Gateway, Summer, 2019, FINAL


Day Two | A Day in the Slow Lane

Exploring Arches National Park


step out of our warm camper van into

crisp autumn air and the dim light

of dawn. The smell of woodsmoke,

coffee and bacon drifts from a nearby

camp. The sides of the van are tattooed

in swirling, interconnected ferns of frost,

the picnic table wears a peach-fuzz layer

of it.

I start a pan of water heating on our

camp stove for coffee and oatmeal, then

walk down the frost-covered sandy trail

to the river. The edges of the river are

frozen, the ice thin as layers of Baklava.

My wife and daughter are still sleeping

snugly in the van.

After about seven minutes of river-watching

meditation I return to camp

where I find the coffee water boiling,

and pour some into my mug and stir in

some instant coffee. I carry my coffee

back down the trail toward the river and

a short ways down the trail I find a flat

rock on which I sit and watch the morning

come to life. A few minutes later sun

rises over the cliff wall and begins to

warm our little camp, much like the hot

coffee warms the cold cup I hold in my

hands while I watch the Colorado River

roll by. A nice

way to start the


I hear the

door of the van

slide open about

the time I finish

my coffee, and

hear my wife and

daughter’s voices

as they step

out into the brisk,

October morning.

We eat breakfast,

pack our camp

chairs and stove

into the rear of the van and drive the

short distance to Arches National Park,

where we will spend the morning and

early afternoon introducing our daughter

to one of America’s great treasures.

The park takes its name because more

than 2,000 sandstone arches exist within

its borders. It was originally designated

a national monument in 1929, and

re-designated as

a national park

in 1971. Some

of the park’s

most famous features

include Balanced

Rock, Delicate

Arch, Double

Arch, The Organ,


Arch, the Three

Gossips, and Double

O Arch. The

road leading into

the interior of the

park passes many

of the park’s famous features – such as

Balanced Rock, The Organ and Double

Arch – but the majority of the arches can

only be accessed by footpath.

We make frequent stops as we progress

deeper into the park, stopping in

some place to take photos and other

places to walk and

run and explore.

The first place

where we stop and

get out, and let Roo

run ahead and lead

the way, is Balanced

Rock, where

we spent 30 minutes


the famous rock

feature at the pace of

a curious (read: easily

distracted by lizards,

chipmunks and

flowers) three year

old. Our next stop is at Fiery Furnace, a

wonderful little stop with trails that reach

like peavines over the sand dunes, along

cliff walls and into shady alcoves and


Our daughter climbs onto a sand dune

spine and down its other side and leads

us into a shady alcove that’s home to junipers,

silver sagebrush, narrow-leaf

yucca, Brigham

team and prickly

pear cactus. Yesterday,

the weather

was overcast and

chilly, but today we

have clear, sunny

skies with temperatures

in the 70s. It’s

an absolutely perfect

day for exploring.

I quite enjoy exploring

at a threeyear-olds

pace. It

consists of numerous

stops, and looking around in wonder

at the new and amazing world. Hiking

with a three-year-old involves lots of

touching, feeling, smelling and full-sensory

engagement with the natural world.

The word itinerary does not exist for

a three year old. She picks dried juniper

gum off a juniper trees, she finds a

stick lying on the ground and spends 10

minutes using it to draw lines, circles

and strange designs on the surface of the


Although the word itinerary isn’t in

a three-year-old’s vocabulary, the word

`cookies’ is, and we use it to entice our

daughter that it’s time to return to the

Wandervan and eat lunch. My wife and

daughter claim one of Devil’s Garden’s

picnic tables while I retrieve sandwich

makings and cookies from the van’s


During lunch, Roo bites her cheese

slice into the approximation of a coyote

silhouette. “I love coyote cheese,” she


After lunch we get back into the Wandervan

and drive deeper into the park.

20 Gateway to Canyon Country

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