We had a choice to make. It was mid-February on the flatlands of Denver. The days were short, the nights were cold and we were restless. We felt stuck in an endless loop while we floated down the lazy river of our 9-5’s. Really though, what choice did we have? There were bills to pay and meals to eat. There were vacations to save for and family to visit.
As the hope of Friday evening approached, we feigned excitement for the late-night movie marathons and even later mornings our weekend had to offer us. All of this just acting as time holders until Monday rolled back around.
What was this? Whose game were we playing? Did we even get the chance to look over the rulebook before we signed up and jumped in? Then suddenly, there we were, floating, freezing and frustrated. How else could we spend our weekend?
“Should we do a day trip to the mountains? That could be fun. Oh, but it’s super cold so we’ll either have to come back in the dark or pay for a hotel. Hmm, what else…what else?”
Where do wild adventures and new horizons await when entrenched in the daily routine of everyday life?
“You know, we have two full days.”
“Yeah, two measly, short days.”
“Still, two days beats no days.”
Where Do We Go From Here?
A two-day trip to nowhere, and everywhere.
That turned out to be the main goal of this trip. "How far can we get?" I remember pulling up Google Maps with anticipation, plugging in different locations and researching the time it would take to get there. We had the ability to take ourselves 24 hours out and 24 hours back, technically. "Where should we go?"
So, we went! With little more than a full charge on our phones and an air mattress laid out over the back seats of our midsize SUV, we set off -westward and onward. As much as we wanted whimsy to take the wheel and steer, we thought it important to make the most of our gas money.
“It’s Friday evening. If we drive through the night, where will be a good destination to watch the sunrise?”
Across the Colorado Rockies lays Utah, Moab and thousands of beautiful red-golden rock monuments. Again, using our handy-dandy Google Map assistant we found a location that seemed to be THE place to watch the sunrise.
That place: Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park.
The arch is famous for how it reflects that first light of the day. This would be the perfect AM destination.
Now, it was February and still pretty cold, even for the high desert of Utah. Driving down the road, not seeing another pair of headlights for long stretches of pavement, we thought we would have the early bird benefit of abandoned mid-winter tourist attractions.
In the dark, we arrived and began the short walk from the parking lot down to Mesa Arch. Did we have the place to ourselves? Was it glorious and serene; a place where we could lay out a blanket and watch, arm in arm, the break of day?
No, well, yes, but no…depends on your opinion of serene.
With still an hour before sunrise, all the primo spots were already taken by avid photographers, bundled up and feverishly setting their tripods, cameras, lenses, exposure timers and graduated filters. Each determined to seize that split-second glory of morning beauty for themselves. They would capture that moment, take it prisoner on their computers and blend it into a slurry of saturation and sun rays.
If you pop over to our Instagram page, you’ll see the first uploaded images are some of our favorites from this trip. In fact, I set up an Instagram profile specifically to share these shots. I posted most of the pictures from that trip in one day (to which a coworker at the time pulled me aside and instructed me that I should really be posting one image at a time, not all at once!) #IfIEvenCareAboutLikes
All my memories of this fateful trip take me back to that first picture you’ll see on the @StudioDenaroPhotography Instagram page. To this day it’s one of my favorite snaps I’ve had the privilege of snagging.
As the concentrated tangerine glow squeezed itself above the horizon, when all our brethren were anxiously awaiting with expensive plastic cameras in hand for that moment when the sun perfectly reflects off the golden ceiling of Mesa Arch, Stephanie and I took the path less traveled. We hiked up to a little rock cropping to find a new angle, a new perspective on the beauty of that fleeting instant. There, in the “silence” of pure wilderness, all we heard was the murmuring of cold voices and the clicking of a hundred shutters. Then, a man in a bright blue jacket stepped in front of my frame and the moment was complete.
Here we see everyone standing, transfixed on one common focal point. As they gather evidence for their rulebook on the definition of natural beauty, a child offers a us different opinion. Notice her in the top right of the frame, riding in style on dad's back. Unencumbered by ego, she wonders why our cameras are pointed askew from the obvious attraction (or maybe she wonders why we're dressed in sweatpants and crocs ;)
Her perspective will grow to become the central theme of this trip. We set out for the weekend for a sense of separation from the seemingly inescapable cycle of our routines. We only had two days and almost no budget for a vacation. What could we really do with that time? Little did we realize that these two unimportant days could change our lives.
Truthfully, after a while of not really being able to see the sights we came to see, we grew tired of the crowded views. We had driven all night, but our trip was actually just beginning.
We had a choice to make.