The first time I visited a national park I had just turned 20 a few days before. I was a sophomore at BYU and that 2011 President’s Day trip to Arches changed me and changed my life. It was a spiritual experience. I went with a group of people I didn’t know very well, a few other women from my apartment complex I’d played soccer and frisbee with on occasion. Now, at 25, I would never go on such a trip with almost complete strangers, but at 20 it was lovely and just what I needed.
We hiked around Balanced Rock, the Windows, and went out to Double O (seeing a number of other arches along the way because they’re conveniently located around Devils Garden).
Let’s talk Double O, shall we?
This is the hike to end all hikes for me. You spend a fair amount hiking on rock fins, something that totally blew my mind at age 20 and something that still did during subsequent trips. (I make everyone hike to Double O if we’re in Arches. It’s required coursework, if you will.)
Double O itself is nice (a little anticlimactic even), but the hike as a whole is magical. I’m particularly fond of hikes where you get to see a lot along the way instead of walking for miles around boring scenery only to end up at a stunning scenic viewpoint. Double O is a perfect example of an interesting hike from start to finish.
The next time I went to Arches it was May 2014. I was a few years older and a few years wiser, at least in some ways, but Arches gave me the chance to figure out a few small parts of my life. My friend Taylor and I camped on some BLM land out in the middle of nowhere and loved every second of it. It was on this trip that Taylor and I fell in love with the La Sal Mountains.
The third time I visited Arches it was Black Friday 2015, so really just a few months ago. This trip was very different from the previous two, almost completely because I was going with the guy I had recently started dating. I had never done any sort of day trip with a significant other, and this wasn’t a small trip to me — and not just because we’d be in the car together for 6+ hours that day.
This was Arches National Park. My first national park. The place that introduced me to the true beauty of Utah. A place I’d been going to for years to figure out parts of my life. He’d been to Arches before, but it still felt like I was sharing a particular and unique part of myself with him. Not only that, but I’d been “dreaming” of going on such trips with significant others for some time. And now I had the chance to actually take such a trip. I was both ecstatic and anxious.
It was perhaps the best Arches trip yet, though every time I visit Arches it will probably become the best trip yet. The highlight of that trip was eating turkey sandwiches (made with leftover Thanksgiving meat and rolls) while leaning against a large slab of red rock near Navajo Arch.
Though every trip has been very different, I always plan to take this “same” picture.