Photos of Arches NP and a Lesson on Overcoming Fear

This is a the shot I came to Arches to get. In the background is Turret Arch and in the foreground is the opening in the North Window. Little did I know it would teach me a life lesson in the process of getting the shot.

This is a the shot I came to Arches to get. In the background is Turret Arch and in the foreground is the opening in the North Window. Little did I know it would teach me a life lesson in the process of getting the shot.

For a month now I’ve been camped here at Moab, and during that time I’ve made several trips into Arches National Park for photography and today I want to share those with you. I would have been in more but the weather has been so volatile that I’ve only made a few trips. Beyond that, this is my 4th visit to Arches, and I have lots of photos built up from those trips and I’ve posted them on the website in the past, so this time I came looking for a few specific shots that I didn’t already have. Because of all the rain, it has been a good wildflower year so I wanted those shots. I’ve also added a super-wide angle lens to my camera bag so there were some shots I wanted to re-take with it. And finally, there is a famous shot taken through the North Window arch of Turret Arch (it’s the photo above) that I’ve never taken the time to get. Now I have!

Wildflowers in bloom in Arches.

Wildflowers in bloom in Arches.

Arches has a significant place in my life. In 2006 I retired and moved away from Alaska, which had been my home for 45 years, and drove the Alcan to my new home on Asheville, NC.  Arches was the very first place in the Lower 48 that I stopped and spent time exploring. My first visit into arches was late in December of 2006, it was cold and there was a little snow on the ground. I drove up right at dawn into a beautiful fog bank and I can’t even begin to express how moved I was by the gorgeous red-rock country; I was moved to tears because it was so stunning. You have to understand that it was a very emotional time for me because I wasn’t just leaving my long-time home, I was also leaving behind my youngest son who loves Alaska and can’t imagine why I would ever leave it. I’m not ashamed to tell you I shed numerous tears during our last hug together. Of course it wasn’t the last time I’ve seen him, I’ve seen him many times since then, but there was something about that last time as I was leaving Alaska. So I was primed to be deeply moved by Arches.

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As beautiful as Alaska is, it has nothing even remotely similiar to Utah’s red rock country so I was totally unprepared for its stunning beauty.  It’s a different kind of beauty, but every bit as beautiful as anything in Alaska. After that first visit, I knew I had to see it over-and-over again. Every year since I plan to see it but there have been a few years when I didn’t but it’s not from lack of trying. Even now on my fourth visit, It’s still just as stunning to me.

Double Arch. You can't imagine how huge this is. If there were people in the photo, they would be dots.

Double Arch. You can’t imagine how huge this is. If there were people in the photo, they would be dots.

This year there were wildflowers in bloom so you will see some photos of them, but the main two photos I wanted was 1) to take some wide-angle shots of Double Arch (above) and, 2)  Turret Arch from the North Window.  Fortunately, they are very near each other and share the same parking lot so I finally got some good weather and got them.

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Shooting Double Arch is easy, you just walk up to it and start shooting–it’s so beautiful you can’t hardly take a bad picture of it! Even so, having a wide angle lens and understanding the importance of having a nice foreground can elevate a good photo into a memorable photo.

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The trail leading back to Double Arch

On the other hand, getting the shot of Turret Arch through the North Window was not easy at all! You can easily just walk up to both but to get them in alignment is quite difficult. Behind the North Window is a steep drop off and on the other side of it is  fairly steep rock wall you have to climb up get the two into alignment.  I knew it was possible because lots of people do it, but when I first got there I had no idea how they did it, it seemed too steep to me. Ten years ago when I was 50 it would have spooked me much less, but at 60, it was a very different story–I simply can’t do the things I used to routinely do. But I was determined to get the shot so I studied it for awhile and saw a route that would make it work.

A better view of the North Window to get an idea of it's size and the steepness of the drop below it.

A better view of the North Window to get an idea of it’s size and the steepness of the drop below it. Compare the size of the people to the arch.

The drop down from the Window was easy, anyone could go up and down it, but the climb was more difficult. I very cautiously clamored up it bu pressing myself into the wall like my life depended on it, and it did! It was high enough I could easily have been killed by the fall. What worried me the most was the idea that I might could climb up it, but not have the ability to climb down it–but I pressed on. I got to my goal and took the shot, but realized it was not the shot I was after. There was only one place to get it and that meant going over and down one more rock  to get to the rock where I could take the shot. Sadly, it seemed like the most difficult (and highest) of the whole climb. But I hadn’t come that far to leave without the shot I wanted and so up I went.  I got to the rock with the shot but I was too scared to climb up on it enough to sit or stand, so I just laid on my belly and took my photos.

This is the shot I didn't want to settle for. It's good, but not nearly as good as the one at the top of the page because Turret Arch isn't centered and doesn't stand out as distinctly. I wanted better than this.

This is the shot I didn’t want to settle for. It’s good, but not nearly as good as the one at the top of the page because Turret Arch isn’t centered and doesn’t stand out as distinctly, instead it blends into the North Window. I wanted better than this.

After taking plenty of shots, it was time to get down. I inched down the whole way either with my belly pressed tight up to the cliff or on my butt sliding down in stark terror! Fortunately, it was no big deal and I made it just fine–thinking the whole way just how great I really am!!  Now is where the story turns really ugly!!

The wall I climbed with the young lady sitting on my rock.

The wall I climbed with the young lady sitting on my rock.

Just as I’m getting to the bottom a young woman who had been watching me with her boyfriend from the Arch scampered down to meet me and started up the trail I had just come down. I didn’t watch her closely, but she almost ran strait up it, barely ever using her hands to hold on.  When she got to where I had been, I yelled up at her, “I hate how easy you make that look!!”  She giggled because she knew I meant it as a compliment and sat own on the rock I was so terrified of that I clung to it on my belly.

Here I've pointed an arrow at the girlfriend above and the boyfriend below and marked the route to get there.  It was all as steep as it looks from the side.

Here I’ve pointed an arrow at the girlfriend above and the boyfriend below and marked the route to get there. It was all as steep as it looks from the side. They both walked up it like it was a stroll in the park! My ego was crushed!

By the time I was back up at the North Window arch her boyfriend headed up and I watched him climb the whole way. He literally went up it like a mountain goat! It only took him a few minutes and I think there were only two or three times when he even had to use his hands. It was obvious from their level of fitness (especially the size of their legs) and the easy grace they had on the slope, that they were climbers who did this often.

It gave me a totally new appreciation for what climbers do and made me more aware than ever it was something I could never, ever try to do! But I’m still very glad I did it this time, and I know if I ever go back and want to do it again I would without hesitation. It really wasn’t that bad.

arches-wall-flowers

I want to be more like wildflowers in the desert. They tenaciously and bravely hold onto a rich life even in a difficult situation just for the sheer joy of being the beautiful creatures they were born to be! Even when they are past their prime, they still proudly display their beauty.

The lesson I learned was that it’s fear that  holds us back from truly, deeply living life on the edge and to it’s fullest. Having lived in Alaska all my life I’ve spent a fair amount of time scrambling around in the mountains, I’ve just never done anything quite as steep as this–plus my declining physical abilities made it all the more fearful to me. But I was fairly sure I had the capacity if I was just slow and cautious; and I was right.

The moral of the story is that the fear of the unknown was much worse than the actual climb itself.

I urge you all, using reasonable caution, push yourself beyond what you think your limits are.

You will be very glad you did! Not only will you get the short term goal you’re aiming for (I got the shot) but you will become a better, more confident and happy person.

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Bob
About

I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

50 comments on “Photos of Arches NP and a Lesson on Overcoming Fear
  1. Fred says:

    Hi Bob,
    Don’t be too hard on yourself. That’s why we don’t see 55-60 year old motocross champs. 20-35 year olds are more flexible and heal quicker and easier. lol. We can still do most of the things we did when we were young and foolish, it just takes longer, we heal slower, and we come to the realization we are not indestructible. Somehow we can and do recover, albeit a tad more slowly. It does not matter if you had to lay down or stand up, the fact is that you did it. Plain and simple. Great pics !!
    Fred

  2. Carla says:

    Beautiful photographs and equally beautiful philosophy of life.
    Carla recently posted…Color in Your Survival Kit?My Profile

  3. Omar Storm says:

    Hi Bob,

    Great pics as usual, thanks. Great job getting up on the rock as well. I was wondering which wide angle lens you added to the camera bag, 16-35mm? Like I said, you sure did get some very nice pics.

    Thanks,
    Omar

  4. Linda D. says:

    Bob, these are just gorgeous pictures! And you are much braver and more fit than me. I would not have climbed up there! Lol Of course, I am just a tad older than you (69). I love your outlook on life! Where is Cody? I’m guessing they don’t let you bring dogs to these places.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Linda! No, they don’t allow dogs onto these places in the National Parks. Plus he would have been a problem and I would have left him in the van anyway.
      Bob

  5. Jackie says:

    Thanks for being honest about yourself and your abilities! You inspire me!

  6. Shelly says:

    Have you heard of Tom Till? Check out tomtillphotography.com

    • Bob Bob says:

      Shelly, I have heard of Tom Till, he is incredible! He has a gallery in Moab that I check out every time I’m there. I’m not ready to give up my DSLR for a large format camera!
      Bob

  7. Doug Rykerd says:

    Ah, brings back many good memories. There was a few years where I spent on average 40 nights per year sleeping under the stars in Utah, either canyoneering or just hiking. That stark beauty never gets old or faded for me either. Your pictures especially remind me of a trip my oldest son and I took to Arches when he was 10 or 12. We spent the whole day hiking to every arch we could get to, including the whole backcountry loop and many far off the loop that aren’t on the “official map”. Got back to the truck after dark, and then took the little know back exit out of the park and camped in the desert that night. I had just read Desert Solitaire and I’m pretty sure we were in the area of Edward Abby’s original ranger camp. Thanks so much for bringing to mind one of our most memorable trips. That was also the trip I let Ben drive for the first time, in a crew cab with a popup camper – no wonder he became a truck driver. 😉

    • Bob Bob says:

      Doug, that country gets deep in your soul and powerfully changes you. No wonder you and your son are such great guys!
      Bob

  8. Pete W says:

    Beautiful pics Bob. I was there in 1996, hainv flown from NY for Thanksgiving, but when my friends and I got there it was snowing like crazy. Thank you for pics that show it clearly.

    Pete

  9. Ron says:

    Who do you have to kill to get Turret Arch shot without people in the frame? 🙂

    • Bob Bob says:

      Ron, actually it’s fairly easy, get their in the winter and you will have the place all to yourself! My first trip was in late December and I was all alone. I was actually fairly pleased to have the models for scale, otherwise you have no idea how big it is.
      Bob

  10. Opa says:

    No country for old men!

  11. Ming says:

    great story and great photos! Reminds me of myself around heights, cliff trails… aaaahh. And I agree, aging bodies do not help the problem!

  12. T says:

    That is a special kind of beautiful you’ve captured! I can’t wait until I get to Utah next year; that is the kind of scenery that has always captivated me.

    As for your philosophy, it is one I’ve learned well, this year. After 48 years of living by fear, this is the year I tell fear to sit down and be quiet for a minute while I figure things out. I have to say, I could practically feel my legs shaking when you described your climb though. Heights are a big “fear” for me. Kudos to you for taking control of your fear and capturing that fabulous shot!

  13. CarpetMan says:

    OH Bob! the photos are gorgeous! Your personal connection is warm and appreciated. You tell a wonderful story. Thank you.

  14. Kathy says:

    Thanks so much for the beautiful photos.

  15. Omar Storm says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the lens info. By the way, Canon released an F4 16-35 mm lens. It’s still pricey, but reviews state it’s better than F2.8 16-35.

    Thanks,
    Omar

    • Bob Bob says:

      Omar, I’d heard about it and I’d always like to upgrade but I can’t justify the extra money. I get a fair amount of distortion that ideally I could get rid of, but it’s not worth the cost to me.
      Bob

  16. Cae says:

    Good stuff!!
    Bob, I rememeber a while back you camped at a lake in California and really liked it. Do you recall the name of the lake and the forest it was in?
    Thanks

    • Fred says:

      Hi Cae,
      It is Shaver Lake and it is a beautiful spot indeed. It is an artificial lake in Fresno
      County in Sierra National Forest at about 5500 feet.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Fred’s right Cae, it’s Shaver Lake above Fresno, CA. I suspect that wit the drought the lake is pretty far down right now though. Beautiful area!
      Bob

  17. CAE says:

    Thanks. I’ll check it

    • CAE says:

      Good dispersed camping?

      • Bob Bob says:

        CAE, I assume you are asking about Shaver Lake, right? If so, yes, there is a huge amount of dispersed camping in the Sierras. However, like most mountain areas very few of them have cell phone or internet. PLUS, real shopping is a long ways away. But, dispersed camping is abundant and beautiful.
        Bob

  18. Omar Storm says:

    Thanks Bob.

  19. Calvin R says:

    Bob, you got a beautiful picture. Even a non-artistic person such as me can see the difference. I appreciate the effort it took to get there. I have overcome some fears of my own.
    Calvin R recently posted…About WalkingMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Calvin! Even though it was a little scary, this time was the same as all the other shots I’ve taken, I enjoy the process even more than the photo.
      Bob

  20. John says:

    Great story and photos , thank you so much for sharing

  21. Kate says:

    I was at Arches so many years ago…..your pictures are so beautiful, love the flowers in the foreground. I would not have been able to do the climb. But I did enjoy hearing about your journey. As always, thank you for your posts!

  22. carly says:

    Thank you for the beautiful photos,Bob. You inspire me to take a photography class for when I can full time RV.

    I think the moral of the story is it does not matter how or how long it takes to get to your set goal as long as you do. brave for you making that climb. I am 49 and could not do it!

  23. jo says:

    Bob…You ARE an inspiration. I appreciate your depth and candor.
    “I want to be more like wildflowers in the desert. They tenaciously and bravely hold onto a rich life even in a difficult situation just for the sheer joy of being the beautiful creatures they were born to be! Even when they are past their prime, they still proudly display their beauty.”
    Lovely to see you carry on in Beauty!
    Jo

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Jo, I appreciate you very kind comment.

      I’m not so sure about the beauty, but for sure I am past my prime!
      Bob

  24. Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos and information with us. It definitely looks like a park I would like to visit!
    Jim at Growing Faith recently posted…CommandmentsMy Profile

  25. uptownsport says:

    Yes, Arches is breathtaking! It’s not that you’re old, you just don’t do those things as often as they do. I’m sure you meet plenty of old-timers who are very limber, because they kept at it.

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