Our plan following Double O Arch was to relax at the hotel, eat dinner and go to bed early. The following morning we planned to return to Arches for one last spin through The Windows Section so that I could retake some photos but we changed plans at the last minute which absolutely turned out for the better.
After our hike, we drove to Moab for lunch and then went back to the hotel to shower and sit down for a hot minute. Whilst sitting down, we decided to go back to Arches that night for a third “shift” and visit Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park at sunrise the following morning.
The following morning came quickly when our alarm clock went off at 4:30am. Mesa Arch is a 50-minute drive from Moab so we rev’d up Mario Kart and sped down the highway, once again chasing the sun. Two bats flew into the windshield of the car during our drive through the park. Bats were everywhere! The Mesa Arch Trail car park was near capacity when we arrived at 5:40am for the 5:55am sunrise.
The hike to Mesa Arch is flat and only one-third of a mile in length at a maximum elevation of 6,120 ft (roughly 1,200 feet higher than the average elevation of Arches National Park). The area around the arch was absolutely crawling with people and I immediately thought our visit was going to be a waste of our time.
The photo below was taken when one-quarter of the sun was above the horizon and the stone was beginning to glow. Every single one of the people in the photo are in the wrong position to capture photos of the arch (from my perspective anyway).
Note: Mesa Arch was formed by surface water that pooled on the stone behind the arch which slowly leaked, eroding the rock. It is technically classified as a pothole arch.
The majority of the people at the arch thought that the prime spot to watch the sunrise was in the area where the arch connects to the stone cliffside (the cliff is a 500 ft drop). There were so many people – myself included – crammed into that area and it was impossible to get a decent photo of anything except one of the gals in front of me.
This was my view when I was crammed with all the people.
I thought, “maybe they know something I don’t know” so I stayed in that uncomfortable position for 15 minutes until the sun started to appear on the horizon. The view did not improve and was nothing like the photo I had imagined getting so I started plotting my escape.
Unlike Delicate Arch the previous morning where everyone took turns and was respectful of not lingering around the arch too long, people at Mesa Arch were in it for themselves. There was no respect for others, there were camera tripods everywhere, there were camera parts and lenses strewn about on the stone and people were nudging others out of their way to take photos.
The photo below was my view as the sun started to appear on the horizon. I could have done without the person behind me pressing their elbow into my back but it was what it was and as odd as this may sound, this is of my favorite photos from our trip. It is the contrast of the historic landscape and modern technology that I love so much.
As I squatted in position with my thighs burning, I overheard a professional photographer talking about how everyone was in the wrong position and would miss the glow of the arch. “Miss the glow of the arch?” I asked myself. I listened carefully to his words and then quickly moved to the stone landing above the left side of the arch and faced the opposite direction of the sun. There was no rhyme or reason as to why I selected that spot, I just did.
From my new position, I saw the glow on the stone cliff off in the distance and I could feel the warmth of the sun on my back (much more pleasant than an elbow!). It was incredible.
Within 5 minutes of me arriving on the landing, the crowd crammed in the area that I was previously squatting in had walked back to their cars and drove off into the sunrise! They couldn’t even be bothered to wait until the sun had fully risen and they missed the best part of the morning but that’s their problem, not mine.
I climbed down from the landing to my original position after the crowd departed just to see what they saw and to confirm or deny the professional photographer’s words of wisdom that we were all in the wrong position.
The photographer was mostly correct. As far as sunrises go, it’s pretty dope but I feel that the beauty of the arch was lost from that position.
Note: A photograph of Mesa Arch is one Windows 7 preloaded desktop landscape background options.
Proud of myself for not having missed much of anything by leaving my first position for the landing, I climbed up the stone to my third and final position. I laid on my back and took the photo below.
Pleased with my photographs, we trekked to the car and drove to Moab for breakfast. I randomly stopped at Shafer Canyon Overlook on the drive to Moab to take a photo of the sun and lunar landscape only to be surprised with a perfect view of the switchbacks of Shafer Canyon Road.
After breakfast, we packed up Mario Kart and drove agonizing four-and-a-half hours to Bryce Canyon National Park.