“National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.” - John F. Kennedy, President of the United States
During our first morning at Grand Staircase – Escalante, we had the pleasure of hiking and photographing Zebra Canyon. This relatively small slot canyon is aptly named, given the bold horizontal stripes in the pale Navajo Sandstone.
Zebra Canyon, NIKON D800E,f/20 @ 70 mm, 1.3s, ISO 200
Our two mile hike to Zebra Canyon was delightful, as we got our first view of some domes and other fascinating geology along the way. We were especially intrigued by the entryway to Zebra Canyon, where distinct sand ripples converge with the gold-brown sandstone walls. This whole area seemed so pristine, with a wind sculpted sand floor and water worn rock walls. The photos of the entryway are some of my favorites from the trip. Then again, it was also great shooting the intersecting rock formations in warm reflected light.
Zebra Canyon, NIKON D800E,f/16 @ 26 mm, 1.3s, ISO 200
Once in Zebra Canyon, we encountered some water and ended up making the hike barefooted. This being a shaded area, the water was extremely cold at the time of February hike. Of course, our water sandals were safely packed in our SUV. Our numb feet were gently warmed on the hike back through an extended wash area of fine white sand.
Time constraints did not allow us to hike the nearby Peek A Boo slot canyon – another location for our next visit.
Our afternoon was spent hiking Red Breaks, a rugged area of dry streambeds and open sky slot canyons strewn with massive boulders. We approached this area from the sandy Harris Wash, ascending into the red rock slot canyon area through a winding series of dry falls and rock beds.
With all of the grandeur of this area, I found only a few shadowed areas of narrow canyon walls for slot canyon photography. In part, my limited shooting was due to the bright overhead sunlight. We also encountered an enormous fallen rock which blocked part of the slot canyon from safe passage.
Red Breaks is another area we hope to revisit, allowing more time for side hikes and exploration. I would also like to photograph this area in the aftermath of heavy rains, as it would be such a visual delight with some reflecting pools.
Entrance to Zebra Canyon, NIKON D800E,f/18 @ 35 mm, 1/20, ISO 200
Having struggled with crowds and limited tour hours at the Antelope Canyon, Arizona slot canyons, it was exhilarating to have the Escalante slot canyons all to ourselves. For a photographer, this kind of setting is just too good to be true and ideal for a photo study series.
Red Breaks, NIKON D800E,f/22 @ 17 mm, 1.3s, ISO 100
Related postings: Grand Staircase – Escalante Part 1: Trip Itinerary, White Pockets at Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs, Grand Staircase Escalante Part 2: Zebra Canyon and Red Breaks, Glen Canyon Recreation Area (Alstrom Point at Lake Powell), Arizona-Utah Border and Utah Landscape Photography and Antelope Canyon.
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
Landscape photography techniques, photo expedition travel planning and hiking tips.