Trail and I are very different from one another in personality. While we very often like the same things, we approach them in very different ways. Fortunately, instead of a source of conflict, most often these differences are what make our adventures possible. A case in point was when we went to see the natural arch in San Luis Valley.
Trail loves arches. I think they are pretty nifty and all, but she loves them. Whenever there is even a tiny natural arch, she’s excited and pointing it out to me. I am fond of strange art installations and other local weird things. While in the San Luis Valley I spied a sort of newspaper put out by the local Colorado Gator reptile farm. In addition to advertising the reptilian wonders they had on display, it included a hand drawn map of the valley indicating various things to do and see. One such item was a “natural arch.” Thinking of Trail’s love for arches I suggested we check it out. I thought in cool that my curiosity for one type of attraction led me to find one for her as well.
The name of the arch is La Garita Natural Arch and it is located near Penitente Canyon, which is a popular destination for rock climbers the world over. The drive leading to the Arch is lovely. It takes you into the fringes of the valley, winding up among fantastical rock formations and high desert plateaus. The landscape just screams “Drama And Adventure!” The road is unpaved about half the distance but is not especially rough. After about 11 miles you find yourself at the base of the Arch itself; end of the road. Here you will see the arch looming above you, and signs that campers like to spend the night here and perhaps not completely clean up after themselves.
Despite the lovely drive and the beauty of the arch itself, when I arrived I was not exactly brimming with enthusiasm. We got up early for this expedition so that we could arrive before the full heat of the day descended on us. This is a great idea when adventuring in the desert, you really want to do your walking in the morning as the sun rises, or in the evening a little before it sets. Today was a morning adventure and I don’t do so well with those.
Trail is a morning person, she rises each day bursting with the desire to get doing things that need getting done. When it’s an adventure day, she is rip roaring to get out and see, do, and embrace the great outdoors. I am a night person, I wake up with a desire to go back to sleep and a general fogginess about the future. The idea of bustling makes me wince and a vigorous hike sounds about as appealing as a trip to the dentist. None the less, I do my best to get up and get out because I love seeing Trail so full of wonder and thrills when we hit the trails. That’s why she’s Trail after all.
So there we are at the arch and I’m thinking, “Ya, that’s nice and all, good drive, cool arch, people should pick up their beer cans. Perhaps I will do it for them. I’ll just take some pictures and perhaps we go back.” As I look around and take pictures, I discover that Trail has started up the very steep looking incline towards the Arch. I paused a moment, not excited by the prospect, but I love my wife and it looked a little dangerous so I decided I’d trudge up there too. Adventure is what we come for so adventure is what we should do.
It was pretty steep going and the ground was loose with rocks fallen from the cliff face. It’s hot, despite the early hour and I’m sweating almost right away. Anne is practically sprinting up this thing in excitement and I’m trudging behind trying to shake off the morning lethargy. Somewhere in my brain, it registers this is very pretty and rather exciting, but there is a kind of muddy indifference and lethargy I must shake off to let the sunshine in. I catch up with Trail about 2/3 of the way to the arch. From here, things get much steeper and less trail like. It wasn’t much to begin with but it was clear plenty of folks had come this way before. We admired the view and considered our options.
The climb had shaken off some of my morning blahs and I was starting to get into the spirit of things. Trail meanwhile, was looking at the much steeper remainder of the climb and having second thoughts. She’s also eyeballing me and can see I’m not exactly full of roses and rainbows. I’m not good at hiding my discomfort. Still, I feel like it would be silly to turn back now, having put all the effort in trudging up this far, might as well see the thing as far along as we can. After a bit of rest, we keep going.
Now we are just around 30 feet from the bottom of the arch and we get to where the steep ground gives way to pure rock. It’s not quite a purely vertical climb, but it is an actual climb rather than a walk. From here we will have to go hands and feet with some actual risk of a serious fall if we goof up. A real rock climber would call it a cake walk but neither Trail nor I are real rock climbers now are not equipped for it. But by now, the spirit of Adventure has got me in its grips and I feel like I can get up that rock safely if I take it slowly and thoughtfully. Trail is thinking it’s not for her but gives me leave to go for it without her provided I’m careful.
Thus I make the climb, carefully, slowly, and successfully until I stand withing the arch and then pass through to the other side. The views on the way up were good, but from the arch, it was really something. Now I was feeling pretty awesome and proud of my bold ascent to the mighty summit of… well it really wasn’t all that far. Steep, sure, but there was the truck down there, not so terribly far away. I took pictures, enjoyed the brisk wind through the arch, and came to check on Trail. “Think I can make it? she asked.” “Yep, I replied, I’m sure you can, just be careful and take it slow.” Thus encouraged Trail made her own climb up the rocks to join me triumphant. It was a perfect spot for a kiss so we kissed.
But for Trail, I’d not had the desire to see the arch. But for me, she’d not have known of it. But for Trail, I’d not have started the climb. But for me, she’d not have finished it. Truly together is how we encounter life and find adventure on the road. Together makes life better for us both.