Utah - Arizona Roadtrip
Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Returning back to Utah after having visited in summer of the 2020, this trip aimed to hit some of the giants in the list of national parks. In this early February trip, @margaretwroblewski had set up a few shoots along the way from Salt Lake City all the way to Sedona, Arizona. Its been a while, almost a year, between this trip and writing this post and while not getting into all the things that happened in 2021, it has become clear that Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. So I hope to begin writing more often again. Trips to Oregon and Ireland will be posts coming soon as I figured it is about time to put words to the visual documentation of these parts of my life.
I believe we booked flights no more than 30 days before the flight date. I don't recommend this for trips longer than just a weekend as it was tough to plan with only a month. Not impossible by any stretch, but sometimes planning doesn't get the priority it needs. The important thing is that you make it happen. I get a weird bit of stress buying plane tickets without having the whole trip worked out. And like most things, you don't know what will happen and you need to learn to make the best of things - I was wondering if I would hit my existential quota for this post.
This trip was planned with a lot of photography in mind as Margaret had shoots worked out for many of the locations. So even in the airport, we were talking about cameras, locations, and had a general excitement for our trip.
Here in the airport we got to the terminal with about an hour before our flight. I walked around the airport and took this photo.
Bonneville Salt Flats
Not missing a beat, we landed and immediately made haste to the salt flats where we had our first shoot. It is quite staggering every time I visit somewhere on earth that makes me feel like I am on a completely different planet, and here is yet another place. The ground is crystals and the wind sweeps across the plain. Cars go zooming past at high speeds kicking up a cloud behind them almost as if a land speeder from your favorite sci-fi film.
On either side of a lonely highway are massive concrete shelters in the small parking lots. It's the only architecture for miles. Driving on the salt isn't as smooth as one would think, so it's difficult to get up to higher speeds without the proper car and tires. But I believe we got up to around 70 before the salt ridges began to vibrate the car too much.
A note though about goin to the salt flats, make sure the sunset will be nice. I would imagine on an overcast day it'd be much harder to explore and enjoy. I would say this location is more weather dependent than most to see it in its beauty. On this day I did almost expect to look at the sunset and see two suns.
Here you can see the salt ridges much more clearly. You can also see the fog-like salt mist that fades the mountains.
Tibble Fork Reservoir
It is quite amazing have snow capped mountains within 20 minutes of the city. Washington D.C. has a great many accomodies but nearby frozen mountain lakes is not one. We had a minor crisis when the night before a sunrise shoot, we were concerned that road to the reservoir was snowed over or icy jeopardizing access. Thankfully, we found a live cam the night before showing the roads and while there were snow banks along the route but it was still clear enough to drive.
An ice fisherman sets up his tent on the frozen and snow covered lake.
This is tucked in the woods near the lake and next to the stream. The couple was super for being in such cold conditions in their outfits.
Perhaps my favorite shot at the reservoir.
Deer Creek Reservoir & Park City
After Tibble Fork, we drove through the mountains just to enjoy the scenery. We came across Deer Creek Reservoir. A large lake that was half-frozen, half not. I saw several people in the middle fishing and hanging out. Having never walked on a frozen lake, I wanted to explore. After fixing the park ranger's computer, they gave us free parking and we jumped onto the frozen ice.
This is shot on Rollei Chrome CR 200 from the middle of the lake. Quite uneasing to have loud cracking sounds with each step. Especially since some places were significantly thinner than others.
Park City would have been amazing if we were in Utah for skiing and if covid wasn't around. Many of the restaurants and stores I think weren't quite back to normal. One of the points allowed you to ski right into the town as it was sort of integrated with the slopes. There was also a place that has built a large Ice Castle that was unfortunately closed that day that we went to go visit and would recommend.
We stayed in this quite small town along our route toward Arizona. Once again, a beautiful drive. We would only stay the night here in a overpriced tiny house airbnb, but I have to admit it was beautiul here. Definitely a different life here.
Gifted with another amazing sunset.
I don't know what else to say. It's not a great image per, but this capture the mood and feeling we had that evening.
This was one of my photos I happen to be more proud of. I just happen to see this on a farm as we were driving by. Many times on a road trip I will see something I want to take a picture of and I can't stop every time. Sometimes the image isn't as I imagined, sometimes I don't or can't stop and I regret not getting the image. Here I knew I'd regret not getting this one.
I think Bryce Canyon was the place we suffered the most from our 30 days of planning. There were many hikes here and I had researched one specifically but we had not anticipated it being snowed over and icy. We felt our hiking boots weren't ept to hike down the canyon without spikes. I've been to Moab twice and seen a decent amount of red rock, however, here with the canyon being laiden with snow, it was definitely a breath taking sight.
Taken from one of the many viewpoints along a flat trail at the top of the canyon.
Here you can see that below where the hike I wished to do was just a bit too snowed over to attempt without spikes.
Another goliath of the range of National Parks, Zion was truly awe-inspiring. I had wished to do the esteemed Angel's Landing hike, however, with time and a few other constraints, we decided to do some of the other hikes. The Narrows was also too cold to walk in November. I will definitely try to come back here to do both of those.
Taken while hiking to Upper Emerald Pool. I would also recommend the Overlook Hike if you're looking for a view from a shorter hike.
Horseshoe Bend - Grand Canyon
I am choosing not to post any photos taken from these as there are a wide breadth of photos from these major landmarks. Horseshoe bend is an easy 1/3 mile hike to the viewpoint. It was so massive that my 35mm couldn't capture it all. I didn't get any good photos from there. I would recommend a 24 or even an 18mm. As for Grand Canyon, it is truly a wonder of nature. Again, due to the schedule we were on we didn't get to hike down to the bottom (roughly a 9 mile minimum hike depending on what route you take). I am pretty sure you could spend a full weeks vacation just exploring the Grand Canyon. There's a lot of history there. I think a rafting trip through the canyon would be the ultimate experience.
For those of us in DMV, I think the best way to describe Sedona is that it's the Shenandoah of Arizona. There were several hikes nearby and some amazing landscape. Alas, there was nothing on the scale of Zion or the Grand Canyon. However, it's significantly less crowded than the two giants and still offers the backyard adventure you're looking for. We hiked Cathedral Rock and Devil's Bridge. There are also some "secret" caves that are insanely adventurous.
This camper van with foreign plates caught my eye. Absolutely posh.
Near the town of Sedona at Encinoso Picnic Site.
Small towns, like Beaver, to perhaps the most famous national landmark, this trip was jammed packed. Probably too much so. Not to mention, this trip would have highly benefited from better planning. Im learning to optimize my planning and tailor it to what I look to get out of a trip. Nevertheless, in the cold month of February, it was a heartfelt adventure that I'm glad I took despite not having all the answers.