Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Natural Bridges NM

May 2006

This year Utah was an unexpected trip for me. I had orginally planned months ago to meet up with Ryan S (not Estonian ryan) and fly into Salt Lake City. SLC is pretty central for the whole part of the USA...within one day's drive you can reach either the extent of the Northern Rockies in the US or some great desert work in the south. As always with plane tickets though, you need to buy them far in advance. Salt Lake left lots of options open both north and south. Ry and I didn't firmly decide where to go until we were eating lunch outside the airport. Due to some very heavy late snow, we could've done some winter backpacking in the Tetons, but lightning and backpackers on ridges don't always agree. On the flip side temperatures in the south Utah desert were going to be in the 70s...a perfect time to visit. It didn't take much convincing to get Ry to go into the Utah desert. Ironically, our original plan for the whole trip had been to visit Glen Canyon in southern Utah, but the water level was too high. The Tetons were already a backup trip. Who'd've thunk the backup to the backup would be so fun...

We arrived in SLC on Fri. and after lunch decided that SE Utah would be where we would spend our time given the cool temperatures resulting from that same system dumping snow on the Tetons. We drove onto Moab and on Fri night we did some short hikes through Arches NP (the one with that sandstone formation in the photo on the living room wall). I haven't been there since 2000 on a road trip with estonian ryan! We got there late, so we got a hotel in Moab and drove up to the formations and did the Delicate Arch trail.

The next day, however, our real trip began in Canyonlands National Park. I'd previously stopped by the park in order to satisfy my "been there" quotient. I'd only ever been to Island in the Sky so many years ago, collected my visitor's map, and went on my merry way...but a mental note was left that I needed to backpack there some day. Finally that day came. Due to circumstance, Ry and I backpacked up Salt Creek and got to spend three amazing days there. From the amazing red rock mesa start to the variegated pastel-wall canyon walls the entire trip was nothing but scenic. What started off as larger-than-life sandstone formations gave way to to a vibrant desert stream bottom spotted with arches, bridges, side washes, and petroglyphs. A surprising number of old Indian cliff dwellings abounded, long abandoned. All that was left was the record of an extensive society along the creek and phenomenal artwork on the canyon walls, hundreds of years old and hopefully lasting hundreds more.

The trip ended with a quick side-stop to Natural Bridges NM. I'd never been to the bottom of the canyon before, and it was quite an experience. The trail leading to the canyon bottom led across a number of drops through steel stairs and ladders ever so "gently" descending one to the riverbed. While it may be cheating in some folks' books, being underneath those massive bridges is amazing. I'd only ever seen them from above and never before looked up to see the tons of rock crossing the riverbed. Quite a stunning sight. On the way up Ry pointed out several ancient cliff dwellings that I'd never seen before. Combined with the amount of amazing ruins I saw in Canyonlands, it's really amazing how extensive the old culture was. Between the old structures and the truly beautiful art, it is sad to think the Europeans hastened the decline of entire civilizations capable of such beauty and ingenuity.

The Photographs

The pictures were taken with my Minolta system. The film was a mixture of Kodachrome PKL 200, Kodachrome PKR 64, Kodachrome KM 25, and a roll of Ektachrome 400 to end the mix.

Click "Next" in the upper right to begin.