Friday, November 7, 2008

Slot Canyons, Rattlesnakes, and Tarantulas!

This morning, we were out of bed by 5:45 or so. We took route 12 from Torrey to Escalante. The views are absolutely spectacular all along the road. We took a couple of shots as the sun rose, and found some locations we'd like to return to at the right time. Autumn color would have been beautiful at higher altitudes along this road, because the way is lined with birch, which turn gold in fall.

After a quick stop for breakfast in Escalante, we took Hole-in-the-Rock Road to the Dry Fork trailhead. It's a bit of a scramble to get down into the canyon, but it's well worth it. We hiked - or rather, squeezed through the Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons. Both canyons are beautiful - and a challenge to shoot. I found it best to ignore gravity as much as possible - forget which way is down, and just compose the photo. The trick is to get your tripod set up in some of the strange curves and corkscrews. I just wedged myself in and let my tripod rest in all kinds of bizarre angles to get the shots I wanted. Sometimes, I couldn't fit my head behind the camera to get the shot, so it was necessary to check all my settings before I put the camera on the tripod and pressed the shutter release. I couldn't see my composition without taking the camera off the tripod (hooray for the quick-release) and looking at my LCD screen. I have some photos I'm very happy with today. I can't wait to process them.

After four hours in the slot canyons, I met my first rattlesnake. He was just a tiny little fellow, but I was impressed nonetheless. He was shaking his tiny little rattle like crazy - though it was so small that I couldn't hear it. Still, he was pretty - covered with little yellow diamonds from head to tail. :) He was moving too much to get a photo - shutter speeds in the canyon were between 6 and 30 seconds.

On the return hike, I met my first Tarantula (in the wild - I've seen them in zoos and nature centers before.) I must admit that I'm glad I ran into the rattler in the slot canyon and not the tarantula. Although the snake was certainly far more dangerous (babies are more dangerous than adults), the spider would have made me very... ahem... shall we say, uncomfortable... in such an enclosed space. Shudder. Did I mention that it was a very BIG spider. Practically the size of a cow. A big cow. Right. I don't mind snakes or rats or mice or toads or beetles or centipedes or... well, most of the other things that people don't like... but I do NOT like spiders. Remind me to tell you about my earliest memory sometime... I think it explains my little issue with arachnids. :)

Anyway - we also saw some lovely little lizards in the slots... and a rafter of wild turkeys in the mountains, along with lots of deer. And cows. Always cows. :)

This is a very long post, so I'm going to sign off. I've downloaded my photographs to my laptop so that I can clear off my memory cards for tomorrow. This has been a very productive trip so far.

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