Jornada del Muerto, March 2006

The sun rises on power lines on U.S. 380 in New Mexico's forbidding Journada del Muerto Desert, home of the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was tested.
The sun rises on power lines on U.S. 380 in New Mexico’s forbidding Journada del Muerto Desert, home of the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was tested.

• Driving to Farmington, New Mexico

Road sign, northwestern New Mexico
Road sign, northwestern New Mexico

Drove to my usual first night stop, Farmington, New Mexico. Generally speaking, this 11-hour drive is beautiful and interesting, but uses divided highways, so it is more of a utility drive. With radio and CDs, plus frequent phone calls to my wife and friends, the time slides by.

• Hite Crossing and The Great Gallery

I drove from Farmington northwest, shooting along the way.

I felt inspired to photograph the steel bridge over Glen Canyon at Hite Crossing.
I felt inspired to photograph the steel bridge over Glen Canyon at Hite Crossing.
I prowled along the banks of the Colorado to get lower views of the bridge.
I prowled along the banks of the Colorado to get lower views of the bridge.
I got under the bridge at Hite Crossing to get this image of the beautiful lines of the steel construction. It was apparent from tracks that I wasn't the first to think of this.
I got under the bridge at Hite Crossing to get this image of the beautiful lines of the steel construction. It was apparent from tracks that I wasn’t the first to think of this.
This stunning view of the Colorado River with the Henry Mountains in the distance was made from Hite Crossing. Near the center of the frame is the highway.
This stunning view of the Colorado River with the Henry Mountains in the distance was made from Hite Crossing. Near the center of the frame is the highway.
Glen Canyon is reduced to mudflats where Lake Powell was at one time.
Glen Canyon is reduced to mudflats where Lake Powell was at one time.
Your host poses for a photo at The Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon.
Your host poses for a photo at The Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon.

I arrived at the Horseshoe Canyon detachment of Canyonlands National Park by 1 pm. The 3.5-mile hike down and into Horseshoe Canyon is beautiful. There are pictograph panels all along the bottom of the canyon, culminating in the Great Gallery, an icon of the ancestral Puebloans.

The largest figures depicted at the Great Gallery are present in a scene at the beginning of the film Koyaanisqatsi, the title of which is a Hopi Indian word meaning “life out of balance.”

The central figure of The Great Gallery stand at the end of the Horseshoe Canyon trail.
The central figure of The Great Gallery stand at the end of the Horseshoe Canyon trail.

In addition to the signature piece, the Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon features three other impressive pictograph collections…

High Gallery
High Gallery
Horseshoe Shelter Gallery
Horseshoe Shelter Gallery
Alcove Gallery
Alcove Gallery
It was near this the Great Gallery that injured canyoneer Aron Ralston, who had amputated his own arm after four days pinned by a boulder, asked a Dutch family for a medical helicopter.
It was near this the Great Gallery that injured canyoneer Aron Ralston, who had amputated his own arm after four days pinned by a boulder, asked a Dutch family for a medical helicopter.
This broader view of the Great Gallery gives a sense of scale. The tallest figures are smaller than modern humans, standing about five feet tall.
This broader view of the Great Gallery gives a sense of scale. The tallest figures are smaller than modern humans, standing about five feet tall.
A volunteer was on hand to take visitors closer to the figures, and, no doubt, the prevent vandalism.
A volunteer was on hand to take visitors closer to the figures, and, no doubt, the prevent vandalism.
The Great Gallery is a complex, well-preserved pictograph collection.
The Great Gallery is a complex, well-preserved pictograph collection.
There are a number of theories and speculations about what the figures of the galleries of the Southwest, and of the Great Gallery, depict, but after discussing it with my wife, we concluded they probably represent burial shrouds.
There are a number of theories and speculations about what the figures of the galleries of the Southwest, and of the Great Gallery, depict, but after discussing it with my wife, we concluded they probably represent burial shrouds.

• Rain and Scouting

It rained in the San Rafael Swell, where I had hoped to hike, so instead I drove to Capitol Reef National Park, making some decent images along the way.

I mostly drove and scouted at Capitol Reef.

I found this abandoned brick structure near Caineville, Utah, on my way to Capitol Reef.
I found this abandoned brick structure near Caineville, Utah, on my way to Capitol Reef.
The contours of this mysterious brick building near Cainville in southern Utah make it a perfect match for the surrounding landscape.
The contours of this mysterious brick building near Cainville in southern Utah make it a perfect match for the surrounding landscape.

The last time I drove through the area in 2012, someone had erected a high chain link fence around this brick structure, ruining any possibility of photographing it again. My guess would be that the fence was intended to protect it from vandals, which is a shame.

This feature is between Hanksville and Caineville on Utah 24.

This brick building, whatever its history, is beautifully constructed.
This brick building, whatever its history, is beautifully constructed.
This abandoned cement mixer on Utah highway 24 is used as a shooting target, billboard, and graffiti panel.
This abandoned cement mixer on Utah highway 24 is used as a shooting target, billboard, and graffiti panel.
Riddled with bullet holes and sometimes spray painted with graffiti or political slogans, this abandoned cement mixer sits just east of Caineville, Utah.
Riddled with bullet holes and sometimes spray painted with graffiti or political slogans, this abandoned cement mixer sits just east of Caineville, Utah.
The "Café 800 ft." tag on this abandoned cement mixer is for Caineville, Utah's Luna Mesa Café.
The “Café 800 ft.” tag on this abandoned cement mixer is for Caineville, Utah’s Luna Mesa Café.
Brooding clouds hand over towering hoodoos and the Henry Mountains on Utah highway 24.
Brooding clouds hand over towering hoodoos and the Henry Mountains on Utah highway 24.
With the rain came very subdued light, so I tried to concentrate on shape and shadow, like this hoodoo in the San Rafael Desert.
With the rain came very subdued light, so I tried to concentrate on shape and shadow, like this hoodoo in the San Rafael Desert.
On the way back to Green River, I photographed this playa along Utah 24 near the junction with Interstate 70.
On the way back to Green River, I photographed this playa along Utah 24 near the junction with Interstate 70.
The San Rafael Reef marks the eastern edge of the San Rafael Swell, seen in this view from Interstate 70 looking south.
The San Rafael Reef marks the eastern edge of the San Rafael Swell, seen in this view from Interstate 70 looking south.
Vanishing point, San Rafael Desert
Vanishing point, San Rafael Desert

• Rain and Getting Stuck in the Mud

Rain almost continuous in the morning. A spot of sunshine tempted me out in the afternoon, so I drove to Sego Canyon near Thompson Springs, Utah, a fairly deserted settlement.

Thompson Springs, Utah, was largely abandoned.
Thompson Springs, Utah, was largely abandoned.

In the process of searching for the Sego Canyon petroglyphs, I managed to get my car stuck in some surprisingly slick, deep mud on a road that looked drivable. After several tries and giving up once, and with my shoes covered in an inch of filth, I coaxed my car out of the mire. It turned out I had overshot the petroglyphs, and they were on the paved road I had left behind.

• Capitol Reef National Park

Up before dawn and out the door in Green River, Utah, in time to shoot a lovely sunrise at the Book Cliffs north of town.

Early light and fog tags the Book Cliffs near Green River, Utah.
Early light and fog tags the Book Cliffs near Green River, Utah.

Perfect weather and excellent hiking at Capitol Reef. I started the day with Hickman Bridge, an impressive natural arch at the end of a short spur trail.

A spur option from the Rim Overlook trail at Capitol Reef leads to the large and impressive Hickman Bridge, a natural arch which measures 72 feet high and 133 feet in span.
A spur option from the Rim Overlook trail at Capitol Reef leads to the large and impressive Hickman Bridge, a natural arch which measures 72 feet high and 133 feet in span.

Beyond the spur trail was the Rim Overlook Trail, which led to excellent views from the top of the park.

From the edge of the Rim Overlook, you can see the road and visitors center 1500 feet below.
From the edge of the Rim Overlook, you can see the road and visitors center 1500 feet below.
This view looks east from Capitol Reef's Rim Overlook Trail, showing the Waterpocket Fold and, in the distance, the Henry Mountains.
This view looks east from Capitol Reef’s Rim Overlook Trail, showing the Waterpocket Fold and, in the distance, the Henry Mountains.
Driving south for a few miles revealed this handsome boulder and cliffs at Capitol Reef.
Driving south for a few miles revealed this handsome boulder and cliffs at Capitol Reef.

For some of the afternoon, I hiked the Grand Wash Trail, and though it was interesting and scenic, I found it fairly unchallenging.

After making mental notes of all the rest of Capitol Reef I want to visit, I took the long way back to Green River, through a mountain pass in the Fishlake National Forest, which took me above the 8000-foot snow line.

I photographed this nearly perfect snow field in brilliant sunshine near Deer Peak along Utah 72.
I photographed this nearly perfect snow field in brilliant sunshine near Deer Peak along Utah 72.
This wider view of the snow field in near Deer Peak along Utah 72 shows the Henry Mountains in the distance.
This wider view of the snow field in near Deer Peak along Utah 72 shows the Henry Mountains in the distance.

Finally, I drove across the San Rafael Swell on I-70.

A tree in lingering snow a silhouetted against Eagle Canyon on the San Rafael Swell, Utah.
A tree in lingering snow a silhouetted against Eagle Canyon on the San Rafael Swell, Utah.
Ghost Rock, San Rafael Swell, Utah
Ghost Rock, San Rafael Swell, Utah
The Abó Ruin is silhouetted against the evening sky.
The Abó Ruin is silhouetted against the evening sky.

• Driving to Socorro, New Mexico and Abó Ruin

Mostly a driving day, making my way from Green River, Utah, to Socorro, New Mexico. I was able to make a few neat images along the way, and I finished the day at the Abó Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument near Mountainair, New Mexico just before sundown.

Day five was mostly a driving day. I drove from Green River, Utah, to Socorro, New Mexico, stopping on the way to photograph the Abó Ruin in the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument at sunset.
Day five was mostly a driving day. I drove from Green River, Utah, to Socorro, New Mexico, stopping on the way to photograph the Abó Ruin in the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument at sunset.
By the time I arrived, the visitors center was closed, and I had the place to myself.
By the time I arrived, the visitors center was closed, and I had the place to myself.
Last light, US 60, central New Mexico
Last light, US 60, central New Mexico
Ground Zero marker, Trinity site, Jornada del Muerto desert, New Mexico
Ground Zero marker, Trinity site, Jornada del Muerto desert, New Mexico

• The Trinity Site and White Sands

The Trinity Site is where the first atomic bomb was tested at 5:29 a.m. Mountain War Time, July 16, 1945. In the middle of the forbidding Jornada del Muerto desert and the White Sands Missile Range, the 51,500-acre area was declared a national historic landmark in 1975. The Site is open only on the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October. No reservations are required, but I would urge visitors to arrive early – there was a surprisingly large contingent of tourists waiting at the Stallion Gate on the north end of the WSMR when it opened at 8 a. m.

The timing of this segment of my trip was to allow me to visit the Trinity Site, which, as the sign explains, is where the first atom bomb was exploded. In the middle of the forbidding Jornada del Muerto desert and the White Sands Missile Range, the 51,500-acre area was declared a national historic landmark in 1975. The Site is open only on the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October. No reservations are required, but I would urge visitors to arrive early - there was a surprisingly large contingent of tourists waiting at the Stallion Gate on the north end of the WSMR when it opened at 8 a. m.
The timing of this segment of my trip was to allow me to visit the Trinity Site, which, as the sign explains, is where the first atom bomb was exploded. In the middle of the forbidding Jornada del Muerto desert and the White Sands Missile Range, the 51,500-acre area was declared a national historic landmark in 1975. The Site is open only on the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October. No reservations are required, but I would urge visitors to arrive early – there was a surprisingly large contingent of tourists waiting at the Stallion Gate on the north end of the WSMR when it opened at 8 a. m.
A man uses a geiger counter to measure remnant radiation at the Trinity Site.
A man uses a geiger counter to measure remnant radiation at the Trinity Site.
The area around the explosion of "The Gadget," as the first atom bomb was called, is littered with a stone called Trinitie, created by superheating sand into glass.
The area around the explosion of “The Gadget,” as the first atom bomb was called, is littered with a stone called Trinitie, created by superheating sand into glass.
The Trinity site itself is a very unremarkable piece of desert, but I liked seeing this slice of history.
The Trinity site itself is a very unremarkable piece of desert, but I liked seeing this slice of history.

In the afternoon, I had a great time hiking around at White Sands. The wind was up, so I didn’t shoot a lot, but it was a nice, relaxing last day of my vacation.

White Sands National Monument with the San Andres Mountains in the distance.
White Sands National Monument with the San Andres Mountains in the distance.
White Sands National Monument
White Sands National Monument