It’s flat out been too long since I was last out in Leslie Gulch. I’d forgotten just how fantastic the photography is there. Put it this way, when we went there Friday I shot 797 digital photos. When I told my friend about it and said we had to go out there sometime, he suggested Saturday and so we did. That was good for another 187 photos, but only because I was driving Saturday.
Friday I was hanging out the window like a dog driving by a scent factory, taking pictures every which way: up, down, left, right, forward, backwards, blindly over the top of the vehicle…you name it, you can safely bet I shot it that way that day. Naturally, I was also yelling “STOP!” and getting out to take pictures. Saturday, once we got into the Painted Canyon I was driving maybe 20 feet a a time between my friend telling me to stop so he could take a picture. I actually thought of telling him to just get out and walk. 🙂 Hmmm. Now I wonder if my dad or my wife also thought that on Friday?
Leslie Gulch is 25 miles off the highway but to get there you have to go through one of the many Painted Canyons in the area. Huge outcroppings, a mixture of limestone, volcanic ash, iron oxide, possibly copper, and more, each with varying resistance to erosion by wind and water, have created all sorts of fantastical shapes and carvings in the area.
A giant’s skull, complete with eye sockets open to the brain pan, hollowed out nose, the top of his head cut off, opening the brain pan to the sky. ET with his neck fully extended, seeking skyward. Sauron’s Barad-dûr. The biggest squirrel I ever saw. The insides of rocks exposed, revealing tangled masses of petrified blood vessels. Where else can you find all this and more in one location?
This picture to the left just shows a very small group of these natural sculptures on the way into Leslie Gulch. The more you get into the Painted Canyon area of the gulch, the thicker and wilder the rock shapes get until you’re completely surrounded by them, often with cliffs on both sides of the road. The colors are gorgeous when the sun shines on them, this photo just does not do them justice. Some of my other photos show the colors much better but because of being in the canyon don’t show the landscape on the way in as well.
Friday we also wandered around Three Fingers Butte and finally ended up having an early picnic dinner at the Succor Creek campground. There, too, is a wonderful photographic area. The original camping area has been moved over the creek away from the rock walls onto the same side as the road and is much improved over what I remember. There’s still a footbridge that crosses the crystal clear creek, though you can still just wade if you prefer. We saw hundreds of fish in the creek, from fingerlings to pan sized trout.
Friday was a clear blue sky and really brought out the colors and contrasts. Normally people think of photography being best in the early morning or evening, but in this area you just need a good sun. It’s always difficult to shoot into the sun, so the only problem might be being able to shoot everything you want to. Even at mid-day I was getting awesome photographs with vivid colors. Saturday was overcast, broken skies, and towards the end rain clouds moving in. The colors were, as expected, more muted and the contrasts not as distinct. But when the sun breaks through and shines on something you better have your camera ready, plenty of free memory, and good batteries.
I really want to go back in that area and try some night photography, maybe using the headlights to light up the rock. Can you imagine the Milky Way above the giant’s skull? Or that squirrel? Heck, how about over Barad-dûr? Now there’s a sight you don’t see every day! The problem will be whether or not there’s enough night to get all the photos I want.
BTW, anyone going to Leslie Gulch should be aware that it’s a flash flood area and pay attention to the weather accordingly. The only road in and out of Leslie Gulch is the flash flood area and you have no choice but to come back out the same way. The dirt road from the highway towards Leslie Gulch can be very slick with a thick mud after a rain. Just a little caution FYI.