The desert is hot. And though it can bring people to their knees in awe, it can also bring out the absolute worst in a human. The heat, the lack of moving air or shade, and the number of people that crowd around the desert’s most beautiful overlooks can create a hellish temper, even in the most relaxed of us.
Day three was our first experience feeling this unforseen rage on both the giving and receiving ends. We woke up at 4 AM to witness this beautiful sunrise at Mesa Arch, one of the most famous sunrise spots in Utah, and perhaps the entire Southwest. Needless to say, we were surprised to find that we were all alone when we arrived, free to scout out the perfect location to photograph the scene. It wasn’t until 10-15 minutes before the sun peeked over the horizon that the hoards of people began running down the hill behind us, nearly three hours after we’d been there. Hundreds of people crowded around the arch, pressing up against us, struggling to get a decent view of the sunrise.
Several individuals were aggravated with our positioning near the arch, claiming we were too close and in the shots of their photos. One gentleman in particular, a very rude and extremely late arrival to the arch, felt it necessary to tell anybody who would listen how poor our positioning was, and that we were far too close to photograph the scene appropriately. He spoke loud enough for us to hear, and after biting my tongue for twenty minutes to his rude remarks, I (Brandon) decided to put an end to all of the needless hostility. I explained my positioning, that I was using a wide-angle lens and capturing the scene perfectly from my position, and that I had every right to be where I was as I had arrived hours before him or anybody else around us. I explained to him that there was no reason to be rude or disrespectful, and that if he wanted a good angle, he should have arrived at 4 as we had.
After a short-lived challenge by the arrogant man about my knowledge of photography, the crowd quieted their distaste for my presence, and we finished shooting the time lapse we worked hard to procure. We didn’t stay longer than necessary, as the mob was as anxious as we were for us to leave.
Originally, we had anticipated eating breakfast and enjoying coffee at Mesa Arch, but changed plans to do that at the Green River overlook, and we were lucky we did. The view at the overlook was nothing less than perfect.
We sipped coffee and watched a blanket of fog lift out of the valley of Canyonlands National Park, putting us both in far better moods. Feeling content with our farewell gift from the park, we took of towards Needles District, where we would discover that the heat war far too extreme to take the eleven-mile day hike we had planned.
We arrived in needles in the middle of the day. The sun beat down on us from above, and there was no shade to be offered. We opted to nix our plan to day hike to Druid Arch. While the arch was surely beautiful, we couldn’t justify the time or effort of getting to it in the heat. Therefore, we took our driving tour of Needles, quite resemblant of the Flintstones (starring John Goodman) movie, and took our leave from the arid environment hours ahead of schedule.
And then, tragedy struck.
Making our way through one of the most desolate sections of Utah, just outside of Monument Valley, the DSLR malfunctioned. We soon discovered that the power switch had broken from the inside, and it was impossible to shut the camera off. The problem could be worse, but on the multiple-day expeditions that were coming, a camera that wouldn’t shut off meant serious trouble. Initially, we thought we would just simply take the battery out of the camera when weren’t using it. That would be the simple solution. However, after speaking with Canon over the phone, they warned us of the risk we were taking. Any time we cut the power to the camera by taking the battery out, we risked corrupting or completely losing any and all photos that were on the card in the camera. They told us that if the risk is worth it, than it shouldn’t be a big deal, but because we’re photographing and filming nearly 40GB at a time, and because we have promises to fulfill, we don’t see that risk as “worth it.”
We were in a total log jam. Add to this fact that we hadn’t considered sleeping arrangements in Page until the fourth night, and our journey becomes a lot more stressful than it was only hours before.
Tackling these things was not easy. It was difficult for us both, being stressed and trying to work together to figure something out. For a short time, I thought the trip would need to end. We don’t the money in our budget to get a new DSLR, and we don’t have the time to wait for a repair. The trip is too large and our promises too many to record the entire trip with our phones. It truly seemed over for us.
Stacey mentioned to me in the anxiety-ridden car ride that this was just a test. God wants us to learn how to tackle the hardest of situations together. He knows that we need to work as a team, not just on this trip, but in life. She said all of this was God testing our relationship. She asked me if we’d let something like this ruin the trip I’d been waiting so long for.
That really made me think. There’s no way we’d be on this journey without each other. Without God. I think that it was in those moments, driving into the Monument Valley Sunset with the most perfect person in the world for me, that I realized that I wasn’t meant to take this trip without her. But with her, there was nothing that could end our trip. Not even a busted DSLR. This was a test. A test of our teamwork, of our resolve as partners. I felt a strange peace wash over my skull in that thought process. It was soothing, knowing everything was okay.
When we got to Page, we made a bee line for McDonald’s; the only place that had wifi and was still open. We devoured horribly processed fast food and worked everything out. Together. As a team. Stacey’s mom, a saint, generously loaned us the money we needed to purchase a new DSLR, informing us that we could pay her back in time. Of course, neither of us could conjure up a way to properly thank that sort of kindness.
When all our major issues were finally resolved at Mickey Dee’s, it was after 11PM and we still had no place to sleep. We were too tired to try contacting anybody, and too broke to opt for a hotel, so our exhausted brains decided on the only thing they could think of; car camp at Horseshoe Bend’s parking lot. Any nervousness of being ticketed for this were wisped away at the sight of another group doing the same thing, and without any ado, we pitched our tent and passed out, drained completely and in every way.