Note: I spent last week in Utah, climbing and roaming around the desert in the middle of nowhere. These posts are about the things I saw, the places I climbed, and sometimes, the drawings I made. Previous day’s journeys include climbing to Angel’s Landing, weaving through Devil’s Garden, and threading the Needles to Druid Arch.
From Thursday, June 3
Today was my day to relax. No 1,200 foot climbs up mountains, and no 11 mile marches through the desert. I thought I might wake up early this morning to hike out to Delicate Arch at sunrise, but that was not in the cards.
I woke up a little before sunrise, as usual. On this trip, I largely went to sleep when the sun went down, and woke up when the sun came up. For this trip, my bed was the bed of my truck, I never bothered to set up a tent, I didn’t really feel a need.
I also didn’t feel a need to light a fire at night. I did on the first two nights, but then never bothered to collect or buy wood after those first nights. When the sun set, and I had eaten dinner and cleaned up my dishes, I opted to lie in the back of my truck, and watch the stars emerge up in the sky, and feel the air cool. The air cools in discrete steps out here. The air would remain one temperature for several minutes, then I would feel a distinct and sudden drop in temperature by a few degrees.
Into the Furnace
I took my time in the morning, making coffee and cooking up eggs and chorizo. Today I would head back to Arches. I had a reserved spot in a guided walk through the Fiery Furnace.
The Fiery Furnace is similar to Devil’s Garden. It is made up of tall fins of rock closely packed together, creating a maze of canyons and passages. Access to this area is limited, it can only be accessed with a Park Ranger, or with a special permit, issued to people who have been into the furnace before.
The walk itself required a bit of climbing and weaving through narrow bits of rock, at times I had to wedge myself between closely spaced walls of rock and work my way through a crack. We only hiked about 2 miles through the furnace in the 3 hours of the hike, we stopped plenty of times for the Ranger to talk about how water influences the life and architecture of the desert.
Interesting fact: If you need to refill your cantina, and come across a pool of water, make sure you draw water from the pool with the bugs on it, and the green algae growing at the sides. The crystal clear water probably has poison in it, that is why nothing grows at its side. The green, murky water is good enough for other life, it is probably good enough for you.
After emerging from the furnace, I plopped my down on a rock overlooking the area, and sketched up a section of the rocks that makes up the edge of the Fiery Furnace. It was hot, and the bugs were chewing on my relentlessly. The further along in the drawing I got, the faster I worked.
Afternoon at the Partition
After my morning in the Fiery Furnace, I had an afternoon to kill, and I headed back to Partition Arch. I walked by it two days ago on my way back from the Dark Angel, it is about half a mile to a mile past Landscape Arch.
Partition Arch sits high up on a rock mountain, and has a nice open, sloped area underneath that looks out from the edge of Devil’s Garden to an open area of flat desert. In the middle of this open area is an array of rock fins, similar to the one I climbed two days earlier in Devil’s Garden, though these sit all alone.
For some reason these fins stood out to me, and I sat under Partition Arch for the afternoon to draw them.
Drawing rocks is like drawing faces. It is easy to put the elements in place to make the face I am drawing look like a face, but it is far more difficult to make the face look like the person I am drawing. Similarly, it takes effort to make the rocks I draw look like the rocks I am looking at. It is quite easy to make the rocks look like arock, but it takes much more work to make it look like that particular rock.
As I worked I started to think — in the personifying way man is prone to do – that the rocks each had a different personality. Some are quiet and reserved, some big and loud, and some sly, and maybe untrustworthy.
I know that is not true at all, but I can’t help it. I am man.
When I had enough of being bitten by flies, and I had eaten lunch, and I had finished my drawing, I headed back down the trail. On my way out, I took a small side branch that led down to the plain that the fins I had drawn sat on. I took a few pictures from the back of the fins, from down on their level (it’s possible I will do a woodblock print of these fins, in fact it’s possible I’ve already started carving the blocks).
The day slowly came to an end, the sun went down, I returned to my camp. I slept away, the last night I would spend in Utah.