An Art Walk thru Nature’s Galleries in Utah

May 23, 2003

Photographer Peter Herring treated us to an Obsidian version of Fred Craft’s “First Friday Artwalks” of Eugene’s art galleries. The dictionary gives as one definition of the word “sculpture”: Physical Geography — to change the forms of the earth’s surface by erosion and deposition. Mother Nature’s skill as a sculptor was manifest in Peter’s striking photographs taken during a 16-day scouting of National Parks and Monuments of Utah. Utah is slightly smaller than Oregon and in roughly 20 percent of its area (in the southeast) there are five National Parks and five National Monuments! Peter traversed about a 300-mile-long (as the crow flies) U-shaped slice through the area and managed to do about 100 miles of hiking (he said 30 days would have been more appropriate).

The predominantly stone landscape has been sculpted into a myriad of structures and formations — arches, precariously balanced rocks, bridges (one of which is the world’s largest), spires, pinnacles, mazes and multicolored cliffs. The imagination can run riot, imagining faces and edifices. The predominant brilliant colors run toward the other end of the spectrum from that typical in Oregon — red rather than green.

Peter says it is a hiker’s paradise. But beware, storms barrel through the area, so it is imperative to keep abreast of weather conditions in the flashflood-prone canyons (especially in Paria Canyon). And some of the trails in Zion National Park are not recommended for anyone that suffers from vertigo. Birders had best stay home — Peter said he saw only one bird! Most of the area is barren of trees.

This Utah landscape is awe inspiring but relatively sterile, so one might come away with a better appreciation of such as our life-giving Oregon old growth forests.

Bep Fontana

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