Day 1: On the Way to Utah

Image: tafoni

As the time approached 2 a.m. on November 9th, 2008, the moon slowly settled behind the silhouetted peak of Mount Logan as perfect darkness engulfed the nighttime sky. After all day anticipating and packing for a long day of driving, we left our little sanctuary nestled in the Colorado mountains. We loaded our camping and cooking equipment, clothing, food, and our “ship’s” cat into the Mercury Villager minivan and headed out on our photography expedition traveling narrow winding roads to reach the primary highway that would send us southwestward with a sense of liberation and oneness with nature.

The drive to Utah was not a matter of direct travel. The fastest way to get to I-70 was through Denver which meant we’d drive east before heading west. A little past 3:00 a.m., and about 47 miles of detour, we were on the interstate cruising west to our first destination state. After cruising a while in Utah, we decided to exit at milepost 214 and travel southwest on highway 128 toward Moab. Our first photographic encounter was at the old and unfortunate Dewey Bridge.

Image: map to Dewey Bridge

The bridge had been destroyed by a fire ignited by a 6-year-old child at a campsite sometime after May 2006. This had been an historic suspension bridge that spanned the Colorado River. The deck had been constructed of timbers and was just a bit wider than an automobile. Driving across the bridge was an unnerving experience. This bridge, however, was the only means of crossing the river for several decades. The locals used it daily.

The bridge was replaced in the 1990s with a two-lane concrete and steel structure. My archived photo of the bridge from our 2006 expedition for a comparison of what it looked like then and what it is now.

Image: Dewey Bridge after the fire
Another view of Dewey Bridge. There are no definite plans to restore the historic site.

Professor Valley

Fisher Towers & Mount Peale

Image: map of Fisher Towers

We continued our trek through the red-colored canyons and mesas of Professor Valley. This rugged landscape has been carved for millennia by the sinuous winding of the Colorado River and its tributaries. Life here is difficult for the flora and fauna. The denizens include prairie dogs, coyotes, foxes, mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep. The river is the lifeline to most creatures as rainfall is scant. But in this arid environment, the river and winds carve sheer cliffs and intricate patterns out of the landscape.

Image: standing on red boulder
Climbing up for a better view.
Image: Professor Valley, Fisher Towers, and Mount Peal in the background.
View from the big boulder.
Image: Professor Valley, Fisher Tower, Mt. Peal.
Landscape photograph of Professor Valley on Fisher Tower Road. The snow-covered peak of Mt. Peale looms in the background.

Tafoni Formation

We climbed back into the car and drove for a little longer. We decided to pull over at a very interesting place. We saw this strange rock structure that intrigued us. He called me to show this very orderly erosion pattern on a sandstone surface. We studied the rock pattern for a long time trying to figure out how the formation occurred. This was the first time we saw something like that.

Image: Tafoni formation
Image: Tafoni formation
Tafoni close-up

The two photos above are examples of tafoni formations in an arid environment. Tafoni is a word of Italian origin meaning cavern. In this case, the small structures demonstrate alveolar weathering. These intricate patterns result from the different erosion rates of the harder and softer regions within the sandstone. The harder regions with more calcium stay cemented together, while the softer regions with less calcium erode away. In these beautiful examples, tafoni range from 3 to 5 cm in diameter. They resemble a fossilized sponge or coral.

Split Rock

Image: Split boulder
Split boulder

Blue Holly

Image: Blue holly

This blue holly was located near the “split rock”. To date, we have not been able to identify the species.

Image: Blue holly

Continuing South on Hwy 128

Image: map of Perriott Mesa

After a welcome break, we got back in the minivan to continue southwest along Castle Creek.

We pulled to the shoulder of the road to take this Autumn landscape view of Perriott Mesa overlooking a small sandbar near Castle Creek. To the lower right is a rubber rabbit brush.

Image: Perriott Mesa, Castle Creek
Perriott Mesa

We passed Moab and continued slowly towards Potash and Dead Horse Canyon. In the first segment, we drove along a very smooth, high overhanging cliff. We pulled over on the shoulder to take some pictures. These cliffs are a favorite “hangout” for rappellers (no pun intended).

Image: Cliff along Castle Creek
Along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah. This shot is looking back at the smooth sandstone cliff. The photo was taken with a fisheye (10.5 mm) lens.
Image: Sandstone cliff
Straight view of the cliff. A fisheye lens was used.
Image: Intrepid Potash facility
Passing the facility of Intrepid Potash near Moab, Utah

Balancing Rock

Image: Balancing the rock
From nowhere a large rounded boulder tumbled towards the road. We leaped from the minivan to circumvent a tragic ending to our journey. Well… Ya never know :).
Image: Wedged minivan.
The minivan was saved. But it looks wedged now.

Dead Horse Canyon

We finally reached our destination for the day, the Dead Horse Canyon. We will wander about the area for a few days and explore the heights and depths and all the recesses.

Image: Map to Dead Horse Canyon

The views are breathtaking…

Image: Dead Horse Canyon near Moab, UT
Dead Horse Canyon near Moab, UT.

… and the paths are dangerous.

Image: Chasm at the Dead Horse Canyon.

We parked our minivan along the edge of the canyon to get out and enjoy a much-needed stretch after a long day of driving.

Image: Our minivan on the edge

We set up our folding table to make a hot meal for us and a nice munchie for the kitty.

Image: Dinner at the canyon

After the meal, we went for a walk to embrace the beauty of the Utah landscape.

Image: Dead Horse Canyon near Moab, UT.
Dead Horse Canyon near Moab, UT.

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