Sunday, March 31, 2013
As we continued down Cottonwood Road after finishing the Yellow Rock hike, the clouds were continuing to build and soon we were hearing thunder. Driving the last few miles approaching Highway 89 we could see rain falling from the clouds all around us, but only a few drops fell where we were. Soon after reaching the highway and heading west towards Kanab, Utah we did drive through some heavier rain and also the wind got pretty fierce for a while. Sunset was fast approaching and soon we crested a hill and were treated to an AMAZING view of the storm clouds just as the sun was going down. I couldn't resist... I had to pull over and take some pictures :-)
The second hike we did on Easter Sunday was the hike to "Yellow Rock". This was kind of a difficult trail to find, since there is no marked trailhead for Yellow Rock. Once you find the trail, however, it is quite easy to follow. Easy to follow, but not easy to hike! The first part of the hike was a very steep hill with tight switchbacks and the trail surface was a mixture of gravel, sand and very loose rock. We had to be extremely careful and proceed up the trail very slowly. One false move here and it's a long tumble to the bottom! We were super glad we stuck it out and climbed the hill, though, as once we got to the top and Yellow Rock first came into view, we knew we were in for something special.
First off, Yellow Rock is HUGE. Basically, the rock is sort of a solid sandstone "mountain". The dominant color of the rock is indeed yellow, but there were so many other colors as well. We walked around part of the base of the rock and found many fascinating lines and colors all over the place. This ended up being one of our favorite sights of the entire trip. What made it even more fascinating was the fact that there were thunderstorms developing slowly in the distance all afternoon, so we had incredible clouds and light throughout our time at Yellow Rock. We spent close to a couple of hours at the rock, then decided we better head back as the storm clouds were getting closer. The hike down the steep hill was a bit more stressful than the hike up, but we made it just fine.
The first of two hikes that we did on Easter Sunday was Lower Hackberry Canyon. Similar to the Escalante River hike, this one would be mostly flat. It turned out to be a very enjoyable hike, as the floor of the canyon had a steady flow of water and the stream bed was almost entirely sand. The water depth averaged around 2 to 3 inches, so I actually decided to do most of the walk barefoot. The sand and water felt great on my feet and were a welcome change to the hot, dry hikes that we've been doing up to this point. An added bonus was that we got to hear several Canyon Wrens singing as we made our way up and down the canyon!
Saturday, March 30, 2013
We were a little tired after our hike back up the hill from Upper Calf Creek Falls, so we decided to stop in the nearby town of Boulder for a snack. As luck would have it, we found a nice little store that sold bagels and smoothies. This was the perfect refreshment after our morning hike! After that we headed a few miles down the Burr Trail to Long Canyon, which I thought might be perfect for a short bike ride. Indeed it was, and we had a blast cruising down the canyon on our cross bikes. Our final adventure for the day was a hike upstream along the Escalante River to Escanlante Natural Bridge and Arch. This hike had a LOT of vegetation along the way, included some beautiful giant cottonwood trees and tons of sage. The trail also crossed the Escalante River several times, which was fun and refreshing each time we had to cross :-)
After about 2.5 miles we came to Escalante Natural Bridge, which was fascinating to comprehend but really not all that photogenic, since the bridge blended into the background cliff and was not standing out against the sky like some other natural bridges. We contemplated the bridge for a while, then continued on up the trail to the arch. The arch was awesome, certainly unlike the other arches we've seen on this trip. This one was not very big, but it was extremely high up on top of a cliff. The lines in the rock running down the cliff were mesmerizing, and the bottom of the cliff was lined with beautiful cottonwood trees. After another full day of outdoor adventures, we were ready for a good meal so we headed back to the Escalante Outfitters and this time tried their calzones, which were just as good as the pizza we had last night! This has been such an awesome trip already, I wonder what cool sights and experiences tomorrow will bring?
Being that we had just spent 4 days and 3 nights camping along Hole in the Rock Road, we figured it was a good time to head into the town of Escalante and stay in a motel and get some nice restaurant food, a hot shower and do some laundry. We completed all of those tasks last night, wrapping up our evening with dinner at the restaurant at Escalante Outfitters, where we had arguably the BEST pizza we've ever eaten! No joke, their pizza was AWESOME!!! And, we're not just saying because we had eaten nothing but camp food for 3 days ;-)
This morning after getting a good night's rest in the motel and some yummy breakfast coffee cake from Escalante Outfitters, we headed out on our next adventure. The first hike of the day: Upper Calf Creek Falls. We were excited about this hike because there would be WATER! We had been hiking mostly in sand and rock for the past 4 days, with very little water. Indeed, Upper Calf Creek Falls was a riparian paradise! We heard a ton of birds along this hike, and saw a lot of vegetation along the creek. It was like a little desert oasis :-)
The hike was fairly short, but still quite strenuous as we had to hike down a steep slickrock hill that dropped several hundred feet in elevation. Hiking down wasn't all that difficult, but we definitely broke a sweat going back up! Seeing the falls was definitely worth the workout, though. The main falls was beautiful and tall, but difficult to photograph. I had more fun photographing the small waterfalls and pools above the main falls, as they were much more photogenic. The main falls was the most fun to just take in and view, though. All in all, it was another wonderful hike to add to our list of beautiful honeymoon hikes :-)
Friday, March 29, 2013
The last hike of our adventure along Hole in the Rock Road (for this trip, anyway!) was Willow Gulch to see Broken Bow Arch. We were both really looking forward to this hike, as the guide book described it as "having everything". Namely, we were anxious to see what it would be like because it was supposed to have a perennial stream which meant, possibly, a lot more vegetation than what we had seen so far on our canyon hikes. Willow Gulch certainly did not disappoint in that respect! We saw our first real spring greenery of the trip, as the cottonwoods along the trail were just starting to pop out with their spring foliage. It was a beautiful hike for sure!
The trail went back and forth between going directly down the wash and traversing sandy desert between different sections of the gulch. Our favorite sections were the ones right in the wash in the middle of the gulch, because these areas had plenty of shade and eventually, plenty of water! It was nice to hike along a stream for a change :-) The trees all along the way were beautiful and when we finally rounded the bend which gave us our first view of Broken Bow Arch, all we could say was "WOW!".
We were actually starting to think we must have taken a wrong turn or something, because our guide book described the hike as being around 2 miles to the arch and we felt like we had walked 3 miles or more by the time the arch came into view. Jessica was walking ahead of me when she rounded a bend and exclaimed "I found it!". I was thrilled to catch up with her and see the arch up ahead, with a nice reflection of the arch in the waters of the perennial stream! Talk about a photographer's paradise! Jessica walked ahead again to get a closer view of the arch while I stopped to make photos of the arch and its reflection in the water. A few minutes later I caught up with her and we had a lunch snack at the foot of the arch. Again, the scale of it from a distance was deceiving, as the arch was positively HUGE when we got closer to it. It must have been two to three hundred feet high! Definitely another major highlight of our trip :-)
Thursday, March 28, 2013
When we were done hiking Coyote Gulch we headed for our next planned adventure of the day, which was a sunset hike to Sunset Arch! We had read about and seen photos of Sunset Arch in the guide book that we had and knew it was something we didn't want to miss. The hike was described as easy but without any marked trail so we were hoping this would mean we might have it to ourselves. Sure enough, we did! We ended up not see a single other soul in our time to and from the arch. It was wonderful!
As we left the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch trailhead we turned left and continued down Hole in the Rock road until we reached 40 Mile Ridge Road, then we followed this road about 4 miles to a marked trailhead on the left. This trailhead was for a different hike, and our book recommended hiking from there to Sunset Arch, which was in the opposite direction from the trailhead. We instead opted to backtrack along 40 Mile Ridge Road to a spot we had seen on the way in that looked like it would make a good campsite (you can camp pretty much anywhere as long as it is an area that has already been disturbed by humans). We found our spot and it was indeed a terrific place to camp. After setting up our camp and relaxing for a few minutes we got our gear ready, plugged the coordinates for the arch into our GPS unit (the coordinates were provided in our guide book), and off we went across the open desert right from our campsite.
We couldn't see the arch from our campsite, but we knew which way to go thanks to the GPS. After walking about 3/4 of a mile across the desert we got our first glimpse of the arch, still over a quarter of a mile away. It was fascinating to see from a distance, and we wondered just how big it would be once we got up close to it. We kept walking towards the arch and reached the base of it a few minutes later, 1.15 miles from our campsite. Indeed, it was much bigger than we thought it would be when viewing it from a quarter mile away! The arch was mind-boggling, just standing there all by itself surrounded by nothing but relatively flat desert. We spent about an hour admiring and photographing the arch, then just after sunset we headed back to our campsite, arriving just as it was starting to get really dark. Jessica prepared a delicious meal over the camp stove then we washed up and crawled into the tent to get some much-needed rest before the next adventure which awaited us the following morning: Willow Gulch and Broken Bow Arch!
We arrived at the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch trailhead mid-morning, which is an ideal time to start out for a slot canyon hike. Many (but not all) slot canyons are ideal to hike mid-day. Since very little light penetrates down into the canyons, mid-day when the sun is high can often be a good time to visit them. When we arrived at the trailhead we were a little disappointed to already see about a dozen vehicles parked there. Thankfully, though, this hike has 3 different canyons so people really get spread out and we only saw a few people along the hike.
The 3 canyons along this hike are Spooky, Peekaboo and Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch. We hiked Spooky and Dry Fork, but opted out of Peekaboo because you literally had to climb a small cliff to get into Peekaboo and neither one of us wanted to do that. We had a blast in the other two canyons and felt like we didn't miss out on anything by not doing Peekaboo. The photo you see here was taken in Dry Fork, which was a super easy walk once we were in the canyon. The canyon bottom started out very wide and totally flat, and was sort of a gravel surface rather than sand so it was more of a stroll than a hike. After a while, though, the canyon did start to narrow and the bottom did get rougher with some rocks and small boulders that we had to step over. It was never very difficult, though. You can walk a long ways up Dry Fork, at least a mile (and probably more) but we decided to turn around after a while. We also hiked up Spooky Canyon, which was a fascinating canyon but got VERY narrow. So narrow, in fact, that I could only hike up about half of it because I couldn't fit through once it narrowed! Jessica was able to go further, so she checked out more of it.
Jessica and I posing for a shot in Spooky Canyon :-)
Last night we camped at the Egypt trailhead in anticipation of hiking to Neon Canyon and the Golden Cathedral. In the morning, however, we decided that after yesterday's long hike we just didn't know if we were up to another long hike today, especially one that started and ended with a huge hill. So, we decided to part ways with Roger and head for the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch trailhead, which has the Spooky and Peekaboo Canyon hikes. The road out to the Egypt trailhead was very scenic, so I took several shots of the road on our way out. Here is one such photo that gives you a good idea of the type of scenery you drive through to get to these canyon hikes.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
As we hiked across the plateau towards the back entrance of Tunnel canyon, there really weren't any landmarks to guide us so it took a little while to find the entrance to the canyon. As we nagivated across the sea of slickrock we eventually saw what had to be the canyon up ahead. As we got closer we realized that indeed it was the descent down into the canyon. Next, we had to find a way down. It was very steep and there was no obvious trail, but eventually we did find a route down. Once we were in the canyon we had a welcome respite from the sun. The canyon was fully shaded and it was nice and cool as we walked down-canyon. We would soon be wishing for the sun again, however.
As we rounded a corner in Tunnel canyon, we could see up ahead the section that gave the canyon it's name. The "slot" section of Tunnel is indeed just that: a tunnel through the rock. Unlike most slot canyons, Tunnel does not have much of an opening, if any, at the top. This means that very little sunlight gets inside the canyon and it gets pretty cold because of that. Also, on this day, the canyon was full of water! We knew there was a chance that it would be full of water, but we were hoping that because of the relatively dry spring it would (hopefully) be dry. Well, it wasn't. It was full of water, and it was COLD water. And, in the deepest part, it was almost chest-deep on me (I'm just over 6 feet tall). So, we had a decision to make... wade through the deep, freezing water or backtrack up over the plateau the way we came. If we went through the water, we would have about a 2 to 3 mile walk back to the car. If we backtracked, it would be more like 5 to 6 miles. None of us felt like backtracking, so we decided to go through the water.
I went in first, and used the extended legs of my tripod to "feel" the water depth ahead of me as I advanced through the canyon. At first it wasn't too bad, barely above my knees. And, after the initial shock of the ice-cold water, my legs went a little numb and it didn't feel as cold so I spent a few minutes in the middle of the canyon to make some images of our friend Roger coming through the canyon. Eventually, though, my legs couldn't take the cold any more and it was time to go through and out into the warm sun. As we soon discovered, the deepest part was the last several feet before exiting the canyon. It made for an interesting shot as Jessica took pictures of me wading through this last, deepest section of water. Once we were out of the slot canyon and back into the warm sun, we found a nice flat section of rock to try and dry out in the sun. We removed our shoes and socks and laid them out on the rocks to dry. After about 15 to 20 minutes we were already about half-dry so we decided to continue the hike back to the car. By the time we hiked the couple of miles back to the car across the open desert and hot sun, we were pretty much completely dry. It definitely was an exciting adventure, one that none of us will ever forget!
These were such an interesting geologic curiosity, I just had to do a little research to learn more about them. It turns out that Moqui Marbles (according to the Science Daily website) are hematite concretions formed underground when minerals precipitated from flowing groundwater. The marbles are very similar to rocks known as "blueberries" that have been found on Mars. In Utah the rocks had iron in them originally. Water travels through these rocks and leeches out the iron. The water moves through cracks, holes, layers or pores until it reaches some place where the chemistry is different and causes the iron to precipitate out of the water as hematite. After the concretions formed in groundwater, the surrounding Navajo sandstone slowly eroded away over millions of years, so the hard, erosion-resistant concretions accumulated on the ground.
Seeing the marbles was certainly one of the highlights of our trip and the strangeness of seeing them would linger in our thoughts throughout the rest of the trip. After getting our fill of seeing the marbles, we continued on our hike across the plateau towards Tunnel canyon.
Today we hiked Harris Wash to Zebra and Tunnel slot canyons in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This was an amazing, albeit tiring, hike. Total hike distance was almost 9 miles over quite a variety of terrain. Quite a bit of the hike was in deep sand, something we are not used to and hiking through the sand was pretty exhausting. It sure was worth it, though!
Zebra slot canyon is short in length but amazingly beautiful. The walls of the canyon are lined with stripes, making one think of the stripes on a Zebra, hence the name. Unfortunately the most beautiful part of the canyon is very, very tight and I was too big to make it all the way in. That's okay, though, because the part of the canyon that I saw was plenty beautiful. Jessica was able to go in further than I was, and while she went ahead I stayed back and made this image.
If you look near the bottom right of the image you can see a thin stripe of sand. This is the floor of the canyon and is less than 1 foot wide. You had to wiggle through this with your feet sideways. One could always use the "chimney" technique and walk upwards along the wall using outstretched hands and feet, but I did not want to attempt this with my camera gear. So, I stayed in this spot and enjoyed the beautiful lines and colors laid out before me :-)
After a good night's sleep in the tent we woke to a clear blue sky over the desert. I couldn't resist the morning light being so close to an interesting area, so I got up early to walk back down to Devil's Garden and make some more images amongst the hoodoos. This is such a fascinating place no matter what time of day you visit. It was fun watching the first light of day catch the tops of the hoodoos then slowly work its way down towards the ground. I found several interesting things to photograph that morning, but the image shown here was my favorite by far. After a little bit of photography it was time to head back to camp for breakfast and get ready for our day-long hike to Zebra and Tunnel slot canyons.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
After spending the last hour of daylight exploring the Devil's Garden we walked back to our campsite and waited for our friend Roger to arrive. We sat at our camp table and chatted for only a few minutes when we heard a vehicle approaching on the dirt road. Sure enough, it was Roger. He had been driving all day and hadn't eaten yet so after a quick meal and some visiting, since it was such a beautifully calm moonlit night, we decided to head back down to the garden to do some moonlight photography amongst the hoodoos. For the next hour and a half Roger and I wandered through the towering sandstone formations looking for interesting compositions. The image shown here was my favorite of the evening. I call it "Snoopy in the moonlight". See if you can tell why I gave the image this name :-)
After our hike in Little Wild Horse Canyon we headed through Capitol Reef National Park then south toward the town of Escalante. We stopped at the BLM visitor center in Escalante and picked up a few maps for the area where we were planning to go over the next few days. We also filled up our two 7-gallon water containers and inquired about where we were allowed to camp once we were in the interior of the monument. Once our questions were answered and we were stocked up on necessary supplies we headed for Hole in the Rock Road. Our first hike was only about 10 miles down the dirt surface of the road, which was also near "Devil's Garden", an "Outstanding Geologic Area" according to the sign marking the turn-off to Devil's Garden. We found a place to camp near the garden then hiked down to check out the sandstone formations that make up this unique location.
Devil's Garden certainly is an outstanding area, with interesting sandstone "hoodoos" everywhere you look. There are also a couple of arches, the most interesting of which is "Metate Arch". As arches go it's not a very big one, but it is beautiful. I photographed Jessica standing under the arch to provide a sense of scale. After wandering amongst the hoodoos until just after sunset, we then hiked back up to our camp to wait for our friend Roger, who was the best man in our wedding and would be joining us for tomorrow's hike to Zebra and Tunnel slot canyons.
For the majority of our honeymoon Jessica and I explored the canyonlands of southern Utah for a couple of weeks. We had beautiful weather for the majority of the trip and did 16 hikes that added up to a total distance of 64 miles. We wanted to stay away from the large crowds that often plague national parks of the southwest, so we focused primarily on exploring and hiking within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This monument is administered not by the NPS (National Park Service) but by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). The monument consists mostly of dirt backroads leading to trailheads with trails that have little to no maintenance but lead to some incredible canyons. Most, but not all, of our hikes were within this monument.
Our first canyon hike was in Little Wild Horse Canyon, not far from Goblin Valley State Park. We left our motel in Green River early in the morning hoping to be the first ones at the trailhead. Our plan worked as we were the only vehicle in sight when we arrived at the start of the trail. The trail was beautiful right from the beginning as it headed up the wash. Before long we were in the canyon, but it was quite wide at that point. Not long after hiking up and around a dry fall, we were in the canyon narrows. This is where it got really interesting. The canyon had several nice sections of narrows and in the narrowest section we had to turn sideways in order to make it through. Eventually we came to a few boulders wedged in the canyon that put a stop to our forward progress. At this point we turned around and returned to the trailhead via the same route we came in on. It was a wonderful start to our canyon adventure!
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Jessica and I got married today! We had a beautiful ceremony filled with friends, family and love. It really was a perfect day. We'd like to extend our thanks to all those that helped make this day perfect for us. We appreciate and love you all!
Special thanks to Timothy Young for officiating, Staci Drouillard for the incredible cake and our friend Paul for taking beautiful photos throughout the day! And a very special thanks to Carah Thomas, Rod Dockan and Al Oikari of Cook County's Most Wanted for providing the awesome music for our ceremony. You guys were incredible and we totally loved the "Joy of My Life" song... you guys are the best! Thank You :-)
Sunday, March 17, 2013
An unusually cold morning for the middle of March, it was ten degrees below zero this morning when we set out to watch the sun rise at the Spirit Tree. Jessica and I are getting married in 3 days so we wanted to visit the tree again before our ceremony, since this is the spot where we got engaged last summer. It was a beautiful (but cold!) morning. Not a cloud in the sky and no sign of the 25 MPH winds that we were supposed to have overnight. A thin layer of ice covered the bay beyond the tree, and that thin layer of ice was slowly drifting out towards the open lake. Had we been here a couple of hours before sunrise we would have been treated to an incredible view of northern lights, as a geomagnetic storm hit our atmosphere around 4:00 in the morning. Oh well, we may have missed the lights but we sure witnessed a nice sunrise! Maybe we'll get lucky and the geomagnetic storm will last until tonight and maybe our sky will stay clear so we can actually see the lights :-)
Friday, March 15, 2013
Last night's sunset looked promising for good color right up until the sun went down. Just as the sun was going down the clouds moved in and cancelled the chance of any colorful sky. Still, I found a nice shoreline to photograph and had lots of fun viewing the ice and watching these icebergs roll around in the waves.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
I took this picture at sunset last night, a very mild evening with a temp right around 30 degrees. I found a lot of ice chunks that had broken off from the shoreline and were floating around like icebergs. This one had the most intriguing shape out of the bunch.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Just got in from shooting tonight's sunset and after a warm day with bright sun the shoreline ice is really starting to break up in some areas. These chunks of ice were rolling around on the rocks as they were being pummeled by the waves. As each day gets longer and the sun gets higher, it's only a matter of time before this is gone for the year.
This ice formation was photographed along the Grand Portage shoreline of Lake Superior a few days ago. It never ceases to amaze me the endless forms that ice can take along the shores of this great lake. This "fortress" of ice formed over the top of a large mound of rocks. As the rocks get pounded by the waves the water freezes and forms into ice. Every year the ice looks different, as it never freezes in the same exact shape. Often times even from one day to the next it will look different as new waves add new layers of ice, or warm days melt a layer of ice.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
It is kind of a blustery (but mild!) day today, with some falling (but mostly blowing) snow. The blustery nature of the day has me thinking back to a few days ago when the day was absolutely calm and quiet. The photo you see here was made on this quiet day, with barely a sound to be heard along the shoreline. When this cloud drifted over the ridge of ice plates I knew I had to photograph it. The complementing blues of the ice and sky were beautiful. I sure hope we get a day like this on wednesday of next week, if we do it will be a perfect day for our wedding ceremony!
Monday, March 11, 2013
Here is a recent shot of plate ice on Lake Superior, extending out as far as the eye can see. It sure was an interesting morning to be out exploring the shoreline. There was a wind coming off the lake along with a gentle swell that made the ice fascinating to watch. As each swell rolled in to shore you could see the plates of ice gently moving up and down with each passing wave. It was a very gentle movement, and to me looked as though you could see the lake breathing. With each wave the ice would rise, then fall. It was as if each passing wave was the lake taking a breath, then exhaling. This photo was made at sunrise. I returned to this same location at sunset and all the plate ice was gone. After a full day of being ground against each other by the waves the plates of ice had been ground down to small chunks of ice that "tinkled" against each other as they rolled in the waves that were still coming in throughout the evening.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Last night's sunset may not have had a large color palette, but the streaks of clouds and the floating icebergs sure were nice! Yesterday morning at this location there was a brisk wind and a nice swell rolling in off the lake, and there were a lot of ice plates floating around. Last night the swells were still coming in off the lake but the wind was gone and so were the plates of ice. The ice was actually still there, but it was all ground up into small chunks that were floating everywhere in between the larger "icebergs" that you see here. Without the wind the "tinkling" sound of the ice rolling around in the waves was quite loud and fascinating. This calm preceded a winter storm that we are getting today. There still isn't any wind, but snow has been falling steadily since about 9:00 this morning. We have had a few inches already and they say we may end up with 7 inches by the time it's done. One thing's for sure... it sure is a beautiful winter wonderland of white out there today!
Friday, March 8, 2013
As promised, here is another shot from this morning's sunrise over Lake Superior. Whitecaps Point (not an official name, just a name I came up with to reference this area) was lined with beautiful plate ice this morning. Soft swells were rolling in off the lake, and the plates of ice were rubbing against each other in the swells, making a magical "shooshing" sound. It was a gentle sound, not loud and abrasive like the sound made when the plates are piling up against the shore. I sure do love this time of year and wish it lasted longer. Spring is on its way, though, and soon I will be heading to the canyonlands of the southwest for a 3-week camping/hiking/biking adventure honeymoon with the love of my life!
This was a pleasant surprise from this morning. I was on my way to my pre-planned sunrise location when I looked back across the bay and saw this beautiful softly-glowing light over Hat Point and Pete's Island. You can see a glimpse of Isle Royale National Park in between Hat Point and Pete's Island. This light was so beautiful I had to stop and make a photo of the scene. After this I headed to the spot I was originally going to and found lots of incredible plate ice floating on the lake. Stay tuned later today for another posting of the plate ice at sunrise!
Friday, March 1, 2013
Here's an image from the last sunset I shot a few days ago. It was one of the quietest evenings I've ever experienced on Lake Superior. There was absolutely no wind and not a single ripple on the water to disturb the evening. The sunset didn't yield much of a display in terms of color, but the clouds and their matching reflections on the surface of the lake were a sight to behold.