I’d been waiting to see her since the summer, when I sat on a rockfall overlooking Mount Hood and read a completely unrelated account of the desert by Edward Abbey. I’d felt guilty about bringing some a geographically and elementally foreign book on my hike through the volcanic mountains and valleys of Oregon, but the disconnect made Abbey’s descriptions somehow more vivid, more real.
While in front of me was Mt. Hood, in my mind was Delicate Arch, and after Abbey's reckoning of it, I knew I had to see it. He said: “The beauty of Delicate Arch explains nothing, for each thing in it's way, when true to it's own character, is equally beautiful. If Delicate Arch has any significance it lies, I will venture, in the power of the odd and unexpected to startle the senses and surprise the mind out of their ruts of habit, to compel us into a reawakened awareness of the wonderful-that which is full of wonder.”
Abbey is a contrarian. He constantly complained about the crowds and concrete of Arches National Park. He wanted Arches for himself, the snakes, and the birds. He wanted to drink coffee out of a tin can on the steps of his trailer uninterrupted. He wanted to wander through the backcountry finding wild horses and salt creeks and derelict cabins. He wanted his readers to fight big government, small-minded men, and the corruption of wild places.
But watching the slope of people walking up hills toward Delicate Arch, I think he would’ve been secretly pleased to see the world of cars and planes and iPhones and earplugs and credit cards sit and pay attention to Delicate Arch and the La Sal Mountains that rise beneath it and the bowl below it. Red sand and dust and snow and a smattering of people sitting outside in the cold and the wind just to witness the world.