Up early, my wife Abby and I shared our traditional send-off breakfast.
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.
Easter in Santa Fe and Driving to Moab, Utah
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.
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.
Dinner was at Moab Brewery, also one of my favorites.
Needles District at Canyonlands
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.
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.
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.
At sunset, I made some video of the sky.
Chesler Park Trail
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.
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.
We broke camp at 8:45. Breakfast was a vegan blueberry-pomegranite trail mix Abby bought for me. We saw tons of contrails in the clear morning sky.
We 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.
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.
Island in the Sky
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.
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.
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.
The Road East
We detoured down the Moki Dugway to Goosenecks of the San Juan, where I made a couple of nice panoramas. We also made time to photograph Monument Valley.
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.
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.
Unless noted otherwise, any images of me in this entry are by Jim Beckel.