If Utah is blessed with one thing, it would certainly be national parks. And one of them, Arches National Park, is known for sandstone layers, wind-and-water erosions, and structures that make you want to park your car and move in for a closer look.
Arches National Park lies atop a salt bed on the Colorado Plateau that has endured and changed over the last 300 million years. As floods and oceans covered the salt bed, rock shifted to form layers, most noticeably salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone and buff-colored Navajo Sandstone. That shifting, combined with destructive forces of wind and chemical weathering, left over 2,000 freestanding arches and unique structures now protected by the National Park Service.
But even if these red rocks seem to remain stable in form, they change hourly with the sun. And that variation in light stirred our fascination with Arches. For example, Three Gossips (in the Courthouse Towers section) caught our attention for unique form.
But in different light, the hues changed. Three Gossips became more distinct as we moved closer. Black swaths blended into the red. Layers of pink and salmon and white took shape. And the gossips themselves seemed ready for conversation.
Balanced Rock changed with light also. But other factors, like proximity and angle of vision, came into play. The closer we moved in, the more details we saw — massive height, erosion of the sandstone layer, and differences in overall shape and texture and form.
Sometimes it was luck that changed our perception. We chose not to take the long hike to Delicate Arch (the signature rock in brochures about Arches National Park). Instead, we took a shorter path, stood on a distant perch across the canyon, and watched heartier hikers roam ant-like around the well-known window.
But when a fellow photographer offered us his arm-length telephoto lens to get a better view, we never hesitated. After carefully swapping it out with our smallish lens, we snapped this view of Delicate Arch, giving us a front-row seat that we thought only the hale and hearty had. Oh, the kindness of strangers!
North and South Windows stood out on our map as a stop to take. Even from a distance, the whole of it intrigued us — size, dual windows, and interesting erosion.
But closer looks afforded us details not see from afar: richer color, views through the arch, and interesting twists and turns in the rock, no doubt formed by years of water, wind, rain, and snow.
We waited patiently for opportunities to see “windows” without people. And finally, we did. But not without patience and long wait-time. Visitors love these structures, understandably so. And, thanks to the national park system, pathways and man-made steps make these treasures accessible to all. But if you want a “no-people” view, prepare to wait.
If you haven’t visited Arches, you should. If you’ve been before, go again. Each hour, each day, each season is different. Arches National Park is layer cake and windows heaven.
For more information:
Arches National Park, https://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/arches-national-park
Information in this post based upon “Arches,” the brochure and map obtainable at the Arches National Park Visitor Center.