If you drive north-west on US-491 from Cortez, Colorado toward Utah, your route will take you to Monticello, UT. At that point, you can take US-191 south or north. Someday you should go north on 191, for that will bring you to Moab and all of its attendant attractions. But if it is your first encounter with US-191 at the Monticello junction, then I would suggest you turn left and head south on 191 till you hit Blanding. As you drive through Blanding, you’ll hit another junction–right next to a seemingly-very-popular-with-bikers gas station–this one with US-95 heading north. Take that right turn. And sit back and enjoy one of the most spectacular drives anywhere in the world.
If I have a regret about the set of photographs that I took on this section of my road-trip, it is that they do not come close to capturing what I felt was the scenic grandeur of that drive. Nevertheless, here are a couple of photos.
This first one is taken shortly after making the turn on US-95. We had driven for about 30 minutes or so (perhaps less), oohing and aahing at the geological masterpieces put up for display. Then, at one point, we drove through what seemed like a portal blasted through rock by an efficient construction crew, and emerged into a surreal landscape that looked like this:
My first reaction–besides the usual ‘Are you kidding me?’–was that I had performed the contemporary equivalent of stepping into Shangri-La. There were no other cars on the highway; the air was dry and warm; the wind blew steadily across the parched land; the desolation, grandeur and majesty of the land was awe-inspiring. I stopped the car and stared down the road – and around. I had never seen anything like this before.
There are several problems with this photograph, of course: for one thing, the clipping on the left does not convey the full panoramic impact of the scene; I became obsessed with capturing the row on the right. For another, the extended walls on the right, stretching away into the distance, have been compressed and bunched together so that the sheer size of the landscape has been reduced. And then, there is too much road in the photo because I thought I’d want to capture some of the relationship between the highway that had brought us here and the land that surrounded it. Overall, I would say this is a disappointing photo.
This next one, largely because of the funky light, is perhaps a little better. This is taken from a bridge in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area–which includes the Glen Canyon dam over the Colorado River and stretches out over the Arizona-Utah border. The foreground of the photo is problematic but thanks to the partial obscuring of the sun, whose bright lights often bleach the rock colors excessively, the landscape stands out better.
As I finished taking some photographs and headed back to my car, I muttered to myself, ‘I’m not going have enough space in my camera’s memory card for all the photos I’m taking.’ I was right: two weeks later, a spare memory card still not purchased, I was reduced to capturing the Badlands in South Dakota on my phone. Landscapes like these make you want to take repeat photographs, even if, as you take them, you are profoundly conscious of the fact that you aren’t quite getting it right.