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A crusty, old, dried sponge, that’s how my mouth felt under the blazing heat of the sun. My parents decided last summer that we should go on a long road trip, and the first of our destinations was Arches National Park. Arches was a place in the deserts of Utah, where there were thousands of seemingly timeless natural sandstone rock arches. It seemed like a pretty enjoyable and relaxing place for sightseeing, but I really had no idea what else I got myself into.
I knew that this was a desert and it was going to be hot, and we had to bring a lot of water. Both me and my dad had a backpack with about eight bottles each. We thought this was definitely going to be enough, but soon learned otherwise. I told my parents that I wanted to go on the longest and hardest hike, which was about 5 miles. The hike was located in an area of the park called the Devil’s Garden. The name sounded intimidating, but it was our first day there, and I was just an eager little boy searching for an adventure after almost two days of being stuck in a two ton metal box that was our SUV. At the start, everything was great. Being full of energy and youth, I waltzed through the first mile or so like it was a cakewalk. The views were breathtaking. There were incredible red-hued towers of rock surrounding us, and a vast, endless, sky above. The warmth of the sun surrounded us, and and patches of clouds dotted the sky. The sand under our feet cushioned every step, and the occasional juniper trees provided a pleasant rest area with shade. I started to wonder if the Devil’s Garden really did live up to its name. This was definitely not as bad as I had expected it to be, and I felt reassured after realizing this. Soon enough, I’d learn to not speak so soon.
The scene was beautiful, but I had gotten enough to feel satisfied, and now I was ready to leave. The sun was getting hotter, so we had to stay hydrated. About halfway through, I was starting to get really tired, but I was still prepared to walk for a little bit longer. Because there were no maps on the trail, we had no idea how much was left, and it was a lot longer than I could’ve imagined.
About 3/4ths of the way through, we ran out of water. And we also got lost a few times. I could’ve blamed my little brother for almost drinking half of our water, but I had no energy to argue. My fatigued body was telling me to sit down and take a break, but I used all my willpower to keep going. All I wanted to do was get out of here. I had no idea how much longer I was going to have to endure, but I knew I couldn’t do it much longer. What had started as a casual sightseeing tour of the beautiful landscapes of Utah had become an endless hike through a lifeless, rough terrain under the blazing sun. The ruthless sun ruled the land, and torched all of the water out of everything. All of the plants that could survive here were dry and extreme good at living off of and holding miniscule portions of water. Humans, on the other hand, aren’t like that. My mouth was begging for some hydration, and I was pumping out sweat like a hose. We kept walking on and on, but the Devil’s Garden was endless; we were stuck in the labyrinth, and the sun was the minotaur. After hours of enduring, some saviours showed us the way out. They were actually a group of 3 young kids, and they led us all the way back to the parking lot where we entered.
The moment we got back the parking lot, I went straight to the water fountain at the restrooms and I stood there downing water for a good 10 minutes, and I don’t think water has ever tasted so good in my life. I was just glad and relieved that we made it out.
I think this entire experience, although unpleasant at the time, was good for me. It really showed me that beauty can be a double-edged blade: the desert can be full of wonders, but also life-threatening. When I saw the pictures, I thought it would be fun and easy. When I went there, however, I realized it was harsh and challenging. This experience has really taught me not to judge a book by its cover.
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