rocks were really cool to look at as well. However, the real story was when I hiked into the Devil’s Garden.
There are quite a few arches in the Devil’s Garden that I wanted to check out. The first half of the hike went very smoothly, I followed the trail easily to all the different arches and was able to take pictures of some of the local wildlife as well. Eventually, I made my way out pretty far and started losing the trail. After a while, the trail becomes mostly sand and following rock cairns. Following what I thought was the trail I climbed over many different rocks, down some walls, and made my way out onto a large rock fin. I came to realize that I had no idea where I was at and was starting to get pretty hungry. All my food was left in my car so I decided to turn around and head back to my car.
Occasionally I would stop to take more pictures of the wildlife or rocks that caught my eye. Within twenty minutes of hiking back, I had already gotten lost. I walked in a circle for about ten minutes before finding the right trail again. At this point, I was starting to get hungry and tired. I would continue walking and pushing on, the thought of peanut butter on a bagel was the only thing that kept me going. Following the rock cairns again left me wandering all over the trail and getting off the trail several times. Finally, I found myself at Navajo Arch. I knew it was this arch because there was a sign nearby. Because this arch was labeled, I thought I had found the main trail again. I was wrong.
I started to realize I was off the main trail. However, I knew I was on the opposite side of a rock fin. So I thought I would follow the rock fin until it was small enough for me to climb over it to the other side. This particular rock fin ended in a cliff, no way of going down that. To the right of the cliff was a steep slope, but not so steep that I couldn’t climb it. It seemed to lead towards the main trail eventually, so I decided to go for it. This slope was pretty steep so I Spider-Man crawled up it until I could walk, and then continued walked along the slope looking for the trail. Eventually, this led me to another dead end with no choice but to turn around. This meant I had to climb back down that steep slope, which is always a lot harder. For some reason, when I climbed down I decided to face the opposite way as before. Meaning my front would be facing away from the rocks and most of my weight was on my heels rather than my toes. I began slowly climbing down, everything was going pretty smoothly. Then I started slipping. My shoes were losing traction and I started sliding down the slope. I throw my hands back to try to stop myself but it doesn’t work. I continue sliding for another few feet and then go over the edge.
My eyes start widening as I realize what is about to happen. I begin falling and frantically looking for something to grab and where I am going to land. Nothing is around to grab a hold of so I prepare to hit the ground. As I hit the ground I can feel the force of the impact on my knees as I fall forward and smack my face into the ground. Luckily I landed in one of the only sand patches nearby. Once I had landed I took a couple minutes to see if anything was injured, and also just to breathe. Thankfully nothing was hurt so I got up and continued on my way. Not twenty feet from that fall, I had to climb down another drop. Trying to find some sturdy rocks to hold on as I climb down, one of them broke off and sent my arm flying around me. This sent another sickening feeling throughout my body as I had just fallen ten feet. I managed to climb down that safely and continue on my way, eventually making it back to the main trail and even my car with my body intact. I cannot help but think that it could have been much worse, especially because I was by myself. I have yet to tell my mother this story.
Check out the trail Lee is talking about and other great adventures in Arches National Park.