Adventure #8: “A Frame More Significant Than Its Picture”

*This is Adventure #8 of my Top 10 Adventures (of the past year and a half) Countdown*

I ended my last post with a Nebraska slam because it is truly a horrible state to have to drive through. Truly. Luckily, not all the states between Phoenix and Iowa are as dull. In fact, some of the route between my home and my family’s offers world-class scenery. Southern Utah, for instance, is arguably one of the most beautiful regions I’ve been to. Like, anywhere. If you’ve been following the blog, you should know that means something. It’s simply stunning.

In the past I’ve written about Zion National Park, which is my favorite NP so far because of its high-adventure canyoneering opportunities. I’ve also covered Bryce Canyon, known for its hoodoos. On the route to and from my 2012 Midwest road trip, I visited another Utah gem: Arches National Park.

Although I spent just a short time in Arches, I loved its drama. The title of this post borrows from Edward Abbey’s description of one of the park’s most beloved features: Delicate Arch. In Desert Solitaire, Abbey writes,

“There are several ways of looking at Delicate Arch. Depending on your preconceptions you may see the eroded remnant of a sandstone fin, a giant engagement ring cemented in rock, a bow-legged pair of petrified cowboy chaps, a triumphal arch for a procession of angels, an illogical geologic freak, a happening—a something that happened and will never happen quite that way again, a frame more significant than its picture, a simple monolith eaten away by weather and time and soon to disintegrate into a chaos of falling rock.”

We don’t have many photos of the park because bad weather was coming in fast during our sightseeing visit on the way to Iowa, so I guess you’ll just have to go on your own trip. Here are a few teasers, though.

The area known as "Park Avenue"

The area known as “Park Avenue”

North Window Arch

North Window Arch

On our way home from Iowa we returned to Arches NP, but this time we opted for a canyon rather than more traditional sightseeing. U-Turn canyon turned out to be the shortest canyon Mike and I have ever done, but it was quite cool, nonetheless. The canyon ended just opposite the Park Avenue formations, which was awesome since we scrambled off the rocks in front of a bunch of tourists wondering where the heck we had come from.

Rappel Master Jackie

Rappel Master Jackie

They almost look 2D, don't they?

They almost look 2D, don’t they?

Leaving Utah, we continued through northern Arizona on our way home. When it comes to amazing landscapes, my own adopted state is no lightweight. It sure as hell beats Nebraska. Mike and I made two more stops before hitting Phoenix: Canyon de Chelly and the Petrified Forest.

Canyon de Chelly (pronounced like “Shea”) is located on Navajo lands and is jointly managed by Navajos and the NPS. The rim offers stunning views of sheer cliffs terminating in a lush valley with ancient ruins. Though it doesn’t afford many opportunities for adventure (unless you get special permits and are accompanied by a mandatory Navajo guide), its views are spectacular and definitely worth a side trip!

No joke. There is an extremely vertical 700-foot drop exactly where that arrow is pointing.

No joke. There is an extremely vertical 700-foot drop exactly where that arrow is pointing.



Can you see the famous Anasazi Cliff dweller ruins? The site is known as the White House

Can you see the famous Anasazi cliff dweller ruins? The site is known as the White House.

We also visited the Petrified Forest on our return journey. You might be wondering what the forest is so afraid of, but it turns out there’s not even a forest at all. Once upon an ancient time there was a forest, but its trees suffered some kind of trauma and died. Maybe they were scared at the time. Anyway, before they could rot completely away, they became saturated with mineral deposits which penetrated their layers. When they did rot away, all that was left were the rocks imitating their once-glorious forms. Today, pieces of petrified wood are littered about the ground throughout the park. Most of the pieces are quite small, but some are more impressive. The various minerals also leave a colorful display. The Petrified Forest is another park lacking a bit in adventure but perfectly worthy of a pit stop.

The landscapes reminded me of the Badlands a bit.

The landscapes reminded me of the Badlands a bit.

Petrified wood

Petrified wood

Pretty colors

Pretty colors

There were many "logs" like this one strewn about.

There were many “logs” like this one strewn about.

Though I may be a Midwest girl by birth, the southwestern landscapes sing to me. If you haven’t experienced them, it’s high time you schedule a road trip of your own!

Finally, to return to the title of this post, I like the thought of a frame sometimes being more significant than its picture. Though that’s not the case with the thousands of photos Mike takes of our trips — at least not literally — I think it has a lot of truth to it. The geology of the southwestern landscapes, the shape of the land itself, is so much more significant than the million little events that transpire between and amongst the formations. Similarly, the experiences that frame my worldview are more significant than the pictures that attempt to capture it. How can you put the depth of experience into a still image, a snapshot, a moment of time?

(Don’t worry; we’ll keep trying.)

2 Responses to “Adventure #8: “A Frame More Significant Than Its Picture””
  1. neihtn2012 says:

    Beautiful photos! And good commentary.

  2. JM Simpson says:

    Wonderful photos and wonderful writing. On my bucket list.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: