Desolation Canyon - post one

In early October I flew down to Colorado and traveled to the quiet, mountain community of Buena Vista to visit the Link School. Some friends had recently opened the school to provide an outdoor-oriented education for high school students looking for more than a traditional approach to learning.

My purpose in being there was to engage the thirteen students in the fundamentals of photography. Since many of them have fairly basic cameras, we focused on compositional techniques.

My hope is that they will use these techniques to make images that surpass the mundane—because making great images can be done with any kind of camera. It begins with seeing things differently…

After a night at “Fort Link” we were off to Utah to float Desolation Canyon on the Green River. Desolation is one of the most remote wilderness areas in the lower 48 and is apparently one of two (or few) undammed, floatable rivers down there.

Staff meets upon arrival at Sand Wash put-in.

Boat loading and general goofiness:

Lunch break mud wrestling: Forrest vs. Tucker.

Almost ending in a draw, Tucker's victory is hard-won.

Joe Hutch Rapid at mile 40.

Desolation Canyon float - post two

The view from my packraft. She's known as Sadie, but many in the group preferred "Little Toot," a children's book reference to her tugboat-like appearance. Initially met with mockery, Sadie soon proved that she's the little tugboat that could.

We floated through some pretty wild country, encountering quite a few wild horses on the Deso stretch, as well as an old moonshine still (in Firewater Canyon, of course). Once we exited Deso, we entered Gray Canyon--lined with old hideouts of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Prehistoric Indian petroglyphs.

The second to last night of our six spent on the river was used as a solo trip into the desert wilderness. The students spent about 18 hours contemplating their surroundings and facing whatever fears they might encounter in that situation. I spent part of that time hiking up above the surrounding plateaus to an eroding spire behind our camp.

The desert has always inspired me. After watching the sun set, I made my way down into a desert wash south of camp by head lamp and explored the dry bed, lying on the water-eroded stone picking out constellations, making new ones, and creating my own universe-inspired photographs by "painting" canyon walls with light from my headlamp and silhouetting myself against the firmament.

After an exciting navigation around cacti and cliff-side erosion, I returned to camp at midnight. I "painted" another extended exposure of the landscape near my tent with light from my headlamp so that I would remember the hike and the fact that some of my own fears were encountered and overcome.

One of our last big rapids.

Mountain Lion print in Gray Canyon.

The final morning was a perfect end to the float. Stopping to photograph, I got a little behind the group--just far enough away to quietly meditate on our week, soak in the last of that sweet, morning honey-light as it bounced off the luminous walls and wonder how many times the desert sun would rise and fall before Sadie would see it again.


Crow Creek to Eagle River hike/packraft

It's hard to imagine it here, sitting by a roaring fan in the humid apartment of an old college friend who's been living in Cincinnati--but these images depict a chilly morning in Crow Creek Pass almost 3 weeks ago.

Maleia and I awoke early that Saturday to drive down to Girdwood and hike the pass in week-old snow. The light was beautiful all day long as we walked the 14 miles up and over, passed Raven Glacier, and dropped down to Eagle River. Clouds moved in and out around the sun, creating a beautiful diffusion of light that I couldn't stop photographing.

Maleia's a pretty great back-country partner...she always preparing some pretty amazing meals when we're out and about so, needless to say, when she told me she had a big lunch surprise I was excited. Turns out she'd packed in my favorite Moose's Tooth pizza--Spicy Thai Tofu--just as tasty cold as it is fresh.

We lingered too long for lunch. The river was especially low and we soon found ourselves walking an extra mile-plus downstream to find a decent put-in after a few more tributaries had upped the water volume. Once we'd inflated and loaded our 4 pound packrafts, we focused on covering the 10-or-so miles pretty quickly to make up for lost time. Darkness in late September always seems to approach quickly after being accustomed to the light of the boreal summer and we soon found ourselves looking for an early take-out. We thought we'd just take-out before Echo Bend and make up the extra miles on the trail but as it turns out, we took out just above the rapids and right off the trail! So we donned headlamps and happily finished the day up with 3 miles or so of trail to the Eagle Rive Nature Center. A perfect final autumn adventure before I was to head to the lower-48 for a few weeks.