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Landscape Arch

From Transcendent Summits by Gerry Roach

Arches National Monument, Utah, 1957

When I reached the open territory below Landscape Arch, I stopped my sprint to catch my breath, check for injuries, shake the rest of the sand out of my pants, and put on my belt. With those chores complete, I looked up at Landscape. The surreal span soared far above in a starry universe all its own. The moon was now close to the arch, so I moved up until the orb appeared between the span and the wall behind it. I sat in this position for a minute pondering the party, but then the power of my current surroundings took over, so I lay back on my elbows and took in the silent, motionless desert. Without the arch, the basin I was in would be an enchanted place, especially right now. But with the impossibly narrow span of rock completely crossing the basin, the whole place took on another quality. Even the air under the arch seemed charged. I felt like I was in a church, but one unlike any that I had ever been in, and I had toured Europe’s finest cathedrals. Suddenly an idea popped into my head. My crew cut tingled, and I sat back up.

Looking at the moon shadow below Landscape Arch, it occurred to me that, while I would never be able to walk on top of the great span, I could at least walk across the desert in its shadow. Rising, I moved beneath the arch, turned south, and walked along in the shadow toward the basin’s wall. It was rough going in spots, but I did not leave the shadow. When I reached the wall, I looked up at a steep sweep of impossible looking sandstone, then, looking back, I saw the arch’s shadow extending completely across the basin in a graceful arc of its own. If the basin itself was sacred, then I somehow knew that my motion here would add to the arch spirit–and thus honor it. Touching the basin’s south wall, I turned and hiked north in the shadow, this time going all the way to the basin’s north wall. En route, the true length of Landscape Arch surprised me, and I realized that merely looking at it had not been enough to understand its power. When I touched the far wall, I felt the arch spirit enter me. With my shadow journey complete, I struck out across the dark desert toward camp.

Seen from above, Landscape Arch with its echo shadow inspires a combination of fear and awe Seen from above, Landscape Arch with its echo shadow inspires a combination of fear and awe
Embracing Landscape's Soul-stirring air Embracing Landscape’s Soul-stirring air
Shadow Bagging under Landscape Arch Shadow Bagging under Landscape Arch
Hikers pausing under Landscape Arch Hikers pausing under Landscape Arch
In Landscape's soul-stirring embrace In Landscape’s soul-stirring embrace
I marveled at how distant and aloof it appeared I marveled at how distant and aloof it appeared

Photos by Gerry Roach

 

 

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