Returning to the Arches National Park after our sunrise breakfast, we needed to show our park pass and ID to get back in. (If you are a senior and don’t have a National Park pass, you are missing out on a great deal. The pass for seniors is only $10 and gets you into any national park.) This time through we picked up a map and a newsletter. The beginning paragraph of one of the articles caught my eye:
“Arches National Park is a vibrant, living museum where works of art are displayed, preserved and protected. Some of the displays you might find include tapestries, mosaics, and jewels. As you travel through the museum, see what catches your eye.”
That couldn’t be more true. As we explored throughout the day, we marveled at the many sculptures, some resembling the figures we’d seen in Greece. The architecture was superb. Walls that were straight seemed to form villages or fortresses. One section called the Courthouse even looked like the area of a city that housed public buildings.
The park gets its name naturally from the many arches that are found throughout. An arch is defined by having a hole worn completely through it as opposed to just a rounded shape over a cave.
Landscape Arch was the first one we visited after our sunrise at the Windows. It’s a long trek and we wanted to do it early before the heat of the day. This is a desert and you do have to take precautions with the heat—including lots of water. Several places had drinking water available for you to fill your bottles if needed.
Landscape Arch is not long for this world. One side of it is getting very thin. The last big landmark arch to collapse happened about six years ago. In the movie at the visitor’s center they show the collapse. So sad but as the narrator points out one may collapse but another is about to be born. We spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon working our way back through the park and stopping at all the landmark arches and unusual sculpted landscapes.
What about the mosaics and tapestries? Well as you look down you see all sorts of small plants, lichen, algae, mosses, etc. that make up the crust of the earth. Those are the mosaics. The tapestries are found in the threads of color that run through the walls of the cliffs. The red coming from the oxidizing (rusting) of the iron in the soil. The yellow from organic acids. The blue-green from volcanic ash. All the colors exposed as wind and rain and snow make the beautiful sculptures that abound in Arches National Park.
Oh, lest I forget the jewels. Those are the sparkling stars that shine as a backdrop to the looming sandstone sculptures after dark. We didn’t stay long enough to see those at the park but we did return after a quick dinner in Moab to watch the sunset from the vantage point of Balanced Rock. A lone photographer still stood by his tripod as we left to return to our car. He was waiting for those jewels to come out in the night sky. I’m sure his patience was rewarded.