17 September 2006

The Road is my Favorite Place: Day 5

(Days: one, two, three, four)

21/viii/04: Torrey, UT to Moab, UT
164 miles/264 km

Hollow MountainAbout halfway between Torrey and Moab, I stopped to fill up my tank at Hollow Mountain. The pumps were out front, but the mini-mart really was inside of a small mountain of rock: a brightly lit, well-appointed cave that stocked bottles of the Arizona Health Tea of which I'd become so fond.

Next door was Blondie's Eatery & Gift. The name was accurate: Dagwood and Blondie adorned the outside, and inside, tables commingled with gift racks. I ordered lunch at the food counter, and the woman kindly gave me the kid's price ($3.20!) for a perfect grilled cheese, french fries, and a Dr Pepper. I left her a buck in the tip jar.

Back on the road, I noticed an air strip in the middle of the desert. I skidded to a stop on the gravelly dirt shoulder so I could take a picture. Off to the left was a very short tower and some planes parked in a row, piper cubs and similar.
Desert Runway

A couple hours later, I was photographing the formation known as Park Avenue in Arches National Park.
Park Avenue Balanced Rock
Then I walked the short hike to Balanced Rock.

At the North and South Windows, I started to curse Arches greater popularity. Capitol Reef had been mostly deserted when I was there. Getting shots without people in them at Arches took a great deal of patience.

Everyone and their brother had to get a shot of themselves sitting high up in the South Window. Several people passed me on the trail which ultimately meant more people to wait for. Red shirts, blue shirts, even fluorescent green, all eminently visible even a couple hundred feet away. Everyone should wear neutral colors! No white, no red, no blue. If they must mar your shot at least we can all be less intrusive about it. Since I had chosen to wear my khaki cargo shorts and a light grey t-shirt because of the heat and sun anyway, it didn't seem unreasonable. I even mentioned it to a couple of visitors, but I don't think I made any converts.

After much frustration, I finally got the shots I wanted and continued my hike.
North Window

view from North Window
("North Window" image available for sale as print, postage, cards, and other products at my shop.)

For my shot of both windows, I gave up on patience and resorted to creative framing, essentially lying on the ground to achieve an angle that would crop out any hikers. If I was going to enjoy my visit to this park, I would have to be more flexible.
North and South Windows
Back at my car, I ate some pretzels, drank some tea and decided to be less concerned with people-free photography, so I could be more present to enjoy the vistas.

I consulted my map and the park's newspaper with the tremendously useful guide of best times of day to shoot various arches. It was the wrong time of day to shoot the Double Arch, but it was nearby and I wanted to check it out anyway.

See? They were right. It was a terrible time of day to shoot the Double Arch, but I include it here for scale: note the tiny people at the bottom. (Click the picture to see a larger version.)
Double Arch and tiny people
A family was ahead of me as I climbed into the arch. I cradled my camera with my left hand while using the right for balance and leverage as the rock face got steeper. On a small ledge, I leaned back against the wall and watched as the daughter, about 10, casually climbed up and down to the base of the topmost arch. She stood above us all fearlessly.

view from Double ArchWhen the family was on their way down, I climbed up to where she'd been standing; I didn't. The other side of that narrow topmost base point was a sheer drop that cranked up my adrenaline. I was in awe of her. After some calming deep breaths, I took a few shots.

Then I found, as always seems to be the case, that getting down was going to be more difficult than climbing up. My right knee had been acting up again recently which meant I couldn't rely on it to hold my weight. I ended up keeping my back to the wall and sliding down a few feet until I hit a ledge I could walk on.

Back on level ground, I took some silhouette shots.
rock silhouette
("Desert Silhouette" image available as print, cards, postage, and other products at my shop.)

After seeing the famous Delicate Arch from afar, I drove into Moab to find some dinner and a place to stay.


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  1. You got some absolutely beautiful photos there. Was it quiet, being off-season already?

  2. I was lucky enough to see Arches National Park last January - I did not hike there quite as much as you did, but I was in total awe of the place. It was very quiet in the early a.m., and a bit windy in spots. My camera would not work, but my boyfriend took good shots of the place.

  3. Thanks, Neil. I was there mid-August, and I think the peak season is actually in the fall because it's so hot in the summer there. For the most part, there were several people on the trails I hiked, but usually we were spaced out. Some sites were more popular than others, but it was still fairly quiet.

    Elisabeth: Arriving in the early a.m. was beyond me, but I still loved it. It probably sounds like I hiked more than I did... I stuck mainly to short, easy trails.

  4. Amazing photos. Again!

    And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Here's to you! :)