I read just today that Arches National Park will implement a temporary, pilot timed entry system “to help manage traffic and improve visitor experiences, from April 3 to October 3, 2022.”
I wrote about this issue once before (link), but today I want to be a little more thoughtful.
The National Park system is under stress right now, and I don’t know how much of this is the fault of photographers like me tempting photographer wannabes to go to the sites they see on the web, and how much of it is just the nature of a growing population becoming more mobile, and more hooked in by technology.
My personal National Park experience has mostly been much better in terms of crowding and all that entrails because I am very much a cold-weather person who dislikes the heat, and have usually visited in colder months, often very early in the day. That includes our trip to Arches in 2004 to get married.
Another factor that probably leads to more crowding in the spring and summer are school schedules. You can only take your kids to the Grand Canyon when they are not in school. I don’t have kids, though Abby and I were guardians of a teenager for a while.
When I really thirst for the wilderness, I imagine higher, harder, and farther than most people. The crowds are chatter and clutter, and I yearn to be alone. Also, I don’t get inspired to travel and explore from sources like Instagram or Tumblr. My main source of inspiration is actually paper maps.
Just as an aside: when I actually looked at Instagram for pictures of Delicate Arch, the location where Abby and I got married in 2004, I wasn’t particularly impressed. I guess that might be because I have been there many times, and it has become less-surprising to me.
If there is anything missing from my Delicate Arch portfolio, I would say it is either at night with a star field behind it, or with snow on the ground. In either case, about a thousandy-grillion other photographer have these.
One of the comments about Delicate Arch I found in my Instagram search was, “If you ever get the chance to visit Arches, it’s an empowering life event that you’ll never forget!” I agree that you’ll never forget, but how, exactly, is making the relatively easy hike to a popular rock formation “empowering”?
Maybe when it comes to our National Parks, Abby and I were just lucky that we came along when we did, before their explosion in popularity.
Everybody deserves a chance to see the wonders that our National Park system protects, but protecting them has to be a higher priority, since once they are damaged or gone, there’s no getting them back.