Moab Musings

The beginning of this week was spent in Moab photographing a wedding of a couple who traveled from Germany to be married in Moab. Much magic and wonder was in the air. Do you ever have days that are so full of awe, wonder, and power, that it’s difficult to summarize it into anything intelligible? I stood at the edge of every cliff I encountered. I was awestruck at the juxtaposition of the ancient silence that coated the awesome structures that mother nature has created of red rock.

8:00am, Arches National Park: I have never seen or met my wedding clients before… I stepped out of the car to meet them for the first time. They had traveled from Germany to have their wedding in Moab, and I was their photographer of choice. I was greeted by a most charming and picturesque couple, David and Anna. We proceeded up to a few predetermined shooting sites within Arches National Park. Aside from being a strikingly beautiful couple, they were amazingly easy to shoot, on a personal level. Every shot came naturally and quickly. This very positive photo session certainly was an omen for the rest of the day.

My story would not be complete without mention of the soundtrack of my trip. I discovered a group called “Blackfield” (which is a side project of Stephen Wilson, founder of Porcupine Tree). Specifically, the song “Blackfield” must have been played 487 times during my trip. Wilson’s musical vision is as grand and breathtaking as the red rock country I was playing in.

Following lunch, I was able to squeeze in time for a bike ride at Slickrock. There are places in Southern Utah that have the unique gift of reminding you that you’re ALIVE. Slickrock was one such place. After arrving at the trail head parking lot, I found a sign and map station. The sign at the trail head included warnings about wearing a helmet, bringing twice the water you think you’ll need, blah blah blah… be careful, blah blah… to some extent, I wrote it off just like I do when my well intentioned mother tells me to be careful. I was there with no helmet, very little water, and a lot of bravado.

It’s too bad you can’t drink bravado.

At Slickrock, there is a main trail (about 12 miles) and a “practice loop” (about 2 miles). Normally, I would ride 12 miles without giving it a second thought. I’m grateful I was on a schedule, as my time constraints may be the only thing that kept me from perishing on the 12 mile route. I took the 2 mile loop for the sake of time concerns. As I said before, Moab has a way of reminding you that you’re alive…and did so, piece at a time:

  • Quads… check.
  • calfs… check.
  • wrists… check.
  • manhood…check. Yep. Lower the seat. This is rough riding.
  • lungs… oh yeah.
  • eyes… check. Wish I had 2 more so I could watch the scenery pass by AND the trail.
  • parched tongue…. check.

Half way through my ride, I came upon a box canyon composed of magnificent red rock. I situated my bike and proceeded by foot down to the edge of the cliff. I sat for a while, dangling my feet off the edge, contemplating the forces that have sculpted such a masterpiece… pondering the various men and animals that have wandered these ways, wondering how they have experienced it. I began feeling slightly dizzy (likely attributable to the million degree temps and shortage of water). Questionable equilibrium is not your friend when sitting on the precipice of a 200 foot cliff. Back to the bike, onward on the “little trail”… 30 minutes, 1 crash, and a billion expended calories later… I arrived back at my car. I’ve never been so happy to see that old beast.

…a quick stop at my hotel to shower up…
Next stop… Castle Rock Winery.

This is a shot of the syrah vines at the Castlerock vineyard.

Who knew that Utah had “wine country”? And who would have guessed that it would be in southeastern Utah? Turns out, this is the only place in Utah with suitable wine grape growing conditions. Last night’s dinner provided the opportunity to try their Chenin Blanc, (very fruit forward, I recall flavors of apple, citrus, and perhaps a slight floral hint, with subdued alcohol and a very clean simple finish) which paired wonderfully with a roasted tomato cream based chicken “pasta milano” dish. If you are ever in the mood for a cheerful, fruity, umcomplicated white, but find pinot grigio to be lacking in personality, Castlerock’s chenin blanc is just the ticket. They also produce pinot noir, merlot, cabernet sauvingnon, and chardonnay. I enjoyed a quick self “mini tour” of the wine making facility and vineyard before shooting David and Anna’s ceremony, also held at Castlerock / Redcliff Lodge.

Me at Castlerock / Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab. It’s been a great day so far… Great photography, beautiful bride and groom, amazing music, breathtaking biking, business networking, great scenery, good wine, and open road to come…

Next stop, Deadhorse point…

Remember the song, “Blackfield” I mentioned? It played softly as I made my approach:

I arrived at dusk. My initial hope was to capture shots with the evening sun casting orange glow on the east facing facets of the canyon. Despite my best efforts to speed my way there, the sun had already set. I was tempted to turn back… I tried to maintain a zen attitude about the whole thing. I proceeded past the closed ranger station, past a few exiting cars, and into the park alone. I let the music waft slowly from my car for a few minutes, but then I turned it off and encountered the roaring silence. There were many times that I had the distinct sense of walking on holy ground. I almost felt to remove my shoes. That may sound odd. It does as I write it… and yet, I clearly remember the impressions. I took each step deliberately and quietly as I explored this otherworldly place.

I don’t claim to be a landscape photographer. This is just a simple snapshot that I hope at least communicates the locale of my story.

In soul stretching solitude, I gazed out over the expansive view of Deadhorse point. Somehow, you expect something as large and awesome as this to generate sound. It was as quiet as a painting, and almost too magnificent to NOT be a painting. There were moments I questioned the reality of the muddy river below. I could not shake the feeling that despite my utter aloneness, there was a discernible, multitudinous presence that seemed to be hiding in this place. I felt like a guest in the grand ballroom of the the world of spirits. I was in the place for a party reserved only for those of another realm – whose party could only start without me. I was the last mortal guest to arrive, and although anxious for me to leave, my spirit guests were graciously tolerating my reluctance to go home. In my mind’s eye I could imagine that every nook and cranny held the ghosts who were politely yet anxiously waiting for me to leave. I am convinced that as I turned my back and departed, the canyons below became ablaze with the spirits of men and horses… jubilantly communing, making music, riding the range, dancing, celebrating the memories of mortal joy and the exuberance of eternity.

Standing on the edge of the cliff in near darkness, I was compelled to whisper a prayer, as It was obvious he who listens to prayers was very, very near.

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