Moab on my Mind
December 2000

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Day One

The first  day of this trek is spent mostly on the road traveling to Moab.  The trip was uneventful with a little bit of snow in the Fish Lake National Forest.   I did not see anymore snow until I got closer to Moab.  It looked liked powdered sugar on the hillsides.  I checked into the motel and then went back out of Moab and towards Canyonlands National Park on highway 313.  Knowing that there was not much time until sunset so I came up to a couple of scenic outlooks that overlook the Monitor and Merrimac.  These two buttes were named after the Civil war era iron clad ships.  The shape of the buttes does remind one of some sort of ships.  I  fired off a couple of rolls looking for the right shot.  I found that as  sunset grew closer the Monitor and Merrimac grew more brilliant.  I think I captured the essence of the moment, but I will let you be the judge.  The coming day will be a long one with a plan to show up at the Mesa Arch before sunrise and  then hike up to Delicate Arch to assess the damage caused some months ago.


Day Two

The day began early today.  I needed to be inside Canyonlands National Park prior to dawn.  The goal this morning was to photograph Mesa arc h.  I had seen pictures of it, but never had a chance to do it until now.  The road was somewhat icy.  I made it to the parking lot  for Mesa arch at the right time.  A short trail led to the arch .  The snow was a few inches deep, but those who had preceded me had already packed down the trail.  It was kind of an eerie experience going on the trail since I was the only one on the trail and the only one in the park save a ranger having his morning brew in his residence.  When I came to the arch I was surprised how small it was.  It looked to be about five or six feet high by about 20 or 25 feet wide.  Seeing the sun coming up quickly I didn't waste any time in setting up the tripod and securing the camera.  In a few  minutes I was running to and fro trying to get a good angle on the arch .  Since there was no one else there I could afford to choose several angles.  I went through five rolls of film in about half an hour.  To be sure of a proper exposure I always bracketed my shots.  It was all over before I could realize it and so I packed everything up and went on the return trail. 

I got in the car and returned to Moab for breakfast.

After breakfast I went down Scenic Byway, highway 128 just north of Moab.  This is a fantastic  road.  It lies between the Colorado River on the north and red rock to the south.  I drove for a few miles and took a right where the La Sal mountains loop begins.  I went a couple of miles and was not impressed with the view since it was kind of hazy.  I turned around and found  a hill of red rock with a bit of snow on it.  I liked the contrast and so I pulled over and got ready to hike up closer to it since some power lines spoiled the view.  As I was getting ready someone stopped and asked, "Anything wrong?  Need some help? "  I replied that everything was fine and I went towards the hill.  I took out the wide angle lens and took a few pictures.  I then returned back to route 128. 

I headed down again the road looking for something to photograph.  I found an interesting rock in the Colorado River and pulled over to get a closer look.  I made my way to the bank and took some pictures, but I found looking up the river a more interesting view.  I took advantage of the reflection in the river for a great effect.    After that I headed towards Arches National Park.

The goal for the afternoon was  to inspect the damage done to Delicate Arch  and maybe take some pictures of the arch itself.  Some months ago some uncaring folks had set four fires underneath the arch for a photographic effect, but it ended badly when the remnants of the fires were spilled upon the arch itself causing some permanent damage.  I got an early start on hiking up to the arch by starting around 1 PM.  It was quite warm being in the mid 40s.  As I climbed the slick rock on the trail it was 'Sweating to Oldies' time.  I eventually made it to the arch having had only insult to injury when I slipped on the ice only a few feet from the end of the trail.  I made a beeline for beneath the arch with all my gear and I found  two spots where the fires were.  They are right beneath the middle of the arch and so I took a couple of pictures to document the damage.  The total area was just a few feet square, but the problem is that the damage is visible from a distance.  Most people I talked to did not even notice it or hear about what happened, but then again this is not something that would be publicized.  I took a couple of pictures from the usual places to see how it shows up.  Later in the day the shadow hid the damage from the camera.  There was some snow around the  arch, which might cover some of the other damage done by the fires.  I can't be sure.  Below is a picture showing the extent of the damage.

I had to wait some hours before the sun was setting, so I just sat around and talked to some folks nearby and saw a double wedding take place underneath the arch.  That's right--a double wedding.  A judge in a tie, white pants and black shoes brought the wedding party together underneath the arch and married two couples.  Apparently this is not the first time for the judge underneath the arch.  A couple of years ago a German couple had asked that he marry them under the arch.  Now that's going the extra mile.  I had a little fun with the moment by telling all those who arrived during the ceremony--"You're just in time for the wedding."    The surprise on the faces of those people was priceless.  Perhaps the funniest or rather tragic moment of the day was the arrival of some just as sun had finally had gone below the horizon.  They missed it all, but apparently there were some who were even later.  Half way down in the near darkness a party of three was grunting their way up the hill.  They would not see much except a silhouette of the Delicate arch.

All in all a very successful day in that I met my objectives.  Having met all my goals for this trip tomorrow will be an ad hoc type of a day.  I am thinking that some pictures taken near and after dusk at Arches National Park may  prove to be very interesting.  The dark outlines of the rocks and the sliver of  the moon would be cool on film if I can just find my cable release so I can do a multi-second exposure, which is required to capture the image I want.

Day Three

I began today like I did yesterday---at Mesa Arch.  The light was slightly better with the assistance of some clouds on the horizon that softened  the light considerably.  I thought I would be alone again, but a woman from Colorado brought her camera and tripod as well.  We shared some stories.   She told me that about a year previous she had come to Mesa Arch only to find that about ten photographers were all lined up and one from Japan was shooing everyone away.  I got off three or four rolls before the sun came too high. 

I ventured elsewhere in the park.  I took a few pictures from the Grand View trail showing some of the cliffs.  I would have liked to have gone to the end of the trail for the actual "view", but the haziness in the air  would only provide marginal shots.    After fiddling around some more in Canyonlands National Park I went back to Moab for breakfast.  

After breakfast I returned to Arches to take in some more scenery.    The most interesting statement of the day had to be the tourist who came into the visitor center asking for directions or maps down into the canyon.  The ranger realized after some more talking what the visitor was looking for and told him that he was at Arches National Park and that the Grand Canyon was some 300+ miles to the southwest in Arizona!  I chuckled softly as I thumbed through one of the books in the gift shop. The tourist was from Germany and so maybe he got his geography a bit wrong.  I rode back and forth the road just below Balanced Rock trying to find a spot I could set up my tripod for the shot I wanted to do at dusk.  I think I had found it in the shoulder of the road that was made special for pulling out and taking pictures.

The evening pictures never really materialized like I had hoped for, so I tried to catch a glimpse of the dusk and the light coming off the clouds.  I finished off the roll and headed back into town.  I had dinner at Smitty's, which is a local diner.  It is small, however this is where all the locals show up and the food is yummy.  I highly recommend it if you ever visit Moab.  It is just south of 300 South on Main street on the west side.

I still have Moab on my mind.

If you enjoyed the above narrative look at the narrative of the 1999 Moab trip.