One of the original red tour buses at Glacier National Park in Montana:


These sweet machines were built by the White Motor Company between 1936 and 1938 — and rebuilt in 2000 by Ford. Now they run on propane (93 percent cleaner running than the original engines) and have automatic transmissions, but the originals had somewhat finicky manual transmissions — thus the nickname, courtesy of the driver’s need to “jam” the transmission into gear.

Mesa Arch sunrise

So we recently returned home from an extended weekend trip to Moab, Utah and the surrounding area. If you’re unfamiliar with the neighborhood, “surroundings” in this case means Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Anyway, it’s been aeons since we last visited Moab — well before I had any decent digital camera gear, so I did my now-usual photographic research before we went. Turns out that one of the “must see” things in the area is sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands.

So here’s my first go at the sight (I’m still tweaking levels to make it look less-obviously HDRed):

Mesa Arch sunrise

In retrospect, it’s kind of funny how most images of this particular sunrise location focus heavily on the arch — when, from my perspective at least, the arch is best used as a nice frame for the incredibly layered scenery on the other side of it.

By the way, the layers come courtesy of local coal-fired power plants. Coal exhaust haze: lousy for lungs, great for sunrise vistas.

Anyway, from the looks of this, you can’t really tell just how small the arch is. Perhaps this helps:

2010-09-06 2010.09.06 Canyonlands sunrise crowd 7

Since the word is out about this arch, and there isn’t much room to set up in, you’re well advised to get there early (at least 45 minutes before sunrise) if you want a shot exactly at sunrise. At least, if you want to shoot over on the left side. Right side was less crowded the morning I went:

2010-09-06 2010.09.06 Canyonlands sunrise crowd 6

Go figure — the view’s just about as good from the less-crowded right side, too. FWIW, the tripod with the black and red leg padding (in line with the guy in white here) is my rig, firing away with an interval timer.

I scouted out the arch the day before in daylight and marked the parking lot on my GPS navigator — makes life a lot easier in the morning, when you’re driving in the dark with no visual cues. Oh, and bring a spelunker’s flashlight (the kind on an elastic band for your head) — makes it much easier to find the trail to the arch in the dark.

Last chance to see…

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we recently returned from a family road trip to Glacier National Park (and some parks in the Canadian Rocky Mountains to boot!). 12 days, 4,000 miles of driving, a bit short of 1,000 pictures taken — a worthwhile if occasionally tiring trip.


Our motivation for the road trip was pretty simple — we wanted our daughter to see Glacier N.P. at least once while it still actually has glaciers. OK, and it doesn’t hurt that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the park.

Last chance to see

While the weather wasn’t any too helpful, the scenery didn’t disappoint (although the remaining glaciers did keep playing hide-and-seek with us, courtesy of some pretty stiff cloud-cover).

Looking down valley

Sad to say, the glaciers have seen better days. The park had 150 glaciers back in 1850 — now it’s down to 26, all of which are expected to be gone by 2020.

If you want to see all this for yourself, it’s time to hit the road!