Astrophotography is one of my favorite forms of of photography while traveling. Utah offers some amazing dark skies and I was lucky enough to be passing through during a new moon.
Exploring the Moab, Utah area, one of the most beautiful parts of Utah I've seen. Moab is positioned between Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
One of the best kept secrets of southern Utah, The Wave in Coyote Buttes North is probably the most amazing hike I have ever done. This location first gained broad recognition through being featured as a background photo on one of the major computer operating systems.
The Bureau of Land Management, who has responsibility for this area that straddles the Utah/Arizona border, limits the number of hikers who have access to The Wave on any given day. A total of 20 hikers per day are allowed entry. 10 are decided by online lottery up to 6 months in advance. The other 10 spots are decided the day before the permit is valid through an in-person lottery at the Bureau of Land management office in Kanab, UT.
I knew about this hike in advance of my trip through southern Utah, and planned to attend the lottery. What I did not expect was the reality of 164 other people also showing up to the in person lottery. I was shocked and elated to be selected for a permit, much to the chagrin of the woman next to me who had been trying for 9 consecutive days to win a permit.
Starting hike, I met two others who were also headed out to The Wave, Krista and Connor. They were traveling from Vancouver, BC. and generously shared the hike with me. Maps provided by the BLM are photo maps, as in "Look for this formation [picture] then hike to it by staying on the upper slope. When you reach that formation, look for this next formation [picture]."
The BLM staff provide numerous warnings about bringing sufficient water for the hike. It takes roughly 2-2.5 hours to hike out to The Wave through sere desert landscape over rock that reflects the sun and heat right back at you. There is little to no shade throughout the hike.
While the landscape between the trailhead and The Wave was gorgeous, nothing really prepares you for how other worldly the wave formation itself is.
The variety of the shapes and color of the strata are seemingly endless.
Exploring beyond the Wave formation brings you to Second Wave, seen below.
Bureau of Land Management posts a ranger in the wave to check permits and ensure hikers make it out without issue. Hikers without permits can be fined $10,000, a strong deterrent to 'bandit' the hike. Not a bad office scene if you ask me.
Hiking Zion National Park's The Narrows is a not-to-be-missed adventure.
Hikers follow the course of the Virgin River as it winds through a massive slot canyon at the north end of Zion Canyon. For a majority of the hike, hikers are ankle to waist deep in the river itself.
Given how crowded the canyon was, I opted to go long exposure for my photography for two reasons. One is that it would be beautiful to slow down the water and get the milky flow of the rapids over time. The other, more beneficial side effects of going slow it that it eliminates the people hiking the canyon. The shots where the water is smoothed out are with a 10-stop neutral density filter on the front of my lens, allowing me to expose for 2 minutes at a time, even in the middle of the day. At that duration, people move through the scene without showing up in the picture, unless they stop and wait for more than 15-20 seconds
The scale of the canyon was breathtaking and made me give new respect to the erosion power of water over time.
Mt. Storm King is a short but very intense hike to an overlook featuring a stunning view of Lake Crescent. Kate, Jess and I took it on after staying at the base of the mountain in Lake Crescent Lodge.
The elevation gain is approximately 2400 feet gain over a mile or so of hiking, aka thigh busting, pulse pounding, "I think I'm having a heart attack" strenuous.
3/4 of the way up the mountain, the switchbacks end and you're confronted with the notification that the official trail ends. We didn't let it stop us.
The unmaintained trail is quite challenging. No clear path, extremely steep with loose gravel and support ropes kindly provided by other hikers. The view at the top was totally worth it.
I visited Olympic National Park and was blown away by how beautiful and varied the park is. There are three sections to the park, beaches, rainforests, and alpine wilderness.
The Olympic national park beaches are classic pacific northwest. Filled with giant piles of driftwood trees, they feature the classic sea stack rock formations, tide pools filled with Sea anemones, starfish and other sea life and the nearly ever present fog.