Wasatch Color

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, autumn
Trail Through Red Oak : Prints Available

After tromping around in the snow smothered aspens near the top of Guardsman Pass yesterday, we drove down below the snow line towards Midway and found a fantastic trail to hike through vast groves of colorful aspens and brilliant neon red oaks. Pure eye candy!

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, autumn
Wasatch Colors : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, autumn
Aspens and Oaks : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, autumn
Colorful Forest : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, autumn
Guardsman Aspens : Prints Available

The beauty of autumn (especially amongst aspens) is sometimes so overwhelming that it fills me with an intangible sense of longing — a desire to grasp the beauty, to hold and own the moment forever. But these moments and feelings slip by like sand through your fingers, and there’s nothing to do but let the beauty stream by and be grateful for the experience, however brief it may be.

Autumn Snow in the Wasatch

Utah, Wasatch Range, Willow Heights Trail, aspens
Willow Heights Snowy Aspens : Prints Available

Our big summer road trip is almost over and soon I will start posting many new photos and trip reports from our adventures up north! In the meantime, here are some photos from yesterday up near Guardsman Pass at the head of the Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Range of Utah. With a fresh snowfall smothering the golden aspens, along with a mystical foggy atmosphere, the photography conditions were just about as dreamy as can be!

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Snowy Golden Aspen : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, panorama
Snowy Aspen Vortex : Prints Available

A vertical panoramic view of a foggy, snow-smothered aspen forest in September.

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Snowy Creeping Aspens : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Snowy Foggy Aspens : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Snow Smothered : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Leaning Aspens : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Autumn Snowfall : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Snow Covered Aspen Leaf : Prints Available

Across the Great Basin

Notch Peak, Utah
Notch Peak Storm : Prints Available

Ominous thunderclouds over Notch Peak in the House Range of eastern Utah.

In mid-June during the first week of our road trip we took a zigzagging route through the Great Basin of western Utah and Nevada. The Great Basin gets its name from the fact that no rivers flow out of the region; there are few rivers or streams, and any flowing water collects in broad lakebeds or salt flats where it eventually evaporates. Encompassing most of the state of Nevada and the western portion of Utah, the Great Basin is characterized by a seemingly endless series of rugged north/south ranges with broad, empty desert valleys in between. Our first stop was the remote House Range near the western border of Utah, where Notch Peak soars dramatically over the desert with a sheer 3,000 foot vertical north face.

Notch Peak, Utah, lizard
Collared Lizard in House Range : Prints Available

A collared lizard in the House Range, Utah.

Notch Peak, Utah
Notch Peak Clouds : Prints Available

Clouds shroud Notch Peak, Utah.

We had hoped to hike a ridge route up to the top of Notch Peak, but a forecast of high winds and thunderstorms quashed that plan, so we moved on to nearby Great Basin National Park just over the border in Nevada. Here the same relentless high winds also convinced us to abandon our plans to hike up Wheeler Peak, opting to not spend a day getting blasted by chilly gusts on the high ridgeline. But we did enjoy a tour through the famous Lehman Cave, a beautiful cave system under the base of the mountain.

Great Basin National Park, Lehman Caves, Nevada
Lehman Cave 1 : Prints Available

A path through Lehman Cave in Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Great Basin National Park, Lehman Caves, Nevada
Lehman Cave 2 : Prints Available

Inside Lehman Cave in Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Lamoille Canyon, Nevada, Ruby Mountains
Island Lake Hike : Prints Available

Hiking the Island Lake trail at the head of Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.

Next we drove north to the Ruby Mountains, the most “alpine” of Nevada’s numerous mountain ranges. We drove up Lamoille Canyon on the west side of the range, and were immediately awed by the super rugged peaks soaring precipitously above the valley on all sides. What awesome mountains!

Lamoille Canyon, Nevada, Ruby Mountains, wildflowers
Lamoille Canyon Sunset : Prints Available

Early summer flowers in Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains, Nevada.

We’d been hoping to do a backpacking trip in the high Ruby peaks but were also expecting that there would probably be too much snow still. Indeed, the high peaks still had a substantial snowpack and the high lakes still frozen, so we camped a few nights in Lamoille Canyon and did smaller day hikes instead. We will have to return another year for some backpacking in this incredible mountain range!

Lamoille Canyon, Nevada, Ruby Mountains, wildflowers
Lamoille Canyon Flowers : Prints Available

Early summer flowers in Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains, Nevada.

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”

Hiking the Honaker Trail

Honaker Trail,Utah

Horn Point, a precipitous outcropping along the Honaker Trail above the San Juan River gorge, Utah.

If you look at my recent photo of Goosenecks State Park, you can see that there’s absolutely no way to hike down to the San Juan River in that area — continuous cliff bands block any possible route down. However, back in the 1890s a precipitous trail was constructed nearby by Henry Honaker as a supply route for gold prospectors. Honaker’s unbelievable trail zig zags down a puzzle-like route from the rim to the river, oftentimes descending sheer cliffs via large ramps built from meticulously stacked rocks.

See more photos below! Continue reading “Hiking the Honaker Trail”

Stormy Goosenecks

Goosenecks State Park, Utah, panorama
Stormy Goosenecks : Prints Available

Ominous storm clouds approach the Goosenecks of the San Juan River, as seen from Goosenecks State Park overlook on the southern end of Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah. 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.

Natural Bridges

Natural Bridges National Monument, Sipapu Bridge, Utah, White Canyon
Sipapu Bridge : Prints Available

Sipapu Bridge spans the White Canyon. *Full disclosure: Utilizing my official artistic license, I have taken the liberty of photoshopping out some metal handrails that exist to help people walk down the steep slickrock here.

After all these years of exploring the deserts and canyons of Utah, I never bothered to go to Natural Bridges National Monument. It’s pretty much out of the way from anywhere and after all, it’s just another couple arches, right? Well, on our recent road trip after backpacking in nearby Dark Canyon, Natural Bridges was finally on our way, so I figured we might as well stop and check it out.

And we were blown away. First off, the natural bridges — particularly Sipapu — are absolutely mind-boggling. These aren’t some dainty little arches; these are ginormous masses of earth soaring through the sky over the canyon. And what a canyon too! Even if the bridges weren’t there, White Canyon would still be an awesome place for a hike. And if that’s not enough, there’s an abundance of Ancestral Puebloan ruins throughout the canyon — including some of the most fascinating sites I’ve yet seen.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Sipapu Bridge, Utah, White Canyon
Sipapu Over Cottonwood : Prints Available

Sipapu Bridge soars directly overhead, high above a cottonwood tree with autumn colors.

The thing about Natural Bridges Monument, though, is that there’s not a whole lot to see from the road. A roadside tourist might not see what’s so great about this place. You’ve got to at least hike down to Sipapu to see the glory. On our first day there we hiked the entire “three bridge” loop hike starting and ending at the Sipapu trailhead. We enjoyed the canyon so much we decided to spend a second day there hiking up-canyon to see more of it!

Natural Bridges National Monument, Sipapu Bridge, Utah, White Canyon
Sipapu Bridge Autumn : Prints Available

Sipapu Bridge soars over some autumn colored cottonwood trees in White Canyon. With a height of 220 feet and length of 225 feet (some say 268 feet), Sipapu Bridge is the second longest natural bridge in the world (after Rainbow Bridge) and the seventh longest arch if you consider it an arch. Natural bridges are formed by erosion from a creek or river that eventually runs underneath them, while arches are formed by erosion from seepage, freezing, sand, and/or wind.

Horsecollar Ruin, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, kiva, ruin, White Canyon, Ancestral Puebloan
Horsecollar Kiva : Prints Available

A look inside an Ancestral Puebloan kiva with a still-intact roof after approximately 1000-700 years.

* Please note that I did NOT enter this kiva, which would be a foolish thing to do and could possibly damage the ancient structure.  I carefully pointed my camera through a gap below the roof, and my ultra-wide lens makes it look like a view from inside.

Horse collar ruins are located between Sipapu and Kachina bridges, up on a hard-to-get-to ledge as usual. It’s so fascinating to image people living here almost a thousand years ago, and the fact that these ruins have been sitting here for that long gives them an aura of sacredness.

See more photos below! Continue reading “Natural Bridges”

Dark Canyon

Dark Canyon,Utah, hiker, hiking
Dark Canyon Hiker : Prints Available

About to hike down into Dark Canyon, from the Sundance trailhead.

At the end of October after our time around the Green River and Capitol Reef, we headed down past the north end of Lake Powell and over to Dark Canyon, where we spent two nights backpacking and hiking up and down the canyon. It’s been over 16 years since I’ve visited this canyon and it’s as spectacular as I remember, kind of like a mini Grand Canyon. Here’s a few of my favorite photos from the trip.

Dark Canyon,Utah, dusk, reflection
Dark Canyon Reflection : Prints Available

Dusk light reflected in a creekside pond in Dark Canyon.

Dark Canyon,Utah
Dark Canyon Creek : Prints Available

Deep in Dark Canyon.

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