Grand Gulch

Bears Ears National Monument, Bullet Canyon, Cedar Mesa, Grand Gulch, kiva, ruin, stars, Milky Way, galaxy
Cosmic Kiva : Prints Available

An Ancestral Puebloan kiva with a view of the Milky Way.

At the end of May we spent three days hiking through the upper portion of Grand Gulch, in Cedar Mesa, Utah. This was the third time I’ve backpacked in Grand Gulch, but the first since the area was designated as part of Bears Ears National Monument by President Obama in 2016. Nothing has changed as far as I can tell – just the same amazing canyon scenery and fascinating archeological history to be found around nearly every bend. See more pictures from the canyon below!

Continue reading “Grand Gulch”

Cedar Mesa Antiquity

Cedar Mesa, Utah, ruins, Ancestral Puebloan
Hotel of the Ancients : Prints Available

Dawn at an Ancestral Puebloan ruin perched high on the rim of a Cedar Mesa canyon in Utah. *Please note that I did not enter or disturb these well-preserved ruins; the internal lighting effect was from a flashlight that I carefully placed on the window sills.

Cedar Mesa, Citadel, Utah, ruins, Ancestral Puebloan
Sunrise House : Prints Available

Sunrise light illuminates an Ancestral Puebloan ruin with an expansive view on Cedar Mesa, Utah.

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 The Ancestral Puebloans (also sometimes referred to by the outdated term “Anasazi”) lived in the Four Corners region roughly one thousand years ago, though evidence of their predecessors dates all the way back to 6500 B.C. By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.

More photos below! Continue reading “Cedar Mesa Antiquity”

Cedar Mesa with Fujifilm X100S

bonfire, Cedar Mesa, Utah, stars

Bonfire Under the Stars : Prints Available

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.

The photo above is a two-shot stitch taken with the X100 28mm wide-angle conversion lens (the X100S has a fixed 35mm equivalent lens, and the 28mm conversion lens screws on top of that). Continue reading “Cedar Mesa with Fujifilm X100S”

Election Night on Cedar Mesa

Evening on Cedar Mesa, Utah
Election night festivities.

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.

Cedar Mesa, Utah, Goosenecks, San Juan River, sunset, panorama

Cedar Mesa Panorama : Prints Available

Panoramic evening view from the southern edge of Cedar Mesa, overlooking the Goosenecks of the San Juan River - November.

Great Goosenecks

Great Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah
[+] Click for larger view

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.

Grand Gulch Loop Hike

Cedar Mesa Kiva

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.

Check out all the photos from the Grand Gulch trek on my gallery site.

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