To quote Ken Burns…..National Parks are the country’s best idea. The breadth of the country’s national park experience varies from the flat swampy bird filled Everglades NP to the ice fields of Glacier NP to the spectacular cliffs and spires of Grand Canyon NP and everything in between.

If you’re into canyons and rock formations, southern Utah contains five national parks with some of the best hiking and photography anywhere on the planet.

Mesa Arch
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands NP contains one of the most famous arches in the country; Mesa Arch which has been photographed millions of times. The shot above is not particularly original but it’s on most landscape photographers bucket list since the light from the sunrise reflects off of the bottom surface of the arch and brilliantly lights up the underside of the arch. The brilliant red/orange glow on the underside of the arch lasts 15 minutes before it melts away for the rest of the day.

Obviously one needs to get here before sunrise to get in position to take the shot and capture the sun star in the image. I got there an hour before sunrise ( I needed a headlamp to walk the trail) and was greeted by 20 other tripod equipped photographers when I arrived. The arch is less than 20 ft. across and getting positioned in such a crowd takes some patience and a sharing attitude as you will undoubtedly be crossing tripod legs and bumping each other frequently.

_DSC3387
Delicate Arch

As the most popular arch in Arches NP, Delicate Arch draws tens of thousands of visitors each year….and rightly so! There were probably 50 people viewing and taking photos of the arch the afternoon I was there. As you can see in the image, the setting sun casts beautiful light on the arch in the last hour of the day and gives the arch the rich red glow that makes the image. Of course having the snow-capped La Sal Mountain range in the background helps.

Thor's Hammer
Thor’s Hammer

Among a host of natural formations, Thor’s hammer is likely the most iconic image of Bryce Canyon NP. Belying the name, Bryce Canyon is not really a canyon. It has no river running through it carving the formations over millions of years (like the Grand Canyon or Zion Canyon). The hoodoos in the park stand on cliff sides and have been formed over millions of years by water seeping into the rock with the resulting ice expansions causing disruptions in the rock.

_DSC3102
Bryce at night

The Milky Way was in the wrong place this night ( I guess it’s never really in the wrong place….it just wasn’t where I wanted it to be to place it in this image!). This tree shape is perfect for this shot…..it leans into the frame and has the right balance of branches.

Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point State Park

The legend is that early cowboys would run wild mustangs into a natural narrow ledge on a cliff overlooking a 2,000 ft. drop and close a fence on the ledge when they gathered the horses. At one point, apparently, the horses were not released and subsequently died of thirst….hence the name.

Zion National Park
Zion National Park

Unlike Bryce Canyon or the Grand Canyon, visitors to Zion enter the park at the bottom of the famous canyon carved over the millennia by the Virgin River.  Many of the most famous hikes in the park rise dramatically as you wind your way up to the top of the 2,500 ft. cliffs. The Angels Landing trail leads an intrepid hiker to the small mesa (Angels Landing) which is only accessible by climbing across steep ledges with rock cliffs on one side and a 2,000 ft. fall off on the immediate other side. Helpfully, park rangers have installed chains on the cliff side to hang on to.

Afternoon Light
Afternoon Light

Sometimes serendipity happens and you have to be ready to see it and capture it. By itself this tree isn’t particularly scenic or dramatic, but the afternoon the sun lit up the tree and it was possible to isolate the tree away from the background and make a very nice image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken Arch
Broken Arch

Broken Arch is in Arches NP and gets its name from the split in the top of the arch which looks like it’s about to break.

Spikes
Spikes

Another serendipitous moment…..seeing these and imagining the image is part of the photographers skill. This spiky tree in the shadows shows off well against the red Cliffs and blue sky in the background.

Turret Arch

Another of the iconic images in Arches NP. You have to be a little adventurous to get this image because the correct photographic spot is up on a small ledge with an access trail that requires quite a bit of agility to navigate. But of course….no problem for me!!

Thank you for reading my latest blog entry. If you thought it was worthy of your time and you hadn’t already done so, please take the opportunity to subscribe by clicking the “Follow” button in the middle of the right side of this page. You will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Also, you can share this blog entry on your Facebook page by clicking the share button below or you can email it to folks by clicking on the “Email” button.

Frank

Shrewsbury, MA

“You’ve painted up your lips an rolled and curled your tinted hair
Ruby are you contemplating going out somewhere?
The Shadow on the wall tells me the sun is going down
    Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town”     

Song lyrics by Mel Tillis (Kenny Rogers song)

These are the opening lyrics to an old Kenny Rogers song that he recorded years ago…. back when he actually looked like Kenny Rogers and not his current cosmetically reconstructed self. You know how a song sometimes gets into your head and you can’t stop humming or singing it for days? Well a few months ago, while visiting Bryce Canyon National Park I spent a nifty 48 hours warbling half remembered Ruby lyrics on a near constant basis.

Ruby’s Inn is the Grand Dame of lodging and the epicenter of Bryce Canyon City, Utah and has been an area institution for so long that prior to the 2007 incorporation of the town as Bryce Canyon City, the town was known as Ruby’s Inn. The designation as a city is misleading since the town has a grand total of 138 residents, most of whom are either descendants of Ruby herself or employees of Ruby’s Inn. Ruby’s Inn has 370 available lodging rooms and when a single hotel in your town has lodging space that is more than twice the population of your entire town…..it’s possible that Bryce Canyon Village or maybe even Bryceburg might have been a more appropriate town name.

But folks don’t come from all over the world to visit Ruby’s Inn. They come to see what many regard as the most spectacular piece of real estate in America; Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre
Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre

Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park are often linked since they are in close proximity in southern Utah. But they couldn’t be more different. Visitors to Zion Canyon view the canyon from the bottom and gaze upwards to take in the canyon walls, while visitors to Bryce Canyon view the formations from the top and look downward into amphitheatres of hoodoos. One other major difference is that Bryce Canyon is much smaller than Zion Canyon.

Queen Ann's Garden
Queen Ann’s Garden

There was a modest snowstorm the evening I arrived at the park which was a welcome event because the famous hoodoos of Bryce look great when they are augmented with a blanket of white. This area is known as Queen Anne’s Garden. I rose at 4am to get to Sunrise Point where this photo was taken. It was early November and the wind chill was below zero. I later found out that Bryce Canyon, at close to 9,000 ft., is often the coldest spot in Utah.

Vanilla Hoodoos
Vanilla Hoodoos

Bryce Canyon is technically not a canyon, but a set of amphitheatres set into numerous hillsides. The erosion of the rocks and resulting hoodoo formations arose from the effects of wind and water on the hillsides over millions of years. Unlike Zion canyon, there is no dominant stream or river that carved out the formations.

Pencil Hoodoos
Pencil Hoodoos

The Bryce Canyon area was settled by Mormon Pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874. The area around Bryce Canyon became a National Monument in 1923 and was designated as a National Park in 1928. The park covers 55 sq miles and receives relatively few visitors compared to Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, largely due to its remote location.

Hoodoos from the Bottom
Hoodoos from the Bottom

There are 50 miles of hiking trails throughout the park most of which take you down into the amphitheatres for spectacular views of the formations. The use of a polarizing filter provides the dark blue sky which sets off the rock formations.

Hoodoo Cathedral
Hoodoo Cathedral

You almost feel as if you are looking down a Paris boulevard and see a famous church framed in the distance!

Hoodoo Soldiers
Hoodoo Soldiers
Icicles
Icicles

Little is known about early human habitation in the Bryce Canyon area. Archaeological surveys of Bryce Canyon National Park and the Paunsagunt Plateau show that people have been in the area for at least 10,000 years. Anasazi basket artifacts several thousand years old have been found south of the park. Other artifacts from the Pueblo-period Anasazi and the Fremont culture (up to the mid-12th century) have also been found.

Snow Covered Bryce
Snow Covered Bryce

Nothing adds to the drama of an already beautiful scene than wonderful cloud formations overhead. These clouds have tinges of pink in them just over the horizon line along with lots of texture in the formations.

Sinking Ship
Sinking Ship

The formation in the upper left corner of the image is called “The Sinking Ship”. The wonderful thing about Bryce Canyon is that all of these mind-blowing formations present themselves differently depending on the time of day, angle of the sun, cloud formations and one’s viewing position. So once you think you’ve seen it all, return at a different time or with different weather and you get a completely different experience. In no other place in America, not even the formidable Grand Canyon, can you see the phantasmagorical array of pinnacles, windowed walls, pedestals, and brightly colored fins and spires that comprise Bryce Canyon National Park.

Thank you for reading my latest blog entry. If you thought it was worthy of your time and you hadn’t already done so, please take the opportunity to subscribe by clicking the “Follow” button on the right side of the page. You will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Also, you can share this blog entry on your Facebook page by clicking the share button below or you can email it to folks by clicking on the “Email” button.

%d bloggers like this: