Lost Souls Of The Grand Staircase

 

Jupiter Rising 3500

The month of May found me in a state of improving health and the itch for adventure and exercise needed attention. My Wife and I didn’t have to study the map long before placing a pin on the Red Rock Country of Southern Utah. We even arranged to rendezvous with my In-Laws so that we could share the experience.  Why Southern Utah you might ask. For one thing, Denver was still getting pounded by turbulent Spring weather just as high pressure was taking hold to the West. Furthermore, this is the time of the year that deep canyon floors are thriving with green hues and runoff from the high country. The two of us and our Italian Greyhound Gracie were packed and on the road, destination Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Willow Creek Reflection HDR 3500

The Staircase is special. It is one of the most remote and beautiful places in the desert southwest and during previous visits my exploration had only scratched the surface. The plan for this trip was to do as much desert hiking as possible and to experience the solitude of a wilderness that is now at risk of losing its protected status. I also needed to get a photography fix in the worst way. I had hardly picked up the camera since last fall when I fell ill and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. For hiking, I pulled my old trustee Asolo boots out of storage. They had carried me up half of Colorado’s Fourteeners when I was much younger. Surely they would serve me well in the desert.

True North 3500

It’s always good to have an audio book on hand for long drives. For this trip I selected “Finding Everett Ruess” by David Roberts. His true story documents the life of a free spirited explorer who vanished without a trace from the Escalante region in the 1930’s. The book originally caught my attention because the forward was written by John Krakauer who wrote “Into the Wild”, one of my favorites. The subject of Krakauer’s book was Christopher McCandless, also a free spirited explorer who spent a great deal of time in the Desert Southwest. McCandless, who ended up starving to death in the Alaska wilderness, went by the alias “Alexander Supertramp”. I so much love the story that I named my camper “Alexander Supertramp” long ago.

calf cr falls multi

Sometimes the Universe aligns itself in such a way that you cannot deny that something is meant to be. That is exactly what happened on this trip to the Grand Staircase. Here we were in a rig named “Alexander Supertramp” following the footsteps of a free spirited lost soul and while hiking near the last know location of Everett Ruess, the soles of my Asolo boots peeled off, one after another. You can’t make this stuff up. It was a great trip!

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#Monday Mantra ~ Week #3

Freedom FB

Abundance truly is in the eye of the beholder. It isn’t something we can own or possess, it is a mindset of freedom. So I’m standing at the Rim of Schaffer Canyon within Canyonlands National Park and this fully equipped adventure RV pulls up right behind Alexander Supertramp. Big Wheels, three feet of clearance and two motorcycles strapped to the back, this rig was a zombie proof fortress on a Mercedes Chasis. Jealousy reared its ugly head within me. “Where are you from?”, I asked the Man and Woman as they climbed down from the lofty coach. “Germany” he replied with a heavy accent. “Are you going around the world?”, I asked. “Just the America’s, we started with Alaska and are going south to Patagonia” he informed me. We walked over to the viewpoint and looked down at the Shaffer Canyon Switchbacks. “Are you going down there?”, I continued to quiz him. “Not in that” he said, referring to his rig. “Vee vill go on za bikes”. His rig weighed 18000 pounds and he was concerned the the road would not hold.

My envy began to subside. We had driven up the switchbacks the previous day and had never felt so free as I did in the wild Colorado River Basin below. We had driven through an expansive swath of some of the most remote wilderness in the country with everything we needed to make that possible, what more could I want. Sure I admire the German couple and I could see that their abundance was in their freedom, not in their highly cool rig.

jealosy BLOG

German RV BLOG

A Selfie, A Grandson And A Skeleton Tree

"Skeleton Tree"

“Skeleton Tree”

There is a time to stay home and a time to hit the pavement and put on the miles. For me, staying home is an opportunity to finish things, to edit and post and promote the work that I’ve done and to check off items from the never ending task list of Life. The problem with staying home however is that I get too comfortable in my habits and routines and I flat out don’t exercise enough. Ultimately, I end up feeling uninspired and creatively unchallenged, an ailment that can only be remedied by going out and seeing a familiar thing in a new way or an unfamiliar thing in a curious way. I love coming home with images that never would have been captured without some pavement pounding.

Monday and Tuesday we travelled to Southern Colorado to visit our youngest Daughter, her husband and especially the newest addition to all of our Lives, my first Grandchild. We took Alexander Supertramp (camper) with us and parked it steps away from their front door. I have to tell you, my little Grandson is the cutest baby in the history of the world! Yes this is my Blog and yes, I am going to show you baby pictures.

First Selfie With My Grandson

First Selfie With My Grandson

Grandma is in Love

Grandma is in Love

Daddy's Touch

Daddy’s Touch

The "not fair look" starts young

The “not fair look” starts young

Mommy's Touch

Mommy’s Touch

Grandaddy's Hands

Grandaddy’s Hands

It was really hard to leave the little guy but we could only be gone one night so we headed back to Denver the long way in hope of catching brilliant colors along the Arkansas River. Too early, the leaves of the Cottonwoods were still quite green. As we hit the lower Valley, it occurred to me that My wife had never been to the edge of the Royal Gorge, despite passing within a mile or two a number of times. We grabbed the exit and drove up the hill to the north rim, a five minute drive at the most. After gawking at the precipitous vistas and taking note of how cool it would be to do the zip line across, we drove back down the hill. Thats where we saw the “Skeleton Tree”.

Tam and Gracie at the Royal  Gorge

Tam and Gracie at the Royal Gorge

My wife pointed the “Skeleton Tree” to me and said I should shoot it. She has a really good eye for design and I rely on that constantly. I hit the brakes hard, parked and jumped out, camera and tripod in hand. What a gift that tree was. Here we had gone all day not seeing what we thought we’d see, and now we were seeing something that we didn’t expect on a hillside recently ravaged by wildfire. The thing I really love about this image is that there is so much beauty in something that is dead, a needed reminder that the world will still be beautiful, even without leaves for the winter.

World Famous Royal Gorge

World Famous Royal Gorge

The First Annual Father/Son Photo Expedition

Sagebrush Symphony

Sagebrush Symphony

As you can tell from my posts, I’ve been bitten hard by the photography bug and am having a bit of a challenge keeping up with all the editing. I seriously haven’t forgotten to finish my story about the trip to see Grizzly Bears, I’m just putting it on hold, taking advantage of the season to bank images of Autumn in Colorado. Last weekend, my two grown Sons and myself loaded our gear into the camper and headed out in search of nature’s seasonal grand finale. We didn’t even know where the journey would lead us. We would drive as far west and south as necessary to find ourselves surrounded by peak colors.

Darkness fell just as we reached the summit of Monarch Pass and we pondered camping there for the night until we realized how frigid the air temperature was. Onward we pushed past Gunnison to the shore of Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest body of water. The air temperature was so much more tolerable and we were staged for a night of astral photography. Blue Mesa sits generally in the center of Colorado. Far enough from city lights, and with a low horizon in all directions, the night sky there is stunning. After a quick spaghetti dinner we went to work.

Midnight at Blue Mesa BLOG

Midnight At Blue Mesa

Approaching Storm

Approaching Storm

three quarter moon BLOG

Sagebrush Moonrise

Night photography is a genre made ever so much more interesting by the latest camera technology. The newest full sensor cameras have ISO sensitivities that enable the camera to see things in the dark that the human eye cannot see. As we stood on the shore of the lake, dialing in camera settings and experimenting with the low light conditions, a dark mass of lightning producing clouds slowly edged closer to us from the west. To the naked eye, the setting was strangely sirene. In the review monitor of my camera, the setting was ominous. At some point I realized that it had been a while since the last flash of lightning and the big dark blob was now blocking out the stars to the west. The Boys and I deduced simultaneously that we better head back for the camper and we scurried with no time to spare. A wall of water and wind hit the sides of Alexander Supertramp (camper) just as we closed ourselves in. We laughed about our close call and talked about the adventures of the day.

treasure FB

michaelcreek

boys shooting

luke bushwacking

sneffels tele 2 BLOG

Mt. Sneffels

Colorado Pops FB

“Colorado Pops”

in the bank #2 FB

“In The Bank”

Michael, Luke and I resumed our quest for colorful leaves first thing in the morning. We drove west to Montrose, still disappointed by the post-peak fall foliage. We wondered if we were too late. Fortunately, not long after turning south once again, we began to notice ribbons and patches of yellow, gold, red and even a lot of green in the San Juan Mountains, we had arrived! Leaf Chasing is a lot like storm chasing. You never really know where you’ll end up. We followed the vivid luminous colors onto a dirt road on the Dallas Divide, climbing slowly but surely to the base of Mt. Sneffels. By the end of the day we had gathered images in the thousands and as the sun was setting, we found a high mountain meadow where we could set up camp.

campsite sunset BLOG

Dinner was incredible. Chopped garden vegetables, potatoes and apple sausage cooked in foil packets on the coals of the campfire. There were lots of smiles and laughs around the fire that night and we talked about making this trip the first of many, a new tradition. As the last light of the day vanished to the west, more stars than you can imagine appeared in the night sky. We doused the fire and went into the camper to get warm, prepare equipment and get bundled up for another night of Photography.

luke skywalker FB

Luke Skywalker

skywalker 2 FBclashing light BLOG

moonlight ridge BLOG

I can’t handle the cold like I did when I was younger. I shivered in the October midnight air, even with three coats and a blanket over me. We were actually lucky that we weren’t dealing with snow on the ground, after all we were above 10,000 feet. By the time all was said and done, the first rays of the rising moon were hitting the tips of the mountain range in front of us and as the nocturnal golden hour progressed, the light of the Moon spilled down into the golden aspen forest. We were all snug in bed by 2am.

Sunday would lead us into the picturesque town of Ouray for a hearty breakfast, before making the five hour journey home to Denver.

boys BLOG