Let me start this off by saying I have very little landscape/nature photography experience. A lot of times people assume that if you are a "photographer" that you can shoot anything amazing if you can shoot one thing amazing. THIS IS A FARSE. A horrible wicked one. That's why you hire a portrait photographer for your wedding photos (and not Uncle Bob) and why you hire a professional travel photographer to get the spread for the cover of your next outdoor magazine edition (and not me). Or someone who can do both for either. Again...not me.
Last night I was driving home from a fun quick weekend at my aunt and uncle's house in Park City, UT where I got to hang out at their gorgeous home in Jeremy Ranch, visit some of my in-laws to celebrate my husband's brother's birthday (I missed the pinata dangit...) eat amazing food, do some shopping at the outlet malls, and squeeze in a few photoshoots for my cousins and their family and friends. It was a perfect getaway from our hectic fall schedule. I enjoyed having some alone time- I recharge every alone minute I get, and a whole weekend to myself was maybe not necessarily much needed, but much enjoyed.
It's about a 6 hour drive back from Park City to Montrose. While getting closer to the Colorado border from Utah I started seeing signs for Arches National Park and Moab, which is a place I've never been but have always wanted to visit. I looked at the clock. It was about 5:30 and when I did a quick lookup on my phone, Arches was about 30 miles from where I was. I didn't realize it was that close off the interstate, and if I was lucky, I could get there just in time for sunset. I was alone, with no kids to worry about, no time frame to get home for necessarily, and although I wanted to get home to see my family before bed and I knew this would put me a few hours behind, I just threw caution to the wind and decided to go.
Goodbye, caution, YOLO!!
I texted Craig and told him my plans and he told me to go if I wanted to. I got to the park a little after 6. After a quick stop to go potty and fill up my waterbottle at the visitors center, I booked it up the hill and into the park. I really wanted to get to Delicate Arch and according to the map it was about 9 miles into the park, so I had to race the sun to get there. Having never been there, I was lamenting the fact that I couldn't stop at every single place there was to stop.
It was incredible, especially with the golden hour sun pouring in through every canyon. I did stop at the first parking spot available to snatch the shot above, then ran back to my car and took off further into the park.
A few winds and turns later, I saw the signs for the Delicate Arch parking area. You can either park and hike to the arch itself or drive about a mile further up the road to get to the viewpoint area. I didn't have time to hike very far, so I opted to just take my chances at the viewpoint spot, and oddly enough the entire parking area for the hike was PACKED with cars and people. People must like sunset hikes around here, I thought, and who could blame them, it was breathtaking. I rumbled up to the less crowded viewpoint parking area and jumped out of my car with my gear. I didn't have my tripod with me, but I would just have to make do when I got there. There was about a quarter-mile uphill hike to the viewpoint area. Luckily I DID bring my Keens with me so that made the climb much easier than it would have with my flip flops. I scaled the climb as quickly as I could and made it before the sun was completely down. Except their was a small string of clouds blocking the direct light.
Oh well. I still got out my camera and got a couple snaps. It was a beautiful sunset too.
I struck up a conversation with a gentleman with his tripod out. He had just retired and was road-tripping around to some beautiful spots with his camera with some of his free time (UNCLE BOB I FOUND YOU!!). He was disappointed at the lack of good light, as was I, because of the clouds in front of the sunset. But he was going to stay around and see if he could catch the moon coming up during the eclipse, as it was supposed to come up in a north-northwest spot somewhere over the canyon, blah blah blah-
The ECLIPSE!! The Super Blood Moon Lunar Ecplipse!!!!
Did I seriously just land myself at the Delicate Arch on the night on one of the most epic moon experiences of the century??
Except I don't have a tripod dangit. Or anything closer than an 85mm lens. GUH.
Oh well, I was in YOLO land, the experience was worth it even if I didn't land the shot of the century of the moon of the century.
I kind of zoned out Uncle Bob and found my way to the top of this broad sheet of rock many of us were sitting on to get a better view of the arch. Suddenly the hoards of people standing around by the arch made sense, everyone seemed to have the same idea I accidentally had. I sat down and watched all the people on the other side of the rock and enjoyed the desert breeze as it picked up across the canyon, and waited. And waited. And waited. I was a little nervous Craig would be worried and I didn't have any cell reception to let him know my plans, but I knew I was okay and I could contact him later, so I tried not to let that interfere with my experience. Flashes of lights were sparkling from the people behind the arch from their phone cameras. I didn't know if the moon was going to come up over the arch, but I sure hoped it would. In my head, I saw this:
When the moon finally did peek over the hills, it was almost all the way eclipsed and it was way farther north than the Delicate Arch. Above was my vision, below is all I got with my inadequate gear...
A little underwhelming after that initial excitement of realizing I was at the right place at the right time by accident, but it was a neat adventure nonetheless.
After the moon went completely dark and I had a few moments to gaze at the milky way over the arch (NO TRIPOD AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH), I picked up my stuff, turned on my phone light, said goodbye to the Japanese tourists who were talking and laughing down the hill from me enjoying their American experience, then made my way alone down the trail in the pitch black back to the car.
Driving back I watched the moon come back to life over the Colorado plains on the way to Grand Junction. I sang a the top of my lungs to all my favorite songs on the iPod and ate Kettle Corn and pinata candy. I marveled a bit at my alone adventure- it's pretty unusual that things line up like that for me, usually I get lost or the place I'm going is closed or I realize I don't have enough gas or some other crazy mishap. Tonight I didn't get the epic shot of the century, but I did get a bucket list checkoff I didn't even know was on my list.
Back on the mountain, when the last sliver of light disappeared from the side of the moon and it was completely red and covered, echoes of the masses of people by the arch howling at the moon came over the canyon to my perch alone on the rock. I howled too.