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Trip Reports

South Rim, Toroweap, and Zion

Towers of Virgin ~ Zion National Park

Towers of Virgin ~ Zion National Park

Two weeks, three states, two national parks, seven Desert Bighorn Sheep, 1,724 miles, getting stuck sixty miles from the nearest paved road, one dropped camera, and countless friends. That was our recent trip to Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks.

As I’m getting ready to hit the road again in a couple of days, this Trip Report will be brief, but entertaining. The trip began simple enough with our first stop being the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park where we spent 4 nights. I had hoped to work on a few images for an upcoming project, but Mother Nature was less than cooperative in that we had clear skies. I like some drama in the atmosphere when photographing the big scenes at the canyon. Even though I didn’t get what I was looking for, I always enjoy my time at the canyon.

The next stop is Toroweap on the North Rim of the park. For those of you that may not be familiar with Toroweap, it is the most remote location in Grand Canyon National Park which you can still drive to. Located at the end of a 61-mile dirt road, it is a 6-hour, 260 mile drive from the South Rim. While it is only roughly 55 miles (as the raven flies) from Grand Canyon Village, it couldn’t be a more different experience from visiting the South Rim. As I mentioned before, it’s at the end of a 61-mile dirt road with the last 5 miles taking over 30 minutes to travel. As for services and amenities; there is a first-come, first served campground once you get there, but that’s it. No services of any kind other than a very friendly volunteer ranger in the campground. What really makes Toroweap impressive is the view complete with a 3,000 foot drop to the Colorado River below.

Remember the friendly volunteer ranger? He was kind enough to pull my truck out of tough spot when I idiotically wedged it against a rock rendering it immobilized. That’s right…I got stuck…in the Toroweap campground. I’m glad he was there to help because the alternative of a $1,000 tow didn’t sound too appealing.

After a couple nights camping at Toroweap, which by the way was one of the best experiences of my life, we headed to Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.

OMG! Did I really I just say “OMG”? Yes I did! If you are not part of the “texting” generation, OMG translates to “OMGod” and it really is an appropriate expression for the feeling experienced as you emerge from the mile long tunnel in Zion to get your first view of Zion Canyon. There is so much to write about including photographing the Watchman, Fall Color, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Towers of Virgin, Zion Plateau including Checkerboard Mesa,  and the Virgin River Narrows, but I think I’ll stick with sharing my photos. Zion was an overwhelming experience and produced a very similar reaction in me to my first visit to Grand Canyon.

The best part of the trip was meeting so many wonderful people and making new friends. Sally and I especially enjoyed hiking the Narrows with Deb, Genevieve, and the ladies from Fallon. I hope you all got some great photos!

See all the photos from this trip in the Latest Releases gallery.

A visit to Chaco Canyon

A place far from the modern, civilized, world. A place of extremes with brutally frigid winters and scorching hot summers. A place that was once inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloans and was perhaps the trade and spiritual center of their world. A place called Chaco.

Located in Chaco Canyon in far northwestern New Mexico, Chaco Culture National Historical Park protects some of the largest Ancestral Puebloan ruins in the American Southwest. Among these ruins is Pueblo Bonito, the largest Great House in the park which is believed to have been inhabited between AD 828 and 1126. Covering nearly two acres of land it was once four stories tall and may have contained as many as 800 rooms.

This past March my wife, Sally, and I made a visit to Chaco Canyon to photograph the ruins with our friends Brian and Liz of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Brian is a bit a Chaco nut and I was thankful for the insight he provided.

Photographically speaking, Pueblo Bonito is an extremely exciting subject to work with. I suggest that photographers come prepared with ultra-wide angle and medium length zooms to capture the interior of the pueblo. The photo of the T-shaped door above and this photo looking up through the pueblo on were both created using a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L lens at the 16mm setting on a 5D Mark II camera.

The exterior of the pueblo can be captured using a a full-array of focal lengths from ultra-wide to telephoto. This photo of Pueblo Bonito was captured with my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 150mm. I chose this lens to isolate the back wall of the pueblo against the canyon wall, both of which were bathed in a warm, late-evening light.

A place far from the modern, civilized, world. A place of extremes with brutally frigid winters and scorching hot summers. A place that was once inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloans and was perhaps the trade and spiritual center of their world. A place called Chaco.

A Winter Morning in the Forest

Grand Canyon forest in winter with snow.

You never know what kind of weather you are going to encounter when visiting Grand Canyon National Park. This past March I made a trip to the canyon to deliver a print that is now displayed in the Park Headquarters, but I also planned to do a little photography.

On my second day there the  canyon was completely socked-in so I took a stroll through the forest. A storm system had parked itself over the canyon providing a fresh dusting of snow.  What motivated me to stop and create this image was the sense of peace and tranquility of the experience. There were no other visitors exploring the “Greenway” Trail that morning, the wind was calm, and the falling snow limited visibility giving a sense of an endless forest.

Cypress on the Guadalupe River

Sally and I made a trip to Texas over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit family in the San Antonio area. While we were there, we had an opportunity to spend some time exploring the Guadalupe River near the town of Comfort. I love the Guadalupe and have canoed it many times from Comfort to Guadalupe River State Park, and my great grandparents had a home on it near New Braunfels at one time.One of my favorite subjects to photograph are the cypress trees that line the banks of the river such as this example at James Kiehl River Bend Park.

James Kiehl River Bend Park is a new park dedicated in memory of United States Army Specialist James H. Kiehl from Comfort, Texas. Spc. Kiehl was killed in action on March 23rd, 2003 after his convoy was ambushed in Iraq. He was assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company, Fort Bliss, Texas.