Double windows. Double arches. Double helpings. Double standards. Double mint gum. Do the even make that anymore? I’m not really a gum person, so I don’t pay attention. Anyway, just double. Double me this, if you will.
The double arches in Arches National Park. A window of opportunity to achieve some great shots if you can get it right. Nature. Sun. Canyon sun. Desert canyon sun. Lizards. So many lizards. Rocks and primitive trails. Designated trails, but also primitive trails. Strangers. Strangers galore, from one end of the park to the other from the break of day. And activist. At least those pretending to be. Is there a story there, you ask? You know that there is.
It was my last day in Utah. At this point, I had reached my fill of my vacation and I was ready to hang with horses in the basin and move on home. I missed the zone and felt a little guilty because she had been boarded for several days at this point. Anyway, I was done but I had a National Park pass and by god…I was going to make that thing pay for itself. It more than did.
It was Wednesday morning. I was up early. Not as early as I would have been had my trip been going according to plan, but early. It was still early enough that I would not have expected there to be as many people in the archest at that time of day. Spoiler alert: I was wrong. The park was not busy, but it was increasingly so as I traveled each half mile. Anyway, I hadn’t gotten near enough hiking in and stopped at this set of arches.
I had already walked the primitive trail. The primitive trail was supposed to take me up to the Double Arches, but the trail is not well marked (Pretty much at all, which is also says in the brochure) and so I was a bit uneasy about trying to figure it out on my own. I’m an adventurous sort, but I think that spirit had left me by this point. With that said, I decided to go get back on the main trail. A main trail that turned into a primitive trail to go up under the arches.
I had already visited a couple of other arches at this point. I had been watching a countless number of people go up into the arches and climb over rocks. The brochure even indicated that some of the trails indicated that you would have to manuever over rocks and such. To be careful because sandstone is slick. I had also seen, over the years, a countless number of pictures of people under the arches. Pictures people had taken themselves from different perspectives of the arches, including underneath the arches. The only things that the park specifically indicated was to stay on trails in high vegetative areas and to not climb on top of the arches. Therefore when the main trail ended and the primitive trail began, I didn’t think anything of it. I followed the path, which many before me had already followed and went up into the arch.
As I’m coming to an end of doing my thing, I heard an old woman yell at some girls about how they needed to stay on the path. That they were supposed to stay on the path. I knew where they were and technically they were on a path, a primitive path but a path none the less. It was a path lined by rocks and had already been traveled a countless number of times, but in a demanding voice she told them to get back on the path. I knew she was going to bother me, so I decided to start back to my car.
As I was walking towards her on the main trail, she told me to smile because I was busted. I looked at her confused and she said that I wasn’t supposed to be climbing on the rocks. I was confused and hadn’t recalled seeing this anywhere and informed her that I wasn’t aware of this fact and that I had just been following the path where others had already been. She then informed me that primitive trails would be marked with cairns, which is not true and it even says that in brochure. It is also not actually naturalistic, right to build cairns. You are supposed to leave the park as is so building cairns is messing with the elements that she just yelled at me for climbing on. Anyway, I digress.
When I told her that I wasn’t aware of this fact, she said that she wouldn’t turn me in. Then proceeded to tell me about how people disrespect the parks and that is how they get closed off to people. And I tried adamantly to emphasize that by far that was not me and that I had nothing but the utmost respect for the parks. I wasn’t vandalizing. I wasn’t disrespecting it, or moving things. I was merely following a trail. She said, “Well, you never know unless you ask.” That is fine, but she didn’t ask. She just assumed. I won’t get on that soap box, but just the same. I left very upset and distraught. Distressed that I had done something wrong and that I was going to get banned from the park, or worse…internet shamed.
I was then determined to find the actual answer, because as I had said…I hadn’t seen anywhere that it was against the rules to go up on the rocks. A lot of the trails I was about to encounter required such an action. There were decades worth of pictures, including one in the visitor center, that indicated this was allowed. I was now on a mission.
I looked in the brochure. Nothing other than primitive trails were not well marked and to be careful when hiking them. Signs around the park, “Do not climb on the arches” with pictures that indicated on top of the arches. “Stay on the trail” signs in high vegetative areas. Fellow hikers, “That is not a rule. If it was, no one would ever come to the arches. They just do not want you climbing on top of the arches.” Finally, my saving grace…a NPS worker who said the woman could suck it because she was wrong and that there is no actual rule to that regard and that going up under the arches was more than allowed. The only thing they do is discourage travel of path in high vegetative and high trafficked areas like the ones they were working in. That there are no actual park rules to such natures. That I had done nothing wrong .
As first I was mad. I wanted to track this woman down and inform her that she was mistaken and demand that she delete my picture. She had made me feel horrible and I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of being internet shamed over something that I knew and had confirmation about not being wrong, but I never did see her again. Thinking back now, I do respect the fact that she was just trying to protect the park and it just is what it is. I also don’t know how many other people she yelled at that day. She was definitely going to have her work cut out for her and I’m sure that she eventually ran into someone who put her in her place as she was trying to do everyone else.
Thinking back, it still bothers me a bit. I have nothing but respect for nature and wildlife, the national parks. To have someone assume otherwise is just disconcerting. We all want to feel holier than now in some areas, but we shouldn’t assume the worse unless we have confirmation to the such. That is my little here and there on the subject.
With all that aside, I think it was worse the momentary controversy. The arches are quite beautiful in their own little way and I really like these shots that I got. I’m definitely glad that I went and eventually I will get to more of my pictures. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I have an insane amount. I made last year’s number look like a snack box, but this year there are so many amazing shots from so many different areas that I’m excited to get to some more of them. To be able to share them. It’s just been hard to determine where to start and how to go about it. For now, though, I offer up these. I hope that you like them.
Have a beautiful day and tomorrow.
Montana Rose Photography