When Edward Abbey's best-known book Desert Solitaire was published in 1968, Arches National Park was merely a national monument and was as yet largely undiscovered by the public. In the decades since, Arches has grown exponentially in popularity with nearly two million visitors per year - compared to the approximately 25,000 visitors it saw annually in Abbey's day - and the solitude that Abbey celebrated has become rather less the norm for most visitors. Other national parks have experienced similar increases in visitorship as well. In this long-form essay published in The New York Times on July 2, 2018, John O'Connor describes his own recent visit to Arches National Park. His visit, like countless others, was inspired by Abbey's book. As O'Connor describes his travels within the park in search of his own Abbey-like experience, he weaves vignettes of Abbey's life and perspectives into his story and reflects on the changes that industrial tourism has wrought on the tourist experience and on the park itself. This essay is also accompanied by photographs taken by Beth Coller.
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