Posts Tagged ‘Zion National Park’

Glen Canyon Book Review: Resurrection By Annette McGivney With James Kay

September 25th, 2013

Book Review on the Biggest Conservation Story of All Time and New Solutions… Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West by Annette McGivney with Photographs by James Kay and Foreword by Bill McKibben (Braided River, 2009)

How We Lost Glen Canyon

Resurrection Book Cover, Photograph copyright 2009 James Kay.

Resurrection Book Cover, Lake Powell at Hite Marina, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, Photograph copyright 2007 James Kay.

In the mid 1950s, David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, led a coalition of conservation groups in an effort to permanently banish industrial development from national park lands. The primary battle defending the sanctity of the national park system was over two dams proposed inside Dinosaur National Monument. The proposed dams in Dinosaur would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument on the Yampa and Green Rivers.

David Brower in Congressional testimony used 9th Grade math to prove that if Glen Canyon Dam were higher, it could hold back and store more water than both proposed dams in Dinosaur. Congress removed the two dams in Dinosaur National Monument from the Colorado River Compact and passed the bill approving the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Having never seen Glen Canyon, David Brower and many others did not know the extent or nature of the sacrifice made to protect the national park system. Looking back, especially after he floated through Glen Canyon on the Colorado River for the first time in 1958, David Brower mused that he and the coalition might have pushed on and possibly succeeded in saving Glen Canyon. (For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.”

Ironically, before World War II, Glen Canyon had been part of a proposed national park that would have encompassed more than two million acres spread across much of Southeastern Utah including most of what are now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park and all of Glen Canyon. The attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted these discussions and turned the attention of Congress to preparations for war.

Drought, Distortions, Glen Canyon Dam And A New Dream Of The West

The Bureau of Reclamation closed the gates on Glen Canyon Dam in 1964, but “Lake” Powell did not reach full capacity until 1980. The reservoir water level ebbed and flowed until the last time it was full in 1996, then drew down over 100 feet by 2003 and has remained nearly half empty or more than half empty ever since. It turns out that the Colorado River flow calculations that justified the building of Glen Canyon Dam in the first place were exaggerated, as were the rainfall estimates on which expansion and development interests based the entire settlement of the Western US plains and Southwestern desert. Tree ring studies and other climate measures show that the 20th Century was one of the wettest ever in the Western US. Today’s much lower rainfall and river flow rates are more characteristic of the region, though big dam proponents are officially calling the present conditions a drought. Nonetheless, scientists project that “Lake” Powell may never be full again. Odds are that both “Lake” Mead and “Lake” Powell will both remain as they are now, roughly half full or less for the foreseeable future.

Annette McGivney, in Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West, tells the story of the loss of Glen Canyon, but more importantly the rebirth of life in the side canyons since the reservoir has subsided. Glen Canyon today is the poster child for watershed recovery for both Glen and Grand Canyon, as well as for the resilience of nature in general. McGivney’s easy-flowing text accompanies the photography of James Kay, who for more than three decades has photographed the Colorado Plateau, the seismically uplifted high desert that the Colorado River cuts through in Utah and Arizona. James Kay knows this land and these canyons. His sensitive, artistic eye finds for us the devastation that was, and the haunting, unparalleled paradise that is Glen Canyon.

McGivney and Kay explored many of the tributary canyons together for this project, either by boat, by kayak, but most often on foot, backpacking from the reservoir up canyon; or from the rims of the sandstone tablelands above, down into narrow, winding passages and rock alcoves. These slot canyons, often hundreds of feet tall and in places only a few feet wide, are already verdant with newly rooted cottonwoods, willows, and grasses, as well as teaming with wildlife just as they had been for centuries before everything drowned under the full reservoir.

Annette McGivney quotes Richard Ingebretsen, co-founder with David Brower of Glen Canyon Institute, who asked, “Why keep two reservoirs half empty?” Glen Canyon Institute, founded for the ultimate purpose of reclaiming Glen Canyon and turning it into a national park, is working on a current campaign called, “Fill Mead First.” The idea is to keep “Lake” Mead full because it supplies many cities of the Southwest with water and generates their electricity. If “Lake” Powell were then drawn down, Glen Canyon could be restored and even made into a national park. Many who saw Glen Canyon before the reservoir say that it rivaled the Grand Canyon in beauty.

Canyon Photography On Par With The Best Ever

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

James Kay’s photographs in Resurrection certainly provide the proof of this claim to canyon beauty. Traveling by Kayak, powerboat and most often on foot, Kay has shown us as never before, the side canyons and back alcoves of Glen Canyon reborn. His style is both effectively documentary, yet artistically strong. Kay’s experience in the canyons of the Southwest has given him not just an eye for form; he has an eye for gracefully capturing the forms of canyons. His understanding of natural light and how to use it to best portray the curves, edges, near and far, contrasts, shadows and indirect illumination of layers on layers of weather-sculpted sandstone.

Some of Kay’s compositions are simple. For example, one photograph in Resurrection depicts a massive wall of rock that juts out into “Lake” Powell like the prow of a ship. The vantage point of the image is from a boat close to water level. At the bottom of the wall that is about 200 feet tall, we see a small boat dwarfed by the immensity of stone above. The photograph is a work of beauty, while at the same time it accomplishes the practical task of dramatizing just how far the reservoir has receded from the high water line marked by a gray-tan mud stain, or “bathtub ring,” as people call it. The top half of the cliff is the beautiful red-brown of native rock, while the bottom half of the cliff is coated with ugly mud stain.

Other images give us the haunting, far away longing of luminous reflections or newly sprouted grasses, shrubs, cottonwoods and other lush greenery. Some photographs are purposely ugly, some are otherworldly and nearly abstract, while still others incorporate hikers in soaring walled narrows or show us intimate rushing water. If you love the desert and canyons, this is a book and a place different. Yet despite how unusual this place is, those who see it as nothing more than a holding tank, a cash register or a recreation area for motorized tourism, have seemingly never stopped to see it the way James Kay shares it.

The Desert, Progress, Jobs, Money And Other Myths

Despite US Bureau of Reclamation and pro-development rhetoric, the only two justifiable reasons Glen Canyon Dam was ever necessary, and remotely remains necessary, were the Politics surrounding the agreement between the seven Western states that share the water; and the Income from recreation on “Lake” Powell. The viability of Hydropower generation has nearly run out with low water levels often not providing enough gravity water drop to turn the turbines at sufficient speed. Besides, the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act no longer allows the fluctuation of water levels caused by increased dam releases during peak power usage.

Politically in relation to water use, the three Upper Colorado River Basin states: Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, for good reason mistrust the four lower basin states: California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. The lower basin states have all along taken more than their share of Colorado River water. Glen Canyon Dam provides a physical obstruction by which the upper states can regulate the flow to the lower states and keep them from taking more than their allotment, if and when the upper states catch up with the lower states in their land development and thirst for water.

Even though the desert does not inherently provide the water to support the building of industry and commercial buildings, suburbs, golf courses, and abundant water features, the seven Western states of the Colorado River system have been in a race to develop as fast as they can to be sure they obtain as much Colorado River water as possible in relation to the neighboring states. John Wesley Powell, whom the reservoir was named after, warned against developing the West beyond its water capacity. He recommended a number of water saving approaches that have been implemented by a few wise communities, but ignored by most.

Indeed, McGivney reminds us that the cities of the desert tend to flaunt the image of the manufactured oasis. The Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2005 adopted the slogan, “The Desert is a Myth.” A July hike in any direction beyond the edge of a Phoenix suburb like Anthem, for instance, and it becomes readily apparent that the desert is real and it is the lush golf courses that perhaps are already, or soon will be a mirage. Land development in the West has achieved similar temporary high profits and blindness to long-term consequences as recent Wall Street derivative speculation and the banking system near meltdown.

Nonetheless, it is less the cities that would run dry without “Lake” Powell than the farming of water-intensive crops like alfalfa, hay and cotton, grown not to supply market demand, but to take advantage of government subsidies and tax breaks. Dams are portrayed as symbolizing progress and economic growth, but special interests are the primary benefactors. In Utah, for example, mining, ranching and industrial agriculture represent less than 3% of the economy, but they use 85% of Utah’s water. Even though industrial agriculture comprises a decreasing portion of the Western economy, the industry is one of the largest contributors to political campaigns. Thus, even though dam projects, expanded water pipelines and other water infrastructure will not sustain society long-term, these outdated public works continue to garner support of those in political power.

A Dying Motor Tourism Industry And The Future

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century.

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. James Kay used this photograph side-by-side with his own like this in the book Resurrection too.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point, with the Cathedral almost fully recovered as only a few feet of water were left in the bottom.

The motorized brand of tourism that thrived on “Lake” Powell in the 1980s and 1990s, has generated significant income for concessionaires and boat operators, who also provide proportionally large support to politicians and boost the local economy. In 1992, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area hosted a record 3.5 million visitors, nearly as many at this peak as visited the Grand Canyon. Yet today with the shrinkage of the “lake” area, the closure of two out of five of the marinas and high gasoline prices area hotel stays and other tourism has dropped by 40 percent. Nearby national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Zion each increased visitation in the last decade. Indeed, the economy is playing a major role in the dying of motorized tourism nearly everywhere. Less disposable income, especially among the upper-middle class and upper class has led to less motorized lake recreation. In the past many high earning tourists have spent discretionary money on Jet Skis, Houseboat shares and other expensive water toys, but in the last 10 years public lands hiking and camping has grown, while motor boating has decreased significantly. Local jobs in Page, Arizona and elsewhere around “Lake” Powell have depended almost entirely on motor tourism. Most local people, including the Native Americans in the area, want to prolong a dying industry to maintain their livelihoods. While denying that their way of life is dying, they are likely missing the opportunities and shift in perspective that could bring them a far more sustainable, Earth-friendly and perhaps most importantly, a more permanent security.

McGivney’s “Step-by-step guide to saving Glen Canyon and then, perhaps the world” offers the kind of forward thinking solutions that thought leaders have begun to discuss in recent years. While these innovative resolutions will become requirements, rather than options in the near future, as a civilization we have a big leap to negotiate before we are ready to leave our self-serving short-term approaches behind and move into a mindset that is more conducive to sustaining our society and all life on Earth. This is perhaps the text’s only flaw, or perhaps it is more of a challenge: the leap from where our watershed management and environmental stewardship are now to where they need to be to sustain life in the Southwest and on Earth long range may be too big. Are we up to the task? Perhaps an even better question is: can we learn to cooperate with, listen to, find new ways to meet the needs of and educate those who have a vested interest in business as it has been for far too long?

For more on Glen Canyon and Philip Hyde’s photography of the lost paradise see the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1,” or “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

Nature Magazine: East Of Zion 2

July 21st, 2011

East Of Zion By Philip Hyde, Part 2

Continued from the blog post, “Nature Magazine: East Of Zion 1.”

Originally published by Nature Magazine, March 1957

(Nature Magazine was published by the American Nature Association and taken over by Natural History Magazine in 1960.)

Mission of Nature Magazine: “To stimulate public interest in every phase of nature and the outdoors, and devoted to the practical conservation of the great natural resources of America.”

A Glimpse of the Geology of Zion National Park:

Celebrating The Divine Artistry Of Falling Water Through Deep Canyons

By Philip Hyde

Cascade, Tributary To Clear Creek, Zion National Park, Utah, copyright 1978 by Philip Hyde. From "Drylands: The Deserts of North America." 4X5 Baby Deardorf Large Format View Camera. Original dye transfer prints, Original Cibachrome prints, archival digital prints by Carr Clifton.

(View the photograph large, “Cascade, Tributary To Clear Creek, Zion National Park, Utah, 1978.”

The great architect of this beautiful landscape is moving and falling water, and to this builder and remover of the landscape can be attributed the deep canyons of the region. The violence and power of moving water is often forcefully demonstrated during a summer thunderstorm. One of the writer’s earliest and most vivid recollections of travel in this area stems from a summer visit to Zion Canyon, when he arrived in the midst of a cloudburst. The violence of the storm was enough to justify repetition of Chicken Little’s oft-quoted exclamation: “The sky is falling!” I still have a vivid mental picture of the brown torrent that was the Virgin River, gnawing great chunks from its banks, ripping out trees, carrying debris before it in the surging current. After the climax of the storm passed, the raging water quickly abated, and within a few hours the brown flood disappeared, to be replaced by the river’s normally quiet murmurings.

Even during its quieter periods, however, the river is actively working on the confines of its bed. The low resistance of sandstone to erosion, combined with the steep gradients of the streams in this region, result in a rapid deepening of the stream canyons. Because of these two factors, the stream plays a lesser part in the process of widening the canyon. Seepage of ground water, direct action of rain water, and frosts produce the curves and crenelations that add so much to the sculptured beauty of the canyon walls.

The east side of Zion National Park displays progressive steps in the erosion cycle. In the beginning of this cycle, the land is relatively flat, illustrated by the present tops of plateaus. Where a stream gathers its waters from a small area, the stream remains small, probably runs only in response to rainfall, and manages to cut only a small canyon. The east Zion area contains many examples of this phenomenon; they are within walking distance of the highway, and can be more closely studied. In many respects these small streams are miniatures of the larger ones. They demonstrate processes and effects similar to those evidenced on a larger scale by their bigger brothers.

Another most interesting feature of the Zion region is the frequent occurrence of rock pedestals on the broad stone pavements near the highway. A closer examination of such pedestals reveals that they are capped by a material differing from the soft sandstone of the base; a layer of iron oxide that geologists believe was intruded, in solution into the sandstone. Since this material is harder, and therefore more resistant to erosive forces, it has protected the softer material directly beneath it while the surrounding material was being eroded away. So, when you look at these pedestals, you are really seeing a remnant of the layers of stone that formerly covered the presently exposed surface. The balance of this material has been carried away, either as wind-borne sand, or by stream action, to be deposited as part of a sandbar somewhere downstream. Or, perhaps it will find its way eventually to the sea, to be laid down as part of a delta at the Colorado River’s mouth.

In these pedestals, as in the rest of the landscape, can be read one of the grand lessons of geology—that Nature is not at rest, but is ever active, ever changing the face of the Earth; that even the stones, cold and dead to our eyes, have their own inner life and being. In the slow passage of geologic time, the surface we look at today will pass away to join its predecessors, each succeeding layer following in its turn, until Nature decrees a major change—such as has occurred we know not how many times past—to commence the cycle again at what men are pleased to call the beginning.

Nature Magazine: East Of Zion 1

June 16th, 2011

East Of Zion By Philip Hyde

Originally published by Nature Magazine, March 1957

(Nature Magazine was published by the American Nature Association and taken over by Natural History Magazine in 1960.)

Mission of Nature Magazine: “To stimulate public interest in every phase of nature and the outdoors, and devoted to the practical conservation of the great natural resources of America.”

From Wikipedia: American Nature Association, headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, was the publisher of Nature Magazine from 1923 to 1959;[1] and a discount reseller of natural science books for its members.[2] It was founded by Arthur Newton Pack and his father, Charles.[3] Nature Magazine was an “illustrated monthly with popular articles about nature”[4] and later, the “interpreter of the great outdoors.”[5] A May 1924 review of the organization and its magazine, written by Carroll Lane Fenton and published in American Midland Naturalist called the magazine “excellent” with “abundant pictures, admirably printed”; and said it was a “highly worth while publication” that deserves a wide circulation among town and school libraries.”[2] Natural History magazine absorbed Nature Magazine in January 1960.[6]

References:

  1. WorldCat
  2. Journal Storage (JSTOR)
  3. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  4. Google Books
  5. National Mail Order Association
  6. Smithsonian Institute Libraries

East Of Zion By Philip Hyde

A Glimpse of the Geology of Zion National Park

Wall Of Hidden Canyon, Zion National Park, Utah, copyright 1977 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

To a casual tourist, the eastern portion of Zion National Park in Utah may be just an area through which to pass quickly on the way to the spectacularly beautiful, pink and white walled Zion Canyon on the Virgin River. It is this Zion Canyon that gives its name to the National Park. A closer look along the way, however, reveals many highly interesting facts and features. If the visitor is interested in poking a bit beneath the surface appearances of the landscape, this country will come alive for him. Here are all the ingredients that went into the making of the more showy Virgin River canyon, but in this eastern area it is possible to examine them more intimately.

This part of the country is reached on Utah State Highway 15, from the west by way of Zion Canyon, or from the east from Mt. Carmel Junction. The traveler from the east will find the formations on the way to Zion National Park from either Bryce Canyon National Park, on the north, or Grand Canyon National Park, over the Arizona line to the south. In a region so abundant with colorful natural wonders, this area fully deserves its status as part of one of the great National Parks established to protect these natural wonders.

If you come west from the Mt. Carmel Junction, into Zion National Park, you will emerge gently into this colorfully carved introduction through Zion Canyon. The highway from the junction runs roughly west, climbing first over a series of plateau-ridges, then, near the entrance checking station at the Park boundary, it begins to descend gradually. Almost before you become aware of it, small canyons are born and mature rapidly on either side of the highway. By the time you reach the east portal of the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel the canyon that the highway has rough paralleled has become a vertically walled abyss. Intermingled with the deepening system of canyons that form the drainage of the usually dry plateau are great, gradually sloping, stratified sandstone pavements, with their delicately eroded concentric curves that are the delight of photographers and painters in search of interesting forms and color. The formation exposed in this area is the same Navajo Sandstone that forms the top layers of the cliffs and towers of Zion Canyon. Seen in these more intimate and accessible surroundings, the erosion sculptures fashioned by the artful fingers of wind and water can be more closely appreciated.

In the washes at the feet of these stone pavements, in the proper season, are many and varied wildflowers and plants. If your visit occurs during early summer, you may be rewarded by the sight of the bright-plumed spikes of yucca, or clumps of the brilliant orange butterfly milkweed. The sharp, linear, spike-like forms of the yuccas are in pleasing contrast to the swirling curves of the stratified rocks.

Probably the landmark that will be first remembered by most visitors to Zion National Park from the East is the pale pyramid of Checkerboard Mesa, whose bulk is framed in one’s windshield shortly after leaving the checking station. This is a well-known example of what geologists call “cross-bedding,” and tells us that this region, in a remote period of earth-history, was a dry, sandy, desert-like place. Only the caprice of desert winds, constantly shifting loose sand, could produce the intricate layered patterns as we see them today, solidified into rock. This rock, however, is relatively soft, and is highly susceptible to the sculpturing forces of erosion that patiently pluck it away, grain by grain.

Continued in the upcoming blog post, “Nature Magazine: East Of Zion 2.”

Learn more about Bryce Canyon National Park in the blog post, “New Release: Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park.”

New Release: Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

April 26th, 2011

The Making Of The Widely Published And Collected Photograph In Philip Hyde’s Own Words

New Release: Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 1963

Landscape Photography Blogger Introductory Note:

Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, copyright 1963 by Philip Hyde. Widely exhibited and published including in “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America” and related major museum exhibitions. In permanent museum collections.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

As part of his first explorations of the American Southwest in 1951 and 1955, Philip Hyde documented Dinosaur National Monument on the first photography assignment for an environmental cause. (See the series of blog posts that begin with, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1“)

Ardis and Philip Hyde returned to the Southwest in the Fall of 1963 and visited Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Monument, now also a national park, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon National Park, the Hopi Villages, Canyon de Chelly, Petrified Forest National Monument, Walnut Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, “Lake” Mead National Recreation Area and Glen Canyon Dam. Philip Hyde on this trip planned to build his stock photography files, gather images for several upcoming conservation projects as well as working on an assignment from the National Park Service photographing several of the national park’s facilities and buildings’ architecture. After a stop in Zion National Park, the Hydes moved on to Bryce Canyon National Park…

Excerpted From Philip Hyde’s 1963 travel log:

By Philip Hyde

September 24, 1963: We decided to go on to Bryce Canyon and come back to Zion National Park later—after Canyonlands, or on our way home before “Lake” Mead. We broke camp and headed for Bryce Canyon. On the way out of Zion, I spent an hour or so working on the East side formations after the tunnel—Checkerboard Mesa and Navajo Formation pavements. Then we went on out of Zion and north. We stopped about 11 am at Edith Hamblin’s place on the north end of Mt. Carmel. Edith Hamblin is the widow of painter Maynard Dixon. We also stopped in to see Dick McGraw at his studio and guest house with a view toward the White Cliffs, then drove on to Bryce Canyon, arriving about 3 pm.

At Bryce Canyon we went to the visitor’s center to meet with the Park Engineer and Naturalist. Then we headed on out to the first overlook road. In the fairyland section the light was gorgeous. I took my 4X5 view camera and walked down the trail half a mile or so into the canyon. I made six color transparencies and two black and white negatives. Then we drove back to the Visitor’s Center in later light which was also very good. Called it a day and headed to the campground, which was rather exposed with little gravel platforms for camp sites. The Park Ranger said that the low last night was down to 29 degrees Fahrenheit, so I put antifreeze into the radiator that I bought in Hatch, Utah.

September 25: In the morning I went up to the Visitor’s Center to shoot interiors for the National Park Service. Then we went first to Sunset Point and down the Navajo Loop Trail to the canyon bottom where I made several exposures. We drove out along the loop road to

Various viewpoints and eventually to Rainbow Point, then back along the rim. Back at Sunset Point I caught the late light and walked down the Queen’s Garden Trail just at Sunset when the light was magnificent. I photographed until the light failed. When we returned to the car, we ran into Adele and John Hampton of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, whom we had met in Zion National Park. We had dinner with them and talked until about 9 pm—late for us.

September 26: We were up before dawn, about 5:30 am, to catch the sunrise light on the Queen’s Garden Trail. Hiked down into Queen’s Garden working all the way as the light was spectacular. Photographed in the Queen’s Garden until about 9 am, then back up to the car, showered, packed up and set out for Capitol Reef about 10:30 am. Drove down into the Paria Valley—now called Bryce Valley—around Tropic, Utah. Tropic is just awakening from its sleepy, remote, Mormon character to tourist awareness. However, only the main “street” has changed adding a drive-in and frosty store. The road is now paved all the way to Escalante, Utah—not just paved, but realigned to “modern” engineering high standards—70 mph in most places. It circles around the Table Cliffs of the Aquarius Plateau and crosses several layered ridges and streaks across some broad open plateau tops to reach Escalante. Several roads beckoned. One that looked interesting was the one to Hole In The Rock, which we will take before we finish this project—maybe on this trip or perhaps next Spring. About eight miles East of Escalante the dirt started and except for a stretch on top of a ridge several miles long near Boulder, Utah, it was much like it was five or six years ago, though the surface this time was in better shape and some of the notable grades have been eliminated.

Landscape Photography Blogger Postscript

Philip Hyde made four dye transfer prints of “Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 1963” in the early 1970s and two more in 1987 when Drylands: The Deserts Of North America came out. See the blog post, “The Legend of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 1” for more about dye transfer printing and “Philip Hyde At Home In The Wilds 1” for an interview in which Philip Hyde talks about his approach to dye transfer printing. Now for the first time since Kodak discontinued the manufacture of dye transfer printing materials in the early 1990s, “Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park” is available as a color fine art print in archival digital print form. Also for a limited time “Formations From Bryce Point” is available at introductory New Release Pricing. For more about Philip Hyde’s connection to the Southwest see the blog post, “Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands.”

Winter Snow On Desert Landscapes

March 7th, 2011

Angular Boulders, Snow Covered Mesa, San Rafael Swell, Utah, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

A road trip across the Western United States can take many courses. Often when driving from the Denver area to Northern California people travel north on Interstate 25 into Wyoming, then take Interstate 80 west into Utah and Nevada. This route is the fastest by a little over an hour, but it is more developed and goes through flatter, less interesting country than other alternatives. The route I like is direct and nearly as fast, but much more scenic and remote. I take Interstate 70 west from Denver over the Rocky Mountains, down into the Colorado River canyon, through Grand Junction and into Utah’s Canyon Country, past the turnoffs for Moab and Canyonlands National Park, Arches, The Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion National Parks, over the San Rafael Swell, until Interstate 70 meets Interstate 15. To read more about one special trip to some of these destinations see the blog post, “Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands.” I then go south on Interstate 15 a short way to Beaver, Utah, turn west on Utah State Highway 21, go through Milford and into Nevada, onto US Highway 50, the “Loneliest Highway in America,” past Great Basin National Park and Wheeler Peak, through Ely, Eureka, Austin, Reno and into California.

Wheeler Peak With Snow Streamer, Great Basin National Park, Nevada, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

This itinerary takes me on a traverse of one of the world’s most majestic mountain ranges, the Rocky Mountains, climbing to over 11,000 feet at the top of Loveland Pass. It winds through the enchanting headwaters and upper canyons of the Colorado River and the verdant foothill farmland of the Rocky Mountains’ West Slope. From the great heights of the Rockies, Interstate 70 drops all the way to 4,075 feet when it crosses the Green River in Utah. It then rises again to cross the plateaus, canyons, hoodoos, monuments, bluffs, arches and other spectacular formations of the Colorado Plateau of Southern Utah. With all of this breath-taking scenery left behind, many people consider Nevada plain, but Nevada has an elusive beauty of its own with the roller coaster traverse of Basin and Range, mountains and valleys. Nevada is one of the places where the West lives up to its reputation for wide open spaces. With up to 80-mile straightaways, Highway 50 crosses huge dried up prehistoric glacial Pleistocene lake beds, sometimes still in the form of mud flats, sometimes sprinkled with sage, sometimes lush with grasslands and ranches. Then the “Loneliest Highway In America” roller coaster ride makes a few turns and rises over mountain ranges between the giant valleys. Each mountain range sequesters its own secret old mines, ghost towns, rugged canyons, forests, mountain meadows, rushing streams, snow-capped peaks, small settlements, ranches and mineral deposits. US Highway 50 is a road tripper’s dream, but its beauty is somewhat hidden and subtle, it does not blare at the traveler, but whispers like the ghosts lurking on its dusty side roads.

Juniper Tree Skeleton Along US Highway 50, Nevada, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

In the winter any route from Colorado to Northern California is susceptible to sudden storms, icy roads, blizzards, bitter below zero daytime high temperatures, heavy snows and snow drifts. Driving is risky with few guard rails on the steep, winding, approaches to the passes over the many mountain ranges that run north-south and all but block passage to the unprepared traveler. Any venture through this near wilderness, must not be taken lightly in the winter season and must be planned around the weather. Such adventures must be well-timed to avoid heavy winter storms that pass from West to East across the open expanses and often leave unwary motorists stranded for days in their vehicles waiting for assistance that may never come, or at the least may come too late.

So far I have been fortunate most of the time to have good traveling days even in the winter, with only minor snow or rain showers while on the road. One time I drove in horizontal snow with up to five inches on the pavement, not able to see far beyond the front of the hood, just trying to limp to the next town with a motel. In mid November 2010, a low pressure system hit the Western states. This storm system produced heavy snows and temperatures as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit in mountain towns in Northern California and in Boulder, Colorado, as well as -25 degree weather on the Colorado Plateau in Utah. The roads were treacherous enough to question making any kind of journey at all, but according to the Doppler radar a window of opportunity opened up where it looked as though I could leave Boulder, Colorado and make it over Loveland Pass, out of the Rocky Mountains and down into lower terrain in Utah before the next major rack of clouds and snow hit. Sure enough I made it over the Rockies and into Utah by evening sailing clear. I imagined that I would drive as far as I could before the storm hit, find a good place to stop and wait out the system’s passing over night.

Dried Desert Flowers In The Snow, Along US Highway 50, Nevada, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

As I breezed through Green River, Utah the sky was still completely clear and full of bright stars and moonlight. From Green River it is about 104 wide open empty miles to the next town of any kind, Salina, Utah. About half-way to Salina the wind started to blow much harder and clouds began to dot the sky. Within another 10 miles tiny flakes of snow mixed in with the high winds. I was still about 40 miles from Salina. As I drove directly into the storm, the snow fell heavier and heavier. Soon it was piling up on the pavement. Fortunately, I was in my truck, which is four-wheel-drive and good at negotiating snow, unless the roads are also icy due to cold temperatures as was the case that night. By this time I was about 30 miles from civilization in Salina, the snow had become very heavy and the road was obliterated beyond recognition, even though Interstate 70 is a four lane freeway in that area. I thought about stopping, but decided I would press on because I didn’t want to get buried in snow on the side of the road. Needless to say, the last 25 miles were very slow and half the time I was merely hoping I was mostly on the road. Apparently the locals and other travelers had turned off for the night and retreated from the storm. I was nearly alone on the Interstate. Then far ahead I spotted a lone big rig truck plowing its way through the mess. I drove up behind and used the big truck’s taillights as a guide, hoping that his sense of the road would prove accurate. This went on for what seemed like hours and then we came up on a snow plow. The truck and I had been going about 10 miles an hour, but the snow plow was going about five miles an hour. The last 12 miles took 2 1/2 hours. I have never been more happy to see a freeway off ramp than that night in Salina. As I slowed even more to nose down the off ramp, my truck began to slide to one side. Fortunately I was able to correct and stay on what was left of the off ramp. I fish-tailed to the right, across and up what looked like the driveway to a local motel. The cheesy, low-budget room with internet access, color TV, half-broken wooden veneer furniture and musty bedding seemed like the coziest room I had ever slept in.

Rabbit Tracks And Shadows Along US Highway 50, Nevada, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Morning came quickly as I had arrived late and hit the hay around 2:00 am. I dragged myself to the 1970s era window curtain, pulled it open and beheld a new world. There was about six inches of new snow, but the skies were blue. I waited until around 9:30 am to get rolling, hoping that by then the snow plows would have made a few passes. Once I made it onto the freeway, both lanes were clear and the slow lane was even half dry. I didn’t loose any time as I drove off down the Interstate at near normal travel speed. Driving late into the night was now taking its toll on my body, but my persistence paid off as I had smooth sailing nearly all day except some snow patches on the road on the high passes and some slow-going around Ely, Nevada where there was still a lot of snow on US Highway 50. The real payoff came in the form of the gorgeous scenery freshly covered with new snow. I was on a deadline and couldn’t stop too often, but I did allow myself to stop for as many photographs as I possibly could dare. I made it to my meeting late, but it was quite a day photographing along the “Loneliest Highway in America,” well worth driving one evening in a blizzard and risking getting stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the high desert in the snow.