From Canyonlands National Park. Island in the Sky District. The First of my new Limited Series. A selection of Master Prints that will be available in runs of 25.
Sometimes images wait in my archive to have life breathed into them. I had known at the moment of capture that this would be the image of the day…..an good indicator that it will get immediate attention. Life might have other plans, I was on my cross country trip from Seattle to West Palm Beach and soon after my Mother went in for surgery to repair her broken vertebrae. I took over caring for the horses here on the ranch, the heat and work can be exhausting, leaving little time for creating images. So there it sat until yesterday, around noon, when I needed an image of my truck with storm clouds over head…….it made me think back to the day, watching the clouds first build over the La Sal mountains. The storm seemed to grow….to radiate from the peaks….making an improbable journey West against the wind….against the jet stream……until it was over head, some 100 miles as the crow flies. In times like these there is often a bit of inner debate. What’s the light going to do, is the storm going to break……how long before I can get to shelter. If nothing else I’m a good judge of weather. It’s an obsession. One that comes from spending countless days backpacking, with nothing but stretched nylon as a shelter. This day I was lucky, I had my truck within a close proximity. This enabled me to wait until the very moment the storm broke, so I could make this image, and then sprint for the safety of good Detroit Steel.
On the White Rim Road
Before we get back to the Storm story let me back up a bit and give some background on the White Rim Trail road. I’ve been fielding some email about the road and hopefully this will speak to those questions. The White Rim Road is a 100 mile 4×4 dirt road that loops in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. You can either travel the road by either Mountain Bike or 4×4. It’s not technically difficult as far as mountain biking goes but you do have to be in good condition. The Park service calls the four wheel drive moderate. An experience driver is a must this isn’t the place to cut your four by teeth on. That said it’s quite an adventure. While other friends go on a vacation you’ll go on an experience and annoy them for month’s afterword with stories. The peace and solitude of this wilderness is offset by white knuckle driving. With every flat stretch my companion and I knew there would be something technical to navigate very soon. I would recommend a narrow truck with good visibility over the hood. You’ll be climbing with no view of the road in front of you. Bring an extra cooler!
This trip is wilderness travel. There is a scene in The Hurt Locker where the main character comes back from deployment and is overwhelmed by the supermarket. Too much color too much sound and too many people, sensory overload. I measure my wilderness experiences by this. My companion had never felt this before and she bailed within thirty seconds of being in the Ranger station, which was a calm place with only a few people. As I filled out the wildlife report the Ranger, an obvious student of Edward Abbey from his one foot long beard, on duty gave me a knowing look.
I walked outside and said to my friend “you think that was crazy wait till we get to the supermarket in Moab.”
Start planning your trip now! Go!
A very fine start to the day, deceptive, for the afternoon would bring heavy winds, rain and battleship gray skies…in other words fantastic light. A Nature photographer has to wear many hats, and more are being piled on all the time. One that is well worn and servers the Wilderness Traveler and Photographer equally well is Meteorologist. Being able to read the weather means that for the photographer you are ready for the great light that comes just before and after a storm. For the Traveler, it means you get to set up a dry camp.
Keep an eye to the sky. In the Canyonlands this can be difficult if you are down in the Canyon, which was the case on this day. Having spotted a sand bar, let’s call it a beach, my companion and I decided to make the two mile hike to it. An afternoon at the beach sounded like a perfect antidote to the stress produced by days of four wheel driving the white rim road. Traveling the white rim road is a journey that you will talk about for all your days. So after navigating the green belt a thick jungle like band of vegetation that exists next to the river my companion and I reach our reward. A glorious little oasis of sand that held true to all the promise it made when viewed from afar. After a bit of nap I awoke to gray skies overhead and a bit of a blow. Down in the Canyon you can’t see the weather coming.
I said we’ve got about 15 minutes to get back to the truck. We left our little beach with haste. Back, we went, through the Indiana Jones movie set that is the green belt. Seriously some unique sounds coming out of the densest brush I’ve ever traveled. I was being generous when I said 15 minutes it was more like 10 and sure enough with the truck in sight the storm opened up, hard rain blowing sand, the works. This was the kind of storm you are glad to have a truck available for shelter.
The story continues with more images from the series.
Resilience at Mesa Arch.
One of my favorite photos this was taken in the spring of 2000. It was a very windy morning when I saw this tree being blown around I thought what a resilient little fellow. I knew I had a shot. Working carefully because this was the last frame of film I had, I made this image. Although it had been in the 80s the day before there would be 3 inches of snow on the ground by noon.
A book I read well before I set foot in Arches National Park. I remember a passage on how Abbey escaped the summer heat with a trip into the La Sal Mountains. Celebrating he glissaded down a snow field with reckless abandon. Instantly I recalled the joy of sledding in my youth. Desert Solitaire is a fine book to inspire a visit to the American South West. I recommend this read it while you are in the park. I bought a copy in the visitor center to have something to do while escaping the heat and sun of the mid afternoon. I found that it was almost like having Abbey there in his Ranger “uniform” leading a naturalist’s tour. While photographing in the morning or evening I would wonder about some of my subjects. Abbey would invariable answer my questions as I sat in the shade of a juniper.