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A personal blog of photography and commentary by Andrew McAllister.

Posts tagged Arches National Park

Top of the World Trail

Day two of the Kokopelli Trail the most photogenic of the trip. We crossed increasingly scenic landscape starting with the austere Cisco Wash followed by the increasingly rugged Owl Draw and Dome Plateau (pictured Below). The day concluded with the Top of the World trail that terminates at a rock ledge hundreds of feet above the valley floor. The view from the Top of the World trail terminus one can see Onion Creek and Fisher Towers below you, Professor Valley and the Colorado River in the distance and the ridge line of the windows section of Arches National Park some 15 miles away.

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Cisco WashCisco Wash section of the Kokopelli Trail

After a hearty breakfast our group broke camp and headed for the trail for a long day in the saddle that would cross increasingly scenic territory. The first section took us from our camp at Fish Ford over to Utah 128 via a dusty two track that crosses Cisco Wash. Seeing the depth and departure angle of the wash I jumped out to get the shot above for Sean’s trailer review. Being in a wash like this one, I can understand why maps have warnings about roads being impassable when wet. This last section of this trail was pretty dusty and our groups vehicles spaced out for safe driving. Below a member of our group waits for the last vehicle as we turn onto Utah Scenic 128 and head toward Owl Draw. The helicopter was just flying by.

Cisco Wash section of the Kokopelli Trail

Owl Draw and Dome Plateau20130501_Kokopelli Trail_028

Utah Scenic Route 128 connects I-70 and 191 and follows the Colorado River through Professor Valley and well worth the trip. Owl Draw is a 4×4 road that starts near Gordon Ranch just as 128 closes in on the Colorado River. Above is looking North towards the East Tavaputs Plateau.

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After some time we made a quick stop at a scenic overlook to stretch the legs and grab a photo and we were off again. Interesting to see how the wind is sculpting these sandstone cliffs and the effects of water drainage on the soil.

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Above: Yellow Jacket Canyon

20130501_Kokopelli Trail_040We welcomed the long sandy stretches of road and breathtaking views as we headed toward the river crossing at Dewey.

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Close to the trails end our group passed through a gate with a nice view of the Colorado River and the crossing at Dewey. There are two bridges at Dewey. The original wood plank bridge burned in 2008 and there is a local effort to restore it. Our group would meet up at the old bridge foundation and then head to our campsite near the Delores River where we would have lunch and drop trailers before heading to the Top of the World trail. Note the tilted angle of the earth’s crust. Below: sandstone cliffs and domes near Utah Scenic 128.

20130501_Kokopelli Trail_046Top Of The World Trail
Top of the World Trail

Ace from the Book Cliffs Cruisers leads the charge as we start the Top of the World Trail. Guide books state that this trail takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete and we were starting after lunch so we had to make good time when we could if we were to make it back to camp before dark. The first five miles were graded dirt road and have plenty to stop and look at if you get an early start. The picture above shows the start of the trail. The rock steps above would eventually turn into proper ledges as seen below at the first obstacle point. The Fun-treks guide book mentioned that this trail has gotten more difficult and once was doable in an aggressive stock vehicle. This would be my first time on a “Difficult” rated trail.

Top of the World Trail

Above: Drivers assess the first major obstacle and plan a route. Below: With a good line and all lockers engaged Sean’s 80 series Landcruiser clears the ledge and pulls a trailer up it too. Since he was writing a review on the build and trail handling he opted to bring it while the others left their trailers at the campsite.

Top of the World Trail

Below: Richard takes a line more suited for the FJ-40’s shorter wheelbase and clearance.

Top of the World Trail

Below: Darius looses traction on his first attempt but soon clears the ledge.

Top of the World Trail

Below: Rocky sections test a vehicles articulation and the drivers ability to choose a line that considers the trailer as well as the tow vehicle. Passengers need to hold on… or get out and take pictures.

Top of the World Trail

Below: In the far distance is where we started from this morning. On this trail you do feel like you are going to the top of the world.

Top of the World TrailTop of the World – The viewTop of the World Trail

The view from the top was nothing short of spectacular. When we arrived every one grabbed whatever camera they had and started snapping away. Being late afternoon the sun was harsh and hazy and I have had to spend some time in Adobe Lightroom to get the images to the state you see here. Above you can clearly see the windows section of Arches National Park. This is a great location that I’d love to photograph in first light.

Top of the World Trail

Above: Looking down on the backlit Fisher Towers and Onion Creek area of Professor Valley. Amazing view!

Top of the World Trail

Above: Looking North West toward The East Tavaputs Plateau. The haze and fact that I was using a longer focal length lens made this a hard shot to resolve but the view of over 30 miles was worth the effort. The sandstone cliffs in the mid ground are where we were a few hours earlier. I-70 is visible just below the center on the left side.

Top of the World Trail

The overhang at Top of the World is a great photo op. Google it and you find tons of shots just like this. Sean however was not aware of the over hang and was surprised when he saw the picture.

Top of the World Trail

Above: Richard and Kim on top of the FJ-40, on Top of the World with dog co-pilot Shamrock.

Top of the World Trail

Above: Should you look down you will see Onion Creek and to the East: Fisher Valley pictured below.

Top of the World Trail

Below: After the photo ops we needed to get going as we still had a difficult trail between us and camp. A few people received phone calls at the top but cell reception would fade fast as we started back down the trail.

Top of the World Trail Top of the world Trail – Return tripTop of the World Trail

Ace again leads the way. With the sun getting lower on the horizon and progress to be made I had to make the most of shooting from the Landcruiser. The shot above is through the windshield and below at a turn in the trail. Not bad if I do say so myself.

Top of the World Trail

After a brief section of trail we came to a series of ledges that would challenge the Landcruisers with longer wheelbases. The ledges were covered with sand and spaced so that both front and rear wheels would be climbing up at the same time.

Top of the World Trail

Below: A tight section of trail forced me to use the widest lens I had available to illustrate the spacing of the ledges. After this shot I switched to the other side of the trail and a safer position.

Top of the World Trail

Below: Driver error caused our trailer to flip when stepping off this ledge. It was quickly righted with a couple of extra hands. As you can see the ledge has a high side and the trailer is top heavy with the tent configured the way it is. Sean writes about this incident in his review.

Top of the World Trail

As soon as the trailer was ready to go our group progressed and we were on the main graded road before dark. Below: Joe steps his Landcruiser down one of the many ledges on the return from Top of the World.

Top of the World Trail

Long day in the saddle was the correct way to put it. It was twilight when we got to camp. Everyone hustled to get tents setup before it was completely dark and with no dedicated camp chef tonight we would be on our own for dinner. After dark we gathered around the campfire and recalled the days events and planned for tomorrows adventure on Rose Garden Hill. After an hour or so I decided to call it day and head to bed. The days trek was pretty intense and I was ready for some sleep. Hopefully the winds would not keep me awake tonight as they did the night before.

Top of the World Trail

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This was a year of looking, learning and contemplating. If I had to choose just one image to represent 2013 it would be this image of a mountain goat on Willard Peak in Northern Utah. I took the photo on a drive to Inspiration Point with a photographer friend who shoots pictures of wildlife. Unlike earlier trips when I looked at animals through binoculars, this time we hiked to the mountain goats and saw them at close range. I look forward to doing more of this in 2014. Technical info: Willard Peak via National Forest Road (starts in Mantua) to Inspiration Point. Accessible in warm months by automobiles with high clearance. The last few turns are  at over 9000 feet elevation and exposed. Not for the faint of heart.

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Lone teenager at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. Any year when you get to visit Moab six times is a good year. The area offers so much to explore and so many photographic possibilities that it boggles the mind. Now that I can go there frequently, I have the luxury of not feeling rushed or compelled to fill the day with a million must-see things.

Hunter Power Plant from Ghost Rock

Ghost Rocks viewpoint looking toward the Hunter Power Plant. This photo was taken on a solo winter trip to photograph the area. It was nice to experience Southern Utah at a slower pace and find new locations like this. The quickest way from Moab to SLC is through Price, but a winter storm made travel over Soldier Summit questionable so I took I-70 across the San Rafael Swell and saw a new part of the state.

Top of the World TrailPhone Home on the Range. Last spring I had the opportunity to travel the Kokopelli Trail on a Cruise Moab pre-run. A friend was writing a review of an off-road trailer so I came along to document the run. This great trip gave me access to some amazing country that is not accessible with my stock 4-wd vehicle and I got to meet a group of off-road travel enthusiasts. The view from here to the East Tavaputs Plateau–the ridge line in the distance–is more than 40 miles.

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In 2012 I wrote about a grain elevator in Preston, Idaho that burned down and how it seemed to have changed the identity of the town. This year I explored this idea and created a series of images documenting grain silos in small towns within a few hours of Cache Valley, Utah. The image above is from Soda Springs, Idaho. More images from the series can be found on my website.

20130317_Ogden_Utah_094-EditThe series on grain elevators led me to industrial areas of towns and other sites like this at American Nutrition in Ogden, Utah. The dramatic light and shadow from the late afternoon sun bring out the structural beauty in this otherwise mundane industrial facility.

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My search for silos took me north to Pocatello, Idaho, where I came across Walts Scrap Metal. It may not speak to everyone, but it interests me because of the play of the flat surfaces depicting western scenes against the actual western landscape. Additionally, the compression of space and the illusions it creates is a kind of puzzle and you have to really look at the photo to pull the different elements apart and try to make sense of the image. Scenes like this make the hours of driving worth it to me.
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On a return trip to Utah from Denver I crossed the continental divide via Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road. I had just completed a Phase One Capture One training event and was delighted to come upon this dramatic scene.
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As I mentioned, 2013 involved a lot of learning and looking. When not photographing I spend a lot of time looking at the world via Google Earth. Last year I took advantage the opportunity to look down from an airplane window in Iceland: the location is somewhere between Reykjavik and Akureyri.131020_Moab_138 1Shelf road leading out of Spring Canyon. From my sixth and final Moab trip of 2013. I hope you enjoyed this short review of my 2013 photographs and if you have a similar post about your past year’s adventures please share a link in the comments section.

Happy travels and pleasant photography for the coming year!

20130303_Moab Trip_8304Locations like Delicate Arch are difficult to photograph. Look online and you can see thousands on technically great shots, thousands more that try to hard with star trails, sparklers, dramatic light and on and on. Lots of advice as to best time of day or examples of the arch in different seasons. The first time I was there I made a midday panorama that had around 70 people in it. A cold day in early March had a dozen people up there posing for family photos under the arch and more on the way up. Delicate Arch is kind of like the Eiffel Tower in that the thing itself is so cool and so recognizable that photographs of it rarely do it justice. Delicate Arch and they way you come up on it from the trail is so powerful that I like to sit down and enjoy the view and spend some quality time taking it all in, consider how amazing it is that this exists. Then take some pictures, mostly for my personal archive.

20130303_Moab Trip_8258As I was sitting up there on a rock at Delicate Arch, camera anchored to one of my trusty tripods, watching all the people and taking it in. A family with teenage boys approached the Arch and had a little photo session. Mom and Dad hugging under the Arch, Mom with the boys, goofy shots looking like you are pushing the arch, all the usual stuff. One of the teenage boys wandered away from the group and was messing with a phone or iPod. As I watched him I noticed that this was the picture that I wanted to make. Kind of funny to walk up to a world famous site and take a picture that does not include the “famous” thing. It’s a shot, a view, a situation that I had not seen, it spoke to me of being disconnected to the environment. 20130303_Moab Trip_8320

People watching in the National Parks is a great activity as is spotting cool cars in the parking lots. As we concluded the hike and made it to the parking lot the first thing I noticed was this really cool bright red Jeep. Chrome wheels, big tires, winch, fancy bumpers, the works. Easily a $50K ride but with no soul (at least not yet). Parked a short distance was this old Dodge Van. My friends and I gathered around it and inspected it’s scars, rust and dirt. This was not the best ride in the lot but man it has some history. Just looking at it you know it has had some serious adventures.