Storytelling in Utah

For our last long weekend of summer, Chase and I took a road trip out to Utah and explored numerous parks and wild spaces in the central part of the state. Listed on the docket were Capitol Reef National Park, Pando, Goblin Valley State Park, and Moab. It was a jam packed three days full of high temps and starry nights, and was certainly a great way to celebrate the end of our first summer living out West.

In regards to photography, this trip was a really interesting experience. I caught myself a few weeks back tending to focus more on grand scenes, and forgetting about the moments in between. I challenged myself to photograph the whole experience of our trip, not just the highlights. Although I have found some areas of storytelling that I want to improve on, the end result was a set of photos that are different than what I usually end up with:

First stop: exploring Capitol Gorge

… followed by a hike to The Tanks.

We brought disposal cameras along to practice being more intentional with our shooting. Plus, who doesn’t love the look of 90’s era film

We walked up to Goosenecks Overlook without knowing too much about it, and were pleasantly surprised to find a little canyon within the park.

View climbing up to the Chimney Rock overlook

Heading down from Chimney Rock

We finished off day 1 by looking for a campsite in the BLM land along Cathedral Valley Road.

20 miles into the backcountry of the park, the perfect campsite was found.

We set up camp as the sun began to set,

…and finished the day with some Velveeta mac and cheese

Like I said, it was the PERFECT campsite nestled right in the middle of the desert. The stars were endless, and the area was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

We woke up early with our eyes set on seeing “The Temples” at sunrise.

Each temple glows as it gets hit by the early morning sun,

and the intense shade of orange that is cast over the rocks is almost unreal.

We had the Temple of the Sun all to ourselves on the morning of day 2.

The closer we got to the temples, the more in awe we became at both their size, and the way the sun lit them up as it rose over the horizon.

We lucked out with a clear morning that was perfect for seeing The Temples.

The valley turned golden as the sun continued to rise.

Last stop in the valley was “Glass Mountain”

The vibrancy of the rock reflecting the morning sun was almost unreal…

We made a few other stops that morning, including Gypsum Sinkhole,

and a few shorter walks in the Utah desert.

The silence of the Capitol Reef backcountry was almost deafening. With no wind, large plants, or day time animals to make noise, it was the the most quiet place I have ever experienced.

Once we drove the whole 70 miles of backcountry roads, we stopped at Pando (the world’s oldest and largest organism), and eventually ended up at the trailhead for our next hike: Cottonwood Wash

Cottonwood Wash is a hike through classic Utah slot canyons. We started the 7 mile hike later in the afternoon to avoid the heat, and lucked out by having the whole trail to ourselves

Although slightly claustrophobic, these canyons were insanely beautiful.

We squeezed our way through the narrow hallways, praying that no flash floods were on the horizon.

A brief opening within the slots.

Water rushes through these canyons so quickly that stones are pounded and transformed into smooth shapes.

Another tight squeeze…

Our light at the end of the tunnel were gorgeous views and room to move around.

The sun was quickly setting behind the rocks though so we didn’t have long to enjoy the freedom.

The final stretch before the trailhead

As we walked back to the car, the sun was setting and covered the valley in golden light.

Taken during one of the multiple times we had to stop and empty sand out of our shoes…

Only a few more steps stood between us, a burger in town, and a final night camping in Utah.

Waking up on the morning at Day 3

Our next stop was halfway between Capitol Reef and Moab at a place called Goblin Valley State Park

We started down a random trail, not totally sure where it led...

We slowly walked down the trail and took pictures along the way.

After we had been walking for a while, we started wondering if the trail led to any major viewpoints, or if we would be walking in a flat circle back to the parking lot.

But suddenly we saw the trail head straight up a tower of rocks.

After climbing up, we got dumped at the mouth of a cave.

We took one last look at the valley below us, held our breathe, and headed inside…

It turned out that we had hiked to “The Goblin’s Lair”

Which is a hidden cave inside a beautiful mesa.

There was the option to leave the main room, spelunk into a smaller cavern, and crawl through a different cave entrance on the other side… but we chickened out haha.

We began our walk back to the car and towards the Valley of the Goblins (keeping an eye out for more caves along the way)

We finally reached the main attraction… a valley unlike any other

We spent awhile climbing on the rocks and taking in the uniqueness of this place.

The valley was seemingly endless with the “goblins”

I think we could have spent an entire day in this park alone… but it was time to start heading in the direction of Denver.

We slowly started walking towards the car, and tried to take in this one-of-a-kind place hidden in Utah.

We headed towards home, but we weren’t totally ready to call it quits just yet…

So we drove to one of our favorite places and made it a pit stop on the way home…

MOAB. We took a dip in the Colorado River, did a quick drive through Arches National Park, grabbed a sandwich from one of our favorite little shops, and even managed to squeeze a climb in at a popular rock climbing spot. We stayed a little longer than planned (and were consequently tired in work the next day), but it was the perfect way to finish a dreamy weekend in Utah.