Heading to Utah - "Life Elevated"

Moab, Utah holds a really special place in my heart.  It was here, during a road trip for work, back in June of 2009, that I fell in love with our National Parks.  I drove out to Park City and Salt Lake City to deliver a truckload of framed prints for photographer, Clay Blackmore, for installation in a new ski lodge.  During the trip, we ended up having to stay in Utah for a week with plenty of time to explore which allowed for a few trips down to Moab.  The opportunity to traverse Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park lit a fire and passion in me.  It opened my eyes to the world of our amazing National Parks.  I have dreamed about coming back to Moab ever since and was very excited to spend the weekend there on my way to Cedar City, on the other side of Utah.

I left Denver Saturday morning, bright and early, after getting snowed in for an extra day.  The roads were mostly clear and we cleaned my car and packed it up the evening before.  So, I hit the road with the sun shining and the oldies blasting on the radio.  But, not even 45 minutes later and into the foothills of the the mountains, the clouds had taken over and were precipitating snow, the road was covered and I was stuck in a mess of a traffic jam.  A combination of the the poor conditions and everyone taking advantage of the weekend and fresh snow to hit the slopes, made for a mess on the mountainous highway.  

My GPS repeatedly tried to detour me and the highway signs warned of an hour or more delay, but I knew getting off I-70 would be a mistake as the back roads were probably in much worse condition.  So, I patiently crawled along with the rest of traffic and admired the snow covered evergreen trees around me.  I desperately wanted to stop and photograph the scenery but the snow was coming down hard and I didn’t want to risk my camera gear nor my car so I just savored it for myself.  I pushed on through worry about the snow conditions on the road ahead, thanked myself for stopping for gas beforehand and cheered every time I saw another non-4-wheel-drive vehicle, telling myself it would be okay.

By the time I made it to Vale, the clouds had lifted, traffic lightened and the snow disappeared from the roadways.  It was a joy to drive through Glenwood Canyon following along the Colorado River.  Once on the other side of the canyon, the landscape changed from snowy maintains to more desert-like scenery with dirt, colored rock, sandstone and flat-top mountain formations.   Finally making it to Grand Junction, I noticed signs for Colorado National Monument and decided to take the detour.

The Park Ranger at the gate advised me I should go through the entire monument route and once on the other side I could jump back onto I-70.  After learning I was heading to Moab, he also told me to not wait for Moab signs on the highway and to get off on Route 128 for Cisco to get to Moab, which ended up being amazing advice.

I spent a couple of hours touring and photographing Colorado National Monument.  Even with the harsh light in the high afternoon sun, I think some of the photographs ended up being worthwhile and if nothing else, definitely worth the experience.

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Route 128 was amazing.  At first, it was just open farmland on either side of the road.  Open range farmland with cows crossing, no less.  Then, the road met back up with the Colorado River and began to follow it through canyons of red rock.  It was late afternoon/early evening and the sun was getting low, casting dramatic shadows and glowing orange light on the scenery around me. 

I stopped every-so-often when inspired to photograph and made it into Moab and Arches National Park just in time for sunset.  Though not a spectacular sunset, it was a good chance for me to familiarize myself with the park, capture some dramatic images and create a game plan for the following day.

Keep an eye out for a new post early next week with some amazing photographs captured during the rest of the weekend in Moab!