Electric Light

Electric Light


Behind the Scenes of this Photo

Taken from a bluff overlooking the entrance to Neon Canyon near Escalante, Utah, on October 10, 2016.

In late 2016 my Hungarian friend Julia let me know she was planning another trip to the America Southwest. She’d lived in New York for six years and during her time there a yearly pilgrimage to Utah was a staple in her spiritual diet. And since I enjoy exploring southern Utah almost as much as my own beloved Sierra I leapt at the chance to head out there for 10 days of canyon goodness. Julia recommended we make a backpacking trip into one of the more famous canyons in the Escalante area, Neon Canyon, and having never been there I was happy to agree.

The hike in to the entrance of Neon canyon is fairly easy, if a little boring and exposed: five miles of trudging across sandy, rocky desert, followed by a startlingly quick descent down to the Escalante River. A thigh-deep ford of the river, followed by 50 feet of knee-deep, sucking mud, and you’re in the mouth of the canyon. Then the question becomes where to put your tent. After exploring a few bends up canyon we settled on a wonderful bluff a few hundred feet above the seasonal creek that has hollowed out the canyon.

From our campsite we could see a clear use trail leading to the top of the cliffs to the west so we wandered up that way and found a high perch with incredible views of the Escalante River to the west and Neon Canyon to the east. We spent the next day exploring Neon Canyon, which ends with a truly spectacular sandstone cathedral. As well as Ringtail Canyon, an extremely tight and narrow slot which at the time was chest-deep with frigid water. Brrrr.

On our final morning of the trip I woke up early and hustled up the use trail to the canyon rim. And although the day began with relatively few clouds in the sky they soon developed, and filled the heavens horizon to horizon with puffy, colorful goodness. I set up my camera low between two giant boulders and used a number of technical techniques (including focus stacking and exposure blending) to capture the beauty of the morning. All that was left to do was tear down camp and hike back out.

Check out these behind the scenes photos:

See more beautiful Escalante photos here.

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Racing Stripes

Zebra Canyon near the town of Escalante, Utah, on May 31st, 2011

Taken in Zebra Canyon near the town of Escalante, Utah, on May 31st, 2011

The slot canyons of southern Utah come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and textures. It is amazing how each canyon can be so different from the next, despite being separated by fairly small distances. While on a camping trip near the town of Escalante, I had the opportunity to visit a number of these wondrous slot canyons, some of them wide and ambling and orange, others tight and technical and purple. But my favorite by far was Zebra canyon, a narrow and twisting slot so named because of the gorgeous stripes that line the canyon walls.


Coyote Falls, Coyote Gulch

Coyote Falls, Coyote Gulch

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken in Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on May 28th, 2011

Call me impulsive, but sometimes I plan trips based only on a single photo of a place. The first time I did this I visited L’ile de la Reunion in the middle of the Indian Ocean, all because of an amazing photo by Yann Arthus Bertrand. More recently I decided to backpack through Coyote Gulch, Utah, thanks to a spectacular shot by Michael Anderson. The Gulch did not disappoint: soaring walls, massive amphitheaters, gigantic rock arches, and even a waterfall or two. Truly a southwest paradise.

One of the more unique backpacking trips I’ve done, the hike into Coyote Gulch brings back many fond memories when I think about it. Since I most frequently backpack in the Sierra Nevada I’m used to carrying a big pack, heavily laden with cold-weather clothing and gear, and the ever-annoying bear-proof food canisters required throughout bear country. But for this trip, the temperatures were forecast to be in the 70’s and 80’s. Goodbye cold weather gear! And there aren’t many pesky bears roaming around the Escalante canyon lands, so goodbye bear canister! That left me with just a tent, some food, and some camera gear: maybe 25 pounds of weight for a 3-day, 27-mile hike.

And what a wonderful hike it was: though the trail started out roaming across a hot, dry mesa, it quickly dropped into a gravelly wash. As I walked father and father down the wash, the soil at my feet became wetter and wetter. After a few miles the trail had simply become a shallow stream running across the silty sand. And though I tried to avoid getting my feet wet at first eventually I gave up and kicked my shoes off, slinging them across the back of my pack. And for the next 23-odd miles I hiked barefoot in 3″ of 75-degree water up and down Coyote Gulch.

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