Weather in the desert tends to alter plans as quickly as it does the landscape it preys upon. After a groggy-eyed and hangovery Saturday morning debate on where to go, Bill, Quinn, and I decided on the Moab area for a quick overnighter, favoring its pavement-friendly accessibility over the Roost’s remoteness and rumbly gravel road hostility. Probably a wise choice, as the region received some intermittent heavy roundhouses of rainfall throughout the day Saturday.
The skies were holding out as we approached Moab, and Bill had the spontaneous idea of dropping U-turn canyon in Arches National Park. Not knowing what the weather would allow us to do, we were prepared for just about everything, including descending some ropes. After plodding up to the traffic-packed entry booth, we quickly picked up a permit and were leaving the trailhead around noon. Blue skies still prevailed for the most part while the expected crescendo of rain was building its muscle up in a large warning of grey to the west. Being a short and sweet route though, we felt no need to hurry.
Here’s Quinn admiring Wile E. Coyote rock:
A fine view eastward of the Park Avenue giants, atop a 60 foot rappel at the end of the route. One of the better views in Arches, methinks. Bill is rigging up the rappel, off-screen right.
By the time we were back down to the truck, only 1.5 hours had passed. Yet the weather had made even better progress, just about catching up with us. We cruised around the park, hoping for a lightning show, before departing Arches via the raucous Willow Springs road. The first wave of weather made quick work of the area, and we were back in intermittent sunlight again. However, with the weather looking fairly unpredictable for the rest of the day, we decided to cruise up through Canyonlands and pay a visit to False Kiva, a colossal and historic alcove where we were hoping to catch the next wave of storms from. At least from there we knew our cameras would stay dry.
On the way up towards the Kiva, an 80 foot pour-off gave us quite the show. Even though it hadn’t been raining for at least 20 minutes, enough water had patiently gathered above this particular drainage that it created a fermenting flash flood, a testament to the ever-changing nature of the desert and the unpredictability of rainfall (and its violent byproducts) in this place.
False Kiva is a bit of an enigma; the reason it contains the False prefix is due to the fact that no one actually knows if it is really an authentic kiva (an ancestral Puebloan place of worship), or whether it was built by a bunch of boy scouts 80 years ago or a bored modern day cowboy. We also learned here that Anasazi is a very bad word. Either way, here’s how it looks in it’s current state. Image accented by a stoic Frenchman on the right.
At around 5:30 we departed the cave, not knowing exactly where we’d be shooting the sunset that night. Storms were quietly approaching again from the west, which ended up sneaking up on us just before we were able to get back to the truck. A gentle shower became a torrential downpour, and before we knew it, lightning was being thrown wildly to just about every side of us. We decided to do what any sane group would do at that moment, and that was to drive the rough, rutted, and sloppy road out to Marlboro Point. Unfortunately, by the time we got there the show had ended, leaving us with the consolation gift of the Moody Blues Greatest Hits — In Pictures:
Just before dark we packed up our things at Marlboro and headed out of Canyonlands National Park in search of a place to burn all of Bill’s firewood and drink all of Tim’s beer. We found the spot without much difficulty, but unfortunately sporadic showers put a damper on any potential campfire nostalgia.
The rain tapered off just after midnight. We woke to steely grey skies that showed signs of weakness. Was there potential for a shoot this morning? Perhaps. After motoring through Arches again, chasing some low hanging clouds that we spotted in the distance, we decided to go investigate the so-called Delta Pool, a location that none of us had been graced by yet. Bill had a read on the location, and at 8am we were on our way. The clouds were beginning to split generously, and we had our photographic stoke on. Except for the part when we found the spot and I then realized my camera was dead, and all spare batteries were left in the truck. Not to mention I brought the wrong tripod mount anyhow, the correct one also being left in the truck. Yikes. Perhaps I got too much sleep the night before.
Thinking that I’d be relegated to some bitter memory shots with my Note 4, Bill was generous enough to let me shoot with his lovely Sony a7R, which happened to be equipped with Quinn’s new Zeiss 21mm lens. Good gawd. I don’t think I’ve ever held that much photographic magic in my hands before. The setup surely didn’t disappoint at the Delta Pool:
It’s so damn impressive that places like this can still be found in such a highly trafficked area. Can’t wait to get back.