Southern Utah Photographic Trip – Part 1

In early June I took a trip of a lifetime for a photographer. I have dreamed for years of hiking to and photographing “The Wave” formation in the desert of Utah/Arizona.

In order to hike to “The Wave” formation you have apply to a lottery and hope to win one of 20 tickets available for each day. Based on an average of how many people apply for each day, I calculated that I had a .001% chance of winning a ticket. AND I WON!!!

My hiking date was for Tuesday, June 4. I figured I was pushing it pretty close to the “too” warm weather to hike it comfortably. But based on average temperatures for the area, the high of the day was to be 84 degrees. Not too bad, but hiking on red sandstone was definitely going to be warm.

So I set out for southern Utah on Monday, June 3, and was going to stay for 5 days and see the sights around Kanab, Utah. This town is a cute, quaint town and central to so much desert beauty.

I try to see as many of our country’s National Parks as possible. I believe we should support the preservation of these sites that are so unique to our country. So I planned on stopping at the Hubbell Trading Post National Monument. This is the oldest operating trading post in the Navajo Nation. The trading post was built in 1878 by John Lorenzo Hubbell.

Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona

I couldn’t stay long but had a little time to see the store and the barn next door. The inside of the post had the original wood floors and glass cabinets. Sadly no one was available to show me the Hubbell home. This was a shame because it’s an 11,500 square foot home full of Hubbell Family heirlooms.

The plaque says “Sawyer, May 1901)
Inside the Hubbell Trading Post

I was quickly back on the road. My goal was to get to Kanab before sunset so I could visit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for sunset photos.

The sand of the dunes is a beautiful color and the texture is like powder. It was very difficult to walk in. Scarlett was so happy to finally get out of the car and stretch her legs.

One Happy Scarlett!!!

We hiked around for a while to find a good place for sunset photos. Tough climbing up the steep dunes.

Steep dunes to climb

We finally found us a good spot to wait for the sun to reach a nice level for photos. While sitting and enjoying the beautiful evening, Scarlett kept running around and exploring. Getting rid of the pent up energy after sleeping in the car all day.

Having fun in the sand!!!

Finally the sun started setting and the air began to cool. Once this happened all kinds of critters started coming out from the sand. I really liked this translucent grasshopper that popped up right beside me. He was only about 1/4 inch long.

Tiny little sand grasshopper

At last the lighting was perfect to start taking pictures. This one was my favorite.

The sunset set off the color of the sand beautifully

I had thought I could get nice blue hour photos, but the sand just turned dark and didn’t look nice. It would have been nice to stay for milky way photos but I was just too tired to stay up late for that. Plus! My big hike to the Wave was going to start early the next day.

Scarlett and Kelly enjoying the sunset

I decided to hire a tour guide to take me to The Wave. There is no formal trail to take you there which made me nervous to hike by myself. I’m glad I did because I know I would have made a few wrong turns adding a few miles to my overall hike. As it was, I hiked 7 miles that took 5 hours.

I knew it was going to be hot so I got Scarlett a vest that held water and cooled her as it dried. It worked great! I also had her carry a lot of water to keep hydrating it.

We started the hike at 7:30 am. First we followed along the bottom of an arroyo. There were birds singing everywhere but I never saw a one. This was to be the case for my entire trip!

We started our hike in this arroyo

We eventually left the arroyo and started walking along a sandy trail. This led to a large area of sandstone that we had to walk across. This is when the views got so pretty.

Scarlett walking with our guide Larry

The red sandstone was so beautiful. And the formations formed by the wind were stunning.

We had to climb this sandstone rock face

We climbed and skirted along the sandstone formations for a couple of miles.

Look at my Scarlett blazing the trail for us

I really enjoyed this part of the hike. Walking on sandstone is nice because of the firm footing. But eventually the sandstone really started to have an incline to it. It was tough hiking for a good mile.

Hiking along this steep section was tough!

Then we came to another arroyo. We had to climb down the steep sandstone and then back up another steep section. But at this point I could see we were only about 1/4 mile from the wave. That was enough to motivate me!

I loved these yellow flowers! The Wave is straight ahead just below that shady spot on the mountainside.
This was the arroyo I had to cross to get to the Wave
It was a very steep climb up this sandstone face. My guide had to lend a helping hand several times.

Finally I was at The Wave!!!!! You enter from the back of the Wave to the north and the Wave faces south. When I got to the back of the Wave I was happy to see a small puddle of water left from the recent rains in the area. Scarlett was happy too and wanted to jump in and cool off.

I made her wait until I took a few photos. She waited but you could tell she really wanted to play in that water.

Kelly and Scarlett

I finally let Scarlett get in the water. Happy girl!

Having fun!

At first I thought this was the Wave and was thinking, “it sure looked bigger in photos I saw on the Internet…”

My guide must have seen my expression because he laughed and said, ‘This is just the entrance to the Wave!” Yay!

So I walked through that opening to the left behind me. And all I can say is WOW!!! It was stunning! So worth the hike there.

We made it!!!

We stayed about an hour there at the Wave exploring all the nooks and crannies. I couldn’t believe no one else showed up while I was there. It was great having the place to myself for all that time.

There was a cool mini slot canyon next to it. The lighting was perfect when I got there.

Relaxing in the shade of the mini slot
Gorgeous lighting

I hiked above the Wave to get a bigger view. It was so beautiful. The swirling rock was just stunning!

Looking down on the Wave

The views from this area were so pretty. Even though my guide has been here many times, you can tell he still enjoys the views.

My guide Larry taking in the stunning views

I climbed even higher and found a very deep water pool. Scarlett was ecstatic to have so much water to play in.

A nice deep pool reflection
This pool was deep. It was great because it re-hydrated her hiking vest.
You can see the water trail left by Miss Scarlett

Sadly it was time to head back. The day was growing warmer by the minute. My guide offered to take me to another formation but that would have added another 2 hours to my hike. I felt Scarlett and I would do better to just head back now.

On the way back we finally started running into the other hikers that won permits. I couldn’t believe they were just starting their hike at the beginning of the hottest part of the day. I hope they all made it there ok.

Scarlett and I had a wonderful day hiking. We took a 2-hour nap when we got back to the hotel. Then I went out and had a fabulous steak dinner to celebrate. A wonderful way to end the day.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – slot canyons and a river hike in Zion.

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!


Miscellaneous Birds and Other Fun Stuff in Port Aransas, Texas

I saved the most difficult category for last – miscellaneous birds.  Specifically flycatchers.  I am challenged when it comes to identifying flycatchers.  Thankfully, there was a local birding expert nearby when I saw the flycatchers, and she was able to identify them for me.  You can see why it’s challenging to identify them…they almost look identical!

Here’s the many variety of flycatchers I saw at Port Aransas.  And they are all lifers!!!


Alder Flycatcher


Acadian Flycatcher


Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher


Eastern Wood-Pewee


Least Flycatcher

While visiting there, I went out every morning before dawn.  I saw some beautiful sights around the town.  One morning I toured the marina and took a few pics.


Beautiful sailboats


Homes on the Port Aransas Marina

The beach at dawn is gorgeous.  Very  few people, calm winds, the sounds of the surf and birds.


Horace Caldwell Pier at sunrise

I found some sand sculptures one morning.  They must have had a contest the day before that was sponsored by Crown Royal.  I was pretty impressed with the sculptures, though I can’t figure out why the pig was the grand champion.  Hmmmmmm…..


Willie Nelson


It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere


Lovely mermaid


Grand Champion Pig

While walking Charlie’s Pasture I did encounter a few butterflies.  They were difficult to find as the wind blew pretty good almost my entire trip.  I found other fun stuff too while hiking the boardwalks.


A gorgeous passion flower


I believe this is a White Peacock that survived a close call!


Funereal Duskywing


Ceraunus Blue


Green Anole shedding its skin.  I loved to catch these lizards when I was a little kid living in Houston!


Common Buckeye


A very fresh Pipevine Swallowtail

One morning at Charlie’s Pasture I came across a coyote.  Just beautiful!



While visiting the Leonabelle Refuge I saw lots of Great-Tailed Grackles and a few other fun things.




The sightings of the day 🙂


Great-Tailed Grackle


Mullet – this fish was 2.5 feet long!

I had two birds I really wanted to see while visiting the Gulf Coast.  The first was the Roseate Spoonbill, which I did see and posted about previously.  The second bird was the Crested Caracara. I have looked for this bird for years.  On this trip I finally saw it.  Then like my blogging friend Aussiebirder who recently commented “it takes you forever to see that lifer bird, then it seems like once you see it, you see it everywhere!”  I think I saw over 10 individuals while there this last trip.


Crested Caracara

Along with the Crested Caracara I saw these other two birds I scared off a dead coyote.


Turkey Vulture


Harris’s Hawk

One day we visited Aransas Wildlife Refuge.  It took about 1.5 hours to get there, but was well worth the trip.  That particular day was extremely windy.  The beach would have been miserable.   But with all the trees at the refuge, it was a beautiful day.  The very first thing we saw were 3 alligators!!!  🙂  That was awesome!





We drove around this large refuge and came across some fun stuff.  There was this 80-foot high catwalk.  It was so fun to walk that climbing, winding cawalk.  At the top the views of the coastline were amazing!


Scarlett loved running up the path


My mom waving from further down the path.  Such fun!


Gorgeous view!

While hiking this catwalk, we spotted a huge butterfly.  It landed very briefly for one photo.


Palamedes Swallowtail

And I got a beautiful shot of a dove.


White-Winged Dove

We had a picnic in a lovely spot.  A deer greeted us as we drove up. This would be one of several deer we would see that day.


White-Tailed Deer


Me and Scarlett


Beautiful picnic area


I love the oak trees in Texas

I took mom and dad out to a nice dinner for Dad’s birthday.  The restaurant was small and intimate and the food was delicious.


My dad (Joe) at his birthday dinner

But our favorite place to eat was Trout Street.  We ate there twice on the patio enjoying the marina view.  After dinner on one visit, mom and I toured the docks.  I really considered buying this yacht that was for sale (NOT!).  🙂


Mom and Dad (Dorothy and Joe)


Dad looking very nautical in his blue and white striped shirt 🙂


Me enjoying a lovely dinner on the marina


My beautiful mother!


Tempting to buy….. LOL!

One day visiting the beach we drove past a Jeep Rally.  I was really wishing I was in my Jeep.  But sadly we were in my dad’s Ford pickup.  I need to see about Jeep Rallies in New Mexico!


Jeep Rally at the Beach


Lots of great Jeeps were there

It was a wonderful trip to the Gulf Coast!!! I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures there.