Jornada del Muerto, March 2006

Central figures of the Great Gallery, Canyonlands National Park
Central figures of the Great Gallery, Canyonlands National Park
Road sign, northwestern New Mexico
Road sign, northwestern New Mexico

• Driving to Farmington, 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.

Bridge over Glen Canyon, Utah
Bridge over Glen Canyon, Utah
At the Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon
At the Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon

• The Great Gallery

Drove from Farmington northwest, shooting along the way.

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.”

• 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.

Mostly drove and scouted at Capitol Reef

Abandoned cement mixer, Utah highway 24
Abandoned cement mixer, Utah highway 24

• Rain and Getting Stuck in the Mud

Vanishing point in the San Rafael Desert
Vanishing point in the San Rafael Desert

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.

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

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.

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.

Sunrise and fog, Book Cliffs near Green River, Utah
Sunrise and fog, Book Cliffs near Green River, Utah
Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park
Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park

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

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, then across the San Rafael Swell on I-70.

Ghost Rock, San Rafael Swell, Utah
Ghost Rock, San Rafael Swell, Utah
Abó Ruin
Abó Ruin

• Driving to Socorro, New Mexico

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 Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument near Mountainair, New Mexico just before sundown.

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.

White Sands National Monument
White Sands National Monument

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.

Additional images:

Tree and lingering snow near Eagle Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah
Tree and lingering snow near Eagle Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah
Day five was mostly a driving day. I drove from Green River, Utah, to Socorro, New Mexico, stopping on the way to photograph the Abo 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 Abo 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.
Abandoned brick structure near Caineville, Utah.
Abandoned brick structure near Caineville, Utah.
Boulder and cliffs, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.
Boulder and cliffs, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.
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.
Abandoned cement mixer near Caineville, Utah.
Abandoned cement mixer near Caineville, Utah.
Abandoned cement mixer near Caineville, Utah.
Abandoned cement mixer near Caineville, Utah.
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.
Playa along Utah 24 near the junction with Interstate 70 west of Green River.
Playa along Utah 24 near the junction with Interstate 70 west of Green River.
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.
On Utah 95, after crossing the Colorado and the Dirty Devil River, there is an overlook that affords this view. Despite somewhat subdued light, it was a beautiful scene.
On Utah 95, after crossing the Colorado and the Dirty Devil River, there is an overlook that affords this view. Despite somewhat subdued light, it was a beautiful scene.
Highway 95 took me across the Colorado River on this elegant steel bridge.
Highway 95 took me across the Colorado River on this elegant steel bridge.
The Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands National Park. It was near this feature that injured canyoneer Aron Ralston, who had amputated his own arm after four days pinned by a boulder, asked for a medical helicopter.
The Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands National Park. It was near this feature that injured canyoneer Aron Ralston, who had amputated his own arm after four days pinned by a boulder, asked for a medical helicopter.
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.
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.
After Capital Reef, I took the "long way" back to Green River. State highway 72 took me above the 7500 foot snow line where I photographed this pristine snow field.
After Capital Reef, I took the “long way” back to Green River. State highway 72 took me above the 7500 foot snow line where I photographed this pristine snow field.
Looking southeast from near Deer Peak along Utah 72, with the Henry Mountains in the distance.
Looking southeast from near Deer Peak along Utah 72, with the Henry Mountains in the distance.
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.
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.
Towering hoodoos and Henry Mountains, Utah highway 24.
Towering hoodoos and Henry Mountains, Utah highway 24.
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.
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