100 Days of National Parks: Day 23 – Scarlet Gilia, Zion

I find that it’s all to easy to get caught up in the big picture stuff, and bypass the small things that are often just as important. I find this nowhere more true than when hiking, and taking photos in a place like Zion National Park, where the expansive vistas and impressive rock formations often dominate the eye to such an extent, that you don’t notice the simple beauty of a late summer wildflower, or the vibrant life hiding behind shaded branches of a nearby juniper.

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Scarlet Gilia

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I find that it’s all to easy to get caught up in the big picture stuff, and bypass the small things that are often just as important.  I find this nowhere more true than when hiking, and taking photos in a place like Zion National Park, where the expansive vistas and impressive rock formations often dominate the eye to such an extent, that you don’t notice the simple beauty of a late summer wildflower, or the vibrant life hiding behind shaded branches of a nearby juniper.

Continue reading “100 Days of National Parks: Day 23 – Scarlet Gilia, Zion”

100 Days of National Parks: Day 16 – Light in the Storm, Zion National Park

Light in the Storm

After what’s been an unexpectedly rough and emotional week, I find nothing re-energizes me on a creative, emotional, and spiritual level than getting out and exploring. When work has me worn down, or my personal life seems to be falling to pieces, I find the simple act of getting out and wandering, finding beautiful moments and beautiful places to photograph, is often enough to clear my head and bring the peace of mind I’m craving.

In September of 2012, my wanderlust was in full swing. I’d started a new job, but had a week off each month to get out and explore, and the main target on my list was a return to Zion National Park. Still trying to find some piece of myself that I found lacking, trying to make myself whole after multiple failed relationships and personal losses, I set out for seven days in southern Utah that would wind up being transformative in my outlook and would further establish my profound love affair with Zion and the National Parks in general.

I’d been once before, seemingly in passing during a weekend road trip the year before, and associated much of the places in the Park with a relationship and people that I no longer wanted to be connected to. Instead of hiding from those associations, though, I faced them head-on, and made a concerted effort to establish new associations, new connections, that have proven more profound and real than any that may have existed before.

A few days into my week there, a massive storm rolled through, and I was privileged to witness one of the most spectacular scenes that everyone should have a chance to appreciate some day. Zion in the rain is a singular experience, one that transforms the park from a dramatic landscape to something otherworldly, seemingly created just for your eyes. As the crowds thin and the clouds obscure the pinnacles of the surrounding cliffs, waterfalls spring out of dry rock faces and life abounds, animals and plants bursting forward to revel in the surrounding wetness.

The morning of the storm, I woke early to take photos of the sunrise, and was treated to this amazing vision as the sunlight streamed through a small hole in the clouds on the East Rim of the park. The darkness of the storm seemed to part and let the light through, and I stood in awe of the scene, brief and fleeting though it was, and consider myself profoundly lucky to have been there to witness it.

It’s a true metaphor for the effect visiting these amazing places has on my life and my outlook on the world. No matter how dark things may seem, that darkness just makes it easier to appreciate the moments of light when they find their way through the holes and cracks in the storm.

Light in the Storm

Light in the Storm
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After what’s been an unexpectedly rough and emotional week, I find nothing re-energizes me on a creative, emotional, and spiritual level than getting out and exploring.  When work has me worn down, or my personal life seems to be falling to pieces, I find the simple act of getting out and wandering, finding beautiful moments and beautiful places to photograph, is often enough to clear my head and bring the peace of mind I’m craving.

In September of 2012, my wanderlust was in full swing.  I’d started a new job, but had a week off each month to get out and explore, and the main target on my list was a return to Zion National Park.  Still trying to find some piece of myself that I found lacking, trying to make myself whole after multiple failed relationships and personal losses, I set out for seven days in southern Utah that would wind up being transformative in my outlook and would further establish my profound love affair with Zion and the National Parks in general.

I’d been once before, seemingly in passing during a weekend road trip the year before, and associated much of the places in the Park with a relationship and people that I no longer wanted to be connected to.  Instead of hiding from those associations, though, I faced them head-on, and made a concerted effort to establish new associations, new connections, that have proven more profound and real than any that may have existed before.

A few days into my week there, a massive storm rolled through, and I was privileged to witness one of the most spectacular scenes that everyone should have a chance to appreciate some day.  Zion in the rain is a singular experience, one that transforms the park from a dramatic landscape to something otherworldly, seemingly created just for your eyes.  As the crowds thin and the clouds obscure the pinnacles of the surrounding cliffs, waterfalls spring out of dry rock faces and life abounds, animals and plants bursting forward to revel in the surrounding wetness.

The morning of the storm, I woke early to take photos of the sunrise, and was treated to this amazing vision as the sunlight streamed through a small hole in the clouds on the East Rim of the park.  The darkness of the storm seemed to part and let the light through, and I stood in awe of the scene, brief and fleeting though it was, and consider myself profoundly lucky to have been there to witness it.

It’s a true metaphor for the effect visiting these amazing places has on my life and my outlook on the world.  No matter how dark things may seem, that darkness just makes it easier to appreciate the moments of light when they find their way through the holes and cracks in the storm.

 

100 Days of National Parks: Day 9 – Downstream Subway, Zion National Park

Downstream Subway

The Subway in Zion National Park is one of the most alien, spectacular places I’ve ever been. Tucked back along the Left Fork of North Creek as it cuts through the Kolob Plateau, this short section of slot canyon creeps up on you gradually. As you trudge upstream through the creek, up increasingly more epic cascades and waterfalls, along sandstone slick with algae and dead leaves, the canyon walls narrow, until you turn around a bend to the mouth of this amazing place.
I’ve only been up from the downstream trailhead, and it’s one of my goals in life to become proficient enough in repelling that I can tackle the descent from the upstream access point, as I’ve heard the technical section of the canyon is one of the most epic sights you can see in the U.S.

Adding to the specialness of this place is the fact that it is only accessible with a permit from the Visitor Center Backcountry desk, either through lottery or a day in advance. While they only allow 12 groups to enter the canyon each day, I’ve found it easy enough to get a first-come-first-served permit by camping out in front of the Visitor Center entrance and getting in right as they open the doors. Sadly, this is likely not an option in summer months, but it’s absolutely worth a shot, as the experience of being in this section of Zion National Park is a highlight of the park and the southwest in general.

Downstream Subway

Downstream Subway
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The Subway in Zion National Park is one of the most alien, spectacular places I’ve ever been.  Tucked back along the Left Fork of North Creek as it cuts through the Kolob Plateau, this short section of slot canyon creeps up on you gradually.  As you trudge upstream through the creek, up increasingly more epic cascades and waterfalls, along sandstone slick with algae and dead leaves, the canyon walls narrow, until you turn around a bend to the mouth of this amazing place.

I’ve only been up from the downstream trailhead, and it’s one of my goals in life to become proficient enough in repelling that I can tackle the descent from the upstream access point, as I’ve heard the technical section of the canyon is one of the most epic sights you can see in the U.S.

Adding to the specialness of this place is the fact that it is only accessible with a permit from the Visitor Center Backcountry desk, either through lottery or a day in advance.  While they only allow 12 groups to enter the canyon each day, I’ve found it easy enough to get a first-come-first-served permit by camping out in front of the Visitor Center entrance and getting in right as they open the doors.  Sadly, this is likely not an option in summer months, but it’s absolutely worth a shot, as the experience of being in this section of Zion National Park is a highlight of the park and the southwest in general.