Arches National Park is easygoing. It’s like that friend who you call to hang out and you know they’ll always say yes. I like Arches enough to be friends with it, and enough to return someday, maybe even with someone when that time comes. Let’s break it down:
Arrival: Just before sunset, a time that changes often when you’re in a different city every day. These days I let the sun go down when it wants and try not to plan too much around it.
Entering the park, you first wind your way up and over a wall of rock, and then you get a lot of this:
I veered off the park’s one main road to see The Windows, and as I passed by the sun was coming through one of these naturally formed holes. Beautiful stuff. See, when you let the sun go down when it wants, much like a person you’ve stopped trying to control, it starts treating you better. It’s a matter of respect, timing or the rotation of the earth. All of the above.
Delicate Arch, toward the middle of the 76,000+ acre park, is said to be the most famous and most photographed natural arch in the world. Visitors can view it from a trio of trails, none of which are very strenuous unless you are terribly fat, in which case I cannot help you.
Sometimes, once you’ve conquered “the main attraction” (in Arches’ case, Delicate Arch) and begin to wander on your own you find a more personal experience. This happened for me at the park’s north end. The sun was falling quickly now and the blue only rose halfway across the sky. I was alone (as usual), and had stepped out onto my final trail of the night: a quick jaunt between two rock walls that peeled away to reveal a front-and-center view of Skyline Arch.
But I wasn’t alone. This trail also put me face to face with a deer that took a step away when I took two in its direction. I pulled rough grasses from a desert bush and extended my hand, palm up as if feeding a horse. It sniffed, but made no contact before using the same bush as a restroom. A startling moment for me; the deer did not seem to mind.
Satisfied from this brush with nature and feeling all wondrous about the world, I meandered back to the car. The light now hunkered down along the horizon, a strip of yellow-amber tracing the topline of distant mountains. I drove the main road south to Panorama Point and, top down, watched as everything around me turned indigo, then black.
All black except the stars, which I’d come to experience as much as the arches. And they (both) were plenty, but anyone who has amateurishly tried to photograph stars with an iPhone knows the results are dim. And so I have no images to share of Utah’s night sky. But then, sitting alone under a starry desert sky is a kind of moment that you do for yourself, and isn’t meant to be on Instagram or Facebook as much as it’s a memory for you. So now you know that I did this, and I think that you should too, but I’m not able to talk you into it with a pretty photo. Go find your stars anyway.
Learn more about Arches National Park here.