The Archives – Canyonlands National Park

As you know I haven’t been posting much.  While I am incredibly happy to live in Washington, I haven’t felt much like taking photos, and my explorations have not really been blog worthy.  But my life was different not so long ago.  So perhaps you’ll indulge some trips down memory lane, of when I truly was adventurous in the outdoors.

Another bonus?  Much of this series will focus on the Colorado Plateau – the high desert region mostly centered on southern Utah, but which also spills into northern Arizona, western Colorado.  I love the mountains, but have always felt my best photography was in the desert.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy some images that I’m proud of.

Once upon a time, for 12 years, I lived in Colorado.  And for a large portion of that time, many of my weekends and most of my vacations were spent exploring southern Utah.  The Escalante.  The Grand Staircase.  Capitol Reef.  The “Swell.”  Monument Valley.  Canyonlands.  Arches.  Bryce.  Kodachrome Basin.  Just to name a few regions.  A typical vacation involved driving 6 hours to a spot on the map and doing a mix of backpacking and car camping for 2 weeks.  Once or twice I would drive a couple of hours to a local town to enjoy a shower and bed at a cheap motel.  Those were the days – those two week vacations cost maybe $300 maximum (thanks to cheap gas back then).

Lots of those adventures were recorded on slide film and so are unlikely to be seen in digital form any time soon.  A bit sad perhaps.  Shall we start with Canyonlands and Arches?  For no better reason than I made a few trips there in 2009 and 2010 and so have digital images.  So less to scan.  Cuz sometimes I’m lazy.

Canyonlands.  1998.  Needles district.  I backpacked into Chesler Park and spent a couple of days and nights exploring.  One of the evenings, a storm rolled in while making dinner, and I thought my light was gone.  Suddenly, a beam of light exploded onto the rock towers, creating one of the most intense visuals I have seen.  I picked up my camera and tripod and ran full-tilt 200 yards to a spot worthy of the shot.  Somehow I managed two exposures before the light died.

Dinner was cold, but worth it.

Canyonlands 1998

The next morning, getting up before dawn hurt, but again, it was worth it.

Canyonlands 1998

Move forward just a few years.  October and November 2009.  I haven’t been to Needles in quite a while, but two trips over a month remind me of why I used to love it so much.  I enjoyed it so much I returned with my wife in December.  She had never been there so it was fun to see it anew through her eyes.

Canyonlands NP October 2009

The joint trail. No, not that kind of joint.

Canyonlands NP October 2009

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Canyonlands NP October 2009

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Canyonlands NP October 2009

Canyonlands NP October 2009

Mmmm. Peanut butter and jelly…

Canyonlands NP October 2009

Ain’t it cute? I had never seen such a small rattlesnake.

Canyonlands NP October 2009

Canyonlands NP October 2009

Canyonlands NP October 2009

Canyonlands NP October 2009

Canyonlands NP October 2009

Those trips also included explorations of the Island in the Sky district, which overlooks the Needles area.  The views from the mesa are pretty incredible.

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Mesa Arch

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The view at mesa arch at sunrise is amazing, and should be seen by everyone at some point in their life.  The light changes every few minutes, making it even more interesting.  Unfortunately, it often means fighting off other photographers, some of whom don’t play well in the sandbox.

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The famous “White Rim” – a road that skirts the edge of a canyon system. A classic trip is to mountain bike the 100 miles over several days. Or if you’re like several friends of mine, do it in one long day. Something I always intended to do but never managed.

And then there were the winter trips.  In February 2010 I returned to the Island in the sky district again.  At the base of the mesa, the weather up top looked… unsettled.  Driving up, it only got worse.  By the time I reached the visitor center, it was a full-on snowstorm.  The rangers asked my plans, and looked amused when I said I was going to camp for 2 nights.  “Well you made it just in time – we’re about to close the gate because of the storm.”  Which meant I had the entire mesa basically to myself.  Just me and two rangers.  Bliss.

After setting up my tent on the snow, I spent the next 2 days hiking and exploring.

Mesa Arch, looking a little different in the snow.  And a whole lot quieter.

Mesa Arch, looking a little different in the snow. And a whole lot quieter.

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Next up – Arches?  The Escalante?  Something else?

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