I awoke to someone shaking my leg, it was Rabi, I had slept through my alarm and it was my turn to shower. By the time we were all showered and on the road it was 7.18am, a little later than planned, but not too bad. We arrived at Four Corners Monument at about 8.30am and paid the $3 each to get in. The monument marks the only place in the USA where four states meet at one point. The point itself is marked on the ground and surrounded by a large courtyard with stalls on each of the fours sides. We only stayed for about half an hour, but that was plenty of time to pose for several silly photos with a limb in each state.

In four places at once. . . Four Corners National Monument

We were quite glad that we got there quite early since it gave us the chance to get lots of photos. We then continued north towards the Arches National Parkwhich is in Utah. It was about a 3 hour drive from Four Corners and we arrived there at around midday. Just before reaching the park we stopped in Moab, the nearest town to buy a quick lunch from the supermarket before an afternoon of hiking. After handing over our National Park Pass at the entrance station we got a map, but thought it best to go into the Visitor Centre as well to plan our day. After a brief battle with the interactive “plan your visit” station, we went to ask one of the rangers. He was really helpful and we ended up doing most of the trails that he had recommended. Our first stop, for the first of our easy warm up hikes was the balancing rock, which, as its name suggests, is a rock, balancing on another rock. We walked (I hesitate to say hiked since it was a very easy trail.) around the balancing rock, taking various photos, including several silly ones. On the way round we met Alex, from Bristol, who is doing a similar, but shorter trip on his own before starting a new job in August. We chatted with him for a while and said that we would probably see him at a later point in the day since we had planned to do similar trails. Our next stop was another easyish warm up trail, to the North and South Windows. Both were visible from the car park, and just as we reached the start of the trail Alex pulled up in his car. Feeling a bit sorry for him spending all day on his own, we asked him to join us. The walk up towards the north window was a little more strenuous than the Balancing Arch, but not by much, there were quite a few people there and we all posed for various pictures under the arch. They weren’t the best arch photos since the top part of the arch is very thick and they mostly just look like we are standing by a hole in the rock rather than under an arch.

An arch under the Delicate Arch

The south window was more of the same, so we took the path over to the turret arch. To get inside this one required a little more climbing, so, leaving Lizzie with the cameras, Rabi, Alex and I climbed up to it. It was a larger arch with a small window higher up on one side. After more photos there Rabi and I returned to Lizzie to let her go up. She had been gone for some time and we thought that she might be trying to climb up to the smaller window. Eventually she reappeared in the large arch, but admitted when she rejoined us that she had tried to climb up to the small window, but had to give up due to lack of handholds. On the way back to the car she also found a small horizontal gap between two rocks, which she climbed into for a picture and then struggled slightly to get out. We waved goodbye to Alex for a while at this point, since he was climbing up to another arch accessible from the car park, but conscious of time, we decided to get on with the Delicate Arch, which involved a 1.5 mile hike each way and would probably take us a couple of hours. The climb up to the delicate arch was pretty tiring, since it was mostly uphill and quite steep in places, and I was beginning to feel the fact that we were more than a mile high. (You don’t really notice that there is less oxygen, you just feel really out of shape!) It was well worth the climb though, the scenery was stunning and it was definitely one of the better arches. It is in fact, the arch that is depicted on the “Welcome to Utah” signs and on some of the Utah licence plates. There was a curving downward slope with steep drops on either side to get down to it, and people had formed an orderly queue to take pictures underneath. We joined the queue, and were very pleased when the huge family group in front of us decided to just do one big group picture rather than the collection of shots that we had heard them planning. Finally it was our turn; Lizzie took the cameras while Rabi went down for an individual picture. I then joined her and we made an arch under the arch, while one of the onlookers shouted “Best photo ever!” I then stayed to have a picture just of me. While we had been posing under the arch, guess who had arrived… Alex! He then went to pose under the arch and more and more people kept asking Liz to take their picture, eventually, we took all the cameras from her to allow her to rejoin the queue. To the disbelief of everyone watching, she did a cartwheel under the arch, which we captured quite well. With all our photos taken, we headed back down towards the car with a brief stop off for Lizzie to make an arch in one of the arches along the way. The walk down was so much easier than the walk up, no wonder the ranger said that it would take us about 15-20 minutes less. Reaching the car, we waved goodbye to Alex for what we thought was the final time, since he had somewhere that he wanted to be for sunset and headed for our final stop at the Landscape Arch. Time was getting on, but given that the Landscape Arch is the largest in the park, we didn’t feel that we could really miss it, and with only a 1.6 mile round trip it shouldn’t take us too long. The hike was much easier than the one to the Delicate Arch, so didn’t take us too long and there were things to look at along the way, like the creepy devil child playing in a sandbank and a tree that looked like some sort of animal.

Us at the Landscape Arch

As we were approaching the arch, guess who came running up behind us, Alex, he continued running to the arch, in an attempt to finish the trip more swiftly, but we met him there. The arch was stunning, but we couldn’t get too close, since it is closed for safety after a massive rock fall several years ago. Unfortunately, the sun chose this moment to come out, and rather that improving our pictures, was right behind the arch so ruined them slightly. Once we were finished at the arch, we headed back to the car. After bidding us goodbye for a final time, Alex left at a run, still hoping to get to wherever he was going by sunset, we all had a vague suspicion that we would see him in the car park, but he was long gone by the time we got there. It was about quarter past six when we got back to the car, and Liz volunteered to drive the first leg of the trip. Driving back to the park entrance station took about 20 minutes and we also stopped off in Moab again to buy gas and some food. The rain that had been forecast and that we had only seen a few spots of arrived in full force on the way home. The drive was pretty scary in places, with the rain reflecting off the road and making it difficult to see the lane markings. We eventually got back to Rabi’s at about 11ish and went almost straight to bed after a fantastic, but exhausting day.