Day 18 - Arches and Canyonlands NP  
    Dawn Breaks at Arches NP, Utah    
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala

David and I woke at the crack of dawn, and headed the five miles from Moab to Arches National Park. I wanted to make sure that I had a chance to photograph in the 'magic' light of dawn, and see the colours change on the landscape. We arrived just as the sun was rising, and stopped at the first major point in the Park, the Park Avenue Viewpoint, to shoot the first light.

The colours were amazing. The glimpses we had seen in the fading light of the previous night were now overshadowed by the wondrous sight of first sun on the landscape. Even David was moved to admire the view, which was a major achievement in itself!

Since picking up our rental car David had insisted I take a shot of it so we could show our friends back home the nice looking vehicle we had hired. I think he expected a simple snapshot, but under the circumstances, and given the light was so amazing I decided to do something a bit more interesting. Hence, here is my contribution to the Dodge Calendar for 2005.

The Dodge Stratus in front of the Park Avenue outcrops.
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

Given the popularity of Arches National Park today (over 750,000 visitors per annum) it is hard to imagine that the area was only made a National Park in 1971. However unlike some of the other great parks in the country, Arches was relatively unknown until the early 1900's. The area around Moab was settled in the 1880's, but it wasn't until 1923 when Alexander Ringhoffer, a prospector, wrote to the Rio Grande Western Railroad in an effort to publicise the area that any real interest was shown outside the immediate environs of Moab. Ringhoffer persuaded railroad executives that the creation of a National Park would attract more rail passengers into the area to view the natural wonders of Arches. After a visit to the formations; they were impressed, and a funded campaign to achieve protected status was launched.

In 1929, after the area had been researched by Government representatives, President Herbert Hoover signed the legislation creating Arches National Monument, to protect the arches, spires, balanced rocks, and other sandstone formations. In 1971 Congress changed the status of Arches to a National Park, ensuring that the beauty of Arches will be with us, undamaged, for generations to come.

Turret Arch, Arches NP.
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala

One of the great things about visiting Arches NP as a photographer is that everywhere you visit within the park there is always something demanding that you point your camera at it. There is no doubt that it is a photographer's playground - I think I saw more tripods and expensive cameras here than anywhere else in the country.

The down side was that it was virtually impossible to take a photo without there being some tourist or photographer in it. This could be a little frustrating, but with patience it is possible to get photos like the one above. Of course, being prepared to go for a walk away from the roadside down the well marked tracks could often help in this respect, as the lesser arches were certainly less populated.

Another view of turret arch - I waited about 20 minutes to get a few shots without people in them.
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

On of the premier sights in Arches NP is the famous Delicate Arch. Best at sunset, it is a three mile walk from the carpark, including a rise of 300 feet and with no shade. By the time we arrived at the carpark the heat of the day had really started to kick in and David and I debated the merits of the walk. The alternative was to visit the Delicate Arch Viewpoint, which has two trails, a short 100 yard trail and a moderately strenuous half mile climb that provides a much better view of the Arch.

After some consideration we decided to on the compromise between exertion and laziness, and settled for the half mile climb. The going was moderately tiring carring gear and a tripod, but upon reaching the end of the trail the trip was worthwhile, with an excellent view of the Arch across the intervening valley.

Delicate Arch - note the scale of the people in the photo.
Minolta X-570 with 200mm f/2.8 MD Tele Rokkor. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

Getting the above shot with only a few people in it took an age of waiting, but was worth it. The Delicate Arch is certainly an amazing site. While it is tempting to get frustrated by the wait for tourists to leave the Arch (one couple chose to take a ten minute break sitting under the arch while I was waiting for a photo) I told myself that anyone who had walked three miles in the hot sun to see the arch up close deserved my patience.

In the meantime, David had considered the view, agreed it was magnificent, and then found a marginally comfortable place to sit and wait for me to finish taking photos. I am sure that he was probably envisaging the likelihood that he may be a little bored over the next week or two as I photographed "red rocks and big holes in the ground" as he so eloquently described the natural wonders we were visiting.

David contemplating my sanity as I carry my gear and tripod back to the car.
Minolta X-570 with 85mm f/2 MD Tele Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

After visiting Delicate Arch, David and I headed back to the car, and drove a little further into the park, visiting the "Devil's Garden" region, where we once again ventured out into the heat of the day. The Devil's Garden is home to many arches, including probably the most spectacular arch in the park, the Landscape Arch. Unfortunately, and I am not sure how this happened, but I completely missed Landscape Arch! How someone can travel halfway around the world to photograph America's wonders, and can be less than a few hundred metres from one of them and completely miss it is beyond me. That said, at least I have a very good reason to insist upon going back one day!

Skyline Arch, easily accessible, and quite impressive up close.
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC Rokkor. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

Skyline Arch is so named because it is one of very few arches positioned at the skyline, and in this position it is visible from many parts of the park. Interestingly, in 1940 the size of the arch was doubled when a chunk of rock the size of a house fell from it. It is a reminder that despite the fact that these beautiful arches are made of stone, they will eventually erode and collapse, and we are just lucky to be here at this moment in time when the forces of nature have combined to give this incredible display.

Arches NP, Utah
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC Rokkor. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

As you can see from the photograph above, by this time the sun was high in the sky, and both David and I were famished as we had not eaten in our rush to get out to the park for the first light of dawn. We decided to head back to Moab to get some lunch, and take a break from the heat of the day.

After heading back and getting a great pizza lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon browsing through the tourist shops that line the main street of Moab. There is no doubt that Moab is a very popular destination for 4x4 enthusiasts, shop after shop had off-road related merchandise. After a period of this we headed back to the motel for a nap before I was to head out again to photograph Canyonlands NP at sunset. David decided to stay behind and skip the trip to Canyonlannds NP so I headed off myself to see what I could capture.

Click below to see the rest of day 18 of my journey, spent exploring Canyonlands National Park.

Obviously roadworthy rules are slightly different in Moab to my home town.
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala
To Day 18 (Continued)
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