After spending a well needed night in a hotel following our time on the Hole-In-The-Rock Road area, it was time to visit a most loved area Capitol Reef National Park. We had poor to fair weather the last time, and never really got much in the Upper Cathedral Valley area, and we wanted to make another effort at that.
We proceeded East from Escalante on UT-12 a wonderful scenic byway, to Boulder, UT and thence East on the Burr Trail. Which funnily enough is paved all the way to the Park boundary. Which paving caused quite a stir when I was a younger lad. It starts out in some nice farm areas which peter out to fairly lush Juniper and washes filled with Cottonwood Trees and streams. Before too long we enter the Long Canyon area, a red sandstone canyon that we drive along the bottom of. The light was not so good for photographs but was interesting for simply driving and enjoying. The scenery was so nice I found myself not thinking like a photographer and simply riding along and watching.
This is looking back to the west from whence we came.
The morning was a bit hazy, but as we passed the park boundary and the Reef began to show itself, the vistas became more and more scenic.
The rolling hills and really quite good road made travel pleasant, and we really enjoyed the opportunity to take in the views and try our photographic luck. I was not sure that this shot would turn out as I was shooting back into the sun, but it was better than I expected. I love the perspective and layering of the land.
As we dropped into the wash that becomes the route through the reef, the uplift of the reef becomes more apparent, this long (100 mile... ish) reef is a truly unique and beautiful part of the landscape in this area.
This road down was originally quite narrow, I remember driving it as a young teenager and my mother wishing to switch seats so she could be in the middle of the truck and not look over the edge. While the switchbacks are tight, most any vehicle not towing a trailer would have little problem ascending or descending this spot.
As we traveled north parallelling the reef there were multiple opportunities to enjoy the light on the sandstone. (On a technical note, this was a stitched panorama shot in portrait orientation at 150mm with my Pentax DA 55-300, catching the perspective seen with the naked eye is tough in this area simply due to the vastness of the landscape.)
Once north of UT-24, we stopped at a favorite location for another go when there was NOT an impending storm as we had last year.
The bones of the cow that we found dead 2 years ago having been scattered a little, reminding us of the harshness of the area, and the bleak reality of life in the desert. It is large and empty and largely unvegetated most of the year, though there was some life in this alkali wasteland at this point in the spring.
One of the reasons I bought my Fisheye lens was for this shot, I just LOVE this old truck. Whatever year it was abandonded was a long time ago, and I always wonder exactly what the driver thought as he turned it off the last time.
The road seemingly stretching on forever, of all the desert vistas I have seen, this depicts what truly translates into emptiness. It allows the mind and soul to expand without limit as the land has no limits to impose, you are free to be smart and live or stupid and die. Simple and uncomplicated. While not the most beautiful area by any stretch, it is the most uncompromising.
Walking the dusty road, I could imagine the lone traveler in the the days of yesteryear passing through the long dusty stretch of nothing unaware of the beauty that lies ahead.
Looking over the South Desert the immensity begins to dawn on you, I have traveled this, and it is LARGE! Nearly 27 miles to the campground from the last bit of pavement this would have taken days by other means of transportation. Lucky we can drive it in a matter of a couple of hours with stops for photos. The luxury of modern times.
After setting up camp and getting dinner, we repaired to the floor of the Upper Cathedral Valley, to hopefully get some nice evening light. I have spent many hours poring over maps and looking at sun angles at sunset at different time of year to see where the best spot would be. My best guess was further west in this area than we got. Which I think would have put us in the wrong spot, the cathedrals further to the west were angled just wrong on the north side to get the same amount of light as Needle Mountain did here. I ended up being quite pleased with the quality of color of the light. Though I wish I would have been more time aware during dinner.
Looking almost Due East, I was looking for a spot to do a 90-120 degree Panorama but could not find a spot that really worked compositionally.
This is likely to end up on my wall printed on Metallic Paper.
I had also been dreaming this Startrail for quite a while, though with the small spire balancing the North Star on it's tip. That didn't work as well as I had hoped and simply chose to frame the shot as best I could and hope for the best. I spent several hours watching the light fade until the sky was dark enough. (Thanks Phil for not getting too bored!)
This was a last minute idea to pull off while getting ready for bed. I rather liked how it turned out. The tent was lit by my MagLight.
The next morning, we got up early and hustled to Lower Cathedral Valley to shoot the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. The light was spectacular, I would have liked to be there right as the sun came up, but alas it was not to be.
The color and temperature of the light was quite warm on the rock and flowers. I cooled it off a little but wanted to stay true to the moment and the richness of light.
As we played peek a boo with the sun, it was important to choose the composition and wait for the light to be just right. Fortunately patience was easy to come by.
Climbing a low hill to the south of the two cathedrals afforded a viewpoint that I was quite enamored with. I find myself wishing to get higher on the side of the bluff, there is rumoured to be route to climb up there but I have yet to have the time to go look for it.
After getting some breakfast back at camp, we went back into Upper Cathedral Valley to visit this old ranchers cabin. Amazing that up to 8 cowboys would bunk up here at one time.
Yeah that is me, sorry to scare you with the pic, but I wanted evidence that I was actually there!
I believe this is a deer spine found just to the side of the cabin, looks like the remains of a meal for a local predator.
We spent most of the Afternoon up at 9,000+ ft in the 1,000 Lakes Mountain area staying out of the heat and napping, a nice break at the right time.
On the way back down this view of the upper Reef was simply too good to pass up.
Sunset was again spectacular, the light on the cliffs to the North East of camp being perfect as always.
With my trusty DA 55-300 I was able to reach out further than I have before, catching the last light on Needle Mountain (Featured in other shots above but from the other side).
Evening is always pleasant with a nice fire and a harmonica to entertain the denizens of camp and whatever beasts and critters were lurking in the darkness.
By Moonlight the valley looks rather unworldly.
The old Juniper Trees claw at the sky, their skeletal remains framing the heavens.
The dust in the air makes the horizon a special color of red and gold as the sun comes up despite the absolute lack of clouds. Compressing the rows of bluffs together @ 300mm gives a unique view of the desertscape.
The first light on the hills gilds them and the sky in liquid gold.
The depth and scale of the landscape is truly too large to comprehend at times, it simply goes on and on and on.
Leaving the area on a new road, less traveled than the main road brings a sense of adventure. 27 miles to Interstate 70.
Looking back on the desert shows the green that is unusual for this late in June, evidence of the late and wet spring.
The adventure almost complete, the desert has yet another surprise for me, seldom does this type and color of rock form buttes. The grey is a stark contrast to the golden rock left from eroding layers above. Almost like being on the surface of the moon, and encountering a piece of Mars.
Traveling through the higher mountains we found snow to welcome up back to the land of reality, again proof of the late and wet spring.
My thanks for lasting to the end of my journey, I hope you found beauty in the images I took, and that your desire for visiting the desert to experience it's beauty has been honed. Thank you for visiting my blog.