A Wonder Worth its Reputation: Delicate Arch

I’m still sorting through all the (thousands of) photos from our recent trip to Utah, but there’s one trek that remains a special highlight now three weeks later: Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.

We fought some unfavorable weather during our visit to the park, but the skies opened up for us for a brief period just before sunset on the day we decided to hike up to this natural wonder (and icon of the state’s license plate, for good reason). Finally some blue sky and the red and orange hues of the arch lit up by the sinking sun! The next morning we awoke to a blanket of snow surrounding our camper. But for that brief period of calm before the snow: Amazing! Here’s a gallery of the few of the photos I snapped during a prolonged communion with the Arch and the surrounding geological wonder of Arch National Park.

The final two images were taken the following morning from a nearby viewpoint. You can see the clouds and the muted colors had returned by then.

Floating Along the San Juan

Do you think they realize what’s chasing them down the river?

San Juan River Floaters Under the Storm

Taken along the San Juan River, near Bliss, Utah, not far from the Four Corners.

Layered Geology–Mesa Arch and Canyonlands

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

We’ve just returned from another amazing adventure exploring areas of the American Southwest. This time our adventure compass led us to southeastern Utah, a place that piqued our interest when we bypassed the area on our trip to the southwestern part of the state a couple of years ago.

Here is one of Utah’s most famous natural arches, but (perhaps surprisingly) it is not located in Arches National Park. It is located instead in another nearby national park: Canyonlands. What makes it so special isn’t its size so much as the natural frame it provides for the geologically layered canyon below.

Most people flock to Mesa Arch in the pre-dawn dark to capture it as the sun peaks above the horizon and through the arch. I decided to flip custom on its head and photograph it at sunset instead; I wasn’t disappointed. A few broken clouds nearby did mute the scene a little, but there was enough sun to fire up the tops of the tallest structures in the canyon. Next time I return to Canyonlands, I will hopefully be floating on a raft, looking up at Mesa Arch from the canyon below.

Stormy Sunset

Thought I’d share a couple of photographs of tonight’s amazing sunset.

Panorama stitched from a series of photographs taken at the lake near our house. The colors faded within seconds after I took the photos--in fact, you can see the color a little better on the left than the right, as it was already fading as I was setting up my shots.

Panorama stitched from a series of photographs taken at the lake near our house. The colors faded within seconds after I took the photos–in fact, you can see the color a little better on the left than the right, as it was already fading as I was setting up my shots.

Mammatus clouds from a passing thunderstorm moving eastward at sunset.

Mammatus clouds from a passing thunderstorm moving eastward at sunset.

It’s been far too long since I’ve seen the beauty of thunderstorms as I saw today. We are in the midst of severe weather season here, but it seems like we’re getting a bit of a late start this year. I forgot how giddy I can get when in the presence of a mature thunderstorm; I am reminded at these moments why I decided to study meteorology, yearning to climb inside these storms and figure out what makes them tick.

These spectacular formations are mammatus clouds, the “upside down” undulating clouds that are most easily recognized at sunset, when the low sun angle creates the shadows necessary to clearly define the edge of the protuberances. They usually appear on the underside of the anvil cloud associated with a mature thunderstorm.

Hiking the Big Bend in Early Spring–Click on Image to View Gallery

Last weekend we visited Big Bend National Park. This was our fourth visit in five years. Here is a sample of some of the landscapes we encountered, most of land but a few of sky. We saw both winter and spring on our short trip, from snow to freezing fog to ceaseless sun to cirrus and alto cumulus clouds.

Most of these photos were taken with my trusty Canon DSLR that has served me well now through hundreds of journeys to many natural landscapes over the past few years. A few were taken with a new high-end non-DSLR Lumix that I got as a present for Christmas.

This is my first post in a long time, but our travels have been limited this winter and I’ve had other projects that have distracted me for much of the past few months. Now that spring is here, you will probably see more posts in the coming months!

Grand Teton Sampler–Click on image to view gallery!

Ready for another installment from our latest trip? Here are a few from the Grand Tetons. I think this was my favorite park that we visited on the trip, mostly for the sheer amazement at seeing these rugged, pointed, glacier-carved peaks. When I spent some time in Europe in college, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Switzerland. The Alps have remained one of my favorite places I’ve been, and the Grand Tetons are the closest approximation to them I have encountered in North America. Such majesty! If you ever plan to visit the wonderful Yellowstone National Park, you must take an extra day to visit the Grand Tetons just south of the park. You won’t be disappointed!

Lewis and Clark Caverns–Click on image to view gallery!

Here is another gallery from our recent western wanderings. This gallery comes courtesy of Lewis and Clark Caverns in  southern Montana. I live not far from its more-famous cousin, Carlsbad Caverns.

Carlsbad Caverns is an amazing place, and I’ve visited numerous times, including last fall. But I was pleasantly surprised by this little gem, not far from Yellowstone National Park. It was one of the few places we stopped that is neither a national park nor a national monument (though it was once federal land before being sold to the state of Montana), so it doesn’t get the same amount of press. But boy am I glad we stopped and took the tour through the cavern! If you’re ever in the area to visit the other “big-name” national parks, you should spare a day to visit these limestone beauties!

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