Friday, May 25, 2018

Easter Jeep Safari 2018 Part 1

Once again we have returned from a successful and fun filled trip to the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah and as usual, I already want to go back. We missed last year’s event and unfortunately this year was an abbreviated trip but we made the most of it.
 We’ve been going to Moab for almost thirty years now and I’ve run trails with hundreds of people in that time frame. I can’t even attempt to guess at how many miles I’ve racked up on vehicles while in the red dirt and I have enough stories that I’ve probably forgotten many of them. But would you believe me if I told you that there are still trails that I haven’t been on? Well, it’s true and this year we made a point to explore some areas that we had never been to before. This led us to doing a trail called Deadman Point and another known as Hotel Rock.
Deadman Point
 Deadman Point is not a difficult trail but it is a very scenic run that can be done by a small group of vehicles in only a few hours. This worked out well for us because we chose to do this trail after spending the first half of the day at the vendor show at the Spanish Trail Arena. More on that next time.
 Thanks to the day job being in California right now and limited time to get away from it, the week was going to be constricted to only a few days so we had to use every minute wisely. We also had to drive two of these Jeeps back to California so we decided it would be wise to stick to some easier trails rather than risk damage to our "road warriors." Deadman Point was just what we needed. The only risk we took was getting lost and either getting back well after dark or never finding the correct road and still getting back well after dark. Lucky for me, we didn't get lost and we had some great views of the Green River and parts of the Maze District of Canyonlands NP during "magic hour." Photographers will understand that reference. 
Deadman Point
 Of course, deep down I had really wanted to have the opportunity to try out my two little drive lights that I had installed a couple of months prior, so, darkness wasn't something I was all that worried about. I didn't get to test them fully, however, because we managed to get to the highway before full darkness consumed the sky but I did get to turn them on. Maybe next time.
 Next time was just about the very next night as we made the long drive south to Hotel Rock. This trail is 90 miles south of Moab and again, none of us had been there before. This trail day reiterated a lesson I had learned a long time ago. Be prepared. 
Hotel Rock
 I had already mapped the route for Hotel Rock on my iPad using the Gaia GPS app. This app lets you pre program a trail into your device and works off line. I had heard that it was the best app for this particular task and I was excited to see how it worked. This would be the first attempt at using this app in the real world. I didn't have any of my paper maps with me. Strike one.
 During our time at the vendor show the previous day I picked up a fancy new Magellan TRX GPS. I had been in the market for a new GPS and they were selling them at a pretty good price. What I didn't realize was that it would be a little different from other GPS units that I had used in the past and that it would take some time to figure out how to use it. Despite that, I figured it would be easy since it seemed to already have Hotel Rock built in similar to what I had already mapped out in Gaia. Strike two.
Hotel Rock
 Strike three came when I left the iPad at the rental property, opting instead on taking the Magellan because I only had one RAM mount to hold them to the windshield. I would later learn that the Magellan had a slightly different route than what I had mapped into Gaia. Because of this there would be a few wrong turns as I disagreed with the Magellan based on my memory of what I had mapped out on the iPad. This would cost us an extra hour or so but I'll never tell you that it was wasted time. To me, those were roads I had never been on and now I have. We had lights to test, too, if you remember. I didn't care if we got back after dark.
 Hotel Rock trail is rated a five on the Red Rock 4-Wheelers rating scale. I would agree with this rating now but at the time I wasn't sure. It wasn't that the trail was difficult but there were a lot of off camber, slick rock climbs and steps and they seemed to be coming one after another. This made me doubt that we were on the right road. It seemed too difficult for the description that I had read.
The highlight of the Hotel Rock trail is some well preserved cliff dwellings near the end of the trail. In my mind it was going to be yet another scenic drive and a big payoff. It turned out that we had to earn our way to the ruins. This was okay with me. I just didn't expect it. We ran into some folks out on their side by sides while out at an overlook. They had been on the trail before but had never made it to the ruins. That was their goal as well. We let them go ahead of us since two side by sides would be faster than four Jeeps and I secretly hoped the old guy knew where he was going. Turns out he did, but he didn't know it. 
 We caught up to them after awhile when they stopped for lunch. They hadn't found the ruins and they were supposed to meet a friend later that day. They were disappointed that they hadn't found the ruins and he was doubting where he was and since they didn't have time to look any longer. As they pulled out we decided to use their lunch spot for our own purposes and discussed our next move. Some of us took a short hike over a hill to "see what we can see" while the others snarfed down their sandwiches. I imagine the other group had done the same as they ate before deciding to head back. Facing a similar decision and still doubting my new GPS, we chose to stay the course for another thirty minutes. If we hadn't seen cliff dwellings by the end of those thirty minutes we would turn around and head back the 90 miles to Moab. Ten minutes later we found them. In a way, my heart goes out to the old man and his family. They had been less than a mile from the cliff dwellings when they turned around. On the bright side, I was extremely happy to see that we were indeed on the right road and we hadn't turned around. 
 We got our photos and headed back to blacktop, reaching it again before the sun went down. Dinner was going to be well after dark again. The only problem was that the next day we had to be up early because we were scheduled to be on the Wipe Out Hill trail on Big Saturday. I think I'll tell you about that trip next week, though. Come back next time when I talk about pirate Jeepers and base jumping. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Playing With Pictures

 Did you miss us? We’ve had a lot of things going on and it may seem like we’ve been neglecting our travel duties. Well, we have, but we’re back to brining you more fun stories from our adventures. We have been from the beaches of California up to the red rocks of Utah and even as far as the powerhouse that is Disney World in Florida. Yes we have been very busy and we will share it all here in the weeks to come. Today I’m going to start us off in Moab, Utah.
  There is a plethora of things to do in Moab, as we’ve discussed in previous articles. There are mountain biking opportunities, hiking trails and more dirt roads than one could possibly explore in a lifetime. The Moab area is also a popular place for photographers to go hog wild with endless vistas and geological features to keep your creativity flowing for days on end. This year we decided that we would have a little fun and have a little friendly competition to make things a little more interesting. We picked a theme for each day that we were there and the only rules were that the photos had to be unedited outside of the camera settings. I’m putting the best out for you to see here in this article. These photos are still unedited and just an example of some of the things we saw during our trip and are examples of how people see the world through their lense.

Photo Courtesy of Teressa Rich
This shot of slick rock domes and the La Sal mountains in the background is a common one. It's some what a must have shot for visitors of the area. The hard part is deciding which shot is the one for you. Photographer-Teressa Rich, taken at Deadman Point. Theme of the Day: Anything goes.

Photo courtesy of Faith Rowley

This is an example of thinking outside the box in my opinion. The day this photo was taken was Action. With all of the Jeep's out on the trails it would be easy to just take a snap shot of a random rock crawler but for my daughter, that wasn't going to cut it. Instead she used Dad's hand and a fidget spinner to mix things up.

Photo Courtesy of Sue Kitchens
Here is another out of the box action shot. Unfortunately these two were tying up a traction bar after it's bracket broke. This is just part of the fun of having off road vehicles despite most breaks happening at very inopportune moments. This break happened about a mile from the end of the trail which made it a lot easier to get it back to town for repairs and thanks to Sue, we'll always have this photo to remember that day.

Photo Courtesy of Pam Rowley

Dogs are a popular site during the Jeep Safari and why wouldn't they be? They love the outdoors and they're man's best friend. You can't leave your best bro at home, can you? This pup was on his first safari and seemed pretty chill for such a new endeavor.  Theme of the Day: Anything goes.

Photo Courtesy of Misty Rowley

We had some long days during our safari week. In fact, I think we only got back to the rental house twice before dark during the time we were in town. This gave us opportunities to get some colorful skies as the sun went down. Misty took this photo with an iPhone and in a moving vehicle. Not bad. Theme of the Day: Landscape.

Photo Courtesy of Brandan Rowley

There are two things about this photo that are amusing to me. First, this arch is only about 4 feet long and stands only about 5 feet tall but the angle that I took the photo at makes it look massive. Just goes to show what perspective and composition can do to manipulate reality. The second thing that's funny about it is that I didn't have my Canon with me, only my iPhone and I had forgotten to take my landscape shot for the day. It was the only photo I took all day. I really like how it turned out edited too (not shown.)

Most Popular Photo Courtesy of Faith Rowley

The hands down favorite photo of the week was that of a base jumper that happened to leap off of Determination Towers while we were eating lunch. I had some pretty good photos of him but this one taken by my daughter was taken a split second before I began to snap away. Faith was able to catch him just before he tossed his shoot giving this image a bit of intensity as you wonder what is about to happen. He made it to the ground fine, by the way. Well done, Faith. I guess I've learned to never underestimate the competition.

 There are plenty of images I could have pulled to showcase in this article but these were some of my favorite ones. This exercise was a way for me to spread my love for photography to my friends and family. It was me wanting to help everyone express themselves and have fun with photography rather than just taking the typical tourist photos. I wanted to add a little focus and purpose to each image and I think we accomplished this. We weren't out to critique each other, only to encourage one another and have a good time. I hope everyone else felt the same at the end of the day and I hope that we can continue this in our travels together. I love to off road, have adventures and photograph every turn along the way. Thanks to those that do the same. See you next time.