The Trails. Yes, the Trails.

I posted a few weeks ago about my trip into the deserts of Utah (see here). My goal – one of many – was to see the big landscapes, the epic vistas… to behold and to enjoy, to be in the moment… which is something that holding a camera in my hands seems to enable. It grounds me in the present. It helps me see. So, I went there to see.

But in the course of hiking through those landscapes, I made a discovery I thought I would share here. It might be one of my biggest realizations during the trip. That realization is that I enjoy photographing the trails themselves. Oftentimes, my quest to the epic vistas results in images that don’t fully capture their epic-ness. Scale and grandeur are lost and when I look at my photos, I don’t see what I remember. The classic case in point is at the Grand Canyon. My images, frankly everyone’s images, just don’t do it justice. You have to be standing there. So too in Bryce, Zion and Canyonlands.

But the images of the trails themselves are, to me, beautiful. They do capture what I saw and, more importantly, how I felt when I was on them. It’s not so much the grand vistas I have longed for, it is the trails. The trails take me to them. Reveal them. Place me there. Have I been longing for the landscapes? Or the trails themselves?

So, as this realization emerged, I began to photograph the many diverse trails of Utah. They, more than anything else, capture my experience. It was an experience of going, of being, of sensing. Of living.

Some traject across flat plains or over broad mesas while others ascend rough mountain walls or descend into deep canyons. Some include scrambling over boulders while others had me clinging to inside walls to avoid cliff edges. Sometimes, I wandered over now dry and hardened washes or through soft and forgiving sand.

The colors varied, sometimes wildly, from gray to red to brown to yellow.

I mentioned in my earlier post that I was also entering into the desert to make some impactful life choices. To ponder some decisions, one of which will have me pushing off a goal toward a future date in favor of a worthy short-term accomplishment. In speaking with my daughter before leaving, I described this life decision in some detail and her words in response have been on my mind. She asked whether I might be able to appreciate – in the shorter term – some of what is most appealing about the longer term goal instead. In other words, not put off into the future that goal itself but rather to incorporate its benefits into the here and now.

And so out on the trail, it occurred to me that she was talking about appreciating the trails in life. Not waiting for the someday grand and epic vista. It’s about the trails, she said.

For more trail images, see my new website gallery here.

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