I have fallen in love with Utah and its many national parks, and I seek to add many more from across the country to my list. We were in Utah quite recently to explore Arches National Park and Canyonlands, and we couldn’t wait to return.
We had arrived in the famed Zion National Park, and we were ready. After a long, five-hour drive in from the Salt Lake City airport (word to the wise: Las Vegas is actually much closer), our fingers were itching for our shutters.
So despite a somewhat late night, we were awake well before the crack of dawn to stake our spots at an incredible vantage for the beautiful desert sunrise.
Too bad it was raining.
Yep. Driving through the pitch darkness, entering the park well before the gates were manned and making our way through an incredibly long tunnel, we were the only ones in the parking lot for the Canyon Overlook trailhead. None of us had been there before, so we stumbled along with only our headlamps to guide us.
“Guide” is a loose term. Especially when we wound up in the bushes. The terrain all looked the same in the dim light, a slight mist lubricating the rocks and lending a shimmer to the entire landscape around us. Following the canyon wall, we broke through more bushes to once more discover the trail – the path we never should have left in the first place. We couldn’t even identify the point at which we had gone astray.
Continuing on, the path dropped away into a black abyss to our left. We hopped over more rocks. We scrambled over a log. We traversed a wooden boardwalk and passed through a deep alcove.
Only one spot was a bit questionable – where someone could potentially lose his footing. But before we knew it, it was past. We rounded a few more bends and arrived at our destination, marked only by a railing before a gaping maw of nothingness.
And then we waited.
And it rained.
And we waited.
Isn’t photography fun, folks?
Ever so gradually, light crept in around us, and the rocks gained some definition. We explored our little area, scouting for the best spots from which to shoot. I was drawn to a little tree in a boulder (amazing how nature is so resilient in environments such as these!), and the others spread out to their respective favorite nooks.
Once we had enough light, we started shooting.
By this point, we were already getting quite cold (it’s still winter, after all), the warmth gained from the mile hike long since dissipated. Why were we out here photographing in the rain, anyway?
Because we’re crazy photographers.
The rain abated, and the clouds actually made for some interesting texture in the sky. The sun even attempted to make a brief appearance, and I was immediately drawn to the beautiful light. I never know when to quit, so I was happy shooting away, even when the wind picked up, spurred on by the warming sun.
I eventually called it quits, and we turned back, just as the rain returned.
The return trip was much more enlightening (punny!) than the trek up. We could now see the drops we unknowingly defied in the dark across slippery rocks. But I was speechless at the scenery; even in the rain it was stunning. Damp photos can’t quite do it justice.
And as the moisture gently fell from the sky, I had to stop and close my eyes for a minute, taking in the soft rustle of the thousands of drops hitting the desert bushes. It was remarkably peaceful, and I was in heaven.
Just as I was enjoying this bust of a photoshoot far too much, it got better.
Our friend, leading our pack, stopped on the trail and reported there was some wildlife blocking our path. We hastily retrieved our long lenses and crept around the corner.
But not just sheep – an ewe an her lamb. He was so adorable! Stumbling down the rocks an taking shelter under her belly after an affectionate head butt with his mom. The wonder, the curiosity in his eyes…
They didn’t stick around for long, but they peered at us from atop their lofty cliff.
A morning well spent, we returned to the trailhead to pick up the last of our group from the hotel – who decided to sleep through the entire adventure.
Despite the weather, it was an incredible start to an amazing trip. And the challenge just makes for a better story. It was well worth getting up early; I’ll sleep after I get the shots!