Bryce Canyon National Park

“Of night and day. Of yesterday, today, and tomorrow… Of the wonder of living…the pure wonder… Of such are my thoughts; thoughts that must be common to all, Yet how can we communicate at the heart level?” - Nell Dorr

Story and photos by Karen Grubb

Karen Grubb, aka Mrs. Grubby, is an award-winning freelance photographer based in San Luis Obispo known for her beautiful photos which are complemented by beautiful stories as well. To learn more, check out her blog, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Just like any other piece of art - a painting, a poem or a song - for me a successful photograph is able to communicate at the heart level, to evoke some sort of emotional response in the viewer. My passion for photography is intertwined with the sense of wonder and reverence I have for the natural world around me.

As I developed an interest in photography, I found that it heightened my love of travel and exploration. My hope in sharing photos from my travel adventures is that I am able to elicit some sort of connection between the viewer and the subject matter, and hopefully encourage others to search out the same beauty and awe of the natural world around them, whether it be a journey to a far off destination or a new backroad just outside of town.

I want people to see an image and get excited about the possibility of adventure, of new places, and new experiences. One of the most meaningful compliments I have received was that an image of mine, taken during a previous road trip through Utah, inspired a viewer to drive from Los Angeles up to Arches National Park to experience with his own eyes what he had seen in my photos.

Aside from the creative inspiration and encouragement I find within the photography community, that inspiration to experience the fullness of life through travel and exploration is one of the greatest aspects of photo sharing. In turn, being able to inspire others is one of my greatest sources of inspiration.

I recently returned to Utah to take a road trip from Salt Lake City down to Bryce Canyon National Park, to capture the otherworldly scenery of incredible landscapes and nightscapes in that area.

Utah is a place where the immersive views along the road are just as spectacular as the view at your intended destination.
 

There’s not a lot to do on the way, however, we did pull over in the tiny town of Scipio, home of the Eagles Landing Petting Zoo located directly adjacent to a truck stop. Though not a fan of zoos myself, I couldn’t help but walk over to say hello and snap a few photos of the resident camel and friendly billy goats.

Shortly after leaving Panguitch, we reached the Scenic Byway 12 that leads into Red Canyon. This is the first glimpse travelers get of the spectacular red hoodoos that fill the landscape of its more famous neighbor, Bryce Canyon.

Once down in the canyon, the shapes come alive against the backdrop of the starry sky. The thin, clear air and lack of light pollution makes Bryce Canyon one of the best locations for stargazing and astrophotography.

For me, nighttime photography is a constant learning experience. The fun of shooting long exposures is seeing everything the camera captures that is not visible to the human eye. The challenge lies in the trial and error of getting proper focus, finding an interesting composition in the darkness, and in cold places like Bryce, staying warm in the late hours of the night.

The following morning, we headed out to aptly named Sunrise Point to catch the sunrise. I wouldn’t consider myself a morning person, but the soft light of dawn has always been my favorite time of day to shoot. There is a calmness and serenity during the early morning that makes obeying the pesky alarm clock worth it every time. Sunrise in Bryce Canyon is amazing and, in my opinion, the best time of day to photograph the hoodoos.

Watching the subtle tones of peach and orange ignite into fiery reds is nothing short of magical. Following sunrise, we spent the morning hiking along the Queens Garden Trail, eventually intersecting with the Navajo Loop, which leads to Wall Street, one of my favorite sections of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater. For travelers short on time who want to get an up close and personal view of the impressive rock formations, either one of these short hikes is a great option.

Sunset that evening was spent at Bryce Point, one of the best overlooks in the park to view the entire amphitheater.

Following a little down time at the lodge, we suited up in our winter gear and headed back out for another cold night of hiking and photographing along the Navajo Loop.

The eerie silence and complete darkness hiking down the switchbacks through the tall narrow fins of pitch black Wall Street are a much different experience at night and will definitely set your imagination running.

It is not hard for me to become alarmed hiking in the dark and the ominous formations of the hoodoos towering over me definitely heightened my apprehension, but the challenge of seeing what compositions I could create triumphed over keeping my imagination in check.

My favorite part about road trips like this are the unexpected surprises you discover in the places in between.

While in Bryce Canyon, we learned that the boyhood cabin of Butch Cassidy was located along the highway between Panguitch and Circleville. Using mile markers we found on Google, we located the weathered old cabin situated near a row of poplar trees.

It is fascinating to reflect on the number of travelers passing the cabin daily who, chances are, have no idea it’s the childhood home of an iconic western outlaw. With no identifying signage, it appears to be just another old abandoned cabin. For anyone interested in visiting the cabin, it is located on the west side of the road between mile markers 156 & 157.

On the final day of our trip, with a few hours to spare before catching our flight home – and driven by our constant desire to experience everything possible in each place that we visit - we headed west to the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Confronted by a windy snowstorm, and more than 100 miles of road to cover, we questioned our decision to keep going. With poor visibility from the snowy conditions, it was uncertain whether we would even make it.

Living by our motto, ‘we won’t know unless we go’, we decided to continue on. As we reached our destination, the storm began to clear and the decision to keep going paid off. The seemingly endless stretch of barren white salts against the backdrop of mountainous peaks are yet another example of the type of ethereal landscapes that make Utah so unique. With our flight time rapidly approaching, we reluctantly headed back to the airport to return our rental car and head for home.

From the impressive rock formations and vivid colors of Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon, to the snowcapped mountains towering over Salt Lake City and the desolate stretch of white sands of Bonneville, there is so much diversity to discover along the roads of Utah. The entire state is a photographer’s paradise and one that I hope to return to in the near future for another road trip adventure.

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