If you are a photography addict like me heading for Arches National Park, don't miss Delicate Arch the probably most beautiful one of all of them.
My last visit was sometime back late June 2016, following a few weeks in New York later Ithaca for some "Lifelong Learning" at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration I flew down to L.A. for a long-planned trip around the National Parks of the USA. What was planned as a 2 months self-drive roundtrip turned out over 3 months and 15 000+ miles.
Among the first stops was Arches National Park and Delicate Arch was way up on my list. Arrived the evening before making sure I was the first one in the parking lot early morning way before sunrise. No cars around I seemed lucky and off I went right away on my little hike.
Walking for just a few minutes I saw light beams of other cars closing in on the trailhead parking lot. I started to walk a little faster making sure I had enough time for a few shots before the crowd arrives at the Arch.
It took me a little longer than expected, I arrived on a plateau with the first sunrays crossing the mountains. At first, I thought, so this is it? Where is the Arch? But checking my notes I realized quickly I wasn't there yet.
Worried despite all planning I'd be late I started walking really fast finally running at the same time grabbing a few shots as the sunrise turned out to be a stunner.
A little further down the trail, I passed the first real arch. Since it didn't look like Delicate Arch again I went on only realizing later climbing up the rock some 2m looking through Donut Arch I would have seen Delicate Arch right on the other side.
So I went around the next corner finally arriving at Delicate Arch BUT despite all efforts, running and no cars in the parking lot, someone arrived well before me. Right underneath the almost 16m high Delicate Arch, still in the shade of the surrounding rock formations, a sleeping bag...!!! At first, I thought it was empty, as someone obviously was tucked in really well still finishing a double feature in Lala Land.
Obviously a little frustrated I started photographing the other side of the ridge enjoying the first warming sun rays. Checking back every few shots I took the one or other shot with the sleeping bag planning to do some photoshop magic. Before the head came out of the sleeping bag I remember thinking "a little daring to sleep alone up here", right underneath the arch with a steep cliff right behind it.
Finally, the party killer stuck the head out of the sleeping bag slowly crawling out of the comfortable warmth making me realize it was a young little female hiker all alone up here with the wind. I couldn't believe my eyes realizing she was in shorts and tank top only. Remembering some other crazy fun people I met during trips like this I went off smiling to photograph the breathtaking scenic views, as the sun was still to arrive on Delicate Arche's side of the ridge.
A little later we introduced ourselves and since the young lady had climbed onto a rock enjoying some yoga in the sun I dared to ask if she's ok to be in a panorama I was just taking.
As I learned later her friends were staying down in a hotel in Moab and she did the same at Horseshoe Bend near Page (AZ).
Don't miss Delicate Arch, but make sure you put up barriers the night before so you can photograph it without upsetting purists retouching freeloaders out.