FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2009
"Sunset, Delicate Arch"
Ah, Arches.... what was supposed to be a main focus of this trip ended up being just a short visit. I was originally planning on visiting Arches FIRST on this trip, and spending a few days there. Plans changed when I found out that Moab was hosting the "Easter Jeep Safari". I like to avoid crowds, so I changed my plan and decided to hit Arches and Moab on the tail end of my trip, after the madness of the Jeep Safari had departed. I stayed in Moab for two nights, and spent only half of my time in Arches... the other half in Canyonlands.
I was discouraged when, on Thursday morning at about 10:00, I arrived at the park entrance only to find a long line of about 40 cars waiting to get into the park. Eventually I made it in, only to find that parking at almost every trailhead was non-existent... all the spots were already taken, with overflow spilling down both sides of the road in both directions. There was one thing that I knew I had to do, though... and that was hike to Delicate Arch, easily the most famous arch in the park. I wasn't going to do that in the middle of the day, so I left the park for a while and came back to hike to the arch at sunset.
When I arrived at Delicate Arch there weren't any clouds to make a nice photogenic sky, but the arch was bathed in a beautiful glow from the setting sun. There were about 25 other people already there, most of them just enjoying the view, but a few were taking pictures. One thing is for certain, its practically impossible to enjoy the golden hour at Delicate Arch by yourself. Its just too popular. However, I found that if you wait 10 minutes after the sun goes down, everyone is gone! I stayed for about an hour after sunset, debating whether or not to hang around and make some star trail images of the arch. I decided against that when some clouds started to roll in from the east. So, I headed back to the car. I had my headlamp with me, but thinking about the words of Edward Abbey which I had read the night before, I chose not to use it. I still had enough light to see by anyway.
Edward Abbey wrote in his book "Desert Solitaire", which is about his time as a ranger at Arches National Park, before it was "discovered":
"There's another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him. If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light which it makes in front of me; I am isolated. Leaving the flashlight in my pocket where it belongs, I remain a part of the environment I walk through and my vision though limited has no sharp or definite boundary."
I realized this long ago, which is why my headlamp is only used when absolutely necessary. And tonight, it was not absolutely necessary.
Arches is a very popular park these days... and I couldn't help but wonder as I fought the crowds what it would have been like to visit the park during the early days, when Abbey was a ranger here and the park had no paved roads and no crowds. I struggle with the "busy-ness" of some parks. I do like that most people, regardless of their ability, are able to visit some of these natural treasures. However, it is this idea of easy access that also works to strip away some of the sense of appreciation that people have for these areas. If they don't have to work hard to see it, they won't appreciate it as much. To quote the newsletter from Arches National Park: "Can't decide what to do? Well, forget the schedule and stay another day. If you try to see too much on your vacation, you end up really 'seeing' nothing."
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon EF 24-105mm
Focal length: 40mm
Shutter speed: 1/5