Category Archives: Landscape

Calf Creek Falls

I decided to hike to Calf Creek Falls in the Escalante National Monument near Escalante, Utah this past weekend. Cloudy weather had put a damper on my plans to do some hiking along the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, so I stopped at the trailhead for the falls.  Calf Creek  Falls is a beautiful reward after a somewhat easy 3-mile hike through a pretty, riparian canyon.  The trail follows Calf Creek as it meanders through a deep canyon.  Along the way, many species of trees and birds can be spotted.  A number of Claret Cup cacti were blooming with their scarlet flowers as well.  The only drawback to the hike is that is features walking though deep sand the land mile or so.  The falls is tucked away at the end of the canyon.  

The trailhead for Calf Creek Falls is located about 15 miles form Escalante or 13 miles south of Boulder Town along Highway 12.     

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Capitol Reef

I made a short trip to Capitol Reef National Park this past weekend.  The cottonwoods were just leafing out so it was a great time to be there.  I explored some new places and went to an old standby.  Overall, it was a fun trip but I wish the weather had been better so I could have explored Escalante National Monument.  Coyote Gulch will have to wait.    

Sheets Canyon

This is a short hike to a pretty slot canyon on the east side of the park.  Sheets Canyon is located off the Notom Road.  The trailhead is located just before the pavement ends, about 12 miles down the road.  The hike wanders through the Sheets Canyon wash for about a mile before the walls narrow.  There are some very interesting rock formation in the canyon.  The narrows stretches for about 1/2 mile and then the canyon widens.  The walls are quite high in this area so it is still an interesting through this part of the canyon.  There are a few chokcsotnes you have to scramble over in the narrows section but nothing too difficult.  

Cohab Canyon

The trail to Cohab Canyon is located near the Fruita barn just before the main campground in Capitol Reef.  It climbs steeply up a series of switchbacks before leveling off at the entrance to Cohab Canyon.  Just before the entrance there are some interesting rock formations and trees that make great photography subjects.  The canyon itself, has pink or orange walls, and is quite pretty.  The walls are pockmarked with holes, alcoves, and other cool features. In about 1/2 mile, the trail veers to the left and ascends to a view of Fruita and the campground below.  The one way total is just under 2 miles.     

Navajo Knobs Trail

The Navajo Knobs trail leads to a panoramic overlook after a hard 4.7 mile hike.  Luckily, the views are pretty spectacular most of the way so making the top isn’t a requirement to get a great view.  The trail starts about a mile from the visitor’s center along the main park road.  It climbs steeply and intersects with the Hickman Bridge trail in about half a mile.  Veer right at the junction and continue to climb up to a great view of Pectol’s Pyramid across the valley.  At mile 2.5, the trail comes to a view of the Fremont River and you are looking back across at the visitor’s center.  From here, the trail descends for about 3/4 of a mile which of course leaves a steep ascent back up a long ramp.   At this point, the views are amazing.  One last side canyon has to be routed around before reaching the top.  This is a steep and long hike but the effort is worth it.  Views can be had in any direction from here.   

Sulfur Creek

Sulfur Creek features a neat waterfall after a short 1 mile hike.  Take the trail to the right of the visitor’s center and veer around to the back of it.  When you come to the creek, head toward a power line straight across the creek.  You can also head left down stream but the walk is much longer and wetter this way.  After climbing a short rise you will come to a lime kiln on the right and then the trail cuts back down to Sulfur Creek.  The waterfall is about .75 of a mile from the visitor’s center.  It isn’t particularly large but the scene is pretty with the read rock of Sulfur Canyon framing the shot.  

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Wildflowers Anza Borrego Desert Park

I spent spring break in California photographing wildflowers at Anza Borrego Desert Park, Joshua Tree National Park,  and Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore.  The flowers were spectacular in spots this year.  All that winter rain paid off.  After years of drought, caterpillar plagues, and weed infestations, the flowers finally had their turn this year.  Anza Borrego was particularly pretty as fields of flowers were blooming.  Interestingly, Joshua Tree just to the north was not nearly as vivid although the Palm Springs area had plenty of flowers.  

Anza Borrego Desert Park

The crown jewel of my trip was Anza Borrego Desert Park, about a two-hour drive from San Diego.  I had been wanting to come here for a decade to see wildflowers but haven’t had the chance to make it out.  I picked the right year to come.  The flowers were exploding in color and size this year.  Huge fields of desert sunflowers, sand verbena, and desert primrose graced the area around Borrego Springs this year.  Other parts of the park were;t as vivid but were still pretty, too.  I spent most of my time between Arroyo Solado campground and Borrego Palm Canyon.  This area in the northern part of the park seemed to have the biggest concentration of wildflowers.  I drove up the Coyote Canyon road and saw several fields of flowers as well.  Palm Canyon was also a nice respite.  I even saw a herd of desert bighorn on a hike to the palm grove.  

Lake Elsinore

I hiked a trail off the Walker Canyon had, which is just north of Lake Elsinore, about 65 miles southeast of L.A.  This area had fields of poppies growing all over the hillsides.  About a mile down the trial was particularly beautiful as people had not damaged the fields like they had closer to the road.  I had fun getting low in the fields and pointing the camera up.  This made for some cool shots with poppies framed against the blue sky.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park had one area of good wildflowers right at the park entrance on the Cottonwood entrance to the south.  The Cholla garden looked like it had almost been completely killed by drought and was just starting to recover this year.  The Joshua trees and mojave yuccas were blooming as well higher up in the park.  I also found the largest beavertail cactus I have ever seen which must’ve had over 100 buds on it.  I wish I could go back in a week and get a picture of it fully in bloom.  

Art Smith Trail

I hiked the Art Smith trail near Palm Desert.  This trail was full of wildflowers such as brittlebush, lupine, and beavertail cactus.  It was a steep but rewarding hike.  Great views of Indian Wells open up below you as you climb higher.   

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Winter in Canyonlands National Park

My son and I recently spent a couple of days in Canyonlands National Park–one in the Island in the Sky District and one in the Needles section.  I like visiting Utah and Canyonlands in the winter because the skies are often clear and the crowds are thinned out and the Parks less busy.  On the first evening, we took in sunset at Green River overlook and then headed to Mesa Arch to shoot some star trails.  Since we were the only ones at Mesa Arch, it gave a completely different feeling than the normal sunrise time where 20 or more photographers jockey for position under the arch.  On the second day, we headed to the Needles.  Unlike Arches, the Needles is virtually deserted in the winter.  The rangers don’t collect fees and the visitor’s center is closed.  Not surprisingly, there were only a handful of cars in the park.  We hiked the trail to Druid Arch through the Needles area.  We got a late start and didn’t quite make it to the arch, but the hike along the trail provided some great photo ops.  Much of the Druid Arch trail winds along a wash and is lined with many dead junipers.  I took a bunch of photos in hopes of getting a few good ones to convert to black and white.  On the way back, we were treated to golden light on the rock formations.  I stopped at Pothole Point to catch the last rays of the sun on the canyon walls in the distance. The point provides just enough elevation to get above the junipers and give a clear view.     

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Fiery Furnace

I took my son to Arches over Christmas break.  We decided to hike in the Fiery Furnace area.  The Fiery Furnace is a fun place to hike.  There are no formal trails so ability to route find is a must.  As a result, the park requires a permit to hike there.  You can also do ranger-guided hikes the other three seasons.  Unfortunately, winter is not one of them.  

The Fiery Furnace is a series of rock fins that contains arches, towering rock spires, and endless side canyons.  Because of the narrow canyons, mid day is best for photography so light gets into the canyons. The washes also contain a number of interesting trees to photograph.   

Hike Description

There are two basic routes in to the Fiery Furnace.  A well-worn path leads either uphill or downhill of the main parking lot.  We chose to go right.  The route descends into a main wash.  The first interesting feature is a slot canyon off to the right that contains a small arch you can hike under.  I had my son pose in the arch for a fun photo.  Back in the main wash, we hiked up a narrow slit in the canyon wall to the right as the wash made a sharp turn.  You hike up into another wash at this point and a couple of side canyons later on the left you will find one of the coolest spots in the park.  It is a small slot canyon that contains a double arch that looks like a pair of eyeglasses.  We ended our exploration with a side canyon to the right of the main wash. It contained a small arch that looked like water would flow through in the rain.  We retraced our steps back to the parking after a fun and challenging hike.  We got maybe a mile in three hours of hiking!

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