Crowds. We had been avoiding them.
However, in two parks on this trip, we couldn't get away. (Well, we discovered a way. More later.) We hit Arches in the middle of the day and ran into throngs.
The red rocks and yellow shelves of sandstone rose and fell everywhere in the landscape. We felt adrift in the seas of geologic beauty. And yet other human beings plainly clambered all over the place. These other souls were also adrift, sort of. Some bore tired, puzzled expressions. Some beamed with joy. It was much as if everyone had hopped from the decks of the Titanic before it sank and discovered the seas were tranquil and warm. Kids kept complaining about the effort they spent to maintain their continued existence, of course. Someone wondered aloud if this were part of the trip because they had signed up for snorkeling.
"I forgot my snorkel back on the ship."
"Well, you can't get it now!"
Except it was sunscreen they forgot and it was in the car. And mothers always looked daggers about it.
In short, it was very people-y. But it was beautiful, too. And the wandering, clambering folks around us were wonderful in their very human ways. When I climbed on the precipice next to a cliff so I could lie down in the shade, a woman copied me farther upslope. A different woman held her kids back so they wouldn't walk right next to the plummeting edge. Later, when Diane and I hiked to one of the famous arches, a half-dozen people scooted out of the way near the end of the trail, wordlessly, so we could get a better picture.
Some hikers asked us for directions. Others posed for selfies. Still more read the signs or pointed out how the natural arches had been formed. They understood geology. Maybe they understood human nature. Once, as we strode along the trail from arch to arch, a couple asked us to take their picture. They politely offered to take ours in return.
For a thousand specimens of humanity who wanted to get away from their kin in what was supposed to be an isolated, desert wilderness, they were pretty good. They were so polite, in fact, I'd say they were nearly examples of humankind at its best.
Not all of them. But still, they were decent to one another even in the most oppressive, crankiness-inducing heat of the day.