Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ric's Epic Adventure - Part 11: Redeemed!

After my humiliating defeat on the previous hike, I returned to the camp a beaten man. I saw that my loud neighbors from the night before had moved on... well at least that was good.  I took a shower, wrote one of the blogs and then tried to get in a little nap before going on the hike for Delicate Arch.  Taking a nap inside that hot tent was not cutting it, so I opted to get a little rest inside the air conditioned car.

I must’ve dozed off for a little bit, because suddenly it was 5:30.  I still had to drive back into Arches and head up the trail. It took nearly a half an hour to get to the trailhead. I asked some folks that had just returned how long it took to get to the arch and they said about an hour (even though it’s only a mile and half away.  The printed guide listed the hike in their “Strenuous Trails” category, here is part of the official description… 

Length: 3 miles round trip.
Elevation Change: 480 feet
Take at least 2 quarts of water per person.  Open slickrock with some exposure to heights and no shade.  The first half-mile is a well defined trail.  Upon reaching the slickrock, follow the rock cairns… yada, yada, yada…

I lightened my camera bag as much as I could (got rid of the telephoto lens and a few other things and headed up.  It was 6 pm. If I could make it in an hour I would get there just in time for sunset.  Hopefully.

Once again, it was hot, but at least with the sun’s low angle, it wasn’t beating down on me.  The blood was pumping as I started heading up the “Slickrock” which is essentially a giant hill made of rock.  Oh, and I forgot the hiking shoes again as well.  I had to take several water breaks as I made my way up that hill that seemed to have no end.  I also forgot my trusty sweat rag/bandana, so I had to use my hat to mop up my face!   

Finally it leveled off for a bit, but I was only about halfway there.  I was thinking that if I didn’t make the sunset I could at least get some dusk shots.  I was in a shaded area, blocked by the cliffs, so I couldn’t tell how low the sun was.

As I pushed on, some folks were already heading back.  I guess they didn’t want to get caught in the dark. They were saying “You’re almost there… Just around the bend…”  Sure enough as I rounded the corner, there it was!  The sun was still another 5 minutes or so from setting.  I snapped off a quick pick, then, chose a couple of spots to set up with the tripod.  It was great!  The arch is massive!  I’m including a shot with some folks under it so you can get a sense of scale. 

After some coaxing from others that made the trip, people got out from under the arch so that the shutterbugs could go to town.  People applauded the sunset and started heading down.  I stuck around a little longer to get some after sunset shots and quickly debated whether or not to stay until the stars came out. 

I had serious doubts about being able to make it back on my own in the darkness.  Sometimes those rock cairns (path markers) can be pretty far apart and it probably would have been pretty easy for me to get off the beaten path coming down that giant stone hill and picking up the path again.

While up there at the top I befriended a young married couple from Indianapolis, Chris and Abby.  I think they said they were celebrating their 4 year anniversary?  Anyway, we were the last ones there and they offered to make the trip back with me… and am I glad they did!  Chris is a member of the National Guard and had been through some pretty extensive survival training.  We weren’t even halfway back yet and we were in total darkness.  Abby and I had our headlamps, Chris didn’t need one!  This guy could see in the dark.  With no moon, the only natural light was from the starlight.  It was a long but enjoyable trip back as I got to know them.  A few times we turned off our lights just to gaze up at the stars.  I am really going to miss seeing such an amazing sky at night.

Back at the bottom I thanked them for their company and we said our goodbyes, they still had a 4 hour trip ahead of them in their car.  Hope it was a safe trip, you two!

I wasn’t done shooting for the night.  I decided to drive down toward Balancing Rock where I ran into a few more nightscape photogs.  I took several shots of the rock and then did a long exposure with some star trails.   

It was really only about a 20 minute shot and probably should have been maybe at least an hour, but I needed to get back to camp so I could get up early for my final morning of shooting before it was time to start the journey home.  Anyway, I’m calling this one “Star Child” cuz it kinda reminds me of the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey!

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