My mind was still processing the rescue of the previous three hours, so I journeyed to my next assigned location and ambled slowly along the path to Delicate Arch. Sunset was a couple hours away. Visitors were going and coming, happy, hauling cameras and tripods, joking among themselves, pleased to be hiking to the most iconic of Arches’ arches. Inside I was cringing, knowing what a bossy and vocal crowd the sunset photographers are at The Arch.
Arch etiquette is, for the most part, unwritten. There is one sign at the visitor center that suggests how to avoid being an ‘Arch Hog’ — i.e., occupy any arch space briefly, only for the time it takes to snap a photo, and exit quickly so others can photograph the formation. This common courtesy prevents hostilities from building in frustrated photographers.
However, the “Me under Delicate Arch” photo is everyone’s goal, and these desires often conflict with the masses’ wishes. I’ve learned to stay away from Delicate at sundown because it is a circus of boorish shutterbugs. With about 120 folks up there, tonight was no different. Even though sunset was still fifteen minutes away, any time an individual began walking toward the base of the arch, thirty or forty people would start booing or whistling. The person got the message and retreated.
I realized once again why I love wilderness, which humbles you but never shames you or bosses you around. Hiking down into the bowl beneath the arch, I decided to get shots from angles I’d not tried before. I even got a “back side of the arch” shot (large one above) before the mob became too angry, although my ranger uniform may have provided a modicum of immunity.