Earlier this month to wrap up our Utah road trip we spent several days camping up on Cedar Mesa and hiking into various canyons to look for Ancestral Puebloan ruins. I would guess that most or all of these ruins have been discovered (and pillaged) by now, but it is still great fun to hike through these canyons and try to spot them yourself.
The Cedar Mesa Plateau has one of the highest concentration of Ancestral Puebloan ruins in the Four Corners, with sites scattered up and down every canyon. The Ancestral Puebloans (also sometimes referred to by the outdated term “Anasazi”) lived in the Four Corners region roughly one thousand years ago, though evidence of their predecessors dates all the way back to 6500 B.C. By about 1300 A.D. the region was abandoned.
Most of these ruin sites are located under natural alcoves on high ledges, oftentimes with difficult access points that provided defensive protection. The Ancestral Puebloans farmed corn on the canyon floors or up on the rims, and even today you can still find little dried corn cobs in many of the ruins. Most of the pottery has been stolen by pothunters by now, but you can still find small potsherds and sharp rock blades around some of the more remote ruins.
This last weekend we drove out to Cedar Mesa, Utah for one last desert camping trip for the season. We arrived a few hours prior to sunset, found a nice spot to car camp, and eventually lit a little fire to enjoy. After being glued to the computer the last few weeks, the fire, stars, and open space were balm for my soul! The next morning we would wake up early and embark on a three-day backpacking loop through Fish Creek and Owl Creek Canyons.
For this trip I decided to leave my workhorse Canon camera and lenses at home, instead opting to travel light with only my new little Fujifilm X100S large sensor compact camera. These three days in the canyons provided a good opportunity to get to know the X100S. Since it’s a popular new camera I will write a “mini review” of my first impressions below, and this post will be more of a camera report than a trip report. All these photos were taken with the X100S, but please note that some are stitched panos and most of them are adjusted in photoshop to some degree.
After our time in Page, we realized that circumstances were pulling us back home and our long desert trip was coming to a close. For one final night in the desert on the way back, we car camped on the edge of Cedar Mesa, with a commanding view spanning all the way from the San Juan Mountains on the far eastern horizon to Monument Valley far to the south.
Being November 6, we fortunately had just enough cell reception up there to check the election results – the suspense would have killed me otherwise. I’m not going to say much about it here, except that I’m proud to be a Coloradan! For the half of the population that is sorely disappointed, well, now you know how I felt in ’04. Life goes on, hopefully for the better.
Sunrise at the Great Goosenecks of the San Juan River, as seen from Goosenecks State Park overlook on the southern end of Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah, on the morning before my backpacking trip in the Grand Gulch this last weekend.
The San Juan River, which originates from the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, slowly flows through the 1000 foot deep canyon walls, forming one of the world’s best examples of entrenched river meanders. This is one river in the photo – it flows from left to right via three immense meandering curves. It is a very impressive sight to see, and to portray the full scene with all the different river bends, I needed to create a panoramic image.
I made this panoramic photo by stitching together 5 vertical photos in AutopanoPro. Each of those 5 photos were made with dual exposure blends, prepared manually in Photoshop, to control the dynamic range of the bright sky and darker canyon. So that was a total of 10 photos needed, which I shot as quickly as possible using manual focus and two manual exposure settings (one for the canyon and one for the skies), with preset white balance for all. Between the relatively long exposures and quickly changing sunrise light, I only had about 2 chances to get this right.
Over three days and two nights this last weekend I went on a ~25 mile loop hike from Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah. I hiked down Todie Canyon, to Grand Gulch, then out Bullet Canyon. Most of the way the hike passes through dramatic canyon scenery with vertical cliffs and dramatic rock formations. But the highlights were without doubt the numerous ancient ruins and pictographs along the way.