When I visited Utah in the Spring with my nXnw buddies, I did almost no pre-trip planning or research. I put myself completely in the hands of the group’s guides, Rick Louie and Justin Balog. They each live in the Denver area which is close enough to these Utah parks to visit on the occasional weekend. On top of that, I knew precious little about the National Parks we visited, although I had seen images from them many times without managing to absorb the details.
So when we started our trek to Delicate Arch for sunset Saturday night, I had no idea what I was in for or where I was going. It’s a fairly substantial trek from the parking area, covering about 1.5 miles in a desert, with a 500 foot total elevation climb. In addition, the nature of the trail is such that you cannot see the endpoint until you turn a final corner, which is on a moderately wide ledge off a steep cliff. Frankly, despite being in much better shape this year than I have probably been in 15 years, I was rather exhausted at this point, and freaking out a little about the ledge and the cliff, as I have middling case of acrophobia.
But when I did turn that corner and saw this it was all worthwhile. This is one of those sights that is worthy of the term breathtaking. Of course I knew this place. Delicate Arch is one of the defining landmarks of Utah. I just didn’t know its name, as I must admit. I’ve already shared an infrared and a night time shot of this icon, but I have held off sharing this sunset view until now. This is the shot taken by countless people from all over the world who make that same climb day after day, arriving in time for to watch the setting sun bathe this natural wonder in its glow.
There were several hundred people there that day, maybe even a thousand. Everyone just waited for the sunset, and then group by group everyone started the reverse trip back to the car park. A small band of us – a few dozen who wanted to get the night time shots (see link above) using light painting – hung around, although getting to the right spot in the bowl that sits under the Arch was a small adventure in itself. Fortunately it meant walking the steep ledge portion of the trip right away, because by the time we finished with our light painting activities, it was pitch black except for the stars, moon, and some flashlights. We still had to cover the better part of the trail, including most of the elevation descent, in the dark, which was surprisingly less difficult than it seemed it might be.
Obviously if you’ve read this far you cannot recreate my experience of approaching Delicate Arch as you now know exactly what it is, but if you have a chance someday to travel to a beautiful location with either a friend or a paid guide whom you trust, try putting yourself totally in their hands, so you can experience the trip with complete innocence and wonder.