Author Topic: Utah by day and NIGHT!  (Read 1471 times)


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Utah by day and NIGHT!
« on: February 24, 2009, 09:28:16 PM »
I've been wanting to post a little travelogue of our awesome trip to Utah, Arizona, and Nevada back in October of 2008 and here it is already February, 2009.  Evan and McKenzie definitely keep me busy, but I finally wrote a little narrative of our first couple of adventures on the trip.  

When our 3 year old son, Evan, was one month old, we took off to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone for a photography adventure and he did great.  We planned the same trip for shortly after our second child was due; however, a friend getting married in Henderson, NV changed the plans and instead we took off on a Utah National Parks adventure en route to and from the wedding.  My husband, Keith and I have always wanted to photograph the beautiful areas of Utah, so what better time?  Never mind that we now had a 3 year old and 2 month old. We were going to do it.  

The first small adventure happened in Arches N.P. when Keith was photographing the double arches.  There was a man way up in the arch and it made a fun shot, so Keith said, do you think you can get up there with the kids and I’ll stay here and photograph?  Sure, it didn’t look hard.  With McKenzie (our daughter) in the sling and Evan on foot, we took off

We made it to the base of the arch with no problem, but getting to where the man had been proved a bit more of a challenge

It was a fairly easy scramble up the slick rock on your own, but I found it a bit tricky when I had Evan precariously balanced up there and I was trying to keep my balance with McKenzie in the sling to make it on up to the ledge.  I finally convinced Evan to scramble on his own up the last four feet or so and he did awesome and sat perfectly still on the ledge until I got up there with McKenzie

To my horror, there was a couple hundred feet sheer drop off on the other side of that ledge - thankfully, Evan was super cautious scrambling up there.  And, yes, I said a few prayers on the way up and promised God I would not get my kids in a predicament like this again.  It seemed like we were on top of the world, and we were going to stay there until I could get Keith up there to help us down.  It actually became kind of comical as other hikers would hike up there, start to head on up to where we were, struggle and then look up and ask – how did you guys get up there.  I would honestly tell them, it was pure stupidity that got us up here and we are now waiting for my husband to get us down.   Keith finally got up there and climbed up to us with no problem and took some fun shots from that angle and he got us down safely

That very evening, Keith wanted to get the classic sunset shot of Delicate Arch, so we were off again.  It is about a mile and a half hike up the slick rock to Delicate Arch and, again, it looked pretty easy.  We arrived with plenty of time before Sunset; however, now that we have the kids we hike at a slower pace that we are not quite acclimated to.  So, I told Keith to head on to the arch, I’d make some sandwiches and come with the kids.  We had hand held radios to communicate; so he took off.  

Once again, my hiker extraordinaire, Evan, was up for the task.   He took off like a shot.  It was like walking a dog up that trail – everyone followed in perfect line along the well trodden trail except my little Evan.  He was zig zagging and climbing little rocks, as I kept reminding him we had a long way to go, he had to save his energy.  We made it about ¾ of the way there before the sun started to set and Keith radioed he was done shooting  - Here's one of his shots:

Being almost there, I said I really did not want to turn back as I too wanted to see it.  So, Keith hiked down and met us en route and made the rest of the journey with us, thankfully.  Keith ended up carrying Evan and his tripod and camera pack the last ¼ of the journey and we made it to the overlook!  It was beautiful and as you can see from the picture, getting quite dark when we arrived

The journey back was in the pitch black night.  Thankfully, we came prepared with a couple of small flash lights in addition to our LED key chain lights (lifesavers), but that was one long walk in the dark.  By half way, we thought we were the only ones left out there; however, every once in a while we could hear a couple of hikers behind us, but could see no light.  Eventually, that couple caught up to us and they had no flash lights!  They were a young boyfriend and girlfriend from Provo, Utah and I asked them if they wanted to join us offering our extra flash lights.  The guy hesitated and the girl immediately said YES!  So, the young man carried our tripod and the girl chatted with Evan all the rest of the way down making the trip extremely enjoyable as Evan had been getting a bit concerned in the dark.  With his new found friend, he was a happy camper the rest of the journey.  What of McKenzie?  She basically nursed and slept most of the journey in the sling and was extremely happy.

After those two adventures in one day, we should have learned something, but not us!  The next day, we headed to Canyonlands to do a sunrise shot which Keith hiked to while the kids and I slept in the car, and then we all went on several other small jaunts.  That afternoon, we went to check out a really cool hike we had found in a photography book.  Again, the shot was best at sunset.  Warning flags should have shot up, but didn’t.  The trail was not an ‘official’ National Park trail, but according to the book was marked by cairns along the slick rock.  You basically parked at a designated turn out for another trail, hiked down the road ½ mile and then started out across the dessert sticking to the slick rock and following these cairns being careful not to step on the centuries old macrobiotic soil all around.  

As we started out, a thunderstorm formed in the distance and we could hear the low rumbles of thunder.  Living in Colorado Springs, we have drilled into our son that if you hear thunder, there could be lightening and you must go inside; so you guessed it, Evan was quite concerned and lecturing us how we needed to go inside.  I too was getting a bit concerned, but the storm was off in the distance down wind and would probably blow around us, so Keith and I decided to forge ahead.  

The guide book described the hike as hiking so many minutes and you would see a landmark, but remember, we hike at a far slower pace with our two little ones, so we were guessing part of the time as to which way to go.  However, we did make it to the rim of the amphitheater

and we knew we had to pick up the pace.  The false kiva turned out to be at the very top of the rock slide you can see in this picture deep in that amphitheater.  As we hiked on back in the amphitheater, we were greeted with one incredible view of the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands

When we hit that rock slide, I begged Keith to lay his tripod down as at this point, he was again carrying Evan and the tripod and his camera pack.  I was just envisioning one wrong move and Evan and Keith would go crashing off the face of this huge rock slide.  Again, it took us longer than expected to work our way up that rock slide and we finally got to where you could see the ledge where the kiva had to be and we were way too high for Keith to climb back down to his tripod.  So, I asked him to go on the last 200 feet alone as it was quite steep and Evan, McKenzie and I patiently waited right where we were.  Evan again was incredibly awesome staying so still for so long as I feared if he climbed around, he would slide and I would not be able to get to him as I had McKenzie.  

Keith climbed on, as it turned out, it was a good thing we did not proceed as it was steep and precarious, he got to the false kiva just at sunset for what would have been an awesome long exposure shot on the tripod, but instead, with no tripod, he bumped up the ISO to 6400 and hand held a 1/8 second shot.

He came back to join us and once again, we knew we had to high tail it out of there before dark.  

We did make it out of the amphitheater before it was pitch black, thank God as that was very tough hiking.  Then, there we were, basically on an unmarked trial in the pitch black Utah dessert.  I now know how those people get lost hiking in the night.  Our flashlights were not strong enough to light the way from cairn to cairn as the cairns were too far apart – in the daylight we had a hard enough time finding our way back there, at night we had no hope.  Thankfully, Keith has a little hand held GPS which he set a way point on the car before we left, so we knew where the car was in theory—getting there in the never ending gullies and canyons of Canyonlands was another matter all together.  We were doing ok for a while and found a few cairns until I looked down and to my horror realized we were on that macrobiotic soil.  I said “oh my God, Keith, it’s the macrobiotic soil—we are off the trial!”  

We tried hiking back to the last known cairn to no avail and that is when Keith got out the wonderful GPS.  However, remember, we had hiked down the road ½ mile before getting on the trail and the way point was the car.  Thus, we couldn’t exactly b-line to the waypoint of the car as there were several small canyons and huge clumps of scrub oak in the way.   We hiked for what seemed like hours, two flashlights ran out of battery, and we were down to our trusty LED keychain lights—that at least gave Keith a reason to get Evan’s flash light from him as Evan had been randomly flashing it straight in Keith’s face as he carried him.  

We kept consulting the GPS, hiking in the designated direction and then looking again and the GPS would send us what seemed like the opposite direction.  At one point, it showed we were .21 miles from the car and then suddenly we were .39 miles!!    It was so baffling.   At one point, my flashlight caught a water bottle on the ground and I got excited.  “Keith!”, I said, “We must be near the trail again, there’s a water bottle!.”  I looked again at the very familiar looking water bottle, looked over at Keith’s pack, and his was missing.  It had fallen out and we had hiked in a huge circle right back to it!  I was beginning to envision the morning news programs saying ‘What was that mother thinking taking a 2 month old and 3 year old into the Utah dessert at night!”  

It was at that point that Keith examined the GPS again and realized it was in ‘power saver mode’ which meant it only updated every two minutes, and in those two minutes in the pitch black night, we would get so far off course!   He switched it to constant update, we said “so sorry” to the macrobiotic soil and did the best b-line that we could (skirting the gullies and small canyons and huge bushes) back to the car.  Suddenly, both Keith and my flashlights hit this odd piece of metal and we both thought ‘what is that?” and at the same time, we blurted out in joy “a culvert!!” we had found the road!!!  I never thought I’d be so glad to see man’s footprint in nature.   We hiked up the steep ravine to the road and walked with joy the last 1/8 of a mile back to the 4runner.   Again, Evan was a trooper—he had hiked most of the way to the kiva and even hiked in the dark with us part of the way to give Keith a break in carrying him on the return journey.   I will also say, the star filled, moonless night sky was beautiful in the moments I allowed myself to enjoy it and not fret about being so lost!  I think of all of us, McKenzie enjoyed that sky the most.   She laid perfectly still in the sling for hours looking up at the stars.   We finally rolled into our b&b about 11pm that night having started on that hike around 4:30pm.  

The remainder of our journey was less eventful, over the course of about two ½ weeks, we visited, I think, eleven national parks and monuments, saw phenomenal works of nature, and enjoyed many more hikes—in the broad daylight!  No more sunset hikes for us on that trip!

« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 07:09:16 PM by RebeccaSnell »


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Re: Utah by day and NIGHT!
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2009, 02:59:27 PM »
Hello Rebecca, Spectacular scenery. Excellent images. I was particularly taken with the last two which convey the vastness of the landscape with the warmth of the available colour. Really good.  Well done. As my 13 year old has been growing I have taken him on numerous difficult bush walks and my heart has often been 'in my mouth'. Luckily..for him.. that 'innate' sense of fear has also kept him safe. Best Wishes Rod


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Re: Utah by day and NIGHT!
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2009, 11:54:18 PM »
Great to hear from you again.  All in all our trip to Utah, Grand Canyon and Nevada was awesome - wouldn't have changed a thing.  Even the night we were so lost in the dark, we were so blessed it was a fairly warm night and that thunderstorm did not come our way and we all stayed very calm and worked together to find our way back.  It was actually a wonderful family building evening!  I sure hope McKenzie and Evan have that 'innate' sense of fear as we want to continue to show them the world and as you know, there are so many natural and man made dangers out there, but I hope those never completely overshadow our desire to explore.   I know your summer is coming to a close - I hope you had some wonderful adventures and that you'll share some with us on the website.
Take care, Rebecca