Passing through places I’ve never been I often find unexpected areas of beauty that lead to quiet reflection. This barn scene at Capitol Reef National Park was a place that caught me off guard on a day where I needed some time to think about myself and why I had been feeling the way I was. The serene meadow surrounded by the red rock cliffs was a perfect place for a time out among the horses and light traffic before heading up into the canyon for more adventures.
I’ve grown accustomed to leaving New Jersey at the start of summer, and, even though it hasn’t been too long since my last visit to the southwest, it get harder every time I return. The red rocks of southern Utah remain the place I desire most often, and my plans to return have already begun to materialize. The next couple of months have already planned themselves out, and then it’s time to go back to where the sun is hot and the humidity is not. It might be a long summer on the East Coast, but sooner than I think I’ll be back among the landscapes of the desert.
On a drive through Utah from Park City to Provo I just happened to pass by some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen on the side of a road. This open pasture was just too perfect with grazing horses and a flowing stream, but to top it all off the snow-capped mountain range in the background makes the scene. This is just one of many amazing roadside attractions I wanted to stop and spend the rest of my day at along the way. If anyone wonders why I want to spend more of my time in Utah, this is the answer.
Anyone reading this probably already knows that Utah is my favorite place to visit. The National Parks are astounding, but the view from any given drive on a backroad, state highway, or even an Interstate can leave you speechless from the unmatched beauty that rises up all around you. The red rocks paired with the often blue sky seem to exist in perfect harmony and play off one another, creating the most rich, brilliant versions of either color that you will encounter in nature. Everything else seems just a little more dull after crossing the figurative state line.
The landscape of southern Utah is so varied that it’s hard to identify at times. This shot is from somewhere near Buckskin Gulch near the Arizona border. Watching the road curve ahead into the distance is always exciting, especially with views like this. We took several dirt roads to get where we were going as you often have to in the backcountry of this area. They are often washboarded or covered with soft sand so travel becomes a gamble. We made it in and out of every one without incident somehow.
Summer is almost here, and my friend and I have been talking about how much we miss skiing. This happens every year, but I am happy that I got to ski quite a lot this season. It’s never as much as I’d like, but I did get to see a lot of new places and finally ski a few places out west. I miss the snow and especially the views from Park City. The atmosphere there definitely made me think I would like to live in a resort area for the winter sometime. I’m already looking forward to the next season.
Arches National Park is one of my favorite places for several reasons. I love that you can walk right up to these amazing natural structures and interact with them. I’ve been coming here on every trip I take out west for the last five or more years and every time I manage to find something new. I’m not sure how I missed this one during my previous visits, but Double Arch is very close to a parking area and easy to climb up to. I checked out two other new areas while we were there also. I’ll always look forward to more when I come back.
Hiking in Utah has plenty of rewarding views, and they’re often mixed with amazingly fun climbs. In Capitol Reef National Park we did what we could with the short time we had there, but that was a good amount. We hiked up to a wide canyon between two high walls that allowed us to explore several side canyons to climb up into. It was enough fun just playing in those, but the climb back out to the main trail was this great silhouette of rocks in front of the colorful sunset sky. We are so lucky to get to see these things regularly.
The last two days were spent in and around the canyons of southern Utah. Outside the national parks, there are tons of slot canyons that have been carved into the landscape over millennia of wind, sand, and water rushing through them. Peek-a-Boo Canyon and Spooky Gulch are two of my favorite slot canyons and they happen to part of one loop hike. This view is from above after I climbed up, stemming and using counter-pressure techniques that are a big part of why I love these canyons so much. They are basically a huge playground in nature, and they are some of the most beautiful landforms I have ever seen.
While in southern Utah we got to visit Best Friends animal sanctuary. They take in dogs, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, exotic birds, and, of course, cats. While on the tour we stopped at one of the many cat houses where we met Sven, and we became friends right away. He was quite excited to have company and was quick to show us how he likes being pet. The organization is fantastic, doing what they can to keep animals alive and safe while educating people about alternatives to euthanizing pets.
We’ve been having such a good time in the Salt Lake area that we decided to stay for a couple more days. We finally got our discs out today and played at the Creekside disc golf course in SLC. It was a little rainy, but we had a great round and there was a great view all around. The mountains surrounding the city are amazingly close and picturesque. It’s hard to see them in full sometimes, but we got a few great views and I really liked this frame looking back to the tee from the fairway.
I’ve gotten used to the skiing conditions in Park City and we have been able to have a lot of fun with it. It’s not ideal, but any skiing is good. The crowds were minimal for a weekend, and we spent some time at the terrain park and practicing little tricks on the slushy snow. This photo looks like it’s really crowded, but the lift lines were pretty small. It was another beautiful day with the sun out and skis on.
After spending a week in one place it starts to feel a little like home. I’ve gotten used to the roads here and the pretty mountains are a little more normal to me now. I ventured out a bit today during our down time playing card games and went for a run along the trails around the hills. I ran along a creek and saw a herd of moose on a hillside before passing over several small bridges and then this ranch. The sun had fallen below the mountains already, but I really loved the silhouette sign for this place. It definitely feels like how the small town could have been before it turned into the major resort destination it is now.
Of all the times I’ve been to Utah, I’ve only casually passed through Salt Lake City a couple of times. I never spent much time in the streets or seeing the sights. Unfortunately this time wasn’t all that different, but we did get a chance to see Temple Square and check out the Museum of Contemporary Art. Of all the shots I got of the city, this skewed perspective of Salt Lake Temple was probably my favorite. The whole city seems great, but this site has some of the most curious and interesting buildings and fountains I’ve seen anywhere.
It’s been a fun week spent in Park City, Utah skiing, hanging out with friends, and sitting in hot tubs. It was a resort experience without having to stay at a resort. Sort of. Either way, this place is full of fun stuff to do and there is beauty in all directions. There is a hill in the middle of town called PC Hill, named for the big “PC” letters that adorn the side of it, visible from most anywhere you are in the city. We hiked to the top of the hill last night to watch the sun go down on this great place one last time before we leave. This paints a nice pictures of a very Utah kind of city.
Everyone says skiing in the western U.S. is much different from the east. Unfortunately my first chance to ski in Utah was during the worst season they have had in many years. The snow was slushy and patchy, but it was still fun to be skiing no matter what. Oh, I can see one difference between the east and west right here: the views. The mountains in the distance are so amazing that we took easy trails just so we could get better views. It was a pretty good day of skiing, but an amazing day for scenery.
Park City, Utah is a ski resort town with a Main Street lined with bars, restaurants, art galleries, and more fur and leather stores than I’ve seen in my life. We took to the streets last night on St. Patrick’s Day to see the drunken lift operators and vacationers stumble down the road while enjoying the pretty lights lining the street and window shopping some art. We even got to go into one of them and stand in awe of the crazy photos of the Utah landscapes. This restaurant lighting was definitely my favorite view of the night.
Southern Utah has some of the most unique and incredible rock formations in the world, and Arches National Park is one of my favorite places to see them. Wall Street is lined with huge, narrow rocks that climb up on either side of the trail. I came a couple hours before dawn to catch the stars still hanging in the sky one morning. I had the park to myself and the silence was amazing. My eyes never adjusted to the point that the long exposure of my camera was able to see, but I could still feel the presence of the great structures that surrounded me.
It turns out being in the right place at the right time is a big part of getting a good photo. It also happens that sitting in the same spot for an hour shooting hundreds of frames trying to catch one of the numerous lightning strikes happening a few miles away in the desert is another big part of it. After an amazing day of hiking in slot canyons we got to witness this beautiful lightning storm attack the desert as the sun went down. We had a great, safe vantage point from the road where we could sit and enjoy the show. This was my first attempt at editing a lightning shot, and I’m pretty happy with the result.
This is one of my favorite spots to be in the world; well, the world I’ve explored so far. Double O Arch in Arches National Park is the one place I have visited one every trip I’ve taken west of the Mississippi. The trail is great, taking you past several arch formations and over giant rock fins. Part of the beauty of this park is being able to interact with the landscape. You can walk up to, through, and on top of this arch. The sunset does beautiful things to the red rocks, bringing out the colors that are more muted during the day. If you do visit this place for sunset, be prepared with a headlamp for the hike back. It gets dark fast.
One of the series I’m working on that I’m the most excited about is tentatively called “Leave Only Footprints,” which is taken from the slogan “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints” that is often seen on signs throughout National Parks and other protected areas to try to reduce the damage done to nature. I have a large collection of photos of those footprints being left in the myriad beautiful places our legs have been gracious enough to carry us thus far. I’ll be sharing more in the near future. This particular photo is from a hike in Ding and Dang Canyons in the San Rafael Swell in Utah. I won’t even get into how much I adore hiking slot canyons right now, but this was one of the best experiences I’ve had in one. I can’t wait to get back.