It's been a while since I've made a trip like this, but I am so glad I had the opportunity. I wanted to travel through my favorite region of the US during monsoon season to take advantage of some sky action. I did indeed get plenty of it and sometimes more than I wanted, but we work with what nature gives us and I think I did quite well in most cases. I had lots of thunderstorms and a ton of rain almost every day so staying overnight on high ground was a given in many places. So I packed up the truck and called for the dogs and here's what we did:
Saturday, June 29 - Met my honey, Marc Briggs in Mammoth for the first few days. We spent time in the Owens Valley around the alkali ponds, Hot Creek, Owens River, Rock Creek, June Lakes, and Tuolumne Meadows. Lots of moody awesomeness going on with the sky on the East Side and I think we both scored on some nice shots.
Wednesday, July 3 - Made my way southeast through more thunderstorms with a stop in Vegas to say hi to my good buddy, David Thompson. Had a nice chat with him and his very precocious and adorable son, Brandon then went on to camp out at Valley of Fire.
Thursday, July 4 - I didn't plan for the gnarliest heat wave on record to coincide with this trip, but by early afternoon I broke camp and ditched it to the North Inn at Overton where Chris and Debbie gave me and the dogs a warm welcome and an air conditioned room! I went back to the valley for sunset, but was skunked on the light with heavy cloud cover. Temps were somewhere around 120 degrees and the dogs and I never hiked out more than 50 yards from the car. It was just too much for us!
Friday, July 5 - Drove up to Kolob Canyon. I think it was about 112 degrees in St. George, but only about 93 degrees up in the canyon. Hiked up to the Double Arch Alcove through the creek most of the way, which the dogs thoroughly enjoyed and made it back to the truck before the next downpour. Then we drove on to Cedar Breaks to spend the night skirting a mudslide along Hwy. 14.
Saturday, July 6 - Spent some time exploring the beautiful wildflower meadows around Cedar Breaks, then headed over to Bryce Canyon. Another gorgeous drive and continuing thunderstorms along the way. Tried getting some shots with lightning from the rim, but I just couldn't seem to get it to work…may have had something to do with gale force winds and huge raindrops pelting the lens and my face! ;)
Sunday, July 7 - Left Bryce for Capitol Reef and enjoyed one of the most beautiful drives in Utah along Hwy. 12 in spite of more thunderstorms! Aspen covered forests gave way to more red rock country on the Waterpocket Fold. Amazing scenery in all directions and after waiting out some more thunderstorms, managed to get some nice sunset shots.
Monday, July 8 - Did a little more exploring around Capitol Reef before heading over to Arches National Park driving through torrential rains that threatened to flood the roads. In the very hot desert heat I had to make lots of extra stops to give the dogs water and find some shade which sometimes was no more than a creosote bush. I also took advantage of any creek or river we came across just so they could have a romp and cool off. After making camp along the Colorado River…dogs were in heaven!…we went up to Arches just in time to catch a rainbow at sunset!
Tuesday, July 9 - An eventful and photographically beneficial day with sunrise at Delicate Arch and sunset and night shots at False Kiva in Canyonlands. Two really great hikes, not too hot, but I never even needed a sweater. We had spent the afternoon relaxing and staying cool in the Colorado. :)
Wednesday, July 10 - On to Monument Valley with a couple of stops including Muley Point on the Moki Dugway. Awesome views here and also very windy! Lots of heavy cloud action at the Valley getting some very moody shots, but nothing special for sunset. I was also able to have a brief hello with my friend, Aaron who does tours in the valley.
Thursday, July 11 - More heavy storms and rain. I was starting to figure out the system and went southeast to get out from under the weather, but it seemed to build up just as quickly! By late afternoon we were on the Valley drive enjoying some occasional sun and less rain. Sunset was killer at at the Mittens, not for the light because it wasn't there, but for the moody storm action…and I got another rainbow, though not in a choice spot it did add to the drama.
Friday, July 12 - I drove down to Tuba City in hopes of going to both Blue Canyon and Coal Mine Canyon. I just couldn't get out from beneath the storms and had to scrap my plans as I didn't want to take a chance on getting stuck in a ditch! I did end up getting a really nice sunset up on a mesa and did go to Coal Mine Canyon…very carefully…for some storm shots, but the lightning was too far away to be really noticeable. :)
Saturday, July 13 - I was going to pass through Page, AZ and check out a couple of canyons in the area, but Hwy. 89 is closed just south of Page due to a rockslide that took out the road. Stupid me not to think of checking road conditions and no easy way of getting around the area, so I made a quick call to my buddy, DBreezy to ask if I should try a visit to Toroweap since I had to make a decision to back track over to Grand Canyon South Rim or continue northwest. As you can see by this shot…we made it to Toroweap and there was only one other guy camped there, but not a photographer and not into conversation allowing the dogs and I to have the rim to ourselves. :) There was absolutely nothing going on in the classic east view, but I got some killer sunset action at a spot I chose for the west view. Woot!
Sunday, July 14 - Heavy cloud cover skunked me again for sunrise and the classic Toroweap shot. The canyon was a flat gray so the dogs and I scouted around for more intimate shots and, of course, they found every puddle of water in the sandstone to play in! Then we went to Page from the north to get more ice, water, supplies, and cell service. I made another call to David and decided since I was in the area to go to White Pocket. After a visit with Jeff at the information center, I took the longer route, a drive of about 1 1/2 hours, making it in time to do some scouting and get some really nice sunset shots.
Monday, July 15 - Managed to get quite a few really nice shots at sunrise and early morning before heavy clouds took over the skies again. No problems driving out from White Pocket and I made sure to check in with Jeff because he was going to worry about me being out there alone…yes it was friction' sweet to have the place to myself! We stopped in Kanab to put air back in the tires (again) then went on to St. George getting some storm pics on the way. David said he and Phill Monson would be at Valley of Fire for sunset and I should join them. I didn't want to sit through the heat with the dogs, so we found some cool green grass in the shade at St. George to spend the afternoon before heading over. Got there just in time to pass the guys on the road and met them over at the Fire Wave. It was a great evening for sunset and we all made out with some sweet light! After some post-sunset conversation, the dogs and I drove as far as Beatty, Nevada, got some more gas, ice, and a bit of sleep.
Tuesday, July 16 - The final stop on our journey was the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains. We got there late morning and stopped at the Grandview campground for another nap and a bit of reorganization. We then went up to the Patriarch Grove and waited for night to fall. After all the great monsoon weather throughout the trip, I had nothing but blue sky for my last day. There was only one other guy there, his name was Mike, to shoot the night, but we had chosen spots clear of each other. I know I must have been really tired because I screwed up the settings on my intervelometer and didn't get the star trails I wanted. The moon had set when I checked my camera, so I tried a couple of Milky Way shots before going to bed.
Wednesday, July 17 - Got up about an hour past sunrise and that was OK. Gave some chunks of ice to Mike who was still traveling and left for an uneventful ride home. I didn't stop for any more shots and the dogs were decidedly done with traveling as they continually nudged their way between the front seats and under my arm.
Having the dogs with me was great, but sometimes difficult in visiting some National Parks and Monuments. Some places made it easy like Cedar Breaks and Bryce because the dogs could be on the paved walkways right by the overlooks and I didn't have to leave them in the truck. At Monument Valley and other places, they went everywhere with me. Having doggie pooper bags tied to the roof of the truck was a regular scene because many places didn't have trash receptacles and required packing out what you pack in! ;) No flat tires or other car issues, no injuries, and I learned I could drive roads of deep sand and climb rocky slopes in my little truck, but every day after every journey I thanked whomever the gods may be for getting me through safely. Merry and Pippin are happy to be home, the laundry is nearly done, the truck has been to the car wash, and it's back to business as usual. I have a ton of shots to go through and will get to them as soon as I can and I hope you'll stop by for another look when I do!
Hope you're all getting out there enjoying your summer and thanks for stopping by!