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Seeking Edward Abbey’s Solitude...

May 28, 2012

I'm standing In a place I have wanted to be since 1969 when I first read Edward Abbey’s, Desert Solitaire. Gazing across a wide gorge at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, I am exhilarated and yet ridiculously disappointed and frustrated.

Arches National Park
Abbey prophesied car-bound tourists would someday take over the park, but it is worse than that. The parking lot below thIs overlook is full of tour buses and the trail up is dusty and crowded with humanity, all cueing up to see one arch1. Everyone seems to be speaking a different language.

Arches National ParkThe near-by town of Moab is now, as my father’s used to call such places, a tourist trap. Coming in from the south, there were blocks and blocks of signs and stores for canyon adventures, kayaking tours, outdoor gear and clothing, 4-wheel drive tours, jetboat excursions, motorcycle adventures, mountain biking, coyote shuttles and golf.

The desert Abby wrote about was empty of any human but himself. He was the park ranger in a place where almost no one ever came. His desert was cruel, clear and inhuman, a solitary, primeval world...  He wrote about the silence, the vastness and the aloneness of the place.

The beauty of Arches is still everywhere, the aloneness is gone.

Arches National Park

I do not begrudge anyone experiencing the beauty of this place. I do confess to being somewhat mystified by the many tourists who get off the bus - video camera held to their eye, walk out to an overlook, pan from left to right and return to their bus...never taking the camera down from their face. There is so much to see and still feel beyond the camera’s eye.

We will all walk on by and be gone, but the rocks, the sun and the emptiness will remain.

Arches National Park

There is a primitive (no water, electricity, sewer or running of generators) campground about 20 miles into the park. There we joined with our friends and fellow gypsies, The Pikey Project2, for dinner amongst the red rocks, junipers and local lizards. For this gathering, they prepared a feast and shared some yummy wines. We sat together laughing and telling stories as the sunset turned the red rocks deeper shades of crimson and reflected gold. Darkness came and the sky filled with stars and the Milky Way in this land free of light pollution.

Arches National Park

1 The NPS reports, “There are over 2,000 cataloged arches in Arches National Park. In order to be considered an arch, an opening must measure at least three feet.

2 The PIkey Project: Nicola Cornwell and Mike (Mikey) Wilkie are traveling around the United States full time in their camper, Vera. We first met them at Pecan Grove Campground in Austin, Texas.

Love you sketch of Arches!

Visit Moab Utah

Very interesting....  You are in country that I have always dreamed of roaming.


Oh wow Peg, your words are so wonderful and your pictures unbelievable. You two are such great ambassadors of our beautiful country for us (well me) that do not get the chance to see what our world has to offer.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart! Miss you both (& Sully too)!


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