Posted by: David Vernon | August 2, 2012

Traveling to Utah

Thor's Hammer 2 - Bryce Canon

A post moving in a different direction.

Ann Conver and I are taking a few photographers on a five-day photo tour of Utah in September. We just bought our airline tickets earlier this week and I’m writing this post for two reasons… First, this year’s attendees can get a look at some of the iconic places we’re going and what we’re going to do there. Second, all the rest of you can understand what you’d encounter if you signed up for such a workshop.

I’m in love with Utah – particularly the national parks. Five of the most famous parks in America: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. We’re headed out there at hopefully the peak of fall color this year (albeit with a drought but we can hope). So what’s happening in our tour this year?

Day 1 – Sunday, September 23

We’re all departing Peoria for Salt Lake City on Sunday morning with a 1:30pm arrival via Chicago and American Airlines. In SLC, we’ll pick up our roomy 15-passenger van and depart down I-15 to US-6. Eventually we’ll cross I-80, run on it a bit, and then make the the final 40 miles to Moab. It’s about a four-hour drive and we’re gonna hustle to make sunset (7:13pm) that night in the park, which sits just a few miles north of Moab. We’ll look for a delightful late Sunday stop, like Balance Rock:

Balance Rock Selfie

A nice dinner, and a good night’s sleep follows that – because Monday is a big day:

Day 2 – Monday, September 24

Monday is about Arches’ icons as bookends for the day. We start with a remarkable sunrise at the famous North Window. Pick the right spot and you can shoot Turret Arch right through it:

Turret Arch Through the North Window at Sunrise

The morning will provide a nice walk around both the North and South Windows as well as Turret Arch – and then a quick detour over to Double Arch. Here are the windows from the backside:

The Other Side of the Windows

Then, since people like to eat – we mozy back into Moab for some lunch and to stock up for the rest of the day… And what lies ahead? Back into the Arches for stops like Sand Dune Arch:

Sand Dune Arch

Landscape Arch:

Shadows of Landscape Arch

And then the big finish – the hike up to Delicate Arch – the most famous arch in the world – for the end of the day and sunset:

Delicate Tale of Woe

It’ll be quite the day.

Day 3 – Tuesday, September 25

This is our “haul butt” day. We’ll depart Moab for Torrey, Utah, and a stop at Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is truly out in the middle of nowhere. It’s famous for its vista views and it’s dry river beds:

Capitol Reef Sunset

We’ll spend some time hiking down the Grand Wash, surveying some amazing rocks and views. From there, we’ll make the 100-mile or so run from Torrey to Bryce Canyon City along famed Utah 12. If nature is with us, we’ll pass over 10,000 foot peaks covered with millions of Aspen trees at the peak of color. It may be a slim window but a guy can hope! As we descend into Bryce Canyon city, we’ll get our hotel and make for the hoodoos and sunset. The photo at the top of this post? Famed Thor’s Hammer in the hoodoos at Bryce. We’ll shoot sunset from the aptly named Sunset Point and then retire for a well-deserved nap – it’s another early morning the next day.

Day 4 – Wednesday, September 26

Sunrise above and in the hoodoos at Sunrise Point is amazing:

Thor's Hammer - Bryce Canon

The views of Thor’s Hammer from above and below are breathtaking. It’s also a wonderful morning to take the 1.5 mile hike down through the hoodoos themselves and to get visually lost in the wonder.

Pure Hoodoo

A quick lunch back in Bryce Canyon City, and then we make the easy drive over to Zion for an afternoon hike to the east end of famous Zion Canyon. A short 30-minute walk and we’re standing here:

Zion Canyon Overlook

We’ll then drive through the famous Zion Canyon tunnel and down to Canyon Junction – where if we’ve timed it right – we’re standing on the bridge at Canyon Junction with 50 other photographers shooting sunset, either above the bridge:

Above Canyon Junction

or below the bridge under the watchful gaze of the appropriately named Watchman:

Below Canyon Junction

After that, it’s a good breakfast in Springdale – the lovely little town that border the park – and then another good night’s sleep for our last big day.

Day 5 – Thursday, September 27

We start with one last sunrise – at the amazing West Temple – where we watch the sunrise climb down the peaks as it clears the 1,000-tall walls behind us:

Back to the Alter

From there, our workshop attendees have a choice… Zion doesn’t allow cars across most of the park – but they have an amazing bus system that will take you all over with stops every seven minutes or so. The inner canyon part of the park is small. Maybe seven miles top to bottom. The famous feature at the bottom of this canyon is the Virgin River – which come from the mountains to the north and is usually a chilly 50 degrees, even after the heat of the summer. Our goal is to head to the north end of the canyon – a place called the Temple of Sinawava, where we’ll don water shoes and hike up the Virgin River for a couple hours. Up river, you might see things like 1,000-foot tall canyon walls and river bottoms just sixty feet wide. They don’t call it the Narrows for nothing:

The Narrows

If the Narrows aren’t your thing – most of the lower river is more wide open:

Fall on the Virgin

The bottom line for our workshop attendees though is that river hiking – even in a low river isn’t the easiest thing in the world. The water still moves fast and it does so over uneven rocks. But the views are spectacular. So go with us upriver if you want (there’s inexpensive gear rental in Springdale) – or take an easy day seeing the rest of the park via the amazing bus system. Either way – Zion delivers…

Zion Alter of Sacrifice and Virgin River

One last dinner on Thursday night, a little more sleep – and then Friday morning we’re up early – not for a shoot – but for the five-plus hour drive back to SLC for our flight back to Peoria and the end of a week-long adventure. That’s what you can expect in a Conver and Vernon Photo Tour!

If you’re in for September, Ann and I will be talking to each one of you about what to pack, what to bring, and what to expect with some of more adverturous parts. If you’re not going this fall (and yes – we’re already sold out) – think about a trip down the road with us. We’ll work ya hard – but you’ll see amazing places and take amazing pictures. Thanks for checking us out – and you can always see the current workshop schedule over at eScapes Photo.

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