Before we left for a week in the Utah canyonlands, my husband told me that his boss suggested he bring something to keep busy with, because I was going to be taking pictures of everything. Darin's boss was so right. Utah is incredibly photogenic and so dramatically geologically different from Western Washington that I couldn't help but repeatedly ask Darin to pull over. The canyon country reminds me of Dry Falls in Eastern Washington, on a grander scale with brilliant red-orange rock.
The days were hot and windy, so we spent our mornings and evenings in the park and the hot afternoons in town avoiding dust storms. Moab’s economy is based on tourism, but it doesn't cater to the type of tourist who spends much time poolside. Moab has wonderful art galleries and boutiques, but then there are bike racks outside nearly every building, an expansive map store, outdoor stores selling everything from canyoneering gear to mountain bike rentals, and a person would have to stay a long while to run out of restaurants to try, nearly all with an outside seating option. It's an incredibly fun town for the outdoor inclined.
Arches National Park is a ten minute drive from Moab, and most of its famous formations are just a short hike from a paved parking lot. This accessible splendor makes it incredibly busy. On our first night there we circled like vultures waiting for a parking spot to become available at the trailhead for Delicate Arch. When we arrived at the arch there was a long queue of people waiting to take their picture under the iconic arch, and several other unhappy people yelling at them to move. It was worth the hike to see the arch featured on the Utah license plate, but patience can be taught waiting to get a shot.
There is a way to beat the crowds, however, if you get up at 4am, which Darin thankfully agreed to do. We caught the sunrise from Balanced Rock on our first morning, and our only company was a raven watching us from a gnarled tree, and a jack rabbit who ran across my path while I was scouting for a place to set up. The red rock lights up when the sun is low in the sky. Absolutely amazing.
We spent our first morning exploring the park, which by 8 am was full of visitors. After returning to town for lunch we drove out to find dinosaur tracks just north of the park. So amazing to put our feet next to Allosaurus and Camarasaurus footprints, knowing that there once were monsters where we stood.
Arches is host to an abundance of wildflowers in the spring. Most of the year the desert is barren, but in April dozens of species of flowers grace the trails and roadside. Paintbrush was the only flower I was familiar with, I had to look up the names of the rest. The fragile evening primrose seemed to blanket the desert floor wherever we went.
The next morning we caught the sunrise from the North Window. If you scramble a few moves up to a ledge there's a view that yields a wonderful naturally composed shot - Turret Arch framed by the North Window. We had the pleasure of meeting Brad of Goldpaint Photography up on the little ledge. He had been there all night doing time lapses, and so thoughtfully offered to make room for us when we arrived an hour before sunrise. He does incredible time lapse and night sky photography.
We had the rest of the day to explore more of the park. Landscape Arch was definitely worth the short hike. A few years ago a chunk of rock on the right side fell off, and a tourist caught the falling rock on camera. People are no longer allowed to walk under it, and its years are certainly numbered. Geologic time moves quickly with sandstone. Park Avenue was a stroll through some impressive formations such as the Three Gossips, who really do look like three women talking about someone.
On our last night in Arches we visited Delicate Arch a second time. The sky was clouded for most of the walk, but while we were up there some sunlight slipped through for a few minutes. A wonderful sight before heading back to town to prepare for an overnight hike in Canyonlands National Park the next day.