Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bluff Utah

I had the pleasure of exploring the area in and around Bluff Utah recently.  I've been photographing this area for several years however until recently I've never taken the time to really explore the area. While I have photographed the landscape of Comb Ridge, Valley of the Gods, and Monument Valley I haven't had the time to dig deeper into the rich history this area offers. 

The more I explored the history of the area the more I knew I wanted to return and spend some quality time exploring the area.  Bluff is a small town located in the San Juan River Valley in southeastern Utah.  US Highway 191 runs through the small town which is bordered on the south by the San Juan River as well as the Navajo Nation.  There's vast panoramic landscapes to the west and 300-foot sandstone bluffs to the north.  Monument Valley is a very easy drive to the west taking less than 45 minutes to get there while passing through incredible southwestern landscape.

"House on Fire"
Cambo WRS1000/P65+ Schneider 72mm lens

I wanted to explore the Cedar Mesa area on this trip.  There's an elevation change ranging from 4,200 feet (1,00 m) to 6,500 feet (2,000 m) which helped lead to the formation of numerous canyons and cliffs.  There are several canyons leading into Comb Wash, including Arch, Texas, Owl, Fish, and Mule with cliff dwellings of the Ancient Puebloans scattered throughout these canyons.  With so much to choose from I decided to center my visit on the Mule Canyon area.

"House on Fire"
Cambo WRS1000/P65+ Schneider 72mm lens

Mule Canyon is located north of Bluff and off Highway 95. The main attractions of Mule Canyon are the Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs and outstanding scenery. The trailhead is approximately 3/10 a mile off the road. I paid my $2.00 for the Cedar Mesa day use fee and found the trailhead. After signing the register I began my hike to the first ruin which is slightly less than one-mile. There's more than 4-cliff dwellings located along the trail within a span of approximately 3-miles.

"House on Fire"
Cambo WRS1000/P65+ Schneider 72mm lens

The first ruin is called "House on Fire" and is aptly named.  This ruin sits less than 30 yards off the trail and is easily accessible.  My research told me the best time to photograph this ruin was between 10 and 11 a.m.  I wanted to get there early to set up and found that I ended up staying here for over 5-hours; mostly by myself.  The original plan was to photograph this ruin then continue down the trail stopping at the other ruins along the way until the end before turning around.  Notice I said the "original plan".  I ended up hiking out to the next ruin which was about 1-mile away however by the time I got there it was in the heat of the day and I was simply too pooped to try the climb to the second ruin;  I looked at it from a distance and decided to return to the truck.  All told I found myself on the trail close to 8-hours and while I didn't do what I had originally expected to do I had a ball.  I've talked Sandy into joining me on a return visit next year sometime late spring when the weather will hopefully be cooler.

The images shown here of House on Fire were all captured using the Cambo WRS and Phase One P65.  This was also the first time I had decided to use a lighter weight tripod and ballhead and am very pleased with the way things turned out.  I had recently replaced the original grips of the WRS1000 with the new wooden grips and can report the change helped.  I like the wooden grips so much I actually attempted handheld photographs a few times and liked the results.


Barton Trading Post
Leica M9 Leica Emarit 24mm
My second day in the area and I woke a little sore from the hike yesterday so I decided to try and explore using the truck more than my feet.  I made it out to the remains of Barton Trading Post located along the San Juan River.  Further out is The River House ruin which I found sitting on a high cliff.  I started climbing to the ruin however I quickly found that it was too steep for me and I really needed more than 12-hours to recuperate from the previous day.

Looking into Mule Canyon from an overlook...

Leica M9 135mm lens
The first image above is from an overlook off Highway 95. I walked out to the rim hoping to be able to see where I hike the day before and maybe see at least the first cliff dwelling. The second image is where I suspect "House on Fire" is located (at least that's where my GPS said it was). If you look close enough you'll see 2-people standing near the rock face. The 3-image is a 100% crop of the second image. I never did get to walk around the rim to get a better look as there was little to no trail and it got more difficult the further I walked.
Ferry at Halls Crossing
Leica M9 135mm
I passed this waterhole on the way to Halls Crossing and decided to stop on the way back.  There's really isn't much to it; shallow water, hoof prints in the sand, flies - big flies.  Lots of flies.  I took the first image with the Leica M9 and 24mm and deciding I like what I had deciding to break out the Cambo WRS/P65+ with the Schneider 35mm.  The Leica image was handheld while the Cambo was on tripod.

"Waterhole #9"
Leica M9 24mm lens

"Waterhole #9"
Cambo WRS/P65+ Schneider 35mm

Deciding I was still too tired to do any actual climbing I decided instead to take a drive and see the scenery ending back on Highway 95 and eventually Halls Landing in Lake Powell.  I had planned on taking the long way around the next day leaving Bluff for Page AZ where I was meeting Ken Doo to shoot slot canyons and wanted to see the area in advance.  I ended up driving to the ferry before turning around and returning to Bluff.

A great place to eat in Bluff is the Twin Rocks Trading Post & Cafe.

I left the next day working my way through Valley of the Gods, Gooseneck State Park and passing through Monument Valley on my way to Page.  I met with my 'brother from 'another mother" Ken Doo in Page where we spent 2-days shooting in slot canyons and attempting to see just how much sand we could get in our boots.

I stayed at the Desert Rose Inn & Cabins while in Bluff and highly recommend it.  Sandy & I like the Desert Rose so much we'll be staying there as we make our way to Jackson Hole later this year.

I've been home long enough to process and print the "House on Fire" at 30x40 and have to say that I'm very pleased with it - so much so that it will shortly be hanging in our studio.

Next up is Page AZ and slot  canyons captured using the Leica M9 and the Cambo WRS/P65+.

Thanks for visiting and as always, your comments, questions, or suggestions are always welcome.



No comments:

Post a Comment