July 20th – Earth Adjacent

We woke up a full 8 hours later feeling rested and refreshed. Sixteen days of continuous adventure, and our laundry was starting to get pretty gross. We opted to stay in an RV park in order to have access to laundry machines and wifi. We went ahead with the place Marco was staying, and went to set up our tent over in the tent corner of the park.

RV parks are pretty awful for tent camping overall, and this one was particularly bad. In Pagosa Springs, at least the tents had substantially separated from the RVs, but here the tent spaces were incredibly small and tightly packed together, and pretty well surrounded by RVs Oh well, it had bathrooms, running water, laundry facilities, and wifi. We planned on spending the next couple days exploring national parks anyways, so hopefully we wouldn’t have to spend too much time here. The ground was very hard, as well, and we ended up bending up the last of the remaining flimsy stakes that had come with the tent.

We got tipped off to the presence of a pizza buffet in town by the lady working the desk at the RV park, and headed there for lunch. Our plan was to go spend all day in Arches National Park, so we would need a lot of fuel to keep our bodies going. We gorged ourselves on pizza and salad. I was actually a little uncomfortably full by the time we left, but no matter, there was a good bit of riding to do before I would need to hike at all anyways. We swung through the gear shop to pick up sturdier tent stakes and a small hammer before heading out to the famous national park.

Using our annual parks pass, we rolled right through the entrance. The adhesive holding my helmet cam to my helmet had been knocked loose, so I handed the camera to Gianna to hold while we rode around. Arches National Park may as well be an alien world for how much it resembles the rest of earth. Over 2000 natural sandstone arches fill the park’s nearly 77 thousand acres. Landscape Arch spans 290 feet. Like many of our national parks, it is a place where everything is in such grand proportion you can’t help but feel how tiny you really are. The artistry of Gaia so vastly dwarfs the creations of man: A masterpiece 300 million years in the making, never to be complete.

We’d bought some blunt wraps in Durango, but hadn’t had an opportunity grand enough to warrant their use yet. This qualified. For those perhaps not versed in the marijuana culture, a blunt is basically a cigar formed with a tobacco leaf wrap around a filling of ground cannabis. Due to the size these wraps come in, a blunt usually contains a very large amount of weed, plus the small amount of nicotine in the wrap potentiates the cannabinoids contained in the ganja. I usually try to save such a smoke for special occasions, because I’m not really a nicotine user, and they’re pretty expensive to roll, on account of how much bud goes into them. Being in such a sacred place as Arches qualifies a special occasion.

I’m sure the reader has by now noticed that we smoke a lot of pot. At a minimum, we smoke in the morning, before meals, and before bed. This is what I consider our medicinal smoking, and consumes about .25g per day per person. Aside from it’s medicinal benefits, I consider Cannabis to be of tremendous spiritual value. When I partake of the essence of this plant in places of great beauty, I feel the undeniable interconnectedness of everything. It is a divine feeling of communion with existence, and peace with the world.

We rolled into the parking lot of Balanced Rock, and walked the short distance to stand in it’s mighty shadow. The balanced rock feature is total 128 feet tall, and the rock for which it is named is the size of three school buses. Standing back in appreciation, we sparked the blunt, passing it back and forth a few times before putting it out to finish later. After all, 4:20 was coming up soon.

Feeling elevated, we took off down the road, cruising slow to take in as much of the nature’s grandeur as possible. The landscape is of such epic proportion and unique composition that it was akin to floating through a dream to ride down the narrow park roads. We rolled into the viewing area for a particularly beautiful sculpture (See image “Moab arches420”) and found some shade to sit in. We sat in silent wonder as time oozed ever closer to 4:20pm. Again, for those not familiar with the culture, 4:20 is the traditional time of weed smoking, and the number 420 is widely used to refer to grass. Glancing at my iPhone display, I see the numbers change, and I relight the leftover blunt before passing it to Gianna. It’s probably 15 degrees cooler in the shade where we are than 10 feet away in the sun. The breeze feels good against my skin. Perhaps 20 minutes later, we have smoked the rest of our sacrament. I catch Gianna’s eye. “Hike?” I say. She nods, and we return to the bike. Off to see the world-famous delicate arch.

It actually takes quite a while to get between features in this park. It’s just so damn big. Like I said, almost 77,000 acres. We had opted to leave our jackets behind for the day. The national park roads were well-paved, low-traffic, and low-speed limit, making for relatively safe conditions, and a fairly low likelihood of crashing. A nice meandering ride later, we arrive in the parking for the delicate arch. It was perhaps a mile hike, mostly uphill, to a viewing point for the arch. There is also a much longer hike that goes to the actual arch, but that’s an all-day sort of hike that would have required us getting there several hours earlier and only doing that for the day. The sun beat down harshly on us, but we came prepared with long sleeves and hats, and I avoided exacerbating the severe sunburn I was still rocking from a couple days before. Again, I was dumbfounded by how completely otherworldly everything looked. How is it possible we had gotten here by road?

We headed out from delicate arch to go see the Devil’s Garden feature. Rounding the final corner before the bridge out of the Delicate Arch area, we were presented with a long line of cars backed up, and a ranger directing people to cue up. All the rain the last couple nights had finally washed down to here, and the road out was completely flooded. We had run out of water on the hike, and had in fact been on the way to refill it at our next stop. Naturally, the clouds dodged carefully around us overhead, being careful not to bless us with shade. It looked like it would be quite a wait, so I killed the engine, and we took our gear off. Much as I found all these RVs annoying for blocking my view of the gorgeous scenery, I found envy rising up inside me for all the people who had something to take shelter in while we waited out the flood. The ranger present seemed to think it could be overnight. Maybe we’d get to camp here after all.

After sitting around for a bit, we were approached by a friendly man who invited us into his huge coach-style RV. They had air conditioning and water. We graciously accepted his offer, and took shelter in the mobile mansion. Turns out he’d spotted my bike, and wanted to talk bikes with me. He was traveling with his family, doing a whirlwind tour of the US over 10 days. Non-stop RV driving, pretty much. The kids were doing the junior ranger program. An hour went by and the water showed no signs of receding. They were going to microwave some chicken nuggets for dinner, and invited us to join them. I was actually pretty hungry at this point, so I accepted. Sometimes you just eat what’s available and free. The interaction was pretty interesting, as it appeared we were the first encounter they’d had with “real life hippies”, and he was the first banking consultant I’ve met. Thanks to mobile broadband, he was not taking off of work to take this road trip.

Eventually, the sun came down enough that temperatures started dropping, and it became cooler outside the RV than in it. We stepped outside to get some fresh air, and were approached by another of the stranded, informing us there was a pedestrian bridge that hadn’t flooded, and we could probably get the bike across it. My heart lept with excitement. We had none of our camping stuff, and I really wasn’t looking forward to sleeping on the pavement unsheltered that night. We went and walked the path over to and across the pedestrian bridge to see if it would be suitable to ride down. It seemed like a very sturdy bridge, meant to hold perhaps a hundred people at a time. We walked back, thanked our hosts for their hospitality, and starting rolling the bike to the start of the trail, hoping not to alert the ranger to our probably forbidden plan to escape. I turned on the engine, and the crowd of refugees cheered. We were getting the fuck out. Keeping it in first, I carefully maneuvered the heavy bike through a short section of hiking trail before getting to the bridge. The few pedestrians on it moved over the side as we rolled past, and safely over to the other side. Turning out of the parking lot and back on to the main park road, I threw a fist in the air triumphantly while opening up the throttle and putting some distance between us and the flood.

I was positively high on the thrill of escape as the bike carried us to safety. Thanks to the long summer days, we still had a couple hours before dark, and headed over to the Devil’s Garden as planned. Spending the day around such beauty did nothing to diminish the impact of each new wonder as we approached it. From the garden we decided to hit the Double Arches for sunset. I had been there on my last visit to the park, and I really wanted to Gianna to see it. It’s both a really awesome rock feature, and is actually close enough to the road to quickly hike to and climb around on. Fortune shined on us again that day, as the arch was deserted when we got there, allowing us to take the prime perch for watching the sunset. I loaded a small bowl, and we inhaled in smokey appreciation of the living painting we had become a part of.

It started to get dark, so we made out way down from the arch, and started down the long road back to camp. As the last of the sunlight left the desert sky, I smiled wide, savoring the experience of new beauty that I believe propels all adventurers on some level. I was glad to sit on something stationary by the time we made it back to camp. With little ceremony, we filled ourselves with food and re-staked the tent with the new sturdier stakes we’d bought. If you have insomnia, I can whole-heartily recommend adventure as a cure. For 2 months, far from having trouble getting to sleep, it was all I could do to stay awake long enough to make it into my tent. The transition from a tangible dreamworld to an intangible one was particularly seamless that night.

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