After a long day of driving and exploring on Day 8, we arrived at Arches National Park about an hour before sunset (and 15 minutes after the visitor’s center closed…ugh!). You enter the park in the valley near Moab, but within a few hundred feet, you find yourself climbing the steep switch-backed road, lined by soaring red sandstone formations. Interestingly, it doesn’t take too long to begin seeing objects and shapes in these rocks, and so it should come as no surprise that many of these formations have fanciful names, from Ham Rock and Parade of Elephants, to Park Avenue and the rock above which I have nicknamed Gnome Rock. In total, we spent about 5 hours exploring Arches, most of the time under the stars, but I wish we had had another day – as with many of the parks we sampled – we really only had the chance to explore the tip of the iceberg.
So, with limited time to explore, we did our best to be strategic and headed first to the cluster of formations in and around Double Arch (above) to make the most of the quickly setting sun. We arrived just before sunset and were just amazed by the scale of these formations. The photos really don’t do the scale justice, but for example, Double Arch has a span of 148 feet and a height of 104 feet (the height of a 10 story building). In the gallery below, be sure to look at the dots that are cars and people in several of the images. With literally moments until sunset, we hiked up to Double Arch – about a half mile hike – and climbed up the nearly vertical embankment to the second opening (proving once again that I am out of shape). As day slowly gave way to night, we snapped a few more shots, then headed down whilst there was still sufficient light to not result in a trip to the emergency room. As we walked on, I turned back to the arch and noticed the subtle kiss of the fading light illuminating the rocks and had to snap the above photo. For the rest of the evening, we worked on some simple astrophotography. The moon again proved limiting in the angles we could shoot, but even with the bright moon, we could just make out the Milky Way.
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Autumn in the National Parks – Arches