Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Sunrise across Lake Powell
With apologies to Jim Croce, you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and you don’t drive on wet bentonite.  Bentonite is a type of clay.  When it gets wet it swells to as much as three times it’s original volume and gets slicker than wet shiny ceramic tile.  

I’ve planned to visit some of these destinations before, but been rained out.  What a joy to finally have a window of dry weather and be able to go.

Speaking of driving and poor judgement, we were flagged down by three young (maybe 20-year-old) tiny Asian girls in a Mercedes sedan on the way to Alstrom Point.  They explained that they had “kind of” gotten stuck down the road a bit. They had made it back to the main road and assured us that their car was fine. They wanted us to drive them “down to the lake.”  I kid you not, they were parked under this sign.  For those of you who don’t know Alstrom, it’s lovely but 2000 or so feet above the lake.  If you began a swim from there it would be your last.  Despite all this, I don’t believe we convinced them.

But, I digress.

Alstrom Point Sunrise
The road to Alstrom Point is one of those Bentonite wonders, and I hadn’t been there for 7 years.  The road has deteriorated, but is still doable with 4WD, good clearance, and the usual precautions.  Absolutely worth the trouble.  We did a layover there, watching reflections dance on the lake and the back lighted glory of the peaks to the south, across the lake.

The second night was clear, and I decided to make my first real attempt at stacked star trails.  If you’re not a photographer, I won’t bore you with the technical details.  This is the finished product.  I’m grateful to Beth Ruggerio-York for her helpful book on night photography.  I like to call it shooting in my jammies.

Cottonwood Narrows
The other place I’d missed seeing on previous trips because of rain was Cottonwood Canyon Road in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  This place defies description (though maybe that’s a consequence of my limited geologic vocabulary.)  We hung out in a slot canyon, photographed arches, and I watched the sun come up (my husband often prefers to roll over and go back to sleep when I go out to shoot sunrise) in “Candyland,” which is every bit as much fun as it sounds.  This place has lots more potential for exploration on other dry days.
Undisclosed Location
We visited another location in Grand Staircase-Escalante, shared with me by a friend from Page.  The details are not my secret to tell, but this is the Paria River flowing toward the Colorado.

The take-home lesson; don’t drive on wet bentonite.

Oh, I almost forgot.  We tried to visit Bryce.  On Thanksgiving weekend.  Really dumb.  Live and learn; we essentially waited in the entrance queue (20 minutes) and made a u-turn.

More images from this trip are in the Autumn in the West Gallery on the website.


  1. All awesome shots! Bentonite is nasty to impossible to drive on when wet but, oh the colors! Wonder if "jammie shooting" can be done from indoors with a remote? ;)

    1. Thanks, G! If I'm honest, I'll say that my camera has an intervalometer, so I set it and go to sleep. I did come out in my jammies at 11:00 when it was done, though. As for the remote; also a great tool.