"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which
difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." -John Quincy Adams
After our successful if slightly bloody visit to Balanced Rock, we headed over to the Windows area of Arches National Park to see what might happen next.
A few miles off the main drag, the road ends in a loop around a big parking area, allowing for easy access to short trails out to the arches. The lots were jammed full, with some cars parked helter skelter along the shoulders and others circling around like hawks waiting to pounce upon an open space
This is a scenario for which we are well positioned. Since dogs are not allowed on the trails at national parks, our family has developed a divide and conquer strategy. Half of us hike off while the others sit with the dog around the open hatchback of the car, and while away the time by rummaging through the picnic hamper. By the time that group has finished lunch, the hikers are back, ravenous and ready to eat, while the first group bids the dog a fond farewell and heads off on the very same hike.
Further simplifying our plans for the day was that it was hot, and my husband was more than happy to forgo the hike altogether and hang out with Gracie at the car. He was also willing to circle the parking lots while we strode off, promising to flag us down from whatever spot he found when he saw us return from the hike.
With an easy half-dozen arches to choose from, my daughters chose Double Arch, and we prompltly set off down the smooth and level half-mile round-trip trail.
^ Folks streamed back and forth along the way, all of us cheerful and smiling in the sunshine and swept away by the remarkable beauty of our surroundings.
Now this all looked like great fun. And on an ordinary day, I would have been game for a bit of this mountain goat adventure. But with my shoulder throbbing, I knew that any frolicking away from level ground would be a foolish frolic indeed, and I should absolutely stay safe by staying put.
And I began to feel rather sorry for myself.
^ So there I stood in the sunshine, feeling quite old and used up, as I watched the youngsters and middle-aged-sters having their fun, until I noticed someone interesting.
He was not a particularly young man. Probably in his fifties. He was alone. And from the looks of it, he knew what he was doing - his backpack, water bottle, weatherproof clothing, and trekking poles gave the impression of someone who hiked on the regular.
And he walked with a significant disability.
I can't begin to diagnose what exactly was wrong but one foot seemed to twist and drag along the ground with each step. His pace was irregular and labored; he was working hard just to move across the level path. But even when he hit the rocky terrain under the Double Arch, he just kept on moving. Like a desert-dwelling Energizer Bunny, he somehow found a way to clamber up and over the rocks, traveling in a modest circuit through the loose gravel and tumbled boulders, inside the place between the arches. .
In watching his progress, I was transformed. Leaving my self-pity to wither and die in the hot desert sun, I wrapped my left arm tight against my chest to hold my aching shoulder in place, and then I hiked not all the way up to the farthest arch, but just far enough up so that I was inside the plane of the closer arch. Mission accomplished.
As I leaned against a big red boulder, waiting for my daughters to return and climb down with me, I reminded myself once again that age really is nothing but a number. Certainly our bodies may fail us from time to time, but that does not mean that we give up. We keep stepping out, one foot in front of the other, and reach out to take hold of all the excitement and adventure that life has to offer. We may have to slow our pace now and then but we never stop moving.
And that, I realized as I stood back in the shade of our car, munching on a well-earned handful of grapes, I will always remember as the Lesson of Double Arch, taught to me by perhaps the best hiker I have ever seen.
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Road Trip 2019: read all about it.