Monday, September 13, 2010

Rocky Picture Show-Part 1

You ever have a day when you decide to go out and find something amazing, and with little to no planning, you stumble across a life changing moment of beauty and awe? Where out of nowhere you get the chance to bond with nature in such a way that just one picture can bring you back to that moment?
Last year, I decided, on a whim basically, to pack up a bag and fly to Salt Lake City. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are plenty of things to do in the SLC, but as soon as the wheels on the 747 touched down, I was ready to bounce out of that city like a Kangaroo on a trampoline. The plan was exactly that, but as we know, plans never quite work out the way we envision them to in our mind’s eye. I was supposed to meet my spiritual guru and good friend Jaia at the Denny’s by the airport a few hours after my flight landed. I figured I would have a few hours experience night “life” in SLC with my college buddy Ben, and then roll south to Orangeville, Utah, Zip Code: 84537. I include the zip code because it is just as unimportant to the story as the city of Orangeville, but more about that later.
I landed, and walked to the front of the airport, Ben was waiting for me, I tossed my bag in the back of his pick-up and we were off. Contrary to my previous belief, SLC was actually pretty at night. As we drove through the mostly quiet streets, I could see why people moved there. The mountains were silhouetted in the distance by a nearly full moon. The light of the buildings danced off the dash and hood of Ben’s truck, which would later be replaced visually with a table, a few cups and the lights of the dance area of the club Ben was a member at; it was our home away from home for the moment. A few hours passed and we boogied out to his truck and proceeded to the Denny’s restaurant. A few minutes of chitchat, a bro-hug and a goodbye, I was alone in a foreign land. 
As I watched the red taillights of the truck fade into the mass of jaundiced lights that made the main section of the city, I took up a seat in a booth and took out my cell phone. I wasn’t concerned that Jaia hadn’t contacted me. Not the first 3 hours at least. Once 2am hit, I decided I might as well get some sleep, so I left my one-time-use friends at the booth with my empty coffee pot and proceeded to the nearest, cheapest hotel to rest until my phone rang. Now, I could describe how awesome the d├ęcor of the hotel was, and elaborate on how the not quite shag carpet would have the same consistency and color of the boulders we would be climbing on later. Instead, I will use the awesome literary trick of jumping ahead.
Hours later, and dehydrated, hot and heads nodding along to hip hop, Jaia and I pulled into a tiny, truck stop looking town called Orangeville. With a population of two and a half thousand and surrounded by mines and uninhabitable land, Orangeville seemed like a place that time forgot. 
Orangeville- Staying Classy
Luckily, we kept driving until we reached a dirt road, which was followed to the point where we saw a Subaru stuffed to the brim with rock climbing gear, food and people. We had arrived. This is where the trip went from a seemingly normal, unplanned semi-disaster into the most beautiful event of my outdoors career. Stepping out of the car, smelling the dry, spring air and seeing, surrounding me like I was Custer, were legends and giants. Rocks which if had guest books would read like a who’s who of ass-kicking climbers. Sandstone creations devour your senses, making this a timeless masterpiece that few, according to the population and chamber of commerce data of Orangeville, see or experience. Here I was, less than 24 hours of deciding to fly down to Utah, and I was in rock climbing heaven. At least, that is what I thought, until I saw where we were camping. We hiked down and around countless boulders, stopping to feel the rock and test our and its strength, heading to our campsite. I had no idea what to expect, in fact, I was so caught up in getting to know the rest of the crew that I didn’t even notice what was directly ahead of me as we rounded the last 40-foot boulder. I was talking and talking, as I do, and I noticed a few seconds too late that everyone else was silent, as if they had just set foot in a holy site. The fact was, we did. Ahead of me, next to a small stream of clear, fast moving water, was a shallow cave underneath the behemoth of a boulder I had just walked around. The cave at the mouth was about 6 feet tall and slanted down at a 45-degree angle. I am positive countless other climbers had stayed there, but I felt like I was the first person to stay there for hundreds of years. Away from lights, roads, and other people, we were back with nature. We put out the crash pads and napped under the cool rock. While the dreams are hazy, I swear the people who called the Wasatch Plateau home visited me in my slumber. I was welcome, I was safe, and I was in for more of an adventure than I had bargained for.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Step One of Millions

Sometimes getting started on things is the hardest part. For me this is true in nearly everything I do. This blog idea is a prime example of it, as I have been bouncing the idea around in my head for nearly 6 months. The longer it sat in my cranium, the harder it was to flush out and do. Like a french press with finely ground coffee, I nearly became stuck. My concern was that this blog will be like all the others that give tips on photography, hiking and life in general. So, with that said, lets do this. 

I think of blogging like mountain climbing. At first, looking up at the huge peak, you become overwhelmed and all your training goes out one ear, landing on the dirt at the base of the mountain. Like with climbing, your skills get more impressive after each attempt, and before you reach the peak, you suffer set backs and difficulties. This doesn't mean I have an excuse for failures in climbing or in writing, but it does helps to demonstrate the level of dedication one must make to be successful in any field. 

This first step is brutal, not knowing what the path ahead will hold for me. I know I have taken many steps just to get to this level, but it isn't the same when I have so much riding on this endeavor. Those of you that know me, know what I mean, but those of you who are new to Exotic Hikes probably don't know much about who I am and what I have done, so the following few posts will be some stories about me and my climbing, hiking, photography and life experiences. 

One thing you all should know is that I always like to be ready. I always have extra food, clothes, batteries, headlamps and shoes in my car or in a pack at all times. I never go anywhere without at least one camera. This is because the few times I went on trips or even to the store without a camera, I saw incredible things that words can't describe. I believe that is the true idea behind photography. To capture something beautiful, something incredible at that exact moment, wrapping a canvas around the world and with the blink of an eye have it all on film; this is what I plan to do until I die. My quest isn't just one peak, or one great piece of writing. My goal is to take a picture. Not just any picture, snapped off without really focusing, but a picture that shows the human spirit and the interaction that nature has with everything. I suppose in my head it sounds so simple, but if you took a picture of me in front of the TV in 1988, watching an enormous fire burn my favorite places in Yellowstone National park, you would have seen nature and my emotion, as tears flowed down my cheeks, realizing that even things that seem steady and durable can be destroyed with the blink of an eye, or click of a shutter.