Top 10 of 2015: 7
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Utah is home to 5 National Parks that are incredibly popular with visitors from around the world. Most visitors can drive in a loop and visit all 5 during a trip to Southern Utah. Living relatively close, it’s easy for me to go to any of the parks for a few days but the most difficult part is choosing which one! In 2015, I visited 4 of the 5 parks with Arches National Park being the exception. I’ve had the opportunity to visit all 5 previously and one of my visits to Canyonlands National Park this year stood out to me. Canyonlands is a vast park, with remote sections that are rarely visited and a sense of wilderness that is unique simply because of the size. I chose to visit a remote area of the park named Panorama Point located on the Western side of the park. It was spring and the Milky Way was just becoming visible in the early morning hours and the open view to the South and East offered a grand view of the stars.
I’ve learned that when National Parks name places like “Grandview” or “Panorama” anything, the view is nothing short of impressive. Panorama Point isn’t easy to get to and in 3 days, I only saw one group of people who camped a few miles away. The route involves a long dirt road, then a very rough 4WD road that is impassable to all but high clearance vehicles. I was driving a Subaru and even this car wasn’t able to navigate the rough road. So, the parking area is 9 miles from the actual Panorama Point and there is no water along the way. I was planning on 3 days/2 nights so I loaded my pack with enough water and headed down the road. The scenery is broad but not exactly spectacular. Once you approach the end of the mesa, the view becomes more and more impressive with the La Sal Mountains dominating the Eastern horizon and deep canyons falling off the edge of the mesa. The route leaves the road and continues on a trail out to Panorama Point and as you can guess, the view is impressive. There were no signs of humans being there, no footprints or designated campsites, just a pure wilderness of red rocks and deep canyons. Perfect:)
I chose a spot with a great view to the South and East about a mile from the actual point and along a sandstone bench. The 500+ ft cliff was only feet away and the warm spring sun made for a perfect place to spend a few days. Camping in the desert is a unique experience, especially when carrying your own water. It really makes you feel like a visitor to a seemingly harsh environment. You learn to be very self-reliant and careful because there is nobody around to help if things go wrong. When properly prepared, it can be an immensely gratifying experience and allows a strong connection to the landscape. I tend to think this influences the way I see things and what I wish to express to those who may never see places like this in person. The desert may seem harsh and lacking life but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. EVERYTHING in the desert speaks to life. Sun, water and time are the driving forces to life in the desert and are present in the simplest forms possible. From a photography perspective, any time I can simplify and focus on essential elements, I feel I do my best work.
So maybe it takes driving a long dirt road, hiking miles and miles, being self-reliant and immersed in a simple environment to really connect with what’s important to me. I seek out these places, they humble me and bring me clarity. I’m at peace when I have time to explore with my feet, mind and eyes. This personal experience and connection is not enough for me though. There is something else. Artists have a curse in that simply experiencing isn’t enough and they must share. It would be all to easy for me to go, explore and have a great time, and never share a photo with anyone. To me though, this seems so incredibly selfish. There is so much beauty in this world that brings so much happiness to people and it would eat me up inside to not share some of this with others who aren’t as fortunate to see or experience such places. So I bring a camera.
Three days pass with lightning speed and soon I’m driving back to Park City with my eyes a bit more open and my soul a bit more full. I love the desert and all it offers and I always look forward to my next visit.
Thanks for reading,