HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

May 28, 2007
Harvard Square Pictorial

Arches National Park

John Turner

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The trail from the parking lot near the Wolfe cabin in Arches National Park up to the Delicate Arch is described as being moderately strenuous. And that's a fair description. It's only three miles round trip, but getting to the arch is uphill most of the way, and some of the time it's uphill at a pronounced slant over fairly rough ground. Most people, when they get to the top say that it's worth the effort, and I agree with that too.
My friend Dan Noel used to say that rock has magical powers. It's very old for one thing. And when it gets shaped as the rocks in Arches National Park are the magic is so palpable it would take a very flat-brained person to escape it. Certainly, it took hold of me on the May day I scrambled over its surfaces to try to get closer to the impulses it was emitting.
I doubt he made the trek up to Delicate Arch very often. It probably took most of his energy just to survive. But I hope he did climb up every now and then. It's an enthralling sight. Most of the time when you see photographs they are just of the arch itself. But the surrounding countryside would be well worth viewing even if the arch weren't there. When you look in the opposite direction from the top of the trail, you see a great sloping cliff face about a quarter-mile across from you decorated with cave-like indentations, which raise a medley of questions in your mind about how nature decides to carve its rocks.
Wolfe was the first settler in the region, who built the existing cabin in 1906, after having lived for about twenty years in a more primitive  version. It's hard to imagine what that might have been. A person would really have to want to get away from the world in order to live how and where he did. But once you're there and let your mind play with the idea a bit, it's not hard to imagine a surpassing peace that would have come with the residency.