On a recent road trip through southern Utah, I pulled into the Kolob Canyon section of Zion National Park to stretch my legs and get a bit of fresh air. This part of the park is conveniently located just off Interstate 15, and is a great preview of the remainder of this great place. The red rock formations are incredible and majestic. Every time I visit this spot the landscape tends to take on a different appearance, mostly due to the lighting and type of sky that serves as a backdrop. On this day the early morning mist still hung low, as the sun tried to pierce through the clouds. The high rocks seemed even more daunting that usual with this setting, and some Scriptural references to God as a High Tower immediately came to mind. I felt that the 2 Samuel passages were appropriate for the image.
About a year and a half ago we made a quick trip through Zion National Park and spotted three Bighorn Sheep as we were leaving.
This time around I only saw two, but they weren’t together at the time. This one was high on the rock to the south.
It is about time to bring our southwest trip to a close. Beginning in Phoenix (Arizona Birding), we made our way to the Grand Canyon (Who Stole the Grand Canyon), then Zion National Park (Shroud over Zion), and finally arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park. Except for gale-force winds, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to welcome us to this geological wonderland! Some fresh snow from the previous night lingered, while the clouds were working their way in an easterly direction. The biting wind-chill kept many of the tourists at bay, so those of us that braved the day were rewarded with a peaceful visit. As astounding as the hoodoos, cliffs and weathered mountainsides were, the cloud formations were amazing, and really enhanced the breathtaking landscapes. Unfortunately the images posted below don’t do justice to the scenes, but if you haven’t yet visited Bryce Canyon, they might at least give you some encouragement to make it a destination on your bucket list. All of the images will open to a larger format if you click on them.
The first four images are the result of High Dynamic Range (HDR) composites, which I often utilize for scenes with a lot of contrast. In many ways, HDR helps photos look more like what our eyes see, which a single photographic exposure cannot create. However, this same technique can also be used to add some artistic flair, which you may particularly notice in the second image.
As mentioned previously, the clouds from the departing storm system really made this an awesome time to visit Bryce Canyon. Because we see clouds so often, we may take them for granted most of the time. If we do actually think about them, oftentimes our thoughts will relate to impending weather. I’d like to propose that clouds can, and should, take on a more profound meaning, serving as a call to action and a reminder of a promise made. Clouds are mentioned numerous times throughout the Bible, sometimes literally and other-times metaphorically. Three of these instances I’d like to briefly call to mind.
In the Gospel of Mark, after ministering to the multitude for several days, Jesus spends a little quiet time high on a mountain with Peter, James and John. For a short while Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah, prompting some intrepidation on the part of the disciples, when; And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mark 9:7). God used a cloud as a vehicle to get the attention of the believers, so they would focus, listen and hear the words of Christ.
Let’s jump ahead a little to the Book of Acts. Just to set the stage, Christ had already been crucified, risen from the dead, and was wrapping up forty days of ministering about things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Jesus shares some important final words with the Apostles, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Again, a cloud was used as an apparent door through which Christ entered as He ascended to Heaven to join the Father.
Finally, consider what we should expect upon Christ’s return to earth, as He promised to do. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thes 4:16-17). This isn’t going to be a quiet affair! Indeed, I think it is going to be a grand reunion, of sorts, where all those who have trusted in Christ Jesus will be joined together with Him. And where is the reception hall? It is in the clouds! And from that point on, we will be with the Lord always!
Putting these three sets of Scripture together, we can see the clouds as 1) a reminder to focus on Him and abide by His instruction for our lives, 2) a doorway to Heaven which Christ used when He departed, and 3) that same door is where we will enter into eternal communion with Him upon Christ’s final return. So, the next time you see some clouds and think it might rain, perhaps you’ll consider some other things that those clouds might portend!
After being snowed-out at the Grand Canyon earlier this month (Who Stole the Grand Canyon), Alesia and I worked our way northward to Zion National Park. To some degree, the weather was improved, but low clouds lingered, limiting our view of the higher elevation peaks and rock formations. Still, we spent a few hours at the park, taking in what scenery was not obscured, and enjoying a day when the weather kept visitation minimal. (Mouse-over the slideshow below to access controls.)
My daughter and I had a brief visit at Zion National Park in February, which was documented in Zion: Stone for a Foundation. You may want to visit that post to see some images from the western side of the park.
When first seen, the massive and spectacular rock formations at Zion National Park appear impregnable, but they are constantly weathering away by the forces of wind, water and temperature. The image of Checkerboard Mesa shows obvious horizontal fissures caused by scouring wind, and vertical grooves etched by water flowing down the mountain. A similar metaphor in the Book of Job is used to describe God’s rebuking power against our sinful lives. When we live our lives apart from His will, in His anger He can wear us down. It is because of His love for us that He does these things. His purpose is to get us to a point of submission and obedience, that we may learn to walk in His righteousness, not that of our own. And when we finally get to that point, then we can look forward to sharing in the other Zion, the kingdom of God.
But as a mountain falls and crumbles away,
And as a rock is moved from its place;
As water wears away stones,
And as torrents wash away the soil of the earth;
So You destroy the hope of man. (Job 14:18-19)
- Zion! (gospelapprentice.com)
- Farewell Sand; Hello Snow! (bigskyken.wordpress.com)
- Some things just don’t fit! (bigskyken.wordpress.com)
Well, our short trip came to a rather abrupt end, at least in terms of climate change. We departed sunny California on Sunday with 70 degrees weather, and woke up Monday morning in beautiful Fernley, Nevada, where it was 19 degrees and light snow! The remainder of the trip home was relatively uneventful, which is usually a good thing when I’m driving (and some would say miraculous, considering how I drive!). The past several posts on His Creation have featured a number of the landscapes and wildlife from our trip, but I still have a few more to share that didn’t seem to fit the other topics.
Whenever I am fortunate enough to photograph something that is rarely seen, I get pretty excited. And, because I mostly photograph wildlife, particularly birds, when I get am image of a seldom seen critter, it is really exciting. I was blessed with the opportunity to get some shots of a Greater Roadrunner. Now this isn’t the most attractive bird in the world, but perhaps having grown up with the Bugs Bunny & Roadrunner Show gave this bird a special place in my heart. It also may have something to do with a vivid memory I have of my brother and I chasing one of these birds through a sagebrush covered hill, actually thinking we might catch it! Thinking back, we probably looked the part of Wile E. Coyote to anyone who might have been watching us.
In our neck of the woods we have a lot of Magpies, and for many years I thought all Magpies were the same. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized that here in the Rocky Mountains, we have Black-billed Magpies, but Yellow-billed Magpies reside on the west coast. So, after chasing several uncooperative subjects around, I finally found one that seemed to enjoy posing for a portrait.
I find it humorous that some critters are considered pests when they are in your yard or farmland, but when you see the same animals in a park or at the beach, they take on a different significance. Over the years I have spent hundreds of hours and untold cases of ammunition in attempts to reduce ground squirrel populations from the farms and ranches I’ve worked on. Yet now I find myself shooting them with the camera!
Because the weather was still cold and snowy at Zion National Park, wildlife was pretty scarce during our visit. We saw a few birds that were not particularly photo-worthy, but we did spot a Pacific Wren, which is another first-time sighting for me. This little guy was flitting around the Virgin River as we hiked upstream to the Narrows.
I consider myself truly blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy and experience so much of God’s wonderful creation. My routine travels take me to many wonderful and awesome places, some so unique that the camera can’t do justice in representing their grandeur. Over the course of last week’s trip, we crossed the Continental Divide several time, wandered through parts of Zion National Park at roughly 8000 feet elevation, and walked the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. We experienced beautiful, warm sunny days, fog-laden mountain passes and wind-driven snowstorms. As amazing and incredible as all this is, the pinnacle of the week was coming home. While we live in a nice home, surrounded by timber in a beautiful part of Montana, the excitement about coming home has nothing to do with those things. It is all about getting back to a place where I belong, because I am wanted there, loved there, and there is place for me to occupy. Coming home is always the best part, and I think it is just an inkling of how great it will be to finally go home to God’s kingdom. Just think for a minute about what we have to look forward to; “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.”(John 14:1-3) Sounds like a great place to spend eternity, does it not? Everyone of us has the option of taking up residence in His house, we only need to find the way. Fortunately we have been given the map to get there by the greatest Guide of all, Jesus Christ; “…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) If you don’t know Christ, and if you haven’t asked Him to be the Lord of your life, you will never find the way.
- Some things just don’t fit! (bigskyken.wordpress.com)
Over the past year, I have made a number of panorama images by stitching together several frames. If they are included in a regular post, they don’t show very well because the width is restricted by the sidebar. In order to display them in a better format, I’ve created a new Panorama Gallery, under the Before the Mountains gallery. While they still don’t show as wide as I’d like them to, I think this is the best I can do for now. If you click on the images, you will view them in a larger format. Presently there are six panoramic images, including the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, Zion National Park in Utah, Red Mountain near Dubois, Wyoming, and three from last summer’s trip to Ireland; The Burren, rural countryside from County Cork, and suburban view along the western reach of the Ring of Kerry.
More photographs should be added to the gallery in the near future, and I hope you enjoy the residents.
In the midst of extensive travel last week, my daughter, Leah, and I made a detour to Zion National Park in southern Utah. Being our first-ever visit to the park, we didn’t really know what we would see in the course of our short excursion. Snow fell the night before, and the sky remained very cloudy. While shooting conditions were not great, through the magic of HDR technology, the images actually came out fairly well. Our first stop was the Kolob Canyon area. (As always, click on individual pictures to see a larger image.)
The conditions at the Kolob area were a little too muddy and snow covered to consider taking a hike, so we continued on to the interior of the park and drove to the parking lot at the base of the Temple of Sinawava. From there, we hiked the Riverside Trail up to the Narrows of the Virgin River. Along the way a portion of the cliff adjacent to the trail broke loose, but Leah cheated death by holding off the massive rock!
When the weather improves and I have a little more time, a return trip to Zion National Park will definitely be on my “to do” list. The rock formations and brilliant shades of red are truly amazing. After returning from this trip, I looked up the meaning and history of the word, Zion. Originally it was simply the name of a specific mountain near Jerusalem, Mount Zion, but subsequently it was used as a Biblical metonym for Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem, and for the world to come in God’s Kingdom. Isaiah 28:16 states, Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.” This foundation refers to God’s promises as manifest in His written word and in His son, Christ Jesus. He is a foundation of God’s laying; a tried stone, a trying stone, a touch-stone, that shall distinguish between true and counterfeit (Matthew Henry Unabridged).