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Utah Geologist Spends Retirement Hunting New Arch Formations

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In his retirement, Jens Munthe spends a lot of time driving around the deserts of Utah hunting for rocks.

Not just any rocks. Munthe is a geologist searching for new and unusual arch formations across the state, the Deseret News reports .

Utah is known for its sandstone arches commonly found in the state's red rock terrain. The gallery of sandstone arches in Arches National Park has gained international fame, but there are many unknown arches beyond the park.

Munthe drives around southern Utah searching for these formations. He parks his car in a remote place, where there's no trail in sight, and lets his portable GPS navigation device guide him through the desert.

He expects to discover an arch or two, as he almost always does on his excursions.

"I think I've been skunked once in 20 years," he said.

Munthe's growing database includes close to 2,000 arches, all plotted on detailed maps. He claims he has discovered more than 700 of the formations himself, with other hikers and arch hunters actively contributing their discoveries to the database.

The spunky geologist gives the arches whimsical names like "Aliens Arrive Arch" and "Echo Arch."

On a recent excursion, Munthe hiked through a dry, dusty area near a well-known formation called Sunset Arch. A small arch had been formed by a boulder perched on three sharp, eroded points of sandstone. A sliver of light shone through the arch.

"I love it, I love it," he said. "This is why I do this kind of stuff is to find so much stuff like this. Which is a sport of nature."