My last day in Utah has come, and I know I will remember my time here fondly. I will remember being especially cold on this 15 degree morning (with wind chill) while a beautiful array of clouds passed overhead.
Not pictured here is me doing jumping jacks for 10 minutes to try and stay warm. I laughed at the time, knowing how ridiculous I must have looked. Lucky for me, there wasn't a soul in sight.
I’ve always thought this photo was very surreal. It’s taken from high up in the Panamint Mountains of @deathvalleynps. Notice the strange geometry...the foreground appears to be level, yet the valley floor below seems to be askew. I’ve always viewed the landscape in Death Valley as an MC Escher design...it’s pure magic.
As the winter season in Yellowstone comes to an end, we look back on a magical season filled with snow, wonder, and adventure. This is our second year running the latest new generation of Yellowstone’s snowcoaches. These vehicles are, essentially, the ultimate 21st-century sleigh, providing access to one of the world’s most extraordinary landscapes. Learn more in our latest blog: link in bio. 👆#experienceyellowstone 📷: @yellowstonenps
Happy Birthday to the National Wildlife Refuge System!
Refuges are where I go to really be in nature. They’re where I bird and where I take my time to really immerse myself in and acknowledge the natural world. There’s a saying in my work that “parks are for the people and refuges are for the wildlife”. Now I wouldn’t say that means that the refuges are not to be used as public lands; they are very people friendly, but they are often more secluded, provide more opportunities to experience wildlife (if you take the time to observe) and are generally less crowded. Parks are wonderful. They have amazing landscapes which are obvious reasons for their protection. But at refuges the reasons need a bit more attention, forcing people to really learn about their surroundings and the value of the place they’re in. Thanks @usfws for managing such a cool system of public lands! ✌🏼
Lies uncovered. Truth revealed.
Oil and gas resources played a bigger role in the controversial boundary changes ordered by Trump that removed 2 million acres from southern Utah’s monuments than previously disclosed, according to Interior Department communications obtained by The New York Times.
After taking Interior to court, The Times acquired 25,000 documents related to the creation and review of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante & other monuments. The goal was to shed light on the process Interior Secretary Zinke used to determine what monuments to cut. Working under orders from Trump, Zinke launched a review of 26 national monuments. The list was bookended by Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Bears Ears, designated by Barack Obama at the request of 5 American Indian tribes with ancestral and cultural ties to southeastern Utah.
According to the Times’ review, Interior focused from the beginning on coal, oil and gas resources. The Kaiparowits Plateau, a remote region within the heart of the former Grand Straircase boundaries, holds one of the largest coal deposits, which the Utah Geological Survey estimates contains more than 11 billion tons that are “technologically recoverable.” It also said the monument has coal-bed methane and 550 barrels of oil held in tar sands deposits, all worth between $2 billion and $18.6 billion.
“As we can see from these letters, the reassurances from Utah politicians do not match their actions,” said Willie Grayeyes, a leader of the Utah Diné Bikéyah tribal group. “They say that rescinding and replacing Bears Ears is not about oil and gas or uranium, and that a National Monument will harm, rather than enhance, our lives and cultures,” Grayeyes said. “Hundreds of our people are dying from uranium poisoning, the Aneth oil fields have devastated the land and human health here in the poverty stricken southern half of San Juan County.”
Image by Bob Wick
The roads and bridges in our national parks are part of the history and the beauty of the parks, too. Most of them were built long ago without any advanced machinery, and yet, it's still hard to comprehend how they would be built today even with the technology and the tools available. They really are a lasting tribute to the men and women who conceived, planned, and constructed them!
These photos show one of the gallery windows to the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel in Zion National Park. The 1.1 mile tunnel was built through rock, "where no road had gone before." They started with the gallery windows and then progressed on the interior to build the highway. The windows served as a means to dump rock debris and also provided ventilation for the workers. The tunnel was completed and dedicated in 1930. It's still a cool drive today!
The main purpose of this road was to connect Zion to both Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. (source: NPS)
As much as I have been enjoying sharing my adventures in Utah with you all lately, I was really glad to have a long weekend at "home" this past weekend. @lauren.neidrauer and I were supposed to go backpacking in TN/NC, but the weather was not going to cooperate, so we made the best of it and took advantage of some very appreciated hospitality from @anneliseblackwood and @kidhuddy and spent the weekend waterfall hunting in South Carolina. If you read my last post, you might have known that I struggle when being forced to call an audible to change plans, so this was a great example of my learning experiences taking effect.
“Camp in an alcove on the left or to the right of the naked lady carving”
We are leaving Moab and the glorious sunshine Wall today for Salt Lake. Tomorrow I go back to Oregon, Ari goes back to Vermont, and Dave heads to Colorado. I’m eating an apple for lunch in the car while ysk rests her head against my elbow and trying not to think about how much I’m going to miss these goons. #roadtrip#optoutside#utah#nevada#climb#womenwhoclimb#friends#gooddog#ourpubliclands
A few hours ago I realized something. EVERYTHING IS PRETTY GREAT.
A few hours ago I was describing last years mountain of chaotic to a friend. Then I switched gears and started describing the last two weeks. Descriptions of how my wife is doing better, she started aquatic PT today, and how the mugs nearly sold out 24 hours. All of a sudden I had a moment where a ton of stress was lifted.
Life isn’t perfect by any means. We still have tons to deal with and challenges ahead, but things are looking up! In less than 24 hours we generated $750 in donations for @friendsoftheinyo
How freakin cool is that! We are doing something good, and all of you are part of it! I’m pretty STOKED FOR 2018!
The final day of the @willsaundersphoto #instagramtakeover ! It's been a wild ride, my friends! I'm sure it's plain to see, but the Owyhee is a place that is near and dear to my heart. Anyone who spends any time here discovering it's magic and mystery will undoubtedly feel the same way.
In all my travels and adventures out in the big, beautiful world of ours, there is something about spending time in Oregon's backyard that always draws me back, time and again. I hope that whenever I find my way back to the Owyhee - be it tomorrow, a month, a year or 100 years from now - that it remains the wild, remote stunner it is today.
But in our here and now, that isn't a guaranteed outcome we can count on. Our public lands need our help more than ever these days. So I'd encourage everyone to take a moment and add your voice to the movement calling for the permanent protection of Oregon's Owyhee Canyonlands. Check the link in the bio. Thanks for sharing the journey, y'all! See you out in the wilds... #WildForTheOwyhee#OurPublicLands#owyhee#oregon#exploregon#pnw
Holy moly these days are flying by, and I generally have no clue what the date is anymore. The past few weeks have been packed; I’ve been making new friends and sharing adventures, catching up with old friends, as well as getting in some solo explorations and trail time with Russ Pup. I’ve covered so much ground and loads of public land for my @vanforpublicland project. It’s been a friggen blast!
I’ll be sending out a newsletter through my website to catch y’all up properly. Shoot me a DM with your email if you’d like to be added to the list, or click the handy dandy link in my bio.
This is from a quick morning hike in the Chisos Mountains earlier this week. Go visit Big Bend National Park if you haven’t been yet, it’s amazing.
::: READ::: We’ve been avoiding this trail all week. It must be THE trail in Sedona. The main trail head is right off the road and always packed. There is a short, easy hike (that we didn’t take) to the natural bridge and it’s been over-grammed by the millennials for just long enough that when you get to #devilsbridge you literally wait in line to walk out there to have a stranger take your photo from the other side. 🙋🏽♀️ Today we participated even though it didn’t feel right. 🙃 We quickly walked out there, stood for one picture and walked back, not because of the height but because we simply wanted to document the experience. It felt pretty gross to participate in all the superficiality. 🤳🏽Unfortunately, many other people were out there posing for ‘grams and going back multiple times to really get a good one. “I didn’t like that pose” “Should we do Charlie’s Angels?” 🤦🏽♀️ We started talking on our peaceful hike back, on the longer less traveled trail 🌲🌵🌱🕊, about whether or not the bridge would be able to sustain the increased traffic over time, or how long until they fence off the access because of an accident or just to preserve it’s current condition. So many of these wonders have sadly changed into tourist checkpoints because of a hashtag. (See #horseshoebend ) Instagram is a wonderful tool for connecting us with worlds and people we wouldn’t otherwise have access to, for sharing beautiful stories and experiences but when the experience becomes ABOUT Instagram, about the photo then it’s quite possible you’ve missed the point entirely. We walk a fine line with content we share here and it’s tough sometimes to decipher if we’re participating in the problem. We decided, if we use the platform to share our thoughts, then we may be able to do a little good and help inspire people to have authentic experiences without any underlying motives beyond being in nature, expanding your mind and loving the earth. (Read: leave your📱in your 🎒) What do you think? Have you had a similar experience at a popular hike/destination?
Shooting in the day time is always fantastic, but once the sun drops below the horizon, my creative juices really start flowing. I've heard that people are most creative between 10pm and 2am, and I have found that to be pretty true. Sometimes it is having ideas while laying restless in bed. This time it was creating a composition with a beautiful face painted on a mountain by a rising full moon.
In the week since I have taken this photograph, I have grown more and more fond of it. One of my favorite things is that it's beauty wasn't glaringly obvious to me at first, and I am sure many of you will have a similar experience. However, when you let yourself take the time to understand the moment, hopefully you will appreciate this photo as well.
It's Day 6, so time to start winding down this @willsaundersphoto #instagramtakeover . What better way than by cozy-ing up and chillin' out around a campfire?! For all the energizing time on the water and exciting discoveries of petroglyphs, arrowheads, wildflowers and animal tracks along the way, some of the best times on these Owyhee river trips are the gather-'rounds that happen in the evening. Eating something warm and delicious, passing a flask of whiskey, crafting a sloppy, decadant s'more, swapping stories about the day gone-by. The grilled cheese and ice cold beer I had at this campfire were the best I'd ever had. Till the next day's campfire, of course.
It’s Friday. Which means it’s payday. Which means you can spare a few bucks to support the lands you’re gonna go rage in all weekend. Buying this sweet sticker (or shirt or poster) designed by badass artists @lizzydaltonart and @vernankee will not only get you a sweet (dishwasher proof!) sticker, but every cent of profit will go to fighting the land grab in Bears Ears. So cough up a couple bucks for the sake of keeping free the land of the free. LAST DAY / limited edition art available only until midnight.
@alexiskrauss @protectbearsears #protectbearsears#ourpubliclands#ourland
Day 5 has arrived for @willsaundersphoto #instagramtakeover : Anyone who has rafted the Owyhee will recognize this monstro! Whistling Bird rapid (aka Devil's Teeth) is one of the Class III-IV rapids on the Owyhee and it's a nail biting, heart pumping run every time. The river is pushing you fast and hard, straight into that gaping hole/strainer/cheese grater. You've got to haul with all your might for river left as soon as you clear the giant rock field to navigate this one successfully. Montgomery rapid is the other Class III/IV on this stretch of river and it's definitely one that keeps you on your toes. But with my buds Alison and Tim (wo)manning the oars, we were in good hands.
This stretch of the Owyhee we're on is designated #wild & #scenic river. That means the river itself and 1/4 mile of it's banks are protected from development and mining. But 95% of the Owyhee is unprotected, including the sagebrush steppe uplands that are vital to some of the most iconic and majestic wildlife in the area, including big-horn sheep, mule deer and antelope. Recently, Oregon's Department of Geology and Mineral Industries found signficant mining potential for gold, uranuim, silver, bentonite (also known as kitty litter), and other valuable minerals throughout the Owyhee Canyonlands. So much, much more of this special place needs to be protected!
@willsaundersphoto #instagramtakeover , Day 4: To me, Oregon's desert is one of hidden treasures and earned discoveries. It isn't usually a landscape that is showy and obviously stunning like a giant waterfall pouring into a fern-dripped, moss-covered pool. It doesn't scream in a Willamette Valley (Oregon's west-side) kind of way, "I'm so damn green, gorgeous and verdant!" And that is exactly what makes it awesome. The desert's magic and allure is hidden. It takes time to unlock it. You have to put in some hours and effort to find it's wonders and come to appreciate it's rugged-yet-fragile beauty.
Here, we'd ventured off the river and discovered a whole series of hidden slot canyons and jutting geological formations. It's easy to imagine you're the first person (and dog!) seeing this place, stepping here. And yet you know that the Shoshone, Paiute and Bannock people have called this place home for over 13,000 years. It's a thrilling mix of being fully present in the here and now of your own adventure, framed by the incredible history and culture of a place whose story spans eons.