Last light graces Wooden Shoe Butte and Sixshooter Peak at Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
Day 1: Up early, my wife Abby and I shared our traditional sendoff breakfast.
Jim Beckel is a talented and devoted photojournalist. I am always glad when I hear from him. This was his first hiking trip to the Colorado Plateau.
I drove to Midwest City, Oklahoma, where I picked up Daily Oklahoman photographer Jim Beckel. Despite being ten minutes early, I found him with his bags, camping gear, food and cameras already on his front porch, and he was eager to get on the road. Within minutes we were loaded and accelerating down Interstate 40 westbound. It wasn’t long before we dove into long, excellent conversations about everything, but particularly about photography and the newspaper business.
1:30 pm: Leaning water tower near Groom, Texas.
3:05 pm: Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.
After several other stops, including the obligatory visit to the famous Clines Corners, New Mexico, gift shop to buy for Abby and our grandson, we rolled into Santa Fe, New Mexico at about 7:10 pm. Jim prefers to sample local cuisine, so we found a spot near our hotel, and the food was excellent.
Jim and I stopped a couple of times on the first day to shoot landscapes, including this high dynamic range image of a cattle guard and the desert sky south of Santa Fe.
Since the service we attended was at 8 am, we were on the plaza at Santa Fe just after sunrise.
Day 2: At my suggestion, we planned to attend a Catholic mass in Santa Fe, since it was Easter Sunday and Jim is a Roman Catholic. We chose the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi on the Plaza at Santa Fe, which I had photographed on two previous occasions. The 8 am service was in Spanish, which I thought was particularly appropriate for Easter Sunday in New Mexico. The mass included two baptisms.
After the service we walked the Plaza for a bit, where we ran into three women with nice photography equipment who told us they had just finished a week at the Santa Fe School of Photography. I didn’t get the name of their instructor, but they described him as “quite a character.” Hopefully none of my photo students describe me that way.
I made pictures of them with one of their cameras, which started a subtheme for this trip, since Jim and I ended up photographing 20 or more groups and families with their cameras.
Early light coupled with a setting moon to give us this type of imaging opportunity.
The usual passel of photographers gather at Delicate Arch as afternoon turns to evening, despite completely disappointing light.
By 5:30 pm, we were in Moab, Utah, and I urged Jim to hike to Delicate Arch at Arches National Park with me for sunset. I told him it was an easy hike, which for me it is. Jim struggled with it most of the way, and despite his assertion that he was out of shape, I felt it was more due to underconfidence, an assertion confirmed by Jim’s rapid improvement on the trails as the week went by.
The light was utterly grey and cloudy through sunset, and it got dark rapidly, forcing us to use flashlights and headlamps on the trail to the parking area. In spite of the poor photo opportunities, I felt the hike was worth it, as it is one of my favorites.
Panorama of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah; Jim is on the left side of the frame in grey. (Click, then click again to view larger.)
Dinner was at Moab Brewery, also one of my favorites.
Day 3: Breakfast at 7 am. We were on the road to The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park by 8:30. By 10 am, we were at Newspaper Rock, which suited both of us well as newspaper photographers.
The moon sets over Bridger Jack Mesa viewed from Indian Creek on route to Canyonlands National Park.
Jim photographs a dead tree; I told him early on how much Abby likes to shoot dead trees, so he kept an eye out for them.
By 10:30 we were at Canyonlands, and as I hoped, people were pulling out of the Squaw Flat Campground, and we had no trouble finding a spot: group B, site 22.
At noon we started down the Peek-a-Boo trail, which we hiked to Wooden Shoe Butte. In 2009, Kev and I tried to explore this area, but were turned away by rain and hail. Jim and I, on the other hand, had time and energy to explore the vicinity extensively, and found some very neat formations.
Back at camp by 4 pm, we pitched our tents, then explored up the Squaw Flat trail some distance, particularly the spot where Robert Stinson and I shot the sunset two years earlier.
Jim makes his way up some Moki steps on the Squaw Flat trail as sunset approaches.
This was our camp site at the Squaw Flat campground in the Needles District of Canyonlands.
At sunset, I made some video of the sky.
Day 4: Up at first light. We made coffee, then at Jim’s urging, we climbed a boulder near our camp site and made some nice early light images.
Jim and I hiked up a small boulder to get this view of sunrise on Squaw Flat Campground at Canyonlands. It might come as a surprise to some that I made this image with my Olympus FE-5020 point-and-shoot camera.
Jim poses in the entrance to “the crack” on the Chesler Park trail at Canyonlands.
By 8:15 we were at the Elephant Hill trail head, from which we spent much of the day hiking to Chesler Park. Jim was exhausted, but kept pace nicely. Cloudy and cool; it rained on us twice, but never hard enough that we needed cover.
Back at camp by late afternoon, Jim retired to his tent. I decided the light was too good, so I again hiked the Squaw Flat trail, this time the entire loop through both campgrounds. Rapidly changing light; nice images.
Brooding clouds hang over brilliant mesas as sun sets at Canyonlands.
On our second night at Squaw Flat, some kids came over from the next site to ask us for fire wood. I had an extra Coleman fire log, which I gave them, even though they wanted to buy it. A few minutes later, they came back over and give us these four cans of beer from their parents to thank us.
Day 5: Broke camp at 8:45. Breakfast was a vegan blueberry-pomegranite trail mix Abby bought for me. Saw tons of contrails in the clear morning sky.
Drove to the Needles Overlook to get perspective on where we’d been.
Lunch in Moab was an undercooked veggie burger from Eddie McStiff’s. A man asked to join us and wanted to talk about newspapers, so we obliged.
Photographers: this is how we roll. Jim photographs the Needles Overlook on Hatch Point.
Jim photographs a family with their camera at Balanced Rock in Arches National Park, one of many visitors for whom he volunteered his services.
Jim wanted to return to Arches National Park, so we hiked the Devil’s Garden trail as far as Landscape Arch, then explored The Windows at sunset, with excellent light.
Dinner in Moab at Zax Pizza; highly recommended.
Day 6: Breakfast late. We were on the road to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands by about 10:30 am. Around midday we hiked the Murphy Point trail. The light was cooperative.
At 2 pm, we took the White Rim Overlook trail. We only saw a few people, none of whom hiked to the end of the trail, so we had the overlook to ourselves.
At 3:45, we took the Grand View Point trail. Despite haze and a thin veil of clouds, it made decent images.
This panograph looks southeast from the White Rim Overlook, toward Monument Basin, Hatch Point, and the Abajo Mountains. (Click, then click again to see it larger.)
Jim shows a picture to a New Zealand couple he photographed on the Grand View Point trail.
By 5:30 we were at Mesa Arch, a location noted for its famous morning light, though on one occasion I photographed it at dusk and was pleased with the result. On this day the light seemed to mature nicely, and by this time, Jim was acclimating nicely to the desert hikes, and really seemed to be enjoying himself.
We planned to be at Dead Horse Point for sunset, but the event was obscured by clouds. Even so, I made a 6-exposure high dynamic range (HDR) bracket, and it came together nicely.
This high dynamic range image from Dead Horse Point shows the late afternoon view looking southwest toward Canyonlands National Park.
We were back in Moab in time for supper. Jim ordered the chipotle chicken wrap at Moab Brewery and decided it was one of the best meals he’d ever tasted.
Like most decent photographers, Jim searches for the best angle no matter where he has to position his camera, as in this image of him at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands.
Days 7 and 8: Mostly driving days, we detoured down the Moki Dugway to Goosenecks of the San Juan, where I made a couple of nice panoramas. As night fell coming into Tucumcari, our conversation became the most animated of the week as we discussed the future of the newspaper business.
Our last stop before pressing on to Oklahoma was the Cross of the Plains in Groom, Texas, whose gift shop was open. Jim found it surprisingly Catholic, and even bought a couple of things.
Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park in Utah was among our last really rugged photo opportunities. (Click, then click again to see it larger.)
I found these Keen Newport H2 shoes at Gearheads in Moab; they can be a little hard to find, so I bought them.
Also of note:
My new Fujifilm HS30EXR camera proved to be an excellent travel and hiking one-camera solution for both video and stills.
The instant one of us was awake, the other awoke too, and the game was on.
When offering to photograph a family early on, Jim volunteered that, “Richard is a professional photographer.” From then on, the joke was always to say that the other one was a “professional photographer,” which of course is true.
The MRE meals my sister and brother-in-law sent worked fine for camping.
Jim was fascinated by the high visibility of jet contrails in the desert sky.
As I have observed before, hikers at Canyonlands were decidedly more skilled and experienced than hikers at Arches.
Overall mileage for my Rogue was better than my last trip out west, thanks to calmer winds: 25.1 mpg.
When attempting to view the panograph images in this entry, click the image once. You will then see the image smaller on the page. Click that small image to view it full size. (Note that clicking, then clicking again, is not the same as double-clicking.)
Unless noted otherwise, any images of me in this entry are by Jim Beckel.
I never tire of the spectacular beauty of the American west, such as in this image of Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park.
Nikon Cow leads the way, all the way.
A woman wears bunny ears for Easter as she creates bubbles on The Plaza in Santa Fe.
Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, was as crowded as I have ever seen it, and hundreds of empty paint cans were strewn in the field surrounding the cars.
Looking up at the Leaning Tower of Brittain in Groom, Texas, looks a little bit like a stick man with his arms extended.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe was an elegant place to spend Easter morning.
A tree casts long shadows on a wall early in the morning in Santa Fe.
Newspaper photographer Jim Beckel poses at Newspaper Rock.
The light of the Colorado Plateau never ceases to surprise me, as in this image from the top of the Squaw Flat trail at Canyonlands National Park.
I suspect this piece of deadwood was placed here by someone, since there were no trees around or above it on the Chesler Park trail at Canyonlands.
Circular reasoning: I like the way the striations in this Cedar Mesa sandstone seem to perfectly frame the scene and Jim as he photographs the area near Wooden Shoe Butte at Canyonlands.
Place of emergence: Jim walks through a crack on the Squaw Flat trail at Canyonlands.
Cedar Mesa sandstone stratigraphy is elegant and fascinating, as in this image from the Peek-a-Boo trail at Canyonlands.
Jim gets an angle on a sandstone spire we found while exploring the Wooden Shoe Butte area at Canyonlands.
Jim claimed he didn’t like his hat, but I think it makes him look like a backcountry guide.
On our first night camping, Jim and I explored the Squaw Flat campground area. A short but interesting trail leads to this pinnacle.
The light cooperated nicely at sunset near Squaw Flat.
Jim tries to keep warm as he photographs first light at Squaw Flat campground at Canyonlands.
Last light graces Canyonlands National Park, Utah, with the snow-capped La Sal Mountains beyond.
This kind of stratigraphy is found throughout the Needles District at Canyonlands; this image was made on the Chesler Park trail.
This commanding view looks over the approach to Elephant Canyon on the Chesler Park trail.
The goal for our day hike: Chesler Park in the heart of the Needles District at Canyonlands.
Backpackers make their way to backcountry campsites in the Needles.
Jim exits “the crack,” a signature formation on the Chesler Park trail, on our way back to Elephant Hill.
Sunrise illuminates clouds above Squaw Flat Campground at Canyonlands National Park, Utah, as I make a ten minute time lapse video clip.
I spotted this complex formation in subtle evening light on the Squaw Flat trail.
Near the bottom end of the Squaw Flat trail, it is joined by the Big Spring Canyon trail, and the two pass through a cave-like passage.
The sunset light at Canyonlands has a certain purity like no other place in the world.
Jim makes pictures at the expansive Needles Overlook at Hatch Point.
One of the most impressive things visitors encounter early in their views of Arches National Park is the Courthouse Towers.
The author cogitates the majesty of the American west at Balanced Rock in Arches National Park.
Hikers of all skill levels enjoy the easy stroll through the Devil’s Garden section of Arches National Park.
Even though I have made an image just like this one on at least one previous trip, I still think this supertelephoto view of The Windows section of Arches National Park with the La Sal Mountains in the distance is spectacular.
This panograph was made from behind the North and South Windows in The Windows section of Arches National Park. (Click, then click again to view larger.)
Jim photographs me photographing the South Window at Arches National Park…
…and this is me photographing Jim photographing Turret Arch. Two years ago, Robert Stinson and I made essentially these same photos in this same spot. It’s a photographer thing.
Landscape Arch: we visited in the afternoon, so the light was behind it, so I got what Jim dubbed, “the signature Richard Barron sunstar.”
Jim and I both worked this image of the fence near Landscape Arch; we both immediately recognized the light and the leading lines.
“Our shadows taller than our soul…”; Jim and I photograph our shadows at the North Window in Arches.
Stairway to Heaven: these steps lead to the South Window at Arches National Park.
Visitors move along the trail between the North Window and Turret Arch in the Windows Section of Arches as sunset approaches.
This supertelephoto sunset view looks west across Arches National Park.
This panograph shows the South Window and spires of Arches National Park beyond. (Click, then click again to view larger.)
This image of the South Window includes people for a sense of scale.
This oddly-angled hoodoo on the Devil’s Garden trail is set against a perfect pearl-blue sky.
On the horizon close to sunset, we saw this cluster of clouds, which were just enough diffusion to create an excellent golden-hour/golden-moment lighting scenario.
Last light filtered through etherial clouds at sunset gave Turret Arch, through which are visible the South and North Windows, just the right glow.
The Green River meanders through a complex series of canyons and cliffs in the Soda Springs Basin as viewed from Murphy Point in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.
Jim holds his camera near the ground as he photographs a deep fissure along the Murphy Point trail.
Jim looks over Gooseberry Canyon on his way to the White Rim Overlook at Canyonlands.
A dead tree branch serves as a natural frame for this view of Monument Basin seen from the Grand View Point trail at Canyonlands.
Jim peers warily down a sheer cliff face as we approach the end of the White Rim Overlook trail.
One of Jim’s lenses sits on the ground near Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park.
The expansive view from Dead Horse Point is revealed in this panograph looking southwest. (Click, then click again to view larger.)
Jim and I photograph each other at a trail cairn on the Grand View Point trail.
The Moki Dugway is a steep gravel section of Utah State Highway 261. After ascending it the first time in 2003, Abby and I started calling each other by the nicknames Moki or Dugway or some combination of the two, which we still do to this day.
A classic American road photo: Jim photographs Monument Valley from U.S. highway 163. Movie fans might recall that this is the spot where Forrest Gump decided he was finished running across the United States.
Jim photographed me at last light in the opening of Turret Arch at Arches National Park, an iconic image of me in one of my favorite places.