Monthly Archives: October 2015

Utah’s National Parks

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This photo was taken from the same location as the previous 2 only looking towards the western sky (away from the sun). Whenever taking sunrise or sunset photos, always look behind you since this is often the best view.

Goblin Valley at Sunrise – This photo was taken from the same location as the 2 sunrise photos shown below but unlike the others, this is looking towards the western sky (away from the sun). Whenever taking sunrise or sunset photos, always look behind you since this is often the best view.

Southern Utah is home to 5 National Parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion. The Utah Office of Tourism recommends an itinerary to visit all 5 in the order listed above. They also recommend a visit to Goblin Valley State Park since it breaks up the trip between Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. We’re seeing all of these on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, about 140 miles southeast of Zion.

We allocated 17 nights for our 600 mile tour of Utah’s National Parks and the remote north rim of the Grand Canyon.

We allocated 17 nights for our 500 mile tour of Utah’s National Parks and the remote north rim of the Grand Canyon.

October is a busy time to visit these parks so reservations in the park campgrounds are hard if not impossible to come by. We were able to reserve a site at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim and Goblin Valley so this gave the project manager within me the parameters needed to plan out the rest of our trip.

Sunday, October 4 – Arches National Park

We left the Grand Tetons yesterday for the 2-day, 520 mile drive to Moab Utah, the closet town to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It’s about noon when we arrive at the ACT RV Park just south of town. Campgrounds in both Arches and Canyon Lands are full and besides, it will be nice to have full hookups and access to laundry after our dry camping stopover in the Grand Tetons. Our original plans had called for three nights in Moab but our chores in Bozeman took longer than expected so we’ll stay here just one night, not enough time to see both parks. I ask the campground manager which park she recommends.  “Arches”, she replies, so Arches it is.

With laundry done, we pile T&E in the truck and return north on Highway 191 for the 5 mile drive to Arches. It’s about 5 PM when we arrive, about 2 hours before sunset. Despite the late hour, the park is still full of visitors. Plenty of the famed arches can be seen from the drive through the park but most have tourists milling about their bases. I had expected to take photos similar to the iconic images I’ve seen many times before coming here but the presence of so many people leaves me uninspired.

This is how I imagined Arches National Park would be but in our experience there were dozens if not hundreds of people walking about the arches near the park’s roads. We’ll have to return one winter for a less crowded visit.

This is how I imagined Arches National Park would be but in our experience there were dozens if not hundreds of people walking about the arches near the park’s roads. We’ll have to return in winter for a less crowded visit.

Monday, October 5 – Goblin Valley State Park

It’s about 11 AM as we leave Moab for the 100 mile drive to Goblin Valley.  Once again we head north on Highway 191, then turn west on I-70. Even though we’re far from empty, we stop in Green River Utah to fill up with diesel since a sign on the Interstate warns of no services for the next 100 miles. With a full tank, we get back on the Interstate for another 10 miles then exit onto Highway 24 south.

Highway 24 south of I-70 is the very definition of the middle of nowhere. There are no other roads, buildings, nor power lines;  just desert with iconic western landscapes in the distance. 30 or 40 miles later, we arrive at the Goblin Valley Visitors Center. It’s cool out so Cindy and I leave T&E in the truck while we head inside to check-in. A sign on the door says they use solar for all their power needs. This place really is in the boonies. This also means no light pollution and with clear skies in the forecast, I will finally be able to try my hand at photographing the Milky Way.

The Milky Way arches across the entire sky with the more impressive side on the southwest horizon during the early evening hours. Wanting to capture an interesting foreground, I scoped out this spot during the day using a compass. The bright light to the left is a campfire from the Goblin Valley campground and the light across the base of the mountain ridge is from a passing car. The passing car was fortunate since with no moon or other light source, there was no ambient light to expose details in the foreground and mountain side.

The Milky Way arches across the entire sky with the more impressive side on the southwest horizon during the early evening hours. Wanting to capture an interesting foreground and knowing where in the sky the Milky Way would appear, I scoped out this spot during the day using a compass. The bright light to the left is a campfire from the Goblin Valley campground and the light across the base of the mountain ridge is from a passing car. The passing car was fortunate since with no moon or other light source, there was no ambient light to expose details in the foreground and mountain side.

Wednesday, October 7 – Goblin Valley continued.

Goblin Valley has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It’s a small park and even though the campground has been full, about the only visitors here are the campers themselves. Armed with my compass, I spent yesterday hiking a few trails searching for good spots to take Milky Way and sunrise photos. Last night’s Milky Way photoshoot went better than expected so I’m excited this morning as I hike out to my preselected sunrise spot. This morning’s hike is short and it’s still dark out. I set up my tripod and wait…

The sun is slow to rise and as it does, the sky and landscape go through a myriad of color changes.

The sun is slow to rise and as it does, the sky and landscape go through a myriad of color changes.

The colors are so different, you’d never know this photo was taken minutes apart from the previous one (note the same set of “goblins” in the foreground).

The colors are so different, you’d never know this photo was taken minutes apart from the previous one (note the same set of “goblins” in the foreground).

Tomorrow we continue our tour of Utah’s National Parks so check back soon for our next installment.

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