Thanksgiving Trip: Chapter 4 — Heading Home

Moab, UT — This morning I filled the gas tank and put Denver in the rear-view mirror.  This was my home for so long it’s been a bit disconnecting to think of “heading home” to somewhere else.  On the little trip that I took to Silver Plume and Central City, those routes were like driving in my back yard and just seemed natural even after not having done them for 10 years.  It was like I had never left.

But “Home” is now elsewhere.  After the trip is over and I have a little time to reflect and absorb it I’m sure I’ll have some conclusions to draw because the trip has been a bit cathartic for me in some ways; but for now I’m simply heading south west and looking for wily images that might be out there waiting for me. 

My first stop was actually to see if the cafe of an old friend in Empire, CO was open for a late breakfast but, alas, it was closed for the Holiday.  However it gave me a chance to take a quick shot of something interesting just down the street; the REAL and original Hard rock Cafe.

This eatery was opened in the 1860s and has been serving first hard-rock miners and now locals and tourists (and skiers on the way to Winter Park) every since. 

A number of years ago a lawyer for the modern chain went through town on his way to ski and saw the sign.  Without checking little things like facts he went home and immediatley sued to get the owner from using “his” trademarked name.  Unfortunately the owner of this cafe was a typical westerner and simply wanted things to go away so did not file a counter suit which would have made things interesting.

So regretably the only thing the lawyer lost was a little “face” and hopefully learned a lesson or two in the process about being so sue-crazy and looking before leaping… oh that is a really silly thing to hope for, huh?

Anyway, I then headed back onto I-70 (no, dammit, it is NOT “THE 70” out here as if this were the only place I-70 existed.  I pulled off in the town of Dillon.  I lived there after the Army while working in the local molybdenum mine to make as much money as possible before the prognosis of my becoming crippled from a service injury came to pass.  Things turned out a whole lot better than that but it did give me a chance to live in a picture postcard for while.  The shot below is of Dillon Lake. 

Directly behind where I am standing to take this shot, and about a block’s length of winding through the woods, was our cabin.   Now you would have to wind through the parking lots of a couple of condos but still it would not be too far.  I would often come home to find a sinnk full of trout my wife had caught right at the water’s edge in this shot.  She was great at catching them but not so keen on cleaning them…

Unlike the trip a few days ago, Vail Pass was now plowed and dry.  Here is a shot looking East from one of the rest stops to show you the terrain.  Still it is hard to see it in this condition and imagine being on this road when you can only see a car length or so in the blowing snow on top of frozen ice.

This is a fairly flat spot near the turn off to Shrine Pass, but you can see how the road simply drops off as it starts the next pitch.

Down the western side in short order and then it was on to Glenwood Canyon.  I had mentioned before that I wanted to shoot the “hanging” portions.  When the feds wanted to finish this section of I-70 they ran into the EPA that said they could only have a minimally bigger foot print than that of the old 2-lane highway.  So experts and engineers from all over were called upon to create a solution which, in its day, was a marvel of engineering.

Unfortunaly, this time going west I was on the elevated part which is over the east bound lanes and there was no vantage point to see them all or see under.  I did this shot out of the front window while driving so it is a little shakey.

You can sort of see the supports for my top lane as the road winds around the far corner.  In fact this road bed is 30-40 feet in the air OVER the lanes going eastbound.

I went on through Glendwood Springs and Grand junction intending to get once again to Green River except probably stay in a different motel.   Unfortunately by the time I had reached the Utah border the sky had turned to heavy grey overcast all the way to the western horizon.  That did not look good nor did it bode well for evening or morning shooting in the canyons.  So purely on impulse I pulled into a rest spot and did something for the first time this trip: dug out a map to chack options.  I decided to head south to Moab and ultimatly wind through Monument Valley on the way home. 

And then I further decided to take a cut off/shortcut between I-70 and the highway to Moab.  This is Utah highway 128 for those following along.  It used to go mostly through ranch country and was dirt.  But in the eons since I was last on it, a new recreation area, “The Colorado Riverway” has been created and the road, now paved, follows the river.

But it does more more than that, it now winds through some spectacular scenery and it comes on it all of a sudden.  I was winding through a nice enough but fairly common looking canyon when it suddenly opened into a valley and greeted me with this scene that got me to simply bale off of the road into a convenient wide spot for a shot.

Wow!  I was so afraid of losing the light I did not re-balance the camera sensor so it took some editing to recover the look as I perceived it (and not all flat blue grey as the sensor saw it) but it was spectacular.

All along this road, which wound through the buttes and canyons in the shot above, were incredible rock formations from eons of weathering.  These rivaled many I had seen in the 4-Corners/Monument Valley area.

Unfortunatley, in canyon country timing and light is everything.  Local “sunset” in the canyons is a lot earlier that actual sunset and after that shot above I was once again into deep canyons and my shooting was pretty much done.  So I came on into Moab to get a room.

Being Thanksgiving the desk clerk recommended a place called the Sunset Inn and I have to say it was the closest thing to a homecooked Thanksgiving day spread I have ever had without actually being at the table of family or friends.  It was once the home of a local Uranium miner and bizarrely up on the hillside at the end of a goat trail that would have Californians in Hummers turning back (although locals in sedans were there in abundance) and clearly the locals knew about it.  What a dinner!  And what a view!

One good thing about winter’s early dark is that it lets me head in early, select some shots for this blog, edit them and get it posted the same day.  Tomorrow I will be heading south toward Monument Valley.  There is plenty to shoot on the way but all will depend on this very changeable weather. 

For now I think I’ll catch the news, something I’ve not done on the trip so far, then go to bed early so I can start early in the morning.

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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