Virtual Vacation in the Soutwest U.S.

You begin to slowly shake your head in awe as your eyes try to focus on any one of the jagged pinnacles of rock that stretch for miles in front of you.

The rising sun’s dance with the sky does its best to mimic the pinks and fiery oranges of the rugged limestone cliffs and peaks below. Were it not for the deep green of the ponderosa pines, Douglas firs, spruce and juniper trees that dot the landscape, you might mistake this place for Mars.

You begin to walk down the trail, tightening your backpack straps for the mild descent down into this strangely serene rocky paradise.

Your breath is now visible before you as you inhale the cool, crisp fresh mountain air. The only sound other than the steady cadence of your breathing is the crrrrrrunch….crrrrrunch….crrrrrunch of ground-up stone beneath your hiking boots.

You pause for a moment to look back in the opposite direction and are struck by the now deep royal blue of the sky; an ocean of purity rising above the evergreen-covered rim. A brilliantly stark contrast to the rainbow of limestone and siltstone color you’re descending into, step-by-step.

Soon the natural arches and stalagmite-like towers of rock begin to envelop you as you wander in wonder that such an oddly beautiful place even exists. In which gem of a southwestern national park are you hiking?

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