It’s always hard to get up early when it’s still dark, but it was necessary to get the morning light for the best photos. Sunrise was at 7:38 and we had to be in position at Thor’s Hammer at least 15 minutes before sunrise to set up the shot, so we awoke at 6:00am. We would have breakfast afterwards, so we layered up for a cold 18 degree morning ride back to Sunset Point and a short hike down Navajo Trail.
When we arrived at Sunset Point there were several guys waiting in the warmth of their car until the sun came up. They must have thought they better get out to the point before the sun came up so they all ran out while we were getting our gear ready. When we started toward the point, they came running back shivering seeking shelter in their warm car.
It was calm and cold as the sky slowly turned from darkness to a distant light beyond the horizon until like a clashing symbol the sun appeared and turned Bryce Canyon into a glowing fireball of orange light.
All around us the canyon lit up and everywhere my eyes focused was a great shot. You simply couldn’t take a bad shot. It lasted only about 20 minutes before the magic light was gone. As we hiked back up Navajo Trail we saw a photographer coming down with a brisk pace. We had seen her last night on the switch-backs and spoke a bit. She said she forgot her tripod and had to drive back to the hotel to get it. Oh well, she still had some good light left.
The shape of the white colored rock inspired my wife to title this photo, “Bryce’s Pieta” because it reminded her of Michalangelo’s “Pieta”.
We stopped at the entrance sign to get a photo of us and the bike; a short stop at the visitors center and then back the the Best Western for a simple breakfast. We packed up and checked out and although we only had 78 miles to go to Boulder today, we would end up in Boulder in darkness.
They say that Hwy 12 is one of the best in the nation and I had to ride it to believe it. Around every corner I wanted to stop for a photo and we still had some good light as we approached mid-morning. I think you could spend all day on this highway.
Some pictures require you to travel a bit further up the road because there is no turnout, then you have to walk back to get your shot.
Our first destination along Hwy 12 was Escalante Natural Bridge. The 2 1/2 mile hike started just after the highway bridge over the Escalante River. I knew in advance that we would have to ford the river several time so we brought water shoes. The trail starts right off with the first crossing and I must admit it took a bit of persuasion by my wife to get me in. “If you came all this way for photos, you better get in and do it!” So off came the hiking shoes and socks and we rolled our pants up above our calves and slid down the short embankment into the freezing water. I had brought a couple of REI multi-towels to dry our feet each time we crossed. Then we’d put our socks and shoes back on and continue up the trail along side the Escalante River. The crossings were 15-25 feet wide and about 8” to 18” deep (had to watch for the deeper spots though.) Turns out we crossed the river four times before reaching the natural bridge.....and crossed four times again on the way back.
It was nearing mid-day and the light was harsh. I had to hold my hat far out in front of the lens to prevent lens flare. I composed without sky because the photo would have been washed out.
We met two other female solo hikers who had hiked this trail before. They just waded right through the river with their shoes on. I don’t think I could stand the squish squish and wet feet for 2 1/2 miles (but I’m sure they were pro’s :) It took more time to take our shoes off, dry our feet, and put shoes back on, but it was worth the feeling warm dry feet, and it was actually refreshing.
It had warmed up to 76 degrees by the time we returned to the bike and we were out of water. One of the hikers we met was still at the parking lot and offered to fill our water bottles. We changed into our riding gear and headed off to our next destination....Calf Creek Falls.
Just a short 5 miles up the rode we turned into Calf Creek Campground. We wondered if we should really do this hike knowing it was 6 miles round trip and would take at least 3 hours. It was already 3:00pm and I wanted to make it to Boulder before dark.
We decided to do it! Go get the picture! I grabbed a trail guide and we headed off. The trail guide had 15 points of interest where you would stop at numbered markers, then read about the area. During the first 30 minutes into the hike we kept seeing hikers coming out....I hope we get out before dark! The hike seemed to go on and on around distant bends, each bend seemed like it would be the last before the falls, but the trail just kept going and going. The scenery along the trail was beautiful yet I didn’t stop for any pictures....we wanted to keep our pace up.
Finally around another bend we could hear and see part of the falls and a 100 yards further it came into full view. We stood there in awe as we took a deep breath of accomplishment. It was beautiful and I think it was the highlight of the trip. I evaluated the area for my composition and set up the tripod, set my exposure and started clicking away. The mist from the water was cool and the canyon was getting well shaded by the immense surrounding cliffs. The temperature was starting its way down.
We talked to a few people there and after they left we were all alone at the falls. It was peaceful and mind relaxing. We snapped a few pics of ourselves, ate peanuts and jerkey, drank juice, then packed up and put ourselves in a state of mind to hike back. One more amazing look at the falls before we head out. We were determined to get back to the bike before dark and we didn’t stop once! My wife lead the entire way in and out!
The sun set just as we returned to the bike and we quickly changed out of our hiking clothes and into our riding gear. We headed up Hwy 12 and the instrument lights automatically came on. By the time we reached the narrow section of S-curves, it was too dark to photograph and we continued on into Boulder where I had planned to stay at Pole’s Place.
The temp. was dropping fast and by the time we made Boulder, just 15 miles from Calf Creek, the temp was 45 degrees. As we checked into our room the moon came up. We changed and drove back to the Boulder Mesa Cafe for a nice friendly dinner with the locals.
What a day...our feet were sore and my hips were tight from carrying my camera hip pack, but it was well worth it. With no distinct photos to take the next morning we decided to sleep in the next morning before heading out on the Burr Trail.