Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Imagery From Utah's Grand Staircase–Escalante NM

I recently finished updating my site with new images from Utah's Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument (and surrounding areas) from a recent trip taken from April 4 - 10. This monument is located in the southern part of the state and consists of 1.7 million acres (roughly the size of Delaware) of some of the most remote and beautiful country in the lower 48 states. The monument was designated in 1996 by the Clinton administration in a controversial move to bolster his election campaign. It takes in most of the area from Kanab and Bryce Canyon on the west to Lake Powell and Capitol Reef on the east. It does not represent any one particular feature, but rather a whole area of slickrock canyons, terraced cliffs and red rock landscapes.


Paria Badlands, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, UT

Photographing the monument is a time consuming venture as many of its more photographic features require traveling 4x4 roads and/or hiking and/or canyoneering to see. Thus, in the week I spent there, I only scratched the surface in my attempts to record its beauty. Many return trips will be required to really do the place justice.

I did this trip via a giant circle route which took me from Bayfield, CO to Page, AZ before heading up to Utah and concentrating on the areas surrounding the towns of Escalante and Boulder. I returned home by passing through Capitol Reef National Park and the Moab area (not photographing either of these places as they are best kept for future trips in themselves).

I was blessed with favorable weather, for the most part. The infamous wind storms of spring were held at bay for all but one day (more on that later). The major photographic locations I visited included the Wire Pass/Buckskin Gulch area, the Paria Badlands, the Cottonwood Canyon area, many locations along the Hole-In-The-Rock road (outside Escalante), Upper/Lower Calf Creek Falls, and Longs Canyon (outside Boulder).


Metate Arch, Devil's Garden near Escalante

One of the main goals I hoped to accomplish on this trip was to photograph a few of the many slot canyons found within reasonable hiking distances from the Hole-In-The-Rock road. The big three were the Peekaboo, Spooky and Zebra slots. Of these three, Zebra slot intrigued me the most as its narrow main section consists of wonderfully striated walls unlike anything I've seen in other slot canyons. Of course, of the three, it can be the hardest to reach as my research revealed that there could often be a chest deep pool blocking its entrance. Upon reaching the entrance to canyon (an easy 3.5 mile walk down a sandy wash), I was tickled pink to find out that recent wind storms had buried this pool in mounds of sand. Woo Hoo! The down side was that a new wind storm was starting to rev up. Winds were whipping sand through both the entrance of the canyon and from the top covering everything. There was to be no lens changing on this shoot! I hung around for almost an hour waiting for the sun angle to create an optimal glow with the narrow, but not overly high canyon walls and ventured back to my backpack near the entrance to pack up and leave. I was barely able to find it! It was just a lump under a pile of sand by this point. I dug it out, packed up, and headed out of the entrance to find a full fledged sand storm in progress. The easy 3.5 walk in the wash turned into a nightmare as it was straight into the wind and required countless stops so I could brace myself against the highest gusts which were trying to sandblast me into oblivion! By the time I got back to my truck, I was so exhausted that I drove back to Escalante, checked into a hotel, showered, and crashed for a good part of the afternoon. It was worth it to see such a marvel of nature though!


Zebra Slot Canyon

Click on the link below to see more of the images I returned with from this trip.

Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

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