Sunday, June 16, 2013

Canyoneering: Zion National Park

Mike Kehoe downclimbing in Spry Canyon, Zion National Park.
(Click images to view larger)

In some ways, Zion National Park is to canyoneering as Yosemite National Park is to climbing--the canyons' reputations precede them (Heaps!), gear is named after them (Imlay!), and canyoneers come from all over the world to sample them.  Cut into the Navajo Sandstone, with most ultimately draining into the Virgin River, the canyons are exceptionally beautiful, often wet, and frequently precipitous, dropping hundreds or more feet from plateau to river.  They can also be surprisingly cold, and canyoneers don full wetsuits or drysuits despite summertime temperatures of 100+ degrees.  Like green oases in the desert, the canyons support huge Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine trees, ferns, wildflowers, and communities of frogs than can hop up vertical rock.  It's a spectacular place.

A week ago six of us (myself, Jim Akers, Don Reyes, Steve Millard, Mike Kehoe, and Tom Bonnet) converged on Zion and spent six days enjoying six canyon outings, culminating in an 11.5-hour descent of the Imlay Sneak Route in low water condition (lots of pothole escapes).  

A selection of photos follow with links to Tom Jones' detailed canyon descriptions.  

[Tomorrow I leave for six weeks of travel--first to the East Coast for a few days, and then to Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, and Italy for five weeks.  I hope to post regularly while we're traveling.]

Cars are banned (mostly) in the main canyon, and shuttle buses provide convenient transport to and from adventures.  On our way to Echo Canyon.

Jim Akers, Echo Canyon.

Tom and Steve, cooling off after descending Pine Creek Canyon.  

Local resident in Pine Creek.

"The Death Gully," Mystery Canyon.

Rappel, Mystery Canyon.

Mike Kehoe, Mystery Canyon.

Tom Bonnet, Mystery Canyon.

Mike Kehoe and Steve Millard, setting up rappel from Mystery into the Virgin River narrows where an audience awaits our descent.

Mike Kehoe, Das Boot.

Steve Millard, Spry Canyon.

Don Reyes, Spry Canyon.

Steve Millard, preparing to hook out of a keeper hole in Imlay Canyon.

Mike Kehoe, hooking in Imlay.

Post-canyoneering refreshment, Watchman Campground.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Red Desert: Signs of Humans

Stock trough, Honeycomb Buttes, Red Desert.
(Click images to view larger)

I spent last weekend in the Red Desert with fellow photographer Ed Sherline.  We started in Rawlins where we met up with Christi Chapman, whose family ranched in the area when she was a kid.  Christi led us out to  a strange and obscure relic of human occupation--a large "mansion" build sometime in the last 50 years and then abandoned to weather, cows, vandals, and great horned owls.  From there we continued to the also abandoned but less mysterious Jawbone Ranch, named, according to Martin Stupich'es book on the Red Desert, because it was "financed on talk."  

Ed and I continued alone to the Honeycomb Buttes in the northern part of the Red Desert, a spectacular badland area, where we spent the remainder of the weekend until we emerged on South Pass and descended through spectacular wildflowers at the head of Red Canyon before heading for home.  

I'm leaving town today for the start of almost two months of travel, so I don't have time to say much more, but I want to post a few images before hitting the road.  I have many more, mostly of the natural appeal of the Honeycombs, but will focus here on random signs of humans in the desert, some easily explained and others weird as all get out.  

As I travel, I'll try to at least post photographs from time to time. 

The Red Desert "mansion," accessed only by obscure two-track roads.  

Sink in the mansion.

Murphy bed and peeling paint, Jawbone Ranch, Red Desert.

Jawbone Ranch.

Slow motion collapse, Jawbone Ranch.

Rusting culvert, Chain Lakes, Red Desert.

55-gallon drum (empty).  Honeycomb Buttes, Red Desert.

Railroad tie fence posts.  Honeycomb Buttes, Red Desert.

6-ounce Coca Cola bottle.  Red Desert.