We had seen the dire warnings and heard the cautionary tales. But we could not be dissuaded. We would enter the scorching crucible of the Fiery Furnace.
Um, well, it’s not quite as dramatic as all that, though they do tell you to bring extra water and a snack. The Fiery Furnace is a spectacular labyrinth of sandstone fins at Arches National Park. It is off-limits to visitors without a permit or guide, so we signed up for a tour.
We were warned that that the hike would be strenuous, requiring us to traverse rocky trails and squeeze through narrow passageways. To which I say: it’s about time. After walking in the footsteps of Indiana Jones, we’d better do something challenging.
Throughout the three-hour tour, Ranger Anna stopped to point out arches, give geological information, and yes, remind us not to bust the crust.
At precarious points along the trail, Anna would demonstrate how to safely proceed and we would obediently follow. In a few places, we benefited from footholds and even a railing installed decades ago; today’s National Park Service is far more reluctant to make such changes to a preserved natural area.
Having survived the Fiery Furnace, we had one more stop to make: Landscape Arch, quite possibly the world’s longest natural arch, with a span of 290 feet. In 1991, a 60-foot-long section unexpectedly crashed to the ground below. Expectedly, the hiking trail beneath the arch is now closed.
We departed Arches National Park and, a hundred miles later, found ourselves in Grand Junction, Colorado, sharing pizza and red wine with our friend Brenda and her husband John. An appropriately relaxing end to an action-packed day.