Having the alarm go off at 4:30 am was not as much of a rude awakening as I had imagined. I think I was more excited than tired to start our early morning adventure and the five of us had gone to bed at a reasonable hour, so we were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as my grandmother used to say.
Our goal was to hike, in the dark, to Utah’s most iconic sandstone arch, Delicate Arch (you can find it on the Utah license plate), and be there for sunrise. Armed with water, headlamps, a flashlight, and a bunch of camera gear, we left the parking at 530 am to begin the 1.5 mile hike.
Initially, the trail is well marked, but as we soon found out, the stacked stones (or cairns) and signs were harder to follow once you began walking on exposed rock (or slick rock). The fact that we were hiking in the dark definitely made it tougher. It would not be an adventure if things did not go as you planned, and we lost the trail among the slick rock for a few moments. Fortunately, our crew stayed calm, and we backtracked the the last sign we saw. From that point on, we spread out until someone found the next cairn, which led to the next one, then the next one, and so on and so forth.
At one point during the hike, we watched a pair of eyes about a foot off the ground, stare at us from a distance. It was a bit unnerving, but it stayed a safe distance ahead of us, and it was only one set of eyes, so we figured it was a coyote wondering what five idiots were doing in his/her neighborhood at 5:30 in the morning.
Even with our slight detour, we still made it to Delicate Arch with about an hour to spare before sunrise. Now the challenge was to safely find a good vantage point and wait. I had decided to bring my ultra wide-angle 14mm lens, so I found a spot down low (so I was out of the other guy’s shots) and close enough to get some sky to show through the arch.
We setup our tripods, got our cameras ready, and waited for the show to begin.
As daylight came to Arches National Park, the five of us were the only human beings around. It was an amazing experience, and one I will always remember sharing with my lifelong friends. We sat there for a long time, enjoying the view, but as people began to arrive, we decided it was time to head back to the car and drive to another section of the park to explore something new.