Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a journalist and photographer based in Port Jervis, NY and Alexandria, Va.

Filtering by Tag: canyon country

Capitol Reef National Park: The Apotheosis of Canyon Country

The Colorado Plateau — redrock canyon country, that is — is replete with national parks and monuments: Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Cedar Breaks, Chaco Culture, Arches, Natural Bridges, Rainbow Bridge, Glen Canyon, and many more. Most are destinations unto themselves. But my experience is a bit different with Capitol Reef. Back in 2006, when a backpack into Dark Canyon looked like it would be rained out (don't get stuck in the rain at the Sundance Trailhead with a Toyota Corolla), my friends and I spent a night backpacking in Capitol Reef. In 2010, when the heat at the place we were camping beneath the Henry Mountains climbed to 103 degrees, Jacob and I moved to Capitol Reef where things were only slightly cooler. Last month, when my friends and I were annoyed that our chosen camping spots were either packed with people, full of blowing dust or were frenetic with screaming kids, we spent the next two days in Capitol Reef, the alternative we head to when our original plans fall through.

But Capitol Reef deserves more than that. One of the lesser visited national parks in Utah, it has all the accommodations people unprepared for backcountry travel need: easy trails, green grass, locally-made ice cream and root beer and other stuff tourists like, except that nearly the entire park, much to its credit, is out of Facebook and cell phone range. Most of Capitol Reef is far out of reach of casual tourists, and that's why the park rocks. "The Land of Tilted Rocks" is a slanted redrock badland riddled with slots and grottoes, arches and narrows, and, of course, Cathedral Vallley, a remote icon of the park I have yet to visit. It's a 100 mile-long spear-shaped park that encapsulates all the greatest things about canyon country. One of my favorite protected places in Utah, Capitol Reef is unique among the national parks: In the summer, visitors can pick fresh fruit from the peach, apricot, cherry, pear and apple trees planted by the Mormon settlers more than a century ago.



Anatomy of an Image: Delicate Reflection

Delicate Arch is Utah's most iconic natural landform and, almost without a doubt, its most photographed. I have a gazillion Delicate Arch images stashed away, most of them similar to what you'll see in countless other photo galleries and tourist brochures. I've visited Arches National Park more than 50 times, and it's one of my favorite places in the world.

I took a week-long photographic expedition to Utah and western Colorado in March 2010, and I thought I'd really timed the trip badly because most of eastern Utah canyon country was under two feet of snow. But Delicate Arch wasn't buried under snow. The slickrock around it was, however, sopping wet with meltwater, and that allowed me to luck into the perfect photography scenario for Delicate Arch.

I've been trying for years to capture Delicate in the perfect reflection. It worked marginally well another time back in 2006 after a heavy October rain, but the potholes weren't quite as full then as they were last year. When I arrived at the bowl beneath the arch, this is essentially what the scene looked like:

A mud pit. So I started looking around for the perfect pothole...

Not quite.

I was walking all over the place (careful not to track through the mud as other people had) looking for the right puddle and the correct angle. And the damn wind just kept blowing. But just as I was about ready to call it a day (the way it usually works), I found it:

That still wasn't quite right, but a little more experimenting with camera positioning produced the final image, which was rotated 180 degrees to appear upright.

This also begs the question: How many times can you photograph an arch? I probably won't spend much time at Delicate the next time I visit Arches, but it's been fun to photograph over the years:

Ruminations on a monument, or the place that could be Colorado Canyons National Park

ON THE EDGE OF THE UNCOMPAHGRE PLATEAU on Grand Junction, Colorado's southern skyline, Colorado National Monument glows in the Colorado Plateau sunset. There is much talk these days about the potential for the monument, whose boosters say has a name more befitting a granite obelisk than a 20,000 acre canyon-riddled wilderness, to become a national park called Colorado Canyons National Park.

Having lived in Grand Junction and visited Colorado National Monument more times than I can count (on a weekly basis while I lived there), it's hard to deny that the landscape protected within its boundaries is extraordinary. The monument is like Canyonlands National Park, only a tiny fraction of the size and on the edge of a sprawling city. And, the CCC-built Rim Rock Drive is without a doubt one of the most unforgettable and spectacular road cycling routes in all of Colorado. No trip to GJ for me is complete without a pedal up to the top of the Monument via Cold Shivers Point.

Whether Congress should re-designate the monument a national park is up for heated debate (and, frankly, I'm not sure myself) but whatever its fate, it will remain one of my favorite places in Colorado.

If you live in Mesa County, it's easy to take the monument a bit for granted. Spend the evening after getting off work taking a hike up No Thoroughfare Canyon, no camera in hand. An all-too-frequent occurrence, hence the shamefully few Colorado National Monument images in my collection. Nonetheless, I have a few, and these will give you an idea what's found amid those glowing redrock cliffs above Grand Junction. You can also check out my Colorado National Monument gallery on my website here.


Cold Shivers Point. Image by Bobby Magill, 2006.
Near the monument's West Entrance looking east toward Grand Mesa and Garfield Peak. Image © Bobby Magill, April 2010.
View from Rim Rock Drive below Cold Shivers Point. Image © Bobby Magill, July 2010.
Liberty Cap. Image © Bobby Magill, April 2010.
Red Canyon in Winter. Image © Bobby Magill, 2007.




Back in the day, there were people who wanted to turn the monument into a national park, expand the boundaries and protect this, the Mee Canyon Alcove, now part of the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness adjacent to the monument. If the monument were to become a national park under the current unofficial proposal, Mee Canyon would not be included in the park.