And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
-- The Book of Daniel, Chapter 3, Verse 20
In Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah, there's an area called the Fiery Furnace. It's a natural labyrinth of boulders,
towering sandstone outcroppings . . .
and fins, which are narrow residual rock walls left where adjacent rock has been eroded away. (Click here for more information and illustrations).
Here's an aerial view of the Fiery Furnace area:
As described on the National Park Service website, in the Fiery Furnace "there are no trails, signs, or cairns. GPS units do not work well due to the towering sandstone walls. Navigating its complex passages requires physical agility and careful observation." Accordingly, exploring the area requires a permit and/or a ranger-guided tour.
On April 3, I went with a group of 24 other photographers into the Fiery Furnace, accompanied by an off-duty senior Park Service ranger who generously volunteered his time and shared his personal insights. True to its description, the Fiery Furnace was a very challenging hike.
There were lots of sharply descending and ascending grades:
Narrow passages . . .
Crevices . . .
Catwalks . . .
And a traverse along a crevice that began by standing and leaning against the wall on the other side . . .
then required a tricky transition to a seated sideways crab move to the left . . .
After our ranger demonstrated (above), it was our turn . . .
Finally down safely at the other end . . .
Lest we forget, the purpose of all this difficult hiking was photography in an unique area. And, indeed, the Fiery Furnace was full of interesting formations:
There were arches large and small -- after all, we're in Arches National Park:
including Kissing Turtles next to a gigantic big toe:
and, near the end of the hike, in a cul-de-sac accessible only by a narrow catwalk, the aptly named Surprise Arch:
Although the scenery was awesome, my epiphany for the hike was realizing why the area is called the Fiery Furnace. My assumption was because it was an unusually hot area, especially in the summer when temperatures in Arches go over 100 degrees.
But I began to understand when I started noticing the canyon walls glowing orange from light reflected off the opposite wall:
Through a narrow space between walls, the glow beckoned . . .
And then, rounding a bend, the flames became obvious . . .
If you would like to see these images and more in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.