After a 4 a.m. wake up, Hannah and I wandered the dark trail to Delicate Arch with our headlamps and camera gear.
With numb fingers, we watched the sunrise over the La Sal Mountains ignite the vermillion sandstone like a phosphorescent bulb. We scurried around the area, snapping photos from a variety of angles before hordes of visitors arrived.
As light poured into the park, I was determined to get a shot of the sun inside the Arch. I surveyed the area and saw an ideal, if not precarious spot upon which Delicate Arch cast its shadow. Bingo. I readied my camera with a 14mm lens and carefully navigated the foot-wide ledge leading to the shadow.
After a few dozen photos, I wanted to switch up my perspective with a telephoto lens. As I adjusted my balance and removed my lens, I bumped my butt against the sandstone, ejecting my pocket knife into the natural amphitheater below. My stomach dropped as I helplessly watched the knife open and cart-wheel down the rocks before hitting some sagebrush. I thought to myself “Just a knife.”
And that’s when I tossed my second Plinko chip into the amphitheater.
In slow motion, I turned to see my 14mm lens teetering back and forth. I restrained a lunge to save it and watched it gracefully dive off the cliff edge. It bounced, scraped and clanged for what seemed like 5 minutes, echoing so loudly that it attracted dozens of onlookers admiring the arch. I slowly raised my hand to the curious bystanders, indicating my safety and shame.
Following an embarrassing descent, I discovered, remarkably, that my knife and lens were both still functional. The glass on the front and rear element were somehow unscathed and I used it many more times on our trip to California. Some advice: Don’t play Plinko in the desert!