The drive down Movie Road was smooth sailing until we reached a point where the pavement ran out and we were riding along a bumpy dirt road. We hadn’t yet seen the parking lot for the trailhead that was supposed to lead us to the arch and I was beginning to think that we had somehow passed it. The bumpy road was further irritating my stomach and we couldn’t find the trailhead fast enough.
“I see the arch,” Arthur said, pointing out the window.
“Where?” asked Gina.
Arthur pointed to a rock in the distance to our right where an arch could barely be made out.
“That can’t be the arch,” I said. “It just looks like a hole in a rock.”
Thinking that was probably the closest thing to an arch that we were going to see that day, I pulled over into the nearby parking area. Eddie and Farrah, who were following, did the same.
When we got out of the cars to check out the location, we were immediately reminded that we were in a desert. No longer in the protective confines of the climate-controlled cars, we became instant prey for the sun’s brutal rays. Seemingly unaffected by the heat, Arthur and Eddie took out their cameras and went to work.
Since Johnny’s map indicated a short hike to the arch, Farrah and I decided to put our hiking boots on. We were both wearing flip flops and didn’t want to risk twisting an ankle.
I glanced around at the numerous rock formations, not to admire the scenery, but to find a well-hidden place I could use as a bathroom. That’s when I saw the sign indicating the trailhead to the arch. The trail was clearly defined and lined on both sides with stones.
“Over here, y’all!” I shouted to my friends. “The trailhead is over here.”
Farrah, Eddie, Gina and Arthur started toward me, and then it hit. I needed to find a rock bad. I remembered the unused WAG bag that was still in my backpack from the Mt. Whitney hike and knew it would come in handy.
“You guys go on. I’ll catch up. There’s something I have to do,” I said.
With that, they started down the trail. I returned to my car for the WAG bag and ran down the trail after them, keeping a safe distance behind. Then, I spotted the perfect rock covering, and did my business. I didn’t want to carry the WAG bag with me to the arch, so I left it near the rock with the intent of returning for it to dispose of it properly.
I met up with everyone at the arch and found that Arthur was already the center of attention. He had perched himself on top of the arch and was staring down at the “paparazzi,” Eddie, Farrah, and Gina, who were poised in a straight line taking his picture. He motioned for the rest of us to join him, but Gina and Eddie were the only ones brave enough.
The arch wasn’t particularly huge, but to climb to the top of it took some skill. I tried to be a little more daring and adventurous to get up there, but even with Arthur’s help, I chickened out. Instead, I took pictures of Arthur and Gina clowning around atop the arch. It was such a lovely day and the clouds were so wispy and formed very interesting shapes above the spectacular rock formations.
Arthur helped Gina down the from the arch and climbed back up. Eddie hopped to another rock to take more pictures of the scenery while Farrah and Gina went off to explore some other rock formations. I went to check out a nearby crevice to see what was below, but when an image from the movie “127 Hours” flashed through my head, I thought better of it and moved away from the edge.
I returned to the arch, which was only a few yards away and noticed that Arthur was gone. I looked around and saw Eddie in the same spot as before, and Farrah and Gina were still looking at some other rocks. Arthur was nowhere to be found. Thinking he might have been playing some sort of trick, I scanned the area near the arch, but still, no Arthur. I was puzzled because, although Arthur moves fast, there was no way he could have gotten down from that arch and hidden himself so quickly.
“Arthur?” I called. No answer.
Eddie looked up, curious.
“Did you see where Arthur went?” I asked.
“No,” said Eddie. “He was just there on top of the arch.”
“Well, he’s gone now,” I said. “Okay, Arthur, this isn’t funny. Where are you?”
Gina and Farrah began walking back toward the arch. “What’s going on?” Gina said.
“Did you see where Arthur went?” I asked.
“No, wasn’t he up there?” Gina said, indicating the arch.
“I turned my back for five seconds,” I said. “There’s no way even he could have gotten down that fast.”
By this time, Eddie joined us, curious about the commotion. “He’s gotta be around here somewhere,” he said. “He can’t be too far.”
“I’ll look over here,” Farrah said, walking to a nearby boulder. Eddie darted off in another direction and Gina walked over to the crevice where I had just been.
The voice was so faint at first that it could very well have been the wind. I paused, then heard it again, clearer this time.
“Arthur?” The voice was coming from the arch, but there was no one near it other than me. I thought that perhaps Arthur had fallen into a crevice and the wind was carrying his voice over to where I was.
Joyce! The arch!
This time, I heard Arthur’s voice loud and clear. The question was, what was he trying to tell me about the arch? And where in the heck was he anyway?