Our third day in Arches started with a phenomenal sunrise, and honestly, nothing could top that.  However, it set the tone for that entire day.  After a couple days of dreary clouds, we finally had sunshine again; it was a gorgeous day in the park.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

Once we finally crawled down from behind Landscape Arch, we went in search of Aaron, whom we had lost in our wanderings.  We discovered that the path we had taken behind the arch continued to loop back to the official trail, but we thought Aaron might have been waiting for us at the bottom of Landscape, so we backtracked.  No surprise, Aaron had long since ditched us to find his own adventure.

The trail beyond Landscape Arch quickly becomes somewhat challenging.  Apparently, this is due to Wall Arch having collapsed back in 2008, effectively rerouting the trail straight up a ridge of rock.  I was ok with this, as I figured it might weed out the weaker hikers and leave fewer to contend with.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

At the top, we finally found Aaron, and we ducked off the main trail to check out Navajo Arch.  This looped us back almost to where we had wound up behind Landscape Arch, and it was tempting to show Aaron what he had missed.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

Navajo is probably bypassed more than it should be, as it lies between two more popular arches.  But I felt it was worth the visit.  I love how every arch is different.  They each have their unique character, so you don’t get bored seeking out a dozen arches.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

Photo courtesy of Norman Jarvis

Back to the main trail, it meanders deeper into the Devil’s Garden and along a narrow ridge, gifting those who make it that far with some breathtaking views (not as good as from our high spot behind Landscape, but still pretty freaking awesome).  Those afraid of heights should probably steer clear, as the trail isn’t very wide.  We espied Black Arch in the distance, and as we turned the corner, we got our first glimpse of our ultimate destination: Double O Arch.

For the trail having been rocky (pun intended), I was a bit surprised at the number of folks who actually made it to Double O.  We had to wait a bit to get a clear shot of the arches.  I had seen pictures of it, but like everything else, photos don’t tell the entire story, and the up-close-and-personal is entirely different.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

For example, I didn’t realize you could climb through the lower O arch and explore what lay beyond.  How many people simply walk up to an arch, take a quick snapshot (or a selfie) and move on, never knowing the wonders that reside just beyond that portal?  On one hand, it’s tragic that so many miss out.  On the other hand, perhaps it’s more special because fewer discover it.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

Well, as you should know by now, we aren’t those who would fall into that former category.  Nope!  We milk every experience for all the joy it has to offer, and we never regret a second of it!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

As he is wont to do, Dad was first to go scrambling up the rocks behind Double O.  I was quick to follow, and Aaron later poked his head through trying to find where we had disappeared to.  While Dad sat to have a snack and take in the view, my itch wasn’t quite scratched.  I went higher, still, finding a wonderful oasis up above the nook that rested against Double O.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

But as with everything else, we couldn’t stay.  We took one more group shot to memorialize the day should we fall to our deaths, and then we continued on.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

We left the arches behind (mostly) and hopped ridge to ridge, following cairns through Devil’s Garden, switching back and forth down slickrock and along narrow paths that barely passed as a trail.  Our surroundings were incredible, and the weather was beautiful.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

When you’re a photographer like me, perfect shooting weather can take a excellent day and a great hike and turn the experience into something superb.  I was already on cloud nine from our top-of-the-world exploration high, the views were spectacular, and we were simply having the time of our lives.  The rich blue sky took it to a whole new level; the puffy clouds delighted my trigger finger and filled me with elation.  I couldn’t get enough.

It was a good day.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

We saw several people on the trail hiking barefoot.  Dad absolutely couldn’t believe it, and I found it pretty astounding as well.  Doesn’t that hurt?  Do any of you do that?  Apparently, it’s quite common.  Frankly, I’d love to reconnect with the earth like that, but I’m terrified of slicing my feet open.  Perhaps I’ll get some of those steel toe-socks…

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

The crowds certainly thinned out after Double O Arch, so we had most of the valley to ourselves.  We kept descending; where did all the elevation go?  The trail is a giant loop, so we eventually found ourselves out in the open desert before we curved back in toward the trailhead.  Somehow, we managed to wind up where we started, though I didn’t remember gaining all the elevation we lost.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

One more area checked off our list, we only had one more major stop: Delicate Arch.

But I’ll leave that for next week, as my words have run away with me yet again, so be sure to come back!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

Have you been to any of these arches?  I’d love to hear about your own adventures.  What an amazing place!


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