Epic Photography Trip – Southern Utah

I recently went on a photography trip of a lifetime. I traveled over 2000 miles in 10 days. I drove from Albuquerque to Northern Arizona and then up into Southern Utah. I drove the entire circle around the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and saw several National Parks and took many beautiful hikes.

As I drove into Northern Arizona, I came across a gorgeous field of yellow flowers. It was so beautiful that I just had to stop for photos.

Field of gold near Window Rock, Arizona

My next stop was to let Scarlett stretch her legs. I stopped at the top of a sandstone mesa. There have been a lot of monsoon rains and they have filled up all the low spots on the mesa. Scarlett had a great time running through the pools.

Scarlett playing in the monsoon pools

I thought I saw some movement in one of the pools. When I looked more closely, I saw these creepy creatures swimming around. They were around 2 inches long and were very fast! I had to look them up to find out what they were. They are a unique creature that can lay eggs that can stay dormant for a long time until the rains fill their pools. Then they live for 90 days which is just enough to breed. It’s a fresh water crustacean with three eyes!


Coming down from the mesa, I came into the big valley near Monument Valley. The view is just so “Arizona”!

I eventually made it to Kanab, Utah. There I met up with Seth Hamel of Enlighten Photography Excursions. Seth was an awesome tour guide. I signed up for his Utah Milky Way Photography Workshop. I recently upgraded all of my camera equipment so I could start learning astrophotography.

Before meeting up with the tour group, I had time to do a couple of hikes. My first hike was in Zion National Park. I hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail. I started at sunrise. The trail was fun to hike. You climbed along the edge of the canyon with a long drop off.

Handrail to keep you safe from the deep canyon drop
Kelly and Scarlett enjoying the hike
Stone steps
Sketchy bridge – Scarlett wasn’t too sure of this bridge

At the end of the trail, the view of the deep canyon was spectacular! You hike up a steep rock incline and then you look down and say “wow”!

The view at the end of Canyon Overlook Trail

My second hike was Kannarra Creek Falls. I had wanted to do this hike for some time after seeing photos online. It didn’t disappoint! You actually hike in the creek through a slot canyon to several waterfalls.

You can see how deep the slot canyon is by how small Scarlett looks

The entire hike was so wonderful. Every bend was more beautiful than the last.

The light was wonderful
Great little waterfalls

I made it to the first waterfall. So beautiful!

First waterfall of the trail
Steep stairs

I wanted to climb the ladder and go further upstream, but Scarlett was too scared of the loud waterfall and open stairs. They were pretty steep and I was afraid that if she made it up the stairs, she wouldn’t be able to go back down. So we turned around at this point.

That evening I met up with the tour group. Our first stop was a sunset shoot on a mesa west of Zion. The geology of this area was very unique.

View of West Zion
The geology here was so unique and stunning

Once the sun set, we went into Zion and took some night photos. I was so pleased with how my new camera equipment performed. It did way better than my old setup.

I loved this bonsai pine tree
A path looking toward one of the main peaks of Zion

Seth had fun light painting “Zion” for us to photograph. He had to write backwards and had to do it within 20 seconds because that was our length of exposure. He did a great job!

Seth light painting for us

The next day I drove up to Bryce Canyon National Park. One of the highlights of the drive was through a cool tunnel in the red canyon area.

Red Canyon Tunnel

I’d never been to Bryce Canyon before so I was really excited to see it. It did not disappoint! I stayed at the lodge right inside Bryce Canyon. It was great to step outside my room and see the spectacular view!

We hiked down one of the many trails at Bryce. Then we stopped several times on our way back up the trail to take photos. My favorite location was at a pine tree with really cool roots.

I loved the toots of this pine tree

Seth was nice enough to take photos of each of us with our camera. It was fun getting a selfie of me.

Selfie at Bryce

I got up before sunrise to set up my camera for sunrise photos at Bryce Canyon. I went to Sunrise Point to take my photos. I thought it was strange that I didn’t see anyone else from my group or any other professional photographers setting up at this location. I found out later that everyone goes to Inspiration Point. I visited Inspiration Point later in the day and I didn’t care for the formations there. I am glad I messed up and went to Sunrise Point instead!

Blue hour at Bryce
Golden hour at Bryce. I love how the golden light highlighted the rock spires. Stunning!

Our last outing with the tour was to White Pocket in Northern Arizona. This location has been top on my bucket list of places to visit for some time!

The drive to White Pocket is several hours long on a very rough 4WD road. But it was worth the bouncy ride! I wish we had had more time to explore there. I want to go back!

We got there about 2 hours before sunset. I had a blast walking around this unique landscape.

The iconic “Lone Pine” tree that everyone who visits must photograph
Such crazy geology!
Scarlett really enjoyed exploring this place
I loved this swirl formation
Just amazing!
The scale is hard to see in this photo. These boulders were the size of small cars!

After sunset, we set up a couple different places for our milky way photos. I loved photographing this location!

I love how the Milky Way looks like it’s erupting from this rock formation
Swirls of cinnamon

The next day I drove to Escalante, Utah. I stayed at a fantastic place! It’s called Yonder Escalante. You stay in your own private cabin. They have a common area with couches and firepits. I met so many wonderful people hanging out there. They also have a drive in theater and you sit in old classic cars. So cool! I also enjoyed their wonderful pool and hot tub!

My cabin at Yonder Escalante
Drive in theater
The fabulous common area. You can see it’s raining hard while I sat here.

They even come to your cabin to light your own personal firepit to make s’mores!


While staying at Escalante I got to hike another trail on my bucket list: Lower Calf Creek Falls. It was a nice little hike along Calf Creek.

Calf creek

The falls were fabulous!

Lower Calf Creek Falls – 130 feet tall

On my last couple of days, I finished driving the loop. Part of the drive was through Capitol Reef National Park. What a beautiful place! I wish I had time to do a hike in this area, but my trip was coming to a close. Plus, it was just the wrong time of year to hike this area. It was really warm and there isn’t any shade on these trails.

Capitol Reef National Park

I did stop at a roadside trail that had a boardwalk along a tall rock wall with petroglyphs.


The last part of the drive was from Escalante to Bluff, Utah (right in the southeast corner of Utah). I had no idea that this drive was the prettiest scenery of the whole trip!

First you drive through some badlands with unique rock colors.


Then you enter a deep canyon of gorgeous red walls, with a running creek next to the road and a very steep downhill grade of 14%. I loved it!

I loved these trees backed by the creek and canyon walls

You eventually come out at the eastern end of Lake Powell where the Colorado River feeds into it. An amazing drive!

Colorado River heading towards Lake Powell
Bridge over the Colorado River
Bridge over the Colorado River

After crossing this bridge, I came to an area of the river that had large goosenecks. Stunning!

Goosenecks of the Colorado River

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my epic photography tour of Southern Utah!

My Blog’s 4th Annivery and Scarlett’s 4th Birthday

It’s been awhile since I last posted on my blog. I apologize for that. I have had terrible internet connection for months now. No fun writing and uploading photos when it takes you hours to do anything.

But I finally have fast internet at home so it’s time to start blogging again.

In March I celebrated my blog’s 4th anniversary and Scarlett’s 4th birthday!

To celebrate I decided to take the 4-hour drive to Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area. I have seen photos of this place for years and have always wanted to see it.

I left the house at 5 am so I could get there close to sunrise. On my way I had to stop and take a photo of the moon setting over Cabezon Peak. The blue hour light was beautiful.

Moon setting over Cabezon Peak

It took me quite a while to find the right place to park to see a particular hoodoo in the vast wilderness area. Try as I might there’s really not much information on the internet about this area. So it took turning up and down a few faint dirt roads to find the right spot.

Finally I was positive I was in the right spot. I was searching for the Alien Throne rock formation. It is very unique and difficult to find. Which is probably a good thing because it seems very fragile.

Scarlett and I started walking out into the middle of nowhere heading toward some hoodoos about 3 miles away. The first cluster of hoodoos we came across wasn’t very large but were unique.

Small hoodoos to begin with

We then wandered to the next cluster. It was a little larger. I especially liked one formation that looked like an angel with its wings spread.

Angel rock formation in upper left

I realized we still had further to go. Scarlett ran ahead enjoying the morning hike.

Scarlett running ahead to the main area of hoodoo formations

I finally made it to the main hoodoo area. It was quite large. I enjoyed walking around all the crevices and ravines looking at all the uniquely shaped rocks.

Big piece of petrified wood in the foreground
Beautiful hoodoo sculptures

After about a hour of searching I finally found the Alien Throne. You can see it is quite unique. It’s about 12 feet high and very fragile. It might stand for another 100 years or it might topple in the next 100 days. Sadly by the time I located this rock formation it was almost high noon. So I didn’t get very good photos of this area.

Alien Throne

I wandered around here for about another hour then headed back to the car. On the way back the sun had finally lowered some in the sky and the clouds were becoming more interesting.

The photo conditions were improving

By now I had been hiking for about 4 hours. All of a sudden I see Scarlett crazily digging in the sand and barking. I was wondering what the heck was going on.

Scarlett started barking and digging

I soon realized that she sensed cool wet sand just under the surface. I guess she had gotten pretty warm hiking all that time.

Finally getting down to the wet sand

After she exposed a big enough area, she lay down on that cool wet sand. She was happy as could be even with a nose full of sand. Silly Scarlett!

Silly Scarlett!!!

I finally talked her into continuing on to the car. Next thing I now she’s all barking happily and playing with something pretty big. When I got closer I saw she had a big cow bone. Silly Scarlett indeed!!!

Scarlett was thrilled finding this old cow bone.
She wanted to just stay there and chew on it.
Scarlett thought she was going to take that prize home…after all it was her birthday!

Once back at the car I decided to check out another area of hoodoos nearby. When I first came upon the hoodoos it was breathtaking. Hoodoos as far as the eye can see. Even Scarlett had to stop and take in the view.

Scarlett and I couldn’t believe the view!

I made by way down into the arroyo to explore all the side canyons. By now the sun had lowered in the sky and some clouds had rolled in. It made for some better photography conditions.

Hoodoos everywhere!
Beautiful skies!

With the better lighting the side canyons photographed beautifully!

My pretty girl!

After hiking a couple of hours, Scarlett and I were tired. I had planned to stay until sunset to get some pretty photos of sunset and blue hour. But by this time I had hiked 12 miles. I was tired and it was still 1.5 hours until sunset. I realized I shouldn’t have gotten up early to go out there. I would have been much better off leaving mid-day.

While sitting in my car deciding if I wanted to stay until sunset, I saw a herd of horses coming towards me. Of course, I just had to get out and take photos of them! I love photographing horses. These guys were pretty wild so weren’t too cooperative for photos. But I still enjoyed seeing them.

I loved this photo
Navajo Horses

I finally decided I wasn’t willing to stay for sunset. The sky just didn’t look like it was going to be worth staying. The clouds seems to be getting too overcast.

About an hour into my drive home, I noticed the sun setting and decided to pull off and take a photo.

As I stood there watching the sun set, I realized it was actually going to be a spectacular shot.


Believe me, by the time the sun set I was was crying about all the wonderful photos I could have gotten at the hoodoos with that beautiful sky in the background. 🙁

The sky was on fire!

But overall Scarlett and I had a fun day exploring. She definitely enjoyed her birthday outing. And she got to sleep the whole way home!

Bisti Badlands – Day 2 of 2

Day 2 at the Bisti started out threatening winter weather. The morning was cloudy but calm. The forecast called for 45 mph winds starting around noon. Fortunately, we got a very early start.

After taking photographs in the sunshine the day before, the Bisti looked completely different in overcast weather. The main thing I noticed about taking photos on this day was the lack of shadows. This is actually a good thing in the Bisti. On a sunny day, you have to deal with the sun shining on light rock surfaces with deep shadows. It’s tricky taking a good photo in these conditions. But with the absence of bright light and deep shadows, I was able to get some really good shots with minimal effort.

We hiked a different area of the Bisti on Day 2. We parked several miles north of the main parking area. We still paralleled the main arroyo, but we were on the very northern edge of the Bisti. Lots of hidden treasures on this hike.

There is one hoodoo (shown below) that actually saved the Bisti Badlands from the ruin of coal strip mining. In 1982 author/photographer Michael Richie published an article for Sierra Magazine of the Bisti Badlands. The main photo of his article (much like mine) caught the attention of a nationwide audience. This eventually led to our Congress designating the Bisti Badlands as wilderness area in 1985. Saving this unique and beautiful landscape for generations to enjoy.


The small hoodoo on the left is what saved the Bisti for all of us to enjoy

We headed up a large arroyo and started climbing up the mesa. The views really started opening up.


I loved the red boulders in the foreground with that amazing hoodoo in the background

You could really appreciate the magnitude of this area. Beauty as far as the eye could see.



The further we hiked, the more beautiful the scenery became. I took so many photos. Each one more lovely than the last.




We explored the mesa for awhile enjoying the wondrous views. Since it was just Jim and I, I told him to get his camera out and take photos with me. The conditions were so nice for photography that he couldn’t resist.


Jim and Scarlett enjoying opposite views 🙂

We were slowly heading toward a popular photo destination: the stone wings. These are unique hoodoos. I have wanted to see these formations for a long time. It was so rewarding to get to photograph it myself.


Stone wings


This wing is delicately connecting two hoodoos


The king of wings

From the stone wings we headed to a very colorful location. Along the way I came across this unique hoodoo. It amazes me that a large boulder can delicately balance on top of fragile sands.


The pedestal under this hoodoo was hollow. Amazing!

We then reached an area that was full of short hoodoos known as mushroom hoodoos. Just fabulous!!!


I just loved walking through this maze of mushroom hoodoos

We finally reached the colorful mesa. It was so wondrous. So many colors. It was a stunning landscape. I took a bunch of photos. Here are my favorites from that area.


Such rich, contrasting colors




I loved the black transitioning to yellow


The black turned to yellow and then the yellow turned to red.

We decided to explore this area further. Jim hadn’t gone past this area before, so it was fun for him to explore as well as me and Scarlett. We came across another “wing” formation that I really loved.


I loved this stone wing

We found an arroyo that led to some more hoodoos and other unique formations.


Jim and Scarlett scouting ahead.


Just wonderful!


We had lunch here and enjoyed the gorgeous views. Scarlett was having so much fun, I couldn’t get her to relax even while we had lunch.


Scarlett is telling me she wants to keep going!

We decided to head to an area that Jim hadn’t explored before. It was supposed to have a formation called a Dodo Bird. Well, we weren’t sure what the Dodo Bird formation was supposed to look like, but we think this was it. Can you see it??


Dodo Bird formation

But! Just around the corner from the Dodo Bird formation was a totally awesome formation. The Twin Bonnets. Just gorgeous!


Jim gives you an idea of the scale of these delicate formations.


Twin Bonnets

We spent some time here photographing this fabulous formation. Scarlett was finally getting tired. She rested while we enjoyed the formations.


Scarlett was finally getting tired.

While at the Twin Bonnets, the bad weather decided to come in all at once. The breeze immediately went from about 5 mph to 45 mph. Yikes! We decided it was time to head back.

Even though the weather conditions were deteriorating, I just couldn’t stop exploring and taking photos as we headed back to the car. We were about 2 miles from the car, so there were still lots of photo opportunities. 🙂


We came across some giant stumps of petrified wood. They were amazing in the amount of detail that was preserved.


Giant petrified wood stumps

Here’s a couple of closeups of the stumps. I was fascinated by the detail that was preserved and the beautiful blue lichen.


Fine roots were perfectly preserved


I loved this blue lichen

All too soon we were almost back to the car. I had a wonderful two days in the Bisti. I hope you enjoyed my photo tour. I can’t wait to go back again some day!


Bisti Badlands – Day 1 of 2

I’ve been working on the photos for this post for several months now. Last November my husband got me a guided photography tour to the Bisti Badlands for my birthday. I used Jim Caffrey who has High Desert Photo Tours. I highly recommend him. He was fun, informative, patient and knowledgeable.

I went for 2 days and hiked about 17 miles total. For those of you not familiar with the Bisti Badlands, it is a vast area of 45,000 acres in the northwest portion of New Mexico. It was established in 1984 as a wilderness area to preserve the desolate beauty of New Mexico geology at its finest.

Because this area is so vast, you could spend days wandering and not really see many of the formations this area is known for. You could also get completely turned around and be in serious trouble if you lose your way. So having a guide like Jim was the best way to see this natural beauty. He has given tours here for years and took me directly to all the cool places with minimal energy expended.

I took over 5,000 photos during my two-day adventure. So you can imagine it took me months to cull and then edit my photos. Because the formations are so unique, I found I took several shots of the same thing. Trying to see if different angles looked better. Whew! It was a job narrowing down my choices. So get ready to see a lot of photos!

So here’s a rundown of Day 1 of my two-day hike in the Bisti Badlands.

Day 1 – a beautiful sunny day with a few wispy clouds. We headed up the main gulch from the designated parking area. Think of the main gulch as your interstate to the badlands. It can get you where you need to go, but there’s nothing interesting on it. You have to venture off the main trail to see the goodies.

This was the first image I took that day. I was in heaven from the first image to the last.


A hoodoo is a harder rock balanced upon the softer rock underneath. The wind and rain erodes the softer rock faster which creates a hoodoo.

We wound our way up and over a hill to an area filled with hoodoos. Jim said this was in a way a nursery of newborn hoodoos. And it was! The hoodoos were young and just being formed from the side of the wash.


Hoodoo nursery


You can see how the young hoodoos are just starting to erode out


Such a fascinating landscape!

From there we headed further east paralleling the main wash. We came across an area that had several “wings”. They are called wings because the rock has eroded in such a fashion that it is delicate and looks like an open wing.


Wings in the making.


A hoodoo “wing”. This one was about 2 feet long and only a couple feet off the ground. I had to get way down low to take this pic.


Sadly this wing has succumbed to the ravages of time.

We eventually came across a formation that looked more like adolescents in age. It is interesting that these formations were all grouped in a clump away from anything else. If you didn’t know they were there, you could easily miss them.


Further along we meandered to an area that had some formations that looked like dinosaur bones scattered. These rocks were huge. So beautiful. I had a hard time capturing them in a photo that did them justice.


I loved how the red plant mimicked the red mesa.


I thought these rocks looked like dinosaur bones.


Ok…I think this totally looks like a dragon!!!

We eventually made it to the “egg garden”. This area is called such because the rock formations look like dinosaur eggs. Who knows!?! They just might be!! Sadly, these “eggs” used to be much more beautiful. Over time they had oxidized and gotten a beautiful dark patina to them. But within the last couple of hears, a hail storm had come through and knocked off most of the patina. It will probably take a few hundred more years to get it back. But I still thought they were beautiful.


Egg garden


A broken egg


You can see the patina well in this photo

Heading further east from the egg garden, we came across an area with petrified wood. Now it wasn’t just small pieces here and there. I’m talking entire trees!!!


Petrified tree

From here we entered an area that Jim call “hoodoo overload”. They were everywhere! I just loved it! It was easy to spend a lot of time in this area.


This was one of my favorite photos. I love the moodiness of it.


Jim, my guide


Stunning landscape


It’s almost otherworldly


This one will definitely slide off eventually


Scarlett had a blast! I made her carry all of our water but it didn’t slow her down much!


I loved the red rocks scattered among the formations.

There was more petrified wood in this area too. The wood was preserved so well that you could see all the texture. It looked like wood, not rock. Amazing!


This petrified wood turned into a hoodoo and is slowly breaking into pieces


I found it fascinating that the petrified wood looked like real wood. I had to touch it several times to make sure it truly was rock.


Just unique!

From here we headed back to the car down the main wash. There was one place along the wash that had an interesting formation. The rock had so much iron it looked very rusty.


Window rock formation

I had a great Day 1. Next time Day 2! A whole completely different area and views!

La Lena WSA: Emperado Ridge / Continental Divide Hike

Yesterday I went on my first group hike with a Meetup Group called WOW WE (Way Out West – Westside Explorers).  There were 12 of us on this hike including our fearless leader Woody.  I took Scarlett along and she had a blast.

We started our hike in the middle of nowhere about a 1.5 hours west of Albuquerque.  We drove to the top of a mesa.  After hiking about a 1/2 mile, we came to the edge of the mesa.  The views were expansive.  Just beautiful!


Cabezon Peak on the left


You could see for miles!


Kelly and Scarlett

We hiked along the mesa for about a mile enjoying the beautiful vistas.


Our fearless leader Woody.  We would be climbing down from this point to the valley you see below.


Soon we started heading down to the valley below.  That’s when the interesting geology started showing up.  I loved all the different colors in the layers of the rock.


I loved the shape of this dead tree


We ate lunch in this patch of white rock.  Unique shapes were found all around.

We started seeing our first Hoodoos in the white rock area.  I love Hoodoos!


Scarlett found a patch of shade.  Not much to be found on this hike. LOL!


We left the white rock area and headed into the valley below.


Once in the valley we passed so much interesting geology.  Everywhere I looked, the colors and shapes were so beautiful.


You can see the white rock patch in the distance where we had lunch.


Scarlett had a great time exploring all the ups and downs of the trail.


At one point we had to scramble down a boulder filled crevice.  It was a little scary but thankfully Woody helped me navigate the most scary part.


Scariest part of the hike.  Thankfully Woody helped me navigate this part.

Soon the mesa was towering over us.  We wound our way from one interesting rock patch to another.


We came across a patch of small Hoodoos called mushrooms.


Hoodoo Mushrooms


The winds create interesting shapes in the rocks.  I like the little shape in the lower left that looks like a puppy.

After hiking for about another mile, we came to a very large area of Hoodoos and other interesting rock formations.  It was a lot of fun exploring this area.  We stayed here quite a while since there was so much to see.


So many Hoodoos and colors!


Interesting layers of the rock


Giant pieces of petrified wood


So beautiful!


“Delfido Moralez 1938” inscription

Finally we were on the last leg of the hike.  We continued hiking along the bottom of the mesa and connected with the Continental Divide trail.  This trail is 1,300 miles long and runs from Mexico up to Canada.  For those of you that don’t know what the Continental Divide is:

“A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea and the basin on the other side feeds into a different ocean or sea.”

Thankfully this part of the hike was level and easy.  By this point I had hiked over 6 miles.  Whew!  I think Scarlett had hiked twice that.  She loved that there were lots of folks hiking together.  She would run way ahead to those in front of me then come running back to me.


Navigating the Continental Divide trail between pastures.  You can see the “CD” sign on the post.



The last leg of the hike was the only uphill part of the climb.  It was short but fairly steep.  I was pretty tired by this point, but made it up fairly well.


The uphill climb to the top of the mesa

Once back on top of the mesa, it was a short 1/2 mile hike back to the car.


Back on top.  You can see the Continental Divide trail below that we had just hiked.


Our last grand vista view from the Continental Divide trail before heading back to the cars.


Looking tired LOL!

What a fun hike! In all I hiked 7.5 miles.  🙂  I will definitely be going on more WOW WE hikes in the future.  Fun hike and fun people!