Exploring high places: Willard Peak

Above: Willard Peak from Willard Basin. About an hour drive from the start of the trail, almost to Inspiration Point. I first drove this on a whim last summer and had no idea how cool the view from the top was. I’m so happy to live near such amazing places.

Above: Almost to the top, looking down toward I-15 and the northern end of the Great Salt Lake. Smoke from wildfires have made theses views impossible this August.

Above: From Inspiration Point looking down toward Ogden. Amazing view with no hiking required.

Above: Looking at Mountain Goats on Willard Peak.

 

Back to Northern Utah

My past eight posts have been about Southern Utah and my trips to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. The landscape is so dramatic there that it has been a struggle to get back in a Northern Utah frame of mind for the blog. However slow posting does not mean I have not been out looking at the west and exploring. Shortly before leaving for Moab I met up again with the Utah Xterra Owners Club for an afterwork outing on Skyline Drive above Bountiful. When the outing was first being discussed I had misinterpreted where we were meeting and discovered that there are many skyline drives in Utah. Our trip that evening was cut short due to a gate being locked but we did find a few nice spots to pull over and enjoy the sunset. Though the view is nice the overall experience is a bit squalid. The area was crawling with people most of whom were on ATV’s and dirt bikes and many more camping on the side of the road. Literally on the side of the road. Like not even ten feet from the road. Needless to say this area is not on my list of places to camp. However the view is worth it and I saw more than a few 2WD cars up there so give it a look if you are in the area. The road starts near the big “B” above Bountiful. When the road is fully open you can drive all the way up to Bountiful Peak (elevation 9259 ft.)

The photo above is from another Skyline Drive. This road is in the Caribou National Forest just over the Idaho border. Given the location you will see more cattle than people and the area was ATV free during our visit. I would recommend starting from the Cache Valley side vs. the I-15 side as it’s a bit tricky to find the road on the west side. From the small town of Weston head west toward Weston Canyon. The road to Dry Canyon Campground is the road you want to start the drive. It’s a decent gravel road and not challenging. The views are not spectacular in a postcard kind of way but subtle, relaxed and quite. When I came across this small herd of cattle tucked away along this creek I had to stop and take a picture. It really says “the west” to me.

Exploring Canyonlands: Potash Road and the Shafer Switchbacks

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.

Exploring around Moab: Fisher Towers

On our last trip to Moab we decided to not just take 191 south from Cresent Junction but instead go north of I-70 and do some exploring in the Book Cliffs and Sego Canyon. That part of the adventure ended in the (almost) ghost  town of Thompson Utah and the next part would be the Colorado River Scenic Byway. A pullout near Fisher Towers would be the location of a quick road side dinner and some creative photography. Recently I have become interested in the technique of tilting the camera lens for artistic and technical effects. Most of the examples I have seen are of city or industrial scenes so I thought I would try it out on some southern Utah landscapes. Above: Fisher towers. Below: Mesa near Fisher Towers with tilt blur effect.

Below: Fisher towers with with tilt blur effect on the sky and the top of the red rock.

Below: Road into Moab (128) with tilt blur effect. It takes some practice using the lens in the field and getting the effect where you want it. The look is easily faked in Photoshop, for me though it is way more interesting to think about and apply the technique in camera.

Red Rock Pass

Researching one of my favorite areas in Cache Valley (Bear River Narrows) I came across Red Rock Pass. It is at the northern most end of the valley and the site of the cataclysmic event that partially drained the ancient Lake Bonneville. Located about an hour north of Logan, it is one of my favorite new places. The hazy light really brought out the red colors in the rock.

Looking South toward Caribou National Forest. The white on the poles is wind blown snow from earlier in the day.

The above shot looks at the western side of Red Rock Pass. The large hole above the corral looks like a mouth, above it an upturned nose and eyes. My lens could not fit the entire scene in so this is stitched from 5 exposures. On this first trip we returned to Logan via 15 South, took the first exit (Utah 36) Deep Creek Road and Weston Canyon. See my post Rolling Hills for a view of that area.

A few days later the weather improved and I headed up to Red Rock Pass to photograph the area in better light. Above view from the bend in the road. Very different light than the first visit. Stronger contrast and feel for the height but loses the subtle colors of the hazy image. This time I took S Back Red Rock Road and photographed the power transmission lines that I had seen on the first visit. Below view looking south across Red Rock Pass. The power poles below that look like giant pins are double circuit 345 kV lines.

With clearer skys to the North I traveled a short distance to Downey Idaho explored the small town on foot until it was dark. I returned to Red Rock Pass on my way back to Logan. Hoping for a patch of clear sky to illuminate the area as it was full moon. As I waited a short time before bailing do to it being cold, very windy and very creepy. Put it on the list of places to revisit in different weather. Definitely worth the effort to exit I15 drive and drive a few miles to check this location out if you are in the area.

SLC Neff’s Canyon Trailhead

Neff's Canyon Trailhead in Salt Lake City Utah.

Neff’s Canyon trailhead in Salt Lake City. Mountains ascending into the clouds are a thing for me. This prints very nice at 30″ wide, at that size you can really see all the detail in the trees, rocks and distant areas where the mountain disappears into the clouds. The single hiker walked into the scene as I was photographing this multi shot panorama. Before moving to Utah last year I had a show of my western images (this one included) at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I would love to start showing my work here in Utah and am open for suggestions on galleries or other locations that would be good to show my printed western landscapes.