Siren Song, June 2012

The Doll House, a collection of Cedar Mesa Sandstone spires, stands at the end of the long, challenging road in the heart of one of America's wildest places, The Maze District of Utah's Canyonlands National Park.
The Doll House, a collection of Cedar Mesa Sandstone spires, stands at the end of the long, challenging road in the heart of one of America’s wildest places, The Maze District of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park.

“There’s a place
That’s far beyond this time and space
When each of us comes face to face with something more…”

~Siren Song, Alan Parsons Project

This view of The Maze in evening light emphasizes its remote, wild beauty.
This view of The Maze in evening light emphasizes its remote, wild beauty.

For many years I have been photographing Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah. On many of those occasions I visited The Needles District of the park, The Island in the Sky District, and even the Horseshoe Canyon detached unit, home of the Great Gallery pictograph panel. From some of those locations, I was able to see, but not approach, The Maze District. Often described as one of the most remote and inhospitable locations in the lower 48 states, the main obstacle to visiting The Maze is the challenging, technical, high-clearance four-wheel-drive road that descends 1500 feet down two steep benches for a total of 36 miles. The road is punishingly difficult in places, and takes six hours to traverse.

Despite these obstacles, The Maze has been softly, hauntingly calling my name, like the Sirens of Greek mythology. It was mysterious, wild, remote, adventurous, and challenging.

True to its name, The Maze District of Canyonlands is a complex labyrinth of canyons, benches, pinnacles, and peaks.
True to its name, The Maze District of Canyonlands is a complex labyrinth of canyons, benches, pinnacles, and peaks.

• Driving from Ada, Oklahoma to Gallup, New Mexico

Crazy wind in west Texas and New Mexico trashed my fuel economy, which at one point was only 20.6 mpg (the average for the entire trip ended up being 24.4.) I only shot a couple photos. Dust storms combined with smoke to make eastern New Mexico hazy, and my eyes burning.

This bronze memorial to the legendary Navajo "Code Talkers" at Window Rock, Arizona stands about 12 feet tall, with the Window Rock itself, a large natural arch, in the background.
This bronze memorial to the legendary Navajo “Code Talkers” at Window Rock, Arizona stands about 12 feet tall, with the Window Rock itself, a large natural arch, in the background.

• Driving to Page, Arizona through the Hopi nation, and touring the Glen Canyon Dam

My first stop was Window Rock, which I hadn’t seen since 2000. The Navajo Nation has made some significant improvements to the park around Window Rock itself, including an impressive bronze statue of a World War II Navajo “Code Talker.”

The scenery of the Hopi Nation is identical in character to the Navajo Nation; poverty and bleak emptiness fill the eye from horizon to horizon.

This image was made from the walkway on the bridge downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. The green patch at the bottom of the dam is Bermuda grass used to help bind the soil that absorbs seep water from the surrounding sandstone.
This image was made from the walkway on the bridge downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. The green patch at the bottom of the dam is Bermuda grass used to help bind the soil that absorbs seep water from the surrounding sandstone.
This portal through the fence on the bridge walkway downstream from Glen Canyon Dam is just large enough for a camera or phone. I wonder how many of such devices end up in the river below each year.
This portal through the fence on the bridge walkway downstream from Glen Canyon Dam is just large enough for a camera or phone. I wonder how many of such devices end up in the river below each year.

The Glen Canyon Dam tour was not as good as our Hoover Dam tour in October. Somehow the dam itself is too modern and tidy to be all that interesting. It was a bit like touring an office building. I hiked around the beach north of the dam for several hours and made a few fun high points. Shot well. At one point I ran into a young woman who was nude sunbathing, who seemed to have staked out a private alcove on the rocky beach. Who has the right-of-way, me walking the beach minding my own business, or some naked chick who thinks she found a private alcove?

This kind of scenery is typical of the otherworldly look of Lake Powell and the surrounding desert.
This kind of scenery is typical of the otherworldly look of Lake Powell and the surrounding desert.

I planned to be at Horseshoe Bend, a tight gooseneck of the Colorado River just five miles south of Page, at sunset. Some of the best places to photograph the bend were already staked out when I arrived, but from my position, I had a decent view with nice symmetry in the arc of the Colorado River. As I waited for the sunset, two 20-somethings arrived and pulled two beers out of their packs to celebrate the moment. The gnats, though not biting, were thick and insanely annoying.

High dynamic range rendition of Horseshoe Bend south of Page, Arizona. I didn't get the performance I wanted from the sky, but the light was still nice.
High dynamic range rendition of Horseshoe Bend south of Page, Arizona. I didn’t get the performance I wanted from the sky, but the light was still nice.

• Boat ride to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, then Hiking at Waterholes Canyon

The boat ride to Rainbow Bridge was a bit on the geriatric side, but it is the only practical way to visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
The boat ride to Rainbow Bridge was a bit on the geriatric side, but it is the only practical way to visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument.

I signed in at the opulent Lake Powell Resort to board a large yatch with upper deck, where I sat for first half of trip. We were given headsets and receivers that played a Lake Powell tour narration in five languages, English, Japanese, Italian, German, and French, which I thought odd since there was no Spanish. The ride was smooth and beautiful, and I shot lots. At Rainbow Bridge, there was a short walk to the bridge. A Nation Park Service ranger thanked us for our “voluntary” compliance with Navajo request not to walk under bridge, then led us on trail under it at someone’s request (not mine).

One cool thing we saw on Lake Powell was jet skiers taking advantage of our wake.
One cool thing we saw on Lake Powell was jet skiers taking advantage of our wake.
Rainbow Bridge is a large natural bridge in Forbidden Canyon, which forms an arm of Lake Powell.
Rainbow Bridge is a large natural bridge in Forbidden Canyon, which forms an arm of Lake Powell.
The "Great Wall" near Waterholes Canyon is a wave-like swirl of mixed sandstone.
The “Great Wall” near Waterholes Canyon is a wave-like swirl of mixed sandstone.

The ride back was pleasant. I sat downstairs and didn’t shoot much.

We were back at the dock by early afternoon, so I drove to Lechee, Arizona to buy a $5 permit from the Navajo Nation to hike Waterholes Canyon. I had the canyon completely to myself, which featured a very nice, classic slot canyon look. After that I hiked the rim above the canyon to a formation called “The Great Wall,” which also made decent images.

Elegant, delicate colors swirl in the depths of Waterholes Canyon south of Page, Arizona.
Elegant, delicate colors swirl in the depths of Waterholes Canyon south of Page, Arizona.
Waterholes Canyon is just south of Horseshoe Bend on the highway south of Page, Arizona. During my hike in it and around, I was entirely alone.
Waterholes Canyon is just south of Horseshoe Bend on the highway south of Page, Arizona. During my hike in it and around, I was entirely alone.

• Photo tour of Antelope Canyon and short hike at Paria Toadstools

I asked at the Antelope Canyon tour place about cancellations from the previous day and they had two, so I upgraded to the pro photo tour. Met Mary from my boat tour yesterday, who is from Minnesota, and we kinda made friends. Nice lady.

Despite its exquisite natural beauty, there are few venues as crassly commercialized in recent years as Antelope Canyon. I might have had a better experience in winter when there were far fewer people. The sand falling from the ledge was thrown there by our guide.
Despite its exquisite natural beauty, there are few venues as crassly commercialized in recent years as Antelope Canyon. I might have had a better experience in winter when there were far fewer people. The sand falling from the ledge was thrown there by our guide.

The tour of the canyon starts in town and goes out to a wash, where it becomes a rough, fast ride in a tiny 4×4 across deep sand. The canyon was already packed with tourists. Our guide was kind of a pushy jerk with little useful info about things like the geology of the canyon, but he did advise about where to stand for decent shots.

Our group of eight photographers was repeatedly joined by passing groups of tourists with point-and-shoot cameras and iPhones. The woman in green on the right is Mary, who I befriended.
Our group of eight photographers was repeatedly joined by passing groups of tourists with point-and-shoot cameras and iPhones. The woman in green on the right is Mary, who I befriended.

Everyone in our group of photographers was nice, both to each other and to groups of tourists passing us in both directions. One of our bunch, however, seemed oblivious to the fact that he was staying too long in one spot and not sharing good places to place a camera. Another in our bunch put away her camera during the second half of the tour, which returns back the way we came, because she said, “This isn’t relaxing.”

One true thing about photographing something like this is that while you might never have done it, literally millions of other people have made the exact same images you are making, so any urgency or sense of self-importance is misplaced.

Despite the crowds and the cliche’d images, I felt I wanted to check Antelope Canyon off my list, and the images I did make were successful.

One element that has become ubiquitous in Antelope Canyon photographs in recent years is the "shaft of light," emphasized by the guide throwing sand in the air toward it to make it stand out.
One element that has become ubiquitous in Antelope Canyon photographs in recent years is the “shaft of light,” emphasized by the guide throwing sand in the air toward it to make it stand out.
This hoodoo field stands at the end of the Paria Toadstools trail.
This hoodoo field stands at the end of the Paria Toadstools trail.

I drove to Paria Toadstools northwest of Page, which I had to myself. Despite unyielding heat, the landscape inspired me, and I had fun. The area is quite small, and the number of “toadstools” is probably not more than 15. I explored a bit from the end of the trail and found some nice erosions and repeating patterns.

These hoodoos form the heart of the Paria Toadstools, located in far southern Utah.
These hoodoos form the heart of the Paria Toadstools, located in far southern Utah.

• Driving from Page, Arizona to Hanksville, Utah

I had breakfast in Page, then headed northwest. Stopped at Old Paria, a site of an old movie set. According to the internet, the set was burned down a few years ago, and the reports were right. I shot a couple of images of the Paria Cemetery, then moved on through southwestern Utah.

A lone branch sits on the windswept sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah.
A lone branch sits on the windswept sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah.
This handsome manmade arch is a road bridge in Red Canyon just west of Bryce Canyon National Park.
This handsome manmade arch is a road bridge in Red Canyon just west of Bryce Canyon National Park.

I swung out of my way about 20 miles to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Few visitors. I walked the short nature trail and made a couple of nice images, which completely filled my shoes with sand.

In Carmel Junction, I tried to look up Tanya, a friend who had lent me a room there four years ago, but she was not around. I bought some nice steel figures and a spirit stone for Abby while I was there, and grabbed a sub sandwich.

With the main park at Bryce Canyon likely packed with summer tourists, I made my way down to Mossy Cave, which I skipped in 2008. It proved very fruitful, with a waterfall and a cluster of natural arches. The trail was short and unchallenging.

I scrambled up a slope above Mossy Cave trail at Bryce to make this image. Like its neighbor Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon is at a higher elevation than some of the surrounding desert, and features more alpine vegetation.
I scrambled up a slope above Mossy Cave trail at Bryce to make this image. Like its neighbor Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon is at a higher elevation than some of the surrounding desert, and features more alpine vegetation.
My route took me through Capital Reef National Park, and past this feature, named "Chimney Rock."
My route took me through Capital Reef National Park, and past this feature, named “Chimney Rock.”

The big surprise of the day was the drive northeast of Escalante, which passes across a high ridge, then summits just below 10,000 feet. Not too many images, but a visually stunning experience.

Poked around Capital Reef for a few, just passing through. Couple of passable images.

• Driving from Hanksville into The Maze

Dennis Udink gets out of his truck to survey a particularly difficult section of "road" in the Teapot Rock section. Note the numerous scratches in the stone in front of Dennis' bumper.
Dennis Udink gets out of his truck to survey a particularly difficult section of “road” in the Teapot Rock section. Note the numerous scratches in the stone in front of Dennis’ bumper.
This map shows our driving route from Hans Flat Ranger Station (upper left arrow) down to the Flint Trail, south over a bench, then north to Teapot Rock, then finally across the Land of Standing Rocks to our two camp sites, shown by arrows. (Click, then click again to view larger.)
This map shows our driving route from Hans Flat Ranger Station (upper left arrow) down to the Flint Trail, south over a bench, then north to Teapot Rock, then finally across the Land of Standing Rocks to our two camp sites, shown by arrows. (Click, then click again to view larger.)

Dennis Udink drove the rest of the way down from his camp site in the San Rafael Swell and we all had breakfast at a small restaurant in Hanksville.

The road to Hans Flat Ranger Station was surprisingly sandy in places from recent wind, at times requiring a bit of push from the all-wheel drive in my Rogue.

The ranger at Hans Flat re-emphasized what the Park Service web site says, that The Maze is isolated, and we need to be self-sufficient and capable of self-rescue.

We found this sign far beyond where a two-wheel-drive vehicle could have driven.
We found this sign far beyond where a two-wheel-drive vehicle could have driven.

We left my car at the ranger station in a small parking area, and I put my gear in the bed of Dennis’ longbed diesel Ford pickup. Despite the longish wheelbase, Dennis drove well. The length of his truck required several three-point turns, with me on the radio spotting for him. The road becomes most difficult in the Teapot Rock section, requiring high clearance and full four-wheel drive, sometimes resulting in scraping and dragging the undercarriage. I concluded that a stock Jeep or a vehicle like Abby’s Nissan Frontier would be the minimum vehicle that could made the trip, and a lifted vehicle with bigger tires would certainly make things easier.

A combination of his posture and the backcountry setting makes Dennis look like an outdoor badass in this image.
A combination of his posture and the backcountry setting makes Dennis look like an outdoor badass in this image.

We arrived at Standing Rock camp site by about 5:30. After the drive, we all pulled out our camp chairs and sat for a spell, but the area beckoned, so we explored for a bit to the north, until we arrived at the rim of some of the canyons from which The Maze derives its name. By dinner time it was still hot out, so none of us cook our dinners.

Insanely silent. Bright moon.

• The Chocolate Drops

Up at first light to coffee and a fruit bar.

Morning light sings to us over the distant La Sal Mountains.
Morning light sings to us over the distant La Sal Mountains.
This map shows the route, entirely on slickrock on a ridge above two canyons, to The Chocolate Drops. (Click, then click again to see it larger.)
This map shows the route, entirely on slickrock on a ridge above two canyons, to The Chocolate Drops. (Click, then click again to see it larger.)

We walked 1.2 miles to the Chocolate drops trail head, then hiked well and fast. The four mile trail stays high on a ridge between canyons.

It stayed sunny on the way out, with swirling virga to the west. Just as we started back, the wind picked up, the sky turned grey and we were treated to a spitting of rain and some cool wind.

We sat in silence under the shade of the impressively tall Standing Rock during the hottest part of the day.

The Chocolate Drops; since they are visible from several trails in other districts of Canyonlands, this formation became something of a hiking goal for me.
The Chocolate Drops; since they are visible from several trails in other districts of Canyonlands, this formation became something of a hiking goal for me.
This is me photographing some of The Maze we explored on our first night in camp. (Photo by Kevin Swanson)
This is me photographing some of The Maze we explored on our first night in camp. (Photo by Kevin Swanson)

Hatch Point, The Needles, Sixshooter Peak, Junction Butte, and other points I am beginning to know well were all visible from our camp site.

Dennis and I wandered north for another view of the labyrinth below. Nice light. We saw only one other vehicle, a Navtech Jeep delivering a guided tour to the Dollhouse camp site.

Surprisingly, Dennis had phone service, so I was able to call Abby.

I made this handheld high dynamic range image of The Maze when Dennis and I explored the area northeast of our Standing Rock camp site.
I made this handheld high dynamic range image of The Maze when Dennis and I explored the area northeast of our Standing Rock camp site.

• The Harvest Scene, The Doll House, and Surprise Valley

The Doll House consists of the same Cedar Mesa Sandstone spires as are common in The Needles District of Canyonlands directly across the Colorado River.
The Doll House consists of the same Cedar Mesa Sandstone spires as are common in The Needles District of Canyonlands directly across the Colorado River.
This map shows the loop trail to the Harvest Scene pictograph panel. Following it clockwise, the trail descends into a deep canyon past the panel to the heart of The Maze, then climbs out to follow a ridge to the trail head. (Click, then click again to view it larger.)
This map shows the loop trail to the Harvest Scene pictograph panel. (Click, then click again to view it larger.)

Up again at dawn. We left the mesa and descended into the very heart of The Maze, a canyon that led us to the storied Harvest Scene pictograph panel. On the way we encountered a surprisingly marshy area, and were set upon by biting flies.

The pictograph panel was much more detailed and interesting than I imagined it would be. Like the route into the canyon, the route out, following the loop trail clockwise, was steep and unforgiving, requiring multiple rest stops for water and shade.

Detail, Harvest Scene pictograph panel
Detail, Harvest Scene pictograph panel
Dennis descends a shelf on the Harvest Scene trail, with the help of a few cheater stones.
Dennis descends a shelf on the Harvest Scene trail, with the help of a few cheater stones.

In the afternoon we broke camp and drove to The Doll House camp site number three and made camp.

By 5:30 in the afternoon, I hiked the Surprise Valley Overlook trail, which passed through a section of caves and slots inside The Doll House formation. The first valley we reached was not, in fact, Surprise Valley, a fact noted on several trip reports we read before coming to this place. When we finally reached the real thing, the views of Surprise Valley were excellent.

This view of Surprise Valley looks northeast. Only about a third of the valley is visible here, as the rest stretches to the right for some distance.
This view of Surprise Valley looks northeast. Only about a third of the valley is visible here, as the rest stretches to the right for some distance.

• Colorado River Overlook Trail

This two-panel panograph of the Colorado Overlook. The Green River enters from left to right, and you can see a bit of the confluence of the two rivers on the right. (Click, then click again to view larger.)
This two-panel panograph of the Colorado Overlook. The Green River enters from left to right, and you can see a bit of the confluence of the two rivers on the right. (Click, then click again to view larger.)
This map shows the Colorado River Overlook trail. (Click, then click again to view larger.)
This map shows the Colorado River Overlook trail. (Click, then click again to view larger.)
Dennis and I explore a ledge above the Colorado River. (Photo by Kevin Swanson)
Dennis and I explore a ledge above the Colorado River. (Photo by Kevin Swanson)

At about 4.5 miles and traversing varied landscapes, the Colorado River Overlook trail is quite similar to its mirror, the Confluence Overlook trail I hiked in 2008. Views toward the end of the trail were stunning, particularly of the Confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers, which is only obliquely visible.

The heat was punishing at times, but we all dealt well with it. We were back at camp by 2 p. m.

This is an oblique view of Beehive Arch, about a quarter of the way along the Colorado Overlook trail.
This is an oblique view of Beehive Arch, about a quarter of the way along the Colorado Overlook trail.

At some point ravens got into our trash and ate Dennis’ leftover instant bacon and eggs.

The overlook trail was nothing short of excellent, as were all the trails we hiked in The Maze.

Images like this make it obvious why this section of The Maze is named "Land of Standing Rocks."
Images like this make it obvious why this section of The Maze is named “Land of Standing Rocks.”
Dennis adds stones to the tallest trail cairn any of us had ever seen.
Dennis adds stones to the tallest trail cairn any of us had ever seen.

• Driving Out of The Maze, then Hanksville to Grants, New Mexico, then Home

It was a slightly nervous ascent out of The Maze after Dennis discovered an odd noise coming from the front end of his truck, which he diagnosed as a missing u-joint lubrication boot and bearing. He oiled the joint a bunch, and devised a plan to jerry-rig it if it failed.

Dennis used the four-wheel-drive quite sparingly. There were, of course, places where 4WD was necessary, and at one point both Dennis and I got out and rebuilt a cheater-rock ramp three times before he could crawl his truck up a 24-inch step. The drives both in and out of The Maze were stressful and exhilarating at the same time. At one point on the way in, Dennis said, “I’m actually having fun,” and at one point on the way out he said, “I’m never doing this again.”

“You’ve been all over, and it’s been all over you.” ~U2, Beautiful Day

Other possible titles for this trip...

  • Sunday Driver
  • Mile Marker Zero
  • Ralston Tool
  • Descent into Madness
  • Days in The Maze
  • City on the Edge of Forever
  • Desert Rats
  • Rat Patrol
  • Every Strangers’ Eyes
  • The Moment of Clarity
  • Koyaanisqatsi
  • Life Out of Balance

Travel notes...

  • From Third Mesa in the Hopi Nation you can see both Humphrey’s Peak and Navajo Mountain at the same time.
  • How is the road through the Hopi Nation “scenic” as my maps depict, but the road to Moab, Utah not scenic?
  • A confused bluejay flew into my outside rear view mirror and was killed.
  • The sound of high-pitched zippers is a campground specific sound.
  • In the deep silence of the desert, my hiking shoes make a squeaking sound that is very lyrical.
  • Our shirts are stained with streaks of salt after long hikes.
  • For my longer hikes in The Maze, I carried Abby’s Tamron 18-250mm on my Nikon D80, which yielded decent results, particularly at wider focal lengths, and allowed me to carry just one lens.
  • You can read Dennis Udink’s report from this trip here.

The Wall and Elaterite Butte combine in morning light to express the nature of The Maze.
The Wall and Elaterite Butte combine in morning light to express the nature of The Maze.
My conclusion at the end of this trip is peppered with a bit of disbelief that I actually, finally visited The Maze. The hiking was the kind I like, pushing myself just a bit and taking me deep into wild places. It was an excellent adventure.

Additional images:

This fisheye view of Glen Canyon Dam looks southeast toward Page, Arizona.
This fisheye view of Glen Canyon Dam looks southeast toward Page, Arizona.
A Glen Canyon Dam tour guide shows visitors a sample of the turbines used to generate electricity at the facility.
A Glen Canyon Dam tour guide shows visitors a sample of the turbines used to generate electricity at the facility.
The colors of Lake Powell begin to shine in late afternoon light viewed from a pinnacle north of Glen Canyon Dam.
The colors of Lake Powell begin to shine in late afternoon light viewed from a pinnacle north of Glen Canyon Dam.
This fisheye view from Glen Canyon Dam looks south, downstream, toward the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
This fisheye view from Glen Canyon Dam looks south, downstream, toward the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
Sunbeams shine on Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River in the waining moments of the day.
Sunbeams shine on Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River in the waining moments of the day.
Rainbow Bridge stands in full sun in this view from the south side.
Rainbow Bridge stands in full sun in this view from the south side.
The narrow Forbidden Canyon of Lake Powell clearly shows the "bathtub ring," the white portion above the water which would be submerged if the lake was at full pool. Park personnel told me that hasn't happened since 1983.
The narrow Forbidden Canyon of Lake Powell clearly shows the “bathtub ring,” the white portion above the water which would be submerged if the lake was at full pool. Park personnel told me that hasn’t happened since 1983.
This view of Waterholes Canyon looks almost straight up.
This view of Waterholes Canyon looks almost straight up.
Despite its beauty, Waterholes Canyon remains relatively undiscovered.
Despite its beauty, Waterholes Canyon remains relatively undiscovered.
The rim above Waterholes Canyon is also beautiful, with fields of elegant sandstone formations like this one.
The rim above Waterholes Canyon is also beautiful, with fields of elegant sandstone formations like this one.
Crowds of photographers and tourists fill Antelope Canyon, making the experience stressful and commercialized.
Crowds of photographers and tourists fill Antelope Canyon, making the experience stressful and commercialized.
Sand flows down a stone in Antelope Canyon, thrown there by our guide using a large ladle.
Sand flows down a stone in Antelope Canyon, thrown there by our guide using a large ladle.
Only in rare moments like this is the floor of Antelope Canyon clear of people and tripod legs, allowing a clear shot. If and when it does happen, the beauty of the place is very powerful.
Only in rare moments like this is the floor of Antelope Canyon clear of people and tripod legs, allowing a clear shot. If and when it does happen, the beauty of the place is very powerful.
This hoodoo in the Paria Toadstools area is known alternately as "Big Red" or "The Penguin." I suppose it could be a big red penguin.
This hoodoo in the Paria Toadstools area is known alternately as “Big Red” or “The Penguin.” I suppose it could be a big red penguin.
Areas like Paria Toadstools, with an other-worldly quality about them, are always fun to explore.
Areas like Paria Toadstools, with an other-worldly quality about them, are always fun to explore.
The village of Moenkopi, Arizona is visible from a ridge high above. By the time the road winds down to the entrance, "No Photography" signs are clearly visible.
The village of Moenkopi, Arizona is visible from a ridge high above. By the time the road winds down to the entrance, “No Photography” signs are clearly visible.
Plants cling to the loose soil at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah.
Plants cling to the loose soil at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah.
Because it was Memorial Day, the wall at Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park had been adorned with small U. S. flags in honor of fallen soldiers from the Navajo Nation.
Because it was Memorial Day, the wall at Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park had been adorned with small U. S. flags in honor of fallen soldiers from the Navajo Nation.
I spotted this cluster of natural arches at the top of a ridge at the Mossy Cave trail at Bryce Canyon National Park.
I spotted this cluster of natural arches at the top of a ridge at the Mossy Cave trail at Bryce Canyon National Park.
The desert around Hanksville, Utah is complex and visually interesting.
The desert around Hanksville, Utah is complex and visually interesting.
I arrived in the Hanksville area just as the light started to mature.
I arrived in the Hanksville area just as the light started to mature.
The sun rises in the remote Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
The sun rises in the remote Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
This view of The Maze looks north from Standing Rock.
This view of The Maze looks north from Standing Rock.
Dennis checks his GPS on a short hike in The Maze.
Dennis checks his GPS on a short hike in The Maze.
A jet contrail drifts across the silhouette of Standing Rock in The Maze.
A jet contrail drifts across the silhouette of Standing Rock in The Maze.
Evening clouds settle on the heart of The Maze District at Canyonlands National Park.
Evening clouds settle on the heart of The Maze District at Canyonlands National Park.
The National Park Service requires visitors to The Maze to bring their own portable toilets and bring out all human waste. I got this little port-a-poo at Wal Mart, along with six extra "Double Doody" disposal bags, and removal was quick and clean.
The National Park Service requires visitors to The Maze to bring their own portable toilets and bring out all human waste. I got this little port-a-poo at Wal Mart, along with six extra “Double Doody” disposal bags, and removal was quick and clean.
Your host stands on a small natural arch near the Harvest Scene pictograph panel.
Your host stands on a small natural arch near the Harvest Scene pictograph panel.
The Doll House begins to collect late afternoon light.
The Doll House begins to collect late afternoon light.
The Doll House stands in last light in the depths of The Maze.
The Doll House stands in last light in the depths of The Maze.
Landscapes like this Colorado Overlook trail view have always stirred my imagination, and most of the time I imagine them as giant playgrounds.
Landscapes like this Colorado Overlook trail view have always stirred my imagination, and most of the time I imagine them as giant playgrounds.
Steel magnolia? Not quite. I've driven past this 20-foot-tall steel yucca on the outskirts of Albuquerque a number of times and never photographed it until now.
Steel magnolia? Not quite. I’ve driven past this 20-foot-tall steel yucca on the outskirts of Albuquerque a number of times and never photographed it until now.
Virga is illuminated by early morning light over Ekker Butte in The Maze District at Canyonlands.
Virga is illuminated by early morning light over Ekker Butte in The Maze District at Canyonlands.
Your host takes a moment to pose in Waterholes Canyon south of Page, Arizona. This trip to the desert was a complete success.
Your host takes a moment to pose in Waterholes Canyon south of Page, Arizona. This trip to the desert was a complete success.
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10 Comments

  1. Amazing photos. Glad you had a great time and are home safe. P.S. the color swirls of the water holes is my fav shot.

  2. The poo goes into a black bag like a contractor bag. When you are done, that bag goes into a grey bag with a ZipLock top. So no, you are seeing the bag under the device. not actual waste.

    Now would also be a good time to note that when pooing into that equipment, we generally said, “I’m going to squinch a pookie.”

  3. Very interesting read. It’s always nice to accomplish a long-held goal like this. Well done.

    As always, I enjoyed the excellent photographs.

    Not my favorite two images, but two that must be commented on:

    * I shook my head at the sight of the woman using her phone to take pictures, while the multi-thousand-dollar Canon “L” lens rests on her leg unused.

    * If my village looked like Moenkopi, I’d post ‘no photography’ signs too.

  4. Epic in every sense.

    An montage of moments that can now live with each of us.

    I wish comments could be set off each image.

  5. The inclusion maps really brings in the feel of the remote.

    I am drawn to the first Waterholes Canyon shot among many others.

  6. You have the COOLEST life Richard!! Take me next time! LOVED the horse shoe photograph the most, porta poo second, and all the pretty swirly rocks as well! GREAT documentation and photography! Great friends you have! Loved reading about your adventures babe!!!!

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