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A personal blog of photography and commentary by Andrew McAllister.

Posts tagged Canyonlands

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On your way to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Southern Utah on the top of the first hill you will pass by a small ghost town with a locked gate and a sign over the entrance that says Maries Place. Most people will hardly notice and just pass by this desolate and nondescript grouping of buildings without ever knowing the colorful story of what happened here. Above: the Inner Portal of the Home of Truth. The story of these buildings can be found in the wikipedia entry “Home of Truth, Utah”20130208_Maries_Place_038Above: The locked gate. Respect private property and photograph the Home of Truth from the road. Hopefully in the future it will be open for visitors to explore.

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Above: Abandoned buildings at the Home of Truth. I would love to someday tour the facility and see the view from that wrap around porch.

20130208_Maries_Place_051Above: The largest building at the Home of Truth photographed in early morning light from North Flats Road. The area around the Home of Truth is great for scenic driving with many striped rock outcroppings and the occasional corral.The better part of an hour south of Moab it is usually passed by as visitors are on the way to the famous newspaper rock petroglyph site.

The Shafer Switchbacks have been on my to do list since I caught the off-road, 4-wheeling, Overlanding bug a few years ago and on this last trip to Moab I had the opportunity drive them. This route was on my mind both from reading the Guide to Backroads around Moab and from viewing posts from the blog New Mexico Backroads a few weeks before my trip. Needless to say I was psyched! Above: Evaporation ponds and red rock. Below: Really red rock! If you look close in the center of the picture you can see a few ladders that are part of a ropes course.

Below: Looking up at Dead Horse Point State Park from Potash Road. Classic western landscape.

Below: Thelma and Louise Point looking at the Colorado River.

Below: Looking North from Thelma and Louise Point. The rock wall in the image produces amazing echo with 4 or more distinct slap backs. A very cool stereo experience. Give it a yodel and see for yourself. A few miles later we would enter Canyonlands National Park and be greeted with a small but very rocky section of road that required low range gearing and all of the driver’s attention (thus no photos of this section). My stock Xterra handled the rocky section beautifully. (edit summer 2014 the road has been improved and is now very smooth. Conditions can change with one good rainstorm, if in doubt contact the National Park.

Below: Shafer Switchbacks. Notice the very small people in the top right corner. Next time I’ll have to remember to stop at a few points and get some pictures. For my first time up I just kept my hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The switchbacks and the climb were not that bad however I was not ready for the long drive on the narrow shelf road once we were at the top. That section was a bit nerve racking.

Below: Looking down on a group of cyclists that were starting multi day trek on the White Rim Trail. The road was first used as a cattle trail and later as a road for mining trucks. The thought of driving trucks on that road makes me think of the movie The Wages of Fear.

After our trip to Beef Basin we decided to check out the needles overlook before returning to Moab. As luck would have it we were the only ones there. Even though the wind had kicked up lots of dust making the view  very hazy the Needles Overlook was no less stunning. Sometime I’ll have to stay at the camp ground a few miles from here and photograph this area early morning light. I’m sure it is spectacular.

Below: Looking toward the needles district. In the distance you can see Cathedral Butte (on the right).

Below: Views form the Needles Overlook are stunning even in hazy conditions. I wonder how many lens caps and hats you could find at the base of the cliff. Strong wind can seemingly come out of nowhere and the fence is welcomed. I don’t generally have a fear of heights but this overlook had me holding the railing more than once.

Below: Be where you are. As a photographer visiting such a spectacular location it can be tempting to just get into a zone and photograph like mad. My wife taught me the saying “be where you are” and I keep it in mind when out exploring our world. Taking photographs is a major part of my experience to be sure, however I do take time in-between shots to stop and take things in. The smell of Juniper and the sound wind blowing through evergreen are some of my favorites. Watching birds in the updrafts around the cliffs is another. If you just take pictures the whole time have you really experienced the place or is it just a photo location? 

Above: Mesa’s along Route 211 toward the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This image was taken at the end of our drive to Beef Basin. In the casual photograph it’s hard to get a feel for how massive these forms are. To capture that feeling I chose to use a normal focal length lens and a position that would not include the top of the mesa. When you see the fence at the base of the mesa you start to get the feeling of how massive it is.

Above: Cottonwood Canyon Road as it rounds Bridger Jack Mesa. Notice the car on the right side for scale. The road was in really good condition (May 2012) with a few washboarded sections and small obstacles. I think of these roads as the domain for 4-wheel drive vehicles but as with other trips you come across the odd car that you wonder how it got there. On this drive it was an old Volkswagen Squareback (early 70’s) in mint condition complete with a driver with small round sunglasses and a waxed mustache.

Above: Salt Creek Overlook. Near Cathedral Butte there is a side road that will take you out to this viewpoint. In the book Guide to Moab, UT Backroads and 4-wheel Drive Trails this section of road is listed as moderate as it is quite rocky. We drove halfway in before deciding to walk. With a little more experience I could have driven it as the Xterra has the ground clearance but today was not the day to attempt it. Next time for sure though. The walk out to Salt Creek Overlook was a easy and a nice change as we had been in the car a few hours at this point.

Above: Almost to Beef Basin we stopped for a look at these large white rock formations and to stretch our legs a bit. Just after this section of road there is a steep and sandy section with large rocks and a blind corner. A bit stressful as it was my first such stretch of road however a few miles later I would be reminded that thousands of cars have made it back up that the steep sandy spot when we came across the old Volkswagon.

Above: Classic western landscape of Beef Basin. Below: One of the many ruins in Beef Basin.

Below: Greater Short Horned Lizard spotted at South Spring Campground.

Below: As we finished the Beef Basin loop the weather started to look as if a storm was brewing. We decided it was best to start our return as it would be a few hours until we reached asphalt and another hour to get to Moab. Fortunately the only weather encountered was random spots of raindrops and nothing that would make the return trip difficult.

Below: The Xterra on Cottonwood Canyon Road. I brought extra gas not knowing what kind of milage we would get on the back roads or what we would run into. Turns out we only used a bit more than half a tank up to this point. In the future I hope to replace the rear bumper with one that will accommodate the spare tire and have room for Jerry cans so I don’t have to keep the fuel on the roof.