Tendrel Images: Blog https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) Tendrel Images (Tendrel Images) Fri, 10 Sep 2021 09:17:00 GMT Fri, 10 Sep 2021 09:17:00 GMT https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/img/s/v-12/u251661263-o77627355-50.jpg Tendrel Images: Blog https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog 120 120 NFT purchases https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/8/nft-purchases I bought my first NFTs yesterday! 

There is some great work, very reasonably priced, available by both established and up-and-coming artists. 

Here is the first, The Loner, by Reflections Art:

NFT art by Reflections ArtThe Loner

My second piece was The Day Before Extinction 08, by Chairit Prapai.

NFT photograph of a nude on the beach under a pierThe Age Before Extinction 08

And my third piece was not a purchase - I actually happened, unknown to me at the time of my purchase of The Loner, to buy the piece a few hours prior to the closing of a give-away by Reflections Art. This piece, WoW (World of Women), was the image that Reflections Art sent me from that give-away. 



(Tendrel Images) fine art NFT https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/8/nft-purchases Wed, 25 Aug 2021 15:18:47 GMT
I am now on Foundation! https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/8/on-foundation I managed to this week score an invite to join Foundation (thanks so much to @lordthebeard!).

That means I am going to be transitioning some of my images so that they are only available as single edition (1/1) NFTs on my Foundation page: https://foundation.app/@tendrelimages

Each image sold as a jpg NFT at Foundation will also include, should the purchaser wish, a museum-quality print that I sign and ship from my Nova Scotia studio. 

Even though I do mainly nature photography, I've decided to go with my chess collection as the first NFTs. The genesis drop should be ready to go online at Foundation in about a week. I will probably go with this image as the genesis piece as it is one of my very fav images.

The unhappy white king monochrome. Macro, monochrome photography of chess figuresThe unhappy white king monochrome

And here's some additional major alpha! 

I plan on de-commercializing my photo tours & structuring them much more like a Meet-Up, where each photographer just takes care of their own costs of the trip. Because I can package up trips at pretty good prices from wholesalers or lodge operators, that means prices for some fun shoots will be the most cost-effective possible. 

Personally, I mainly want to shoot in cool places and meet some like-minded photographers (rather than making money as a commercial operator), so I thought this change might be a fun way to go rather than simply transition back to the client side of the photo tour business. 

Now with the advent of NFTs, it is possible to use them to give special perks for purchasers. Some of my wildlife images posted as NFTs at Foundation will include special invites to join my shoot! That is, if you buy one of these special NFTs, you also get an invite to a Masai Mara or Yukon grizzly bear shoot at shared wholesale price!! 

Keep an eye on my site for autumn updates or contact me if you want me to put you on an email list. Later I will set up a Telegram or Discord group. 

(Tendrel Images) Foundation NFTs https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/8/on-foundation Sat, 14 Aug 2021 17:44:20 GMT
Abandoned Buildings exhibition - Blank Wall Gallery https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/7/abandoned-buildings-exhibition---blank-wall-gallery I had a second Mormon Row (Jackson, Wyoming) winter image selected to be included in an international virtual exhibition being run by Blank Wall Gallery in Athens (Greece). 

I have really missed getting to Wyoming the last few years at Christmas - must try for 2021 as the visits are so productive in the winter!


Abandoned cabins in the Wyoming winterAbandoned cabins in the Wyoming winterTwo old abandoned cabins on Mormon Row, Jackson, Wyoming. Taken at dusk as a Christmas Day snowstorm cleared, 2016.

(Tendrel Images) abandonment exhibition rural rural america usa winter wyoming https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/7/abandoned-buildings-exhibition---blank-wall-gallery Wed, 14 Jul 2021 23:58:03 GMT
CEWE Photo Award 2021 https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/7/cewe-photo-award-2021 Yay!

One of my images of a deer, shot at Hurricane Ridge in Washington State, made the short-list in the Nature category at the German CEWE Photo Award, the world's largest photo competition!


All the award-winning photos and the category winners selected by the jury can be viewed at www.cewephotoaward.com.

Apparently there were 606,289 photos from 170 countries submitted, so I am really happy to have made the cut for the 1000 top images!

This image is not yet posted in my gallery on this website. I will be making it available as a 1/1 edition NFT - please DM me if you are interested in purchasing this image: https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/contact.html





(Tendrel Images) animal portrait contest USA wildlife https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/7/cewe-photo-award-2021 Wed, 14 Jul 2021 23:00:11 GMT
Mono-Kromatik exhibition https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/6/mono-kromatik-exhibition One of my Mormon Row (Jackson, Wyoming) winter images was selected to be a part of the international Mono-Kromatic exhibition at Praxis Gallery in Minneapolis! 


Lonely winter barn (limited edition)Lonely winter barn (limited edition)Shot on a cold, gray December day, this monochrome image of one of the famous Moulton Barns on Mormon Row, Jackson, Wyoming, has a very abandoned feel to it. In the bad weather, I was the only person in the area, so spent some time experimenting with angles that one might normally not have a chance to shoot when people are all around the barns.

This photograph was selected for the Praxis Gallery (Minneapolis) international juried Mono-Kromatik exhibition, June-July 2021.

DM me about availability.

The gallery show is running until July 3, 2021 - if the image does not sell while there, I will instead mint it as an 1/1 NFT after the exhibition closes. 

(Tendrel Images) black and white exhibition monochrome rural rural america usa wyoming https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/6/mono-kromatik-exhibition Mon, 28 Jun 2021 18:06:57 GMT
Photographing 'ice bears' along the Fishing Branch River, Yukon https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/5/ice-bears-Yukon In this blog, I give a little background on why grizzly bears feed so late into the winter at Bear Cave Mountain, in the northern Yukon, and some of the implications for photographers, including the practicalities of how to safely manage daily grizzly bear encounters in the wild. The people management hints come from Phil Timpany, who manages the Bear Cave camp. 

I now have my full line-up of grizzly bear (brown bear) photography safaris at Bear Cave Mountain online - with prime 'ice bear' slots available all the way out to 2026! Links for individual tours are down at the bottom of the blog.

Ice bearIce bearA frosted grizzly bear peering over a river bank, ice mist in the air. Fishing Branch River, Yukon Territory, 23 October 2018.

'Ice bears' are, of course, just 'normal' grizzly bears, but late in the season at Bear Cave Mountain in the northern Yukon, grizzlies actively fish until early-November. Usually in about mid-October the weather starts to get really cold (dropping to -15 C, +5 F) and the bears get all frosted and icy as they are in and out of the river all day long chasing salmon. The image above (shot on Oct 23 back in 2018) shows the typical result, with the bear's head encrusted in icicles. At the end of the season, overnight temperatures can drop to -30 C (-22 F) or more.

Now, I am sure the first thing many people are thinking is 'why aren't these bears hibernating?' To understand why not, a little geology and a little biology background are needed. 

On the geology side, two factors come into play. First, the Fishing Branch River in this spot has warm springs that percolate up through the river bottom, keeping the river and side sloughs ice-free until deep into the winter. Second, there are a series of caves high on the mountainside directly above the river, caves that happen to be perfect for grizzlies' over-winter slumber.

On the biology side, there is an extremely late run of chum salmon that migrate from the Bering Sea, up the Yukon River, and eventually up into the Fishing Branch River. The salmon have evolved to take advantage of the warm percolating spring water, laying down their eggs in the clean gravel in late-autumn - warmer water means eggs hatch sooner next spring, the young salmon fry grow faster, migrate downstream at a larger size, and therefore have a survival advantage. So for salmon from the far north (Bear Cave Mt is only about 100-km south of the Arctic Circle), this is the perfect spot.

Salmon are nature's nutrient conveyor belt, helping to bring nutrients from the oceans, where the salmon feed and grow, deep into terrestrial environments. Salmon in western North America play a critical role in maintaining ecological stability, providing a rich source of feed for primary predators like grizzly bears, as well as a whole second tier of creatures that live off the scraps left by the bears (e.g., wolves, pine martens, birds that eat salmon eggs, etc.).

Salmon in the snowSalmon in the snowRemnants of a salmon, part of a meal for a grizzly bear the evening before. Shot on the shores of the Fishing Branch River, Yukon.

The bears have adapted to this salmon run. They can roam the tundra feeding on berries and whatever else they can find in the summer, and then congregate here in the autumn and gorge on the chum salmon that are ready to spawn.

While salmon flesh is readily devoured, the eggs of the female salmon are the most valuable prize in the river for bears, as the eggs are full of lipids and nutrients that provide maximum nutritional value, increasing their odds of a bear lasting through a long, hard winter. When watching grizzlies hunt here, you can see that they will preferentially go after the large female salmon to get at the eggs.

The bears just trudge up the mountainside after they have stuffed themselves full of salmon, to slumber away the winter in the caves above the Fishing Branch River. With minimal energy expenditure to get from their feeding spot to the over-wintering spot, this is the perfect place for grizzly bears. As a result, they have evolved to continue hunting well into the northern winter. 

That's a complicated story but this combination of geology and biology is why Bear Cave Mountain gives photographers an opportunity for images that are just not possible when shooting in other locations. 

Grizzly winter portraitGrizzly winter portraitIce bear close-up portrait - a 3-yr old male checking out the river for salmon


If that helps to explain the 'why' of their presence, for many people the next question might be 'are you insane to go out with a forest full of grizzlies who are looking to bulk up for winter?'

As it turns out, humans can get away with being out in bear world. And, again, there are a couple of different threads of the story to tell.

From a superficial perspective, we might just say that kg for kg, people just are not as nutritious as salmon, so we are not their preferred feast!.

Now, Madame, will that be fish or meat for dinner?

It helps to think of the big picture of evolutionary fitness and survival. The bottom line for all animals, including humans, is pretty simple - eat, have sex, and reduce risk if you want to successfully survive long enough to pass on genes. If one of those threes factors is in short supply, then an animal is willing to cut some corners on the other two.

For humans to successfully be out in the wild with grizzlies, you don't want to be influencing grizzlies' food, sex, and risk calculus. We're a non-factor (hopefully!) on the sex side of the equation, so that leaves food and risk to manage in our encounters. 

If people are not competing for salmon, then the bears realize after a time that their preferred food source is unaffected. Combine that with the fact that salmon provide more valuable nutrients than humans, and food more or less factors out of the equation. 

One thing that could upset the natural balance is if humans provide bears with food, either by deliberate baiting (e.g., brown bear viewing in some places in Finland) or accidental waste (e.g., garbage bins in a heavily-used national park). There is no baiting of bears at Bear Cave Mountain. One of the big no-no's for photographers sitting on the bank of the Fishing Branch River is to spill even the smallest amount of lunch or snacks in the snow - we are meticulously clean on this trip, so that bears do not come to associate humans with nutritious snacks like M&Ms or potato chips, things that might lure bears away from their salmon diet and lead to more aggressive encounters.

That then leaves risk to consider: do grizzlies consider humans an inherent threat?

Bear Cave Mt is located in the middle of a territorial park of the First Nation whose land we visit on Bear Cave Mt safaris. There is no big game hunting here, so bears have not learned to automatically fear humans. Just like lions within national parks in Africa, these bears are fully aware that they are at the pinnacle of the food chain and, in the absence of hunting or a history of human harassment, they just are not too concerned about people (check out the video at the bottom of this blog to see how casual they can be).

Being out in the woods with the bears in their peak feeding system may be, somewhat counter-intuitively, the safest time for people in bear world.

Grizzlies are so intelligent, aggressive, fast, and powerful (and have the tools to do such damage - 'Nails to Die For' is the title of the image below!), you don't want to be anywhere near them when they are truly hungry and they are more likely to take risks to get a meal.

Claws!Claws!Nails to die for!

This perspective on food and risk influences how the local guides manage the photographers (the bears are certainly not the ones in need of being managed!) on my Bear Cave Mountain safaris.

First, photographers are only taken to a limited number of shoot locations and on a limited number of trails. Bears know where they may encounter humans and where they would be a total surprise, and therefore a potential risk. Second, photographers take all efforts possible to minimize movements and noises that bears could construe as threats. So, no high fives after a bear runs past in front of you, no loud talking, and limited bursts in quiet mode on your camera.

The only time that humans would want to deliberately increase the perception they are a risk to bears is when there is a close encounter.

So, for example, when hiking down a snowy game trail in the morning, if we encounter a grizzly bear coming the other way on the trail, the local guide may call up the photographers to stand 4 abroad and the guide will speak to the bear in a soft voice to start. That is what was happening in the image below - while our local guide was talking to the young 3-yr old male, I was beside him shooting photos and the other 3 photographers were moving forward, so that all five of us were visible. The bear looked for awhile, and then just turned around and reversed track on the trail.

Stand offStand offAbout this image.

While heading down the stream for a day of grizzly bear (=brown bear) photography, we met one of our subjects on the trail in the morning. This is a young 3-year old male bear. One of the rules when encountering a bear in the wild is that 'retreat is not an option.' Our guide did some soft talking while I snapped photos and eventually the bear turned around and reversed track. The young bears are used to being dominated by all the older ones - later in the morning we saw this guy head up a creek where we had just seen a big male. It just seemed like this guy was bottom rung on the dominance ladder all that day, so you had to feel a little sorry for him. He will keep growing up till he is 8-10 years old, more or less doubling in size, and then a big testosterone spike hits and he will about double in size again once he hits about 12 years. There were a few males in this region that were 25+ years old.

Brown bears congregate on the Fishing Branch River, far north in the Yukon Territory in the autumn to feed on chum salmon that migrate to this river very late in the season (warm springs percolate up through the river bottom here). On the mountain above the river there are caves that the happy and full grizzlies can waddle up to after their salmon feast, safe places to slumber during the long winter, which is why this area is known as Bear Cave Mountain.

My grizzly bear photo tours.

Starting in Autumn 2022, I will be running week-long photography safaris to Bear Cave Mountain in the Ni‘iinlii Njik Territorial Park & Wilderness Preserve, Yukon, where this image was captured. If you are interested in capturing images like this in one of the wildest places on the planet, please join me on a photo safari to the Yukon. In 2022 I am also starting summer grizzly photo tours to the Taku Wilderness in northwest British Columbia. See tour information at my website: https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/schedule.

Image processing and printing information.

The number one rule with wild grizzly encounters is that 'retreat is not an option' (you don't want to kick in a bear's evolutionary programming to chase down prey!). You instead want to increase the level of risk that the bear perceives from pursing an encounter. Facing a group, the risk factor goes up for the bear, so the bear is more likely to decide the best course of action is to detour into the woods. In the event of a charge, the local guide may yell at the bear, throw something at it, or even fire a warning shot in a drastic effort to convey an escalating level of risk the bear faces. Firing a shot has proved an exceedingly rare event at Bear Cave camp (only a few times over 3-decades of operating in this area). 

Our local guides always have a shotgun in hand and are constantly watching our surroundings, so that we photographers can concentrate on the images we are shooting. I must say that just knowing I have a shotgun at my back makes for such an incredible difference in confidence and erases the fear factor that a close encounter would normally entail. I have spent lots of time in grizzly country without having a gun and was often a little nervous (that would be a Canadian understatement) when out alone trail running along the Yukon River or hiking in the Canadian Rockies.

During the visit to Bear Cave camp, the trek down to the outhouse in the middle of the night is probably the most 'awareness-building' time of the trip - definitely an incentive to not have an extra beer with dinner!

However, being out in the far north at 3 a.m. has its own allure too and one clear night, at about -20 C, I ended up standing out for some time staring at the stars and northern lights through the breaks in the forest - it is not every night one gets to jump into the pages of a Jack London novel while being fully awake. Bears faded from my consciousness as I breathed in the cold Arctic air - and then, because I was having a 'Call of the Wild' moment, my mind wandered and I started to wonder if that scraggly, surly timber wolf I saw earlier in the day actually slept all night...

Here is a quick highlight of the grizzly bear photography tours on tap - more details for each are in the links.

2022 - 6 full-days, 2 half-days of photography at Bear Cave Mt, arrive Whitehorse Sept 27.

2023 - 13 full-days, 2 half-days of photography at Bear Cave Mt, arrive Whitehorse Sept 23.

Both 2022 and 2023 are before prime ice bear season but we have longer days and should see more bears on these trips, and will hopefully get at least a couple of snow days on both. The first tour in prime ice bear season is the second departure of 2024.

2024 - 6 full-days, 2 half-days of photography at Bear Cave Mt, arrive Whitehorse Oct 4 (this in the only opportunity between 2022 and 2026 for a 4-person group of experienced photographers to travel into Bear Cave without me along as a photographic guide).

2024 - 6 full-days, 2 half-days of photography at Bear Cave Mt, arrive Whitehorse Oct 11.

2025 - 6 full-days, 2 half-days of photography at Bear Cave Mt, arrive Whitehorse Oct 25 (final slot of the season for best ice bear opportunities).

2026 - 13 full-days, 2 half-days of photography at Bear Cave Mt, arrive Whitehorse Oct 19 (final two slots of the season for best ice bear opportunities).

I also have summer grizzly bear safaris scheduled for 2022 and 2023 in the remote Taku Wilderness of northwest British Columbia. These are a little more economical and we have long summer days for extended shooting opportunities.

To wrap up this blog, here is a completely unedited video clip of a female grizzly in the river directly in front of where we were sitting in the snow on the shores of the river bank. This was shot with a 16-35 mm wide angle zoom, starting out at 16-mm and then zooming in a little to around 25-mm. At closest, this bear was about 5-m (15-ft) away.







(Tendrel Images) Bear Cave Mountain brown bear grizzly bear ice bears photo safari photo tour photography safari photography tour Yukon https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/5/ice-bears-Yukon Wed, 12 May 2021 16:54:52 GMT
Another tour update, 07 May 2021 https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/5/another-tour-update I have a few updates on various tours and workshops, with some good news and some bad news.

Nova Scotia infrared workshop, July 2021

Let's start with the bad news - I threw in the towel today on the early-July 2021 infrared photography workshop in my home area of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia.

In Nova Scotia, we have fared extremely well during the pandemic. Due to increasing infection numbers and a new lock-down, however, there is no chance that out-of-province travelers will be allowed into the province by early-July, so I have cancelled the scheduled workshop.

On the good news side, our provincial vaccine rollout is now in full swing (I got my first jab a few days ago) and it looks as if we will be to a level of vaccination coverage by August that could well lead to a relaxation of quarantine requirements for incoming visitors from out of province. 

What I will do is offer the infrared workshop on an individual or small-group basis if and when travel restrictions relax. I will hold the price to the same as for the workshop, it will be of the same duration, and we will visit the same locations. I will even make sure you get blueberry pancakes at my house prior to our morning departure!


Send me an email to discuss tentative dates if you are interested! Once clarifications regarding provincial travel policies are available, we will be in a position to proceed with hotel and travel booking.

Deep in the Fundy fog forest 01 - infraredDeep in the Fundy fog forest 01 - infraredAbout this image

Deep in the Bay of Fundy fog forest, this path runs to some coastal vistas in Chignecto Provincial Park, Nova Scotia. This infrared monochrome image was shot on a September day on which I had the area entirely to myself.

Infrared photography workshops in Nova Scotia

I offer 4-day infrared photography workshops in Nova Scotia in the summer. This photo, about an hour drive from where I live, is from one of the locations we will visit on my Parrsboro-based workshop. Tour info is available at:

Image information

This image was shot with a 24-mm focal length lens at f/7.1, a 1/100 second exposure, and with the camera at 640 ISO. As with all my photos and digital art, it was processed in Photoshop; I did the monochrome conversion with Silver Efex Pro. This image has a 2x3 aspect ratio and is best-suited for printing on rag (matte) paper or stretched canvas finishes.

Museum-quality signed prints

I can print and sign museum-quality prints of this image to ship to your home or office directly from my Nova Scotia studio. These giclée prints use durable (many decades) pigment inks and museum-quality fine art papers; for prints of this image, I recommend Canson Rag Photographique or Moab Somerset Museum Rag paper. Prints ship rolled in a tube and can then be framed by your local frame shop. Order museum-quality fine art prints of this image at:

Order wall art from Fine Art America (FAA)

Print-on-demand at FAA is a convenient way to order decorative home or office wall art. Wall art can be printed using unframed or framed fine art paper, or metallic, acrylic, and stretched canvas finishes at:

For unframed or framed prints at FAA, I would recommend using their archival matte or Picture Rag paper. This image can be printed up to 60" on the long edge at FAA.


Kenya safaris, Nov 2021

At the moment, my working assumption is that both Kenya tours in November will be a go. Kenya has fared relatively well during the pandemic. Given European countries should be open for travel for vaccinated individuals, North Americans should be able to do the trip to Kenya with a stop-over in one of the European hubs, splitting up that very long trip.

If you are hesitant about travel as early as November 2021, I am offering both safaris again in May 2022 and November 2022. The links are here: May 2022 Samburu/Nakuru/NavaishaMay 2022 Masai Mara/NavaishaNov 2022 Samburu/Nakuru/Navaisha; and Nov 2022 Masai Mara/Navaisha.

All these Kenyan tours are now available for booking. I will also be adding 2023 safaris to the schedule shortly: they will follow the same pattern as 2022.

I am also allowing myself 2-weeks buffer time on both sides of the scheduled Kenyan safaris for private small-group safaris - please contact me directly if you are interested in having me set up a safari to meet your photographic needs.

In the first of the two November 2021 safaris, to Samburu National Reserve and Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha in the Rift Valley, I will be offering a series of optional infrared photography sessions in the afternoon. This tour is a great one for both getting to learn IR photography and for getting a very diverse set of Kenyan locations. Highlights of this tour will include the dry, arid savannah of Samburu (hopefully with some of its big cats and maybe even some wild dogs), the white rhino herd at Nakuru (below), and the amazing African fish eagle action at Lake Naivasha. 

Morning formationMorning formationAbout this image

White rhinos wake at dawn and go into a defensive formation first thing in the morning. This monocrhome image was taken at Lake Nakuru, Kenya in May, 2016. Due to rampant poaching, this herd has a round-the-clock armed guard. Lake Nakuru National Park, the oldest in Kenya, has a rich variety of wildlife but it also has a large human population nearby in the Rift Valley.

Lake Nakuru is a large, shallow lake in Kenya's Great Rift Valley and the oldest national park in Kenya. It has rhinos, big cats, a variety of other wildlife, and an abundance of bird life. The nearby town of Nakuru continues to spread but the park is in a crater, so once inside the park gates, it really is another world.

My tours to Lake Nakuru

Each year I lead an infrared photography workshop in the Rift Valley of Kenya. During that workshop - which is also suitable for bird photographers - we stay at Naivasha Crescent Camp for three nights and at Lake Nakuru lodge for two nights. Due to Covid, the next scheduled departure for both workshop and tour is November 2021. See tour information at my website: https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/schedule

Image processing and printing information

The photo was shot at 300mm and 1/125th second. It was processed in Photoshop, converted to monochrome in Silver Efex Pro, and is equally well-suited for matte, semi-gloss or glossy paper, or on canvas, acrylic, or metal. The image has a 1x3 aspect ratio, and can be printed at between 6x18" and 12x36” sizes.

Order prints now via Fine Art America

Fine Art America (FAA) print-on-demand is well-suited for general home decor or office decor use. Wall art products available include standard (fine art paper), metallic, acrylic, and canvas prints. Metallic and acrylic print options work best if you are looking for vivid color in images that serve as a strong focal point in your home or office. Canvas is an economical option and this image is available at special sale prices (see bel


The second safari to the Masai Mara starts the morning after the Samburu/Rift Valley safari ends, so it is possible to do both. We fly to the Mara to get a quick safari start and spend the next 5-days photographing the amazing East African grassland environment and wildlife. After we wrap up in the Mara, we drive to Lake Naivasha for some African fish eagle action, hippos, and hiking with the kinder, gentler wildlife (in the Mara, we cannot go hiking because of the big cats). 

Dawn in the Mara 02Dawn in the Mara 02About this image

In this vertical image, sunrise light starts to color up the grasslands of the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. An Acacia tree is silhouetted by the dawn light and other trees are barely visible on the horizon.

My tours to the Masai Mara

The Masai Mara National Reserve is in eastern Kenya, bordering the Serengeti national park across the border in Tanzania. The East African grasslands and rivers of 'the Mara' are home to diverse wildlife, birds, and reptiles. I personally prefer visiting the Mara in the rainy seasons when there are few tourists, lots of baby animals, and some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen.

I lead luxury safaris to the Masai Mara each May and November. We first fly from Nairobi to the Mara and spend the first five nights at the luxurious Ashnil Mara camp in the very heart of the Masai Mara National Reserve. We then drive to Lake Naivasha for two nights at Naivasha Sopa Lodge, where we enjoy some of the best bird photography anywhere. See tour information at my website:

Image information

The photo was shot at 200-mm focal length and f/4, at 1/250 second shutter speed, and with the camera at 1000 ISO. As with all my photos and digital art, it was processed in Photoshop. This 4x5 aspect ratio image is equally well-suited for printing on matte, semi-gloss or glossy paper, or on canvas, acrylic, or metal.

Museum-quality signed prints

I can print and sign museum-quality prints of this image to ship to your home or office directly from my Nova Scotia studio. These giclée prints use durable (many decades) pigment inks and museum-quality fine art papers; for prints of this image, I recommend Canson Baryta Photographique or Moab Photogloss Premium paper. Prints ship rolled in a tube and can then be framed by your local frame shop. Order museum-quality fine art prints of this image at:

Order wal


Grizzly bear tour updates

We've had some reshuffling of dates for the 2022 Taku Wilderness grizzly bear safari. Unfortunately for the camp operator, the 2021 summer season appears to have been lost with ongoing travel restrictions. I had the second slot of the 4-week Taku season for 2022 but worked with the local operator to reshuffle so that they could move 2021 bookings forward to 2022 and not lose them to cancellations. The upside for me for 2022 Taku, is that we I now have the first slot of the season and the camp operator has kindly offered a full extra day at camp in appreciation for the re-shuffle. That means a full bonus day in the Taku Wilderness for anyone on this trip!

My 2023 Taku dates are for early-August, the second slot of the season (online shortly).


On the Bear Cave Mountain front, there is some exciting news!

I have been working closely with the camp operator and have a few special treats available!

First, in 2013 I now have a double slot that gives 15-days of wilderness grizzly bear photography during a single safari! Only 7 groups of 4 photographers get access to Bear Cave Mountain each year, so this is pretty amazing to get two slots back to back. If you are interested, get hold of me as soon as possible; this will be the only opportunity for a double shot at Bear Cave Mountain until 2026.

Bear Cave Mountain safari information for 2024 to 2026 will also be online shortly.

For 2014 I also have a double booking but the mid-October departure already has photographers booked, so I am offering the first departure as a photographically unguided tour available for 4 experienced photographers. You will have the local guides for safety and camp cooking on this safari, but I will not accompany as a photography guide (I will meet you in Whitehorse, accompany you to Dawson, and see you off in the helicopter bound for Bear Cave Mt). This is a likely a one-time opportunity for two couples or a group of 4 friends to book together. Because camp and chopper capacity is 4 at maximum, when I am on the tour there is a limit of 3 photographers as guests. 

I currently have a space available for one additional photographer in the second session of 2014. This mid-October slot will be the first that is getting into the colder weather, so there will be very good odds of seeing "ice bears' on this safari. With only a single place left, get hold of me quickly is you are interested in securing this last spot.  

In 2025 I have only a single departure booked but it is the coveted final slot of the season. This safari has a late-October start. We don't have a lot of daylight at this time of year, but this is the time when we have the potential to see temperature plunge to -20 to -30 C and get the types of photos of full-on ice bears that made this location famous

Even better, in 2026 I have the final two slots of the season! That means there will be an absolutely unique opportunity for 3 photographers to have 15 days of full-on ice bear photography in the prime slots of the season.


Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 04 of 05Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 04 of 05The third image in the series shows the bear in mid-charge when she realizes that she does not need to go all the way to her favorite spot because a salmon she is interested in has come near to shore just underneath her. Here, she is just in the process of changing direction from here path towards the river.


Other developments

Bay of Fundy snow eagle tours and workshops are now online for 2022 and open for booking. We had short-eared owls overwinter just 15-km down the road from the Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch in the winter of 2021, so the owl photography was just as good as the eagles. My fingers will be crossed they return here to over-winter again next winter.

I plan on adding a series of shorter Nova Scotia coastal village and seascape tours in June 2022. They should be online and available for booking by June 2021. Leave me a comment on this blog or contact me if you would like to be kept up-to-date on the summer tours. 



(Tendrel Images) British Canada Columbia infrared Kenya Nova photo photography safari Scotia tour tours wildlife workshop workshops Yukon https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/5/another-tour-update Fri, 07 May 2021 17:36:17 GMT
A grizzly bear goes fly fishing https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/5/a-grizzly-bear-goes-fly-fishing Here's a newly processed sequence of a grizzly bear's amazing fishing technique in the Yukon. The images are from 2 separate runs by the same bear, in the same place, just a day apart - I used images from the two days as together they best illustrated just how smart (and fast, and aggressive) a grizzly bear (brown bear) can be. She was swatting snow into the salmon spawning stream to scare the fish, then would charge down the river bank to head them off and jump out on top of them as they passed. 


Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 01 of 05Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 01 of 05This monochrome image is part of a sequence of 5 shots that illustrate just how smart (and fast) grizzly bears (brown bears) are when they hunt. In this, the first image of the sequence, the female grizzly is swatting snow from the river bank into the stream to scare spawning chum salmon. She repeatedly used this fishing technique over several days while I was photographing her in the northern Yukon, at Bear Cave Mountain, in October 2018.

#1 - the set up

While I didn't actually put the text on social media posts, I certainly felt like adding something like sounded like a clickbait ad: "You won't believe what this bear did in image #4!!" 

Starting in autumn 2022, I have grizzly bear photo safaris running to Bear Cave Mountain, where this sequence was shot. For anyone interested in an extended double shot of grizzly bears, I have back-to-back weeks booked for 2023 and 2026 - both will give 15-days of wilderness bear photography. I also have summer grizzly photo safaris to the Taku Wilderness starting in 2022, in the far reaches of northwestern British Columbia. Drop me a note if you are interested! Check out all my scheduled trips at this link.

The images in this sequence are for sale individually (click the image or the links below the image) or if you are interested, send me a message and I can put together the whole series in 10x15" prints in my Nova Scotia studio and send them rolled in a tube, ready for framing by your local framer. 


Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 02 of 05Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 02 of 05In this second image of the sequence, the grizzly has successfully spooked the spawning chum salmon and takes off downstream as fast as she can in order to 'head them off at the pass.' She had a favorite promenade that stuck out into the river, where she could jump down on top of salmon passing beneath. #2 - the charge


Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 03 of 05Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 03 of 05The third image in the series shows the bear in mid-charge when she realizes that she does not need to go all the way to her favorite spot because a salmon she is interested in has come near to shore just underneath her. Here, she is just in the process of changing direction from here path towards the river. #3 - change of plans


Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 04 of 05Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 04 of 05Much to my amazement as I was shooting this sequence, the bear just launched out over the stream in a long jump that took her about 4-m from shore, where she came down right on top a group of salmon. During this whole charge, I was not aware of her once taking her eye off the fish. Bear Cave Mountain is extremely remote (2+ hours by helicopter north of Dawson City) and strictly managed by the local First Nation. Only seven groups of 4 photographers each get to visit annually for bear viewing. Of all the places in the world I have traveled, this spot is the only place I have ever been that I would consider truly pristine. #4 - the leap


Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 05 of 05Grizzly bear fishing technique series - monochrome 05 of 05The final image in this series shows just part of the chaos once she hit the river. In this series, she was unsuccessful in catching the salmon. Grizzly bears are 'scary smart', to me seeming to be on par in intelligence with a smart hunting dog. #5 - chaos in the creek







(Tendrel Images) Bear Cave Mountain brown bear Grizzly bear photography locations Yukon https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/5/a-grizzly-bear-goes-fly-fishing Wed, 05 May 2021 21:28:25 GMT
Tour update - bookings, Covid, plans for 2022 and beyond https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/4/tour-update Changes in booking procedures

I have made some changes to the booking procedure for all tours.

Instead of paying a reservation fee online, I am now going to take only 'expressions of interest' with my online order system. When you go through the 'order' procedure, I collect some basic information about you, which trip(s) you are interested in, and whether you have specific questions. After you submit, I will get back to you with information about how to send a deposit and reserve a spot for your trip.

I am not posting my phone number on this page, but when you express your interest regarding a trip, my phone number is on the order form - if you want to set up a Zoom call, you can send me a text and I will set it up.  You can also just email me to set up a call too. 


2021 departures

I have left the July Bay of Fundy infrared workshop on the schedule for now but think it is very much a longshot that Atlantic Canada travel restrictions will be lifted until well into the summer. A final call will be made on this workshop in early-June. I will offer this again in July 2022 for anyone who was interested but unable to travel this year. 

For anyone currently booked for the IR workshop, if we do need to cancel, I will work with you individually to set up an alternative time in the autumn for a private workshop (same prices as the scheduled workshop), should travel restrictions be relaxed enough you are able to enter Nova Scotia.

The emergence of the South African Covid variant is now an increasing concern for November 2021 Kenya Rift Valley/Samburu and luxury Masai Mara/Naivasha departures. I just saw earlier today results from an African-wide survey of safari tour operators that across the continent there has been another "significant trend of decline in new bookings and large-scale cancellations of existing bookings." It sounds like many people have been willing to defer rather than cancel trips, but another lost season will be devastating for the African lodges and the whole industry and villages that depend on safari income.

I'm personally scheduled for my second Astra-Zeneca shot on August 12th, so will personally be watching very carefully for information from additional field trials to see how that vaccine performs with regard to the South African variant. 


2022 departures (check the overall schedule for links)

Early in 2022, I have four 'snow eagle' trips running, two small-group departures that will be very mobile, looking for winter owl photography opportunities in addition to the bald eagle action at Sheffield Mills. I will also be running two action-oriented bald eagle workshops, where we combine morning winter shoots with afternoons mainly focused on image processing. 

I will be adding three short (5-day) coastal Nova Scotia tours in June 2022, each visiting different parts of the province. They will be available to book individually or as a 2+ week combination that visits well-known and secret photo locations around the province. Send me a note if you might be interested. These should be online in early-May.

I have Kenya safaris  scheduled for both spring and autumn, a new Taku Wilderness grizzly bear safari in early-August in the farthest reaches of northwest British Columbia, and a 1-week grizzly bear safari to Bear Cave Mountain in the northern Yukon, departing in late-September.     


2023 and beyond

For the most part, my 2022 line-up will hold as it is for 2023.

However, there is one very cool option coming up for Bear Cave Mountain in autumn 2023. I now have back-to-back reserved slots, so will be posting information very shortly on an amazing 2-week grizzly bear photo safari. There will three guest slots available in total, so get hold of me as soon as possible if you are interested. I will only be able to hold the early-week until this autumn, at which time availability will drop back to only a single week option. 

I've been in close contact with the Bear Cave Mountain operators and have dates now settled for tours through 2026!

Full information will be online soon but other Bear Cave Mountain highlights out in the future include:

  • an opportunity for a 1-week unguided week in 2024 (photo guide, still with local bear guides - an unguided week opens up possibilities for a group of 4 experienced photographers to book together) (and I have one space available still for my guided mid-October slot)
  • the final slot of the autumn season in 2025 (peak 'ice bear' potential) and
  • back-to-back reservations for the last two slots of the 2026 season, which will also be for a 2-week visit to Bear Cave during prime cold weather conditions from late-October to early-November, 2026!

If you are interested in any of these, get hold of me as soon as you can - I know that these trips are a long way out, but these are prime time slots for one of the world's greatest photography experiences! 

Queen of the NorthQueen of the NorthA female grizzly on the bank of the Fishing Branch River, just south of the Arctic Circle, Yukon Territory, 23 October 2018.


(Tendrel Images) safaris schedule tours workshops https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/4/tour-update Fri, 16 Apr 2021 21:45:09 GMT
Jeep, offroad, overland art custom https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/3/jeep-and-overland-art-custom After a winter focused on other things, I have just gotten back to my Jeep and overland art custom processing service and am ready to turn people's favorite Jeep, offroad, and overland images into art!

The idea is simple: you submit your favorite image of your rig and I give it a full professional work-over, turning it into a work of art. I do all the processing work myself and am an overland Jeep owner, so will vary the looks of the images to best suit your own rig in the environment where you photographed it. 

Actually, into 6 works of art with this bundle, in addition to a 7th high-quality processed baseline image!

The bundle includes the following treatments for the finished image (some examples of which are available here): fine art monochrome; stylized digital oil; traditional digital oil; monochrome retro (analog); color retro (analog); and digital pencil sketch. 

I've got the bundle priced at USD $195 or equivalent in other currencies. Click here for more info and how to order.

At this time I also set up a private online gallery for you at my Fine Art America (FAA) store, so that you have access to the full product line of prints and merchandise that FAA produces and ships internationally (all varieties of wall art, t-shirts and other clothing, puzzles, coffee cups, blankets, and so on, even including face masks!). As you have already paid for the image processing, I set the prices at FAA at roughly 10% over cost, so these prices are as good as one could ever get at FAA. 

I hope you'll give this new service a go! I know that you will love the results!!


Custom Jeep and overland art promoCustom Jeep and overland art promoClick on this image to visit the custom Jeep and overland art pre-order page!


(Tendrel Images) custom processing customized artwork jeep overland https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/3/jeep-and-overland-art-custom Wed, 24 Mar 2021 01:23:35 GMT
Tour and workshop updates - February 23, 2021 https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/2/tour-and-workshop-updates-feb-2021 I am currently hopeful that the Covid situation will continue to improve and allow for tours and workshops to re-boot later this year!

Here is the current status on scheduled sessions.

I have an infrared photography workshop scheduled for July 2021 in my home area on the upper Bay of Fundy (this workshop even features home-cooked pancake breakfasts at my home!). Whether it runs or not will depend on how long the current Canadian travel restrictions remain in place. If you are interested in this workshop, please contact me. Currently I would guess that odds of it being available for anyone not a resident of Atlantic Canada are pretty slim. But if you are a resident of Atlantic Canada, I will run this workshop for even if only a single photographer registers. Info is available here:


Next up on the calendar is Kenya in November 2021. I have made some adjustments to my first Rift Valley session and it is now is a little longer than originally planned, and includes a 3-day stay in Samburu. This is an excellent and diverse safari, is relatively economical (10-days, USD $5450 all-inclusive), and a great introduction to African photography providing that big cats are not an absolute must for your safari. We have stays in Samburu (Buffalo Springs National Reserve), Lake Nakuru National Park, and Lake Navaisha. For anyone interested in infrared photography, I will be giving a full 'workshop' on IR in optional afternoon classroom sessions. Among the highlights for this tour are white rhino herds, amazing African fish eagle sessions, and opportunities to photograph some of the rarer species such as the 'Samburu Six.' Here is the link for more info:



The second Kenyan safari is piggy-backed right after the Rift Valley safari (17-days of stellar Kenyan wildlife anyone? I offer a discount when both safaris are booked together), and includes 5-nights in the Masai Mara and 2-nights at Lake Naivasha at luxury lodges. Being more upscale (we also fly from Nairobi to the Mara), it is a little more expensive. If you need to photograph big cats on your African safari, this is the one to come on as the Mara has abundant lions, as well as leopards and cheetahs. Info on this safari is here:


Just before the grab, eyes forward and maximum focus by this African fish eagle at Lake Naivasha, Kenya


I have just completed uploading the January and February Bay of Fundy bald eagle tours and workshops. I decided, for 2022, to go with a combination of two small-group (3 photographer max) tours and two slightly larger eagle-oriented workshops. One of each is scheduled for January and February (and I will also add one more mid-March, late-winter short tour that includes two mornings with the eagles). Booking for these trips is now open:


This is the link for the first of the four:
2022 Snow Eagle Tour 1, 13-18 January 20222022 Snow Eagle Tour 1, 13-18 January 2022


Other 2022 tours and safaris will be online soon, including:

  • Masai Mara in May 2022 (same itinerary as the November safari);
  • Wild Newfoundland in June 2022 (slightly revamped with a heavier emphasis on coastal photography and less on terrestrial big game);
  • Bay of Fundy infrared photography workshop in July 2022 (breakfasts at my house!);
  • Taku Wilderness grizzly bears in August 2022; and
  • Grizzlies of Bear Cave Mountain, Yukon (online now - see the schedule link above);
  • Autumn Kenya safaris (Rift Valley / Masai Mara again - same itineraries as the 2021 trips). 

I have slots booked for Bear Cave Mt for 2022 to 2025, so if you are interested in grizzly bear photography in one of the most remote and unique wildlife photo safaris on the planet, send me a message to express your interest. There are only 3 slots per year available for guests (I get the 4th slot) - my 2024 and 2025 slots are late-October, so bears will be fully in 'ice bear' mode by that time. Info on Bear Cave Mt for 2022 is here (and the itinerary will be the same each year after):


Last on the agenda - I have a relatively open autumn coming up. I have been thinking about doing a photography-oriented repeat of the full Atlantic Circle Overland Trail (25-days of backroads through Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, eastern Quebec, and New Brunswick) in September. If anyone is interested in joining, send me a message. There are two options (providing Covid travel restrictions are eased by that time): for a single person (or maybe two), to travel with me in my overland Jeep; or for 1-4 family members or friends to travel together in a rental Jeep. Here are some of the images from my last circuit in 2019:


That's the tour update for now - let me know if you have any questions!

(Tendrel Images) photo photography schedule tours workshops https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2021/2/tour-and-workshop-updates-feb-2021 Wed, 24 Feb 2021 03:54:50 GMT
Update on Wild Newfoundland 2021 https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2020/11/update-on-wild-newfoundland-2021 Another one bites the dust - Wild Newfoundland cancelled for June 2021.

With rapidly escalating COVID infections in Canada, the USA, and Europe, and the wide availability of a vaccine optimistically another six months away, I have decided to cancel the June 2021 Wild Newfoundland photo expedition. 

I have dates booked for 2022 as well, so will leave the 2021 information online (https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/2021-wild-newfoundland) until the 2022 announcement is up. The schedule will be exactly the same, even with the same dates. 

This is a trip I really want to run because it is so amazing and different than anything else available for nature-oriented photographers. Covid has now claimed both the 2020 and 2021 departures, so I hope it will be third time lucky for 2022!

(Tendrel Images) newfoundland photography tours https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2020/11/update-on-wild-newfoundland-2021 Sat, 14 Nov 2020 14:44:17 GMT
Update on 2021 Bay of Fundy Snow Eagle tours https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2020/10/update-on-2021-bay-of-fundy-snow-eagle-tours I've made some changes to the Bay of Fundy Snow Eagles tours to reflect the very strong likelihood that Atlantic Bubble social distancing regulations are likely to be in effect in the winter. 

What those regulations imply is that it will be essentially impossible for anyone from outside the Atlantic Canada region to come here for a short 4-day tour. As a result, I am re-gearing tours slightly to cater more to photographers from Atlantic Canada. 

I've dropped the price of the tour by about $600 because I have taken out the hotel accommodations that had been built in. I figured that some photographers may live close or have family in the Halifax area, so would not need the hotel (but we will still meet mornings at Chateau Bedford). 

Rather than having payment due 2-months in advance, I have reduced that to 2-weeks in advance to maintain maximum flexibility for dealing with any changes in Covid status or Atlantic travel restrictions. 

Depending on peoples' comfort levels with winter driving and vehicle availability, we will either travel in my Jeep or a rented SUV (depending on group size) or we can do convey-style for people that have their own vehicles or want to rent a 4wd during the tour. 

Also depending on photographic objectives, we might be able to spend a little more time on eagle image processing rather than afternoon photography sessions in coastal villages (if you live close to them anyway). 

Minimum group size for the three scheduled tours will be two people as I need to factor in Halifax travel now (I moved from Halifax to Parrsboro area in August, so cannot do Sheffield Mills as a day trip anymore). 

If you are interested in other dates, shorter or longer tours, and/or Lightroom/Photoshop training sessions on how to process eagle images, please contact me directly as I would be quite happy to do some custom sessions for individuals or small groups.




(Tendrel Images) bald eagles eagle Nova Scotia photo tour photography tour Sheffield Mills https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2020/10/update-on-2021-bay-of-fundy-snow-eagle-tours Sat, 17 Oct 2020 19:46:22 GMT
2021 infrared photography workshops https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2020/9/2021-infrared-workshops I'm happy to announce that I have added two more scheduled infrared workshops for 2021. 

The new workshops will be held in the upper Bay of Fundy on 08-12 July 2021 and in Kenya's Great Rift Valley, at Lakes Naivasha and Nakuru, on the 08-13 November 2021. These are in addition to the currently scheduled Halifax-based infrared workshop in late-May.

All three workshops will cover more or less the same material and techniques but will differ in the types of photo opportunities available. 

For the Halifax-based workshop, we will spend 3.5 days on the east coast of Nova Scotia, with visits to the well-known photo destinations of Lunenburg, Blue Rocks, and Peggy's Cove.


For the Bay of Fundy workshop, which will be based in Parrsboro, we visit the Fundy fog forest, old Acadian farming villages, and see the huge tides (and cliffs) of this remote part of the province. I am excited about that one because this is where I live - it will be a real Canadian Maritimes experience, even with home-cooked blueberry pancake and maple syrup breakfasts at my house before we head out for photo sessions. This is the most economical workshop I offer - because I am close to home, I have no travel expenses that need to be covered as part of the workshop fee.



For the Kenya workshop, we visit the lakes and wetlands in Kenya's Great Rift Valley for both infrared and some visible light photography, spreading the learning sessions over an extra day and half to allow lots of wildlife and bird photo opportunities too. Shooting IR in this part of Kenya is fabulous and at Lake Nakuru National Park we will get chances to see a number of wildlife species, potentially including rhinos and big cats. This is being run economically, so is a great intro to Kenya - for anyone that wants a double shot of Kenya, I also run a luxury safari to the Masai Mara immediately after this workshop and offer a discount to anyone registering to both.


African landscape in infraredAfrican landscape in infrared



(Tendrel Images) infrared infrared photography Kenya Nova Scotia workshop https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2020/9/2021-infrared-workshops Thu, 17 Sep 2020 01:36:23 GMT
Working on the Atlantic Circle Overland Trail https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/10/working-on-the-atlantic-circle-overland-trail Just a real quick blog post now to say that I've finished 75% of the Atlantic Circle Overland Trail loop that I've been working on - I'm though Labrador and eastern Quebec. Tonight I'm staying in a hotel, first time for the trip, on the Gulf of St Lawrence shore - tomorrow I'm off for backwoods trails across the Gaspe and am heading for the Mt Carleton area in New Brunswick, where I hope to spend a couple of days before finishing up the last logging roads and rural highways to southern New Brunswick. 

So far it has been great, but a lot of driving (4000 km so far!). I only got turned back once so far, on un-maintained logging roads way up north in Quebec, during a pounding snowstorm. I also got a little bit of extra mapping done with a trip up the Saguenay River valley, getting another piece in place for the entire Canadian Crossing Overland Trail. 

You may notice that I'm not driving my own rig this trip. I knew it was going to be a lot of miles and that the roads would be all rural paved or well-maintained gravel (or so I thought). So I instead rented a 2019 JL for Cdn $40 (US $30) per day with unlimited mileage - I am definitely getting my money's worth! The gas mileage is much better than I get in my re-geared 2015 JK, so renting for this mapping trip was actually much more economical than taking my own Jeep once you factor in the real costs of vehicle wear over 5500+ km. The only downside was that with stock Goodrich all terrain tires and no lift, I was not confident enough to launch into a 100-mile section of rough and deserted logging roads in a stock rental jeep. But it did behave very well with some fun hills and some sand (who knew that Labrador has sand flats?).

More coming in the blog once I get back to Halifax - I will also be hard at work getting the next 3 sections finished to wrap up the guide for the entire ACOT loop. 


Sand flats in Labrador during morning golden hour


In Labrador there's all kinds of interesting forests to photograph - very close to where I took this I saw a huge, happy, and healthy male wolf bounding across a road and into the trees


I found this little campsite off a side road from the Trans-Labrador Highway. I'd only been on the road for an hour, so didn't need a camp. But I did take the opportunity to brew 2 Americano's on the cold (-3 C) and windy morning. 

(Tendrel Images) Atlantic Circle Overland Trail backroads Canadian Crossing Overland Trail overland overland photography https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/10/working-on-the-atlantic-circle-overland-trail Sun, 06 Oct 2019 01:01:27 GMT
Overland eGuide for Newfoundland https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/9/overland-eguide-for-newfoundland Section 2 is finished and a free 48-page eGuide is online now! The Newfoundland leg to my Canadian Crossing Overland Trail (CCOT) project covers 1900 km (almost 1200 miles) - driving it, exploring, and mapping was a blast. 

Here's a taste of a remote section on the west coast of the Island:

Backcountry, western Newfoundland

In combination with the Nova Scotia leg I finished a little earlier, I have > 3100 km (just under 2000 miles) covered and mapped. I'll be out on the New Brunswick and eastern Quebec portion in a couple of weeks, and am hoping to close the loop all the way through Labrador by mid-October. 


(Tendrel Images) backroads Canadian Crossing Overland Trail Newfoundland overland overlanding rural Canada https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/9/overland-eguide-for-newfoundland Tue, 24 Sep 2019 17:56:33 GMT
Overland eGuide for Nova Scotia https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/9/overland-eguide-for-nova-scotia I'm so happy! I just got my first eGuide finished for my Canadian Crossing Overland Trail (CCOT) project (you can read more about that here)!!

The guide is for the Nova Scotia leg of the CCOT is available free - order it here and I will send you a copy by email. 

This is such a fun trail, winding through many rural fishing villages and spending a lot of time on logging roads up through the northern part of mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. It is just over 1200 km in length (750+ miles), so is a bit longer than the Oklahoma section of the Trans-America Trail.

Plus, the Nova Scotia leg ends at the Newfoundland ferry terminal - once you land in Newfoundland, there's another 2000 km (1200 miles) to work across the Island, at which you can turn back south for a ferry back to Nova Scotia, or continue on to Labrador and eastern Quebec. My eGuide for the Newfoundland leg should be online in a week or two. 

For anyone that has driven the Trans-America Trail, I'm trying to keep the CCOT in the same spirit - avoiding highways and sticking to gravel whenever possible, avoiding really technical sections so that people with all kinds of overland rigs and motorcycles can enjoy it, and routing past some of the historical and scenic highlights along the route. 

In addition to the free eGuide, I have GPX maps for sale at a very modest price, plus some stickers, photos, and swag. 

I plan on having four eGuides online over the next few months. I won't finish up the full traverse until next year but will have info about a full circuit of Atlantic Canada finished this autumn. 


(Tendrel Images) backroads Canadian Crossing Overland Trail Nova Scotia overland overlanding rural Canada https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/9/overland-eguide-for-nova-scotia Sun, 15 Sep 2019 19:55:00 GMT
Trans-America trail: some thoughts and tips for Jeep drivers https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/5/trans-america-trail-some-thoughts-and-tips So, one year ago right now I was in final prep mode for taking off on the Trans-America Trail. I've managed to get all the sections for the trip reports posted over the last couple of months but thought I'd add one more blog with some thoughts about equipment and practicalities of running the TAT.

Maps, routing, and re-routing

As I mentioned earlier, I used Sam Correro’s maps and GPS tracks.

TAT planningTAT planningGetting organized for my first Trans-America Trail trip, April 2017. I talked to some TAT bikers enroute who were using the free KevinGPS route and they were definitely covering terrain that was not suitable for jeep travel (i.e., single track biking routes). Sam’s maps were pretty well spot on for the entire trip, although there was occasionally a really old trail that he had mapped that now had a more recent alternate route. Most of those revisions were minor and easy to figure out on the fly. In a couple of places, there were trail closures that obviously had been in place for a long time (a lost bridge in Oklahoma and a logging gate in Oregon immediately come to mind).

When you drive the TAT, you have to be prepared for route closures and re-routing. Don’t think that following Sam’s maps is a kind of visionquest that has to be followed to the letter. There will be mud, flooding, snow, washouts, trees down, etc… that necessitate re-routing. I used GPS for navigation but frequently consulted Sam’s paper maps to get the bigger picture of where I was. I laminated all the paper maps (and chopped up the roll charts, laminated them too – they had GPS coordinates for each junction, which I thought might be useful if lost – but I never once used them on my crossing).

My biggest diversions were due to snow closures. 2017 was a very heavy snow year in the West and even though I was travelling mid-June, I had closures in Colorado (Marshall and Ophir pass), Idaho (virtually all of the Sawtooth Mountains but that was a combination of washouts caused by snow and snow itself), and Oregon (Windago Pass was still closed late-June). Yes, the Carolina Car Guy was desperately unprepared thinking he could do the TAT in April.

Trip timing

I had done the first two days of the TAT in April 2017. I was working in Atlanta, so could get to Andrews in only 3 hours; the first two days make a very nice loop out of Atlanta. For the main part of the journey, I left Atlanta on 25 May, picking up the TAT up on I-75 where it crosses. I had stops in Clarkesdale MS and Westcliffe CO for photo workshops, so spent extra time compared to most people. I ended up doing 21 days actual driving and I thought that was rushing too much - there were many areas I would have liked to have stopped in, or even have taken more time for some restaurant meals. If I do this trip again, I'll be looking to take 24 or so days driving time. 

While it was a particularly heavy snow year, I only barely got through Cinnamon Pass just after it opened. On the TAT Backwards trip in mid-July, there was still snow on Hurricane Pass, just outside of Ouray, and on Cinnamon Pass. I was then entirely blocked on Antelope Pass, Idaho due to snow and road washouts (but did get through almost all the sections that were closed when I reversed the route on my July TAT backwards trip).

Antelope Pass washoutWhen I was on the Trans=America Trail east to west in May/June 2017, I encountered a lot of snow and numerous closed passes (one Oregon pass was still blocked by snow in mid-June). The entire Sawtooth range in Idaho ended up being closed (I came back in July on my TAT backwards trip and got through most areas closed on the trip west). I tried to get up Antelope Pass but it was hopelessly blocked higher up. It was warm with heavy snow melt and was raining heavily, so when I reversed my earlier course conditions were actually significantly worse only 90 minutes later. This clip was taken while coming down through the washout, 16 June 2017.

My recommendation would be to do the east-west trip, leaving Andrews somewhere right at the end of May or early-June. That should maximize odds of the passes being opened and still hitting western sections before baking hot (hottest I hit on the way west was 99 F in central Oregon).

If you are doing the TAT west to east (completely feasible with Sam’s GPS – I’m not sure why more people don’t go this way), I’d say go for a July 1 start and just suck up the heat, and plan on staying in hotels a little more than camping when it gets really hot. That should be okay for getting roads free from snow, and it would also put you through Colorado right as wildflower season hits full stride. The mid-west might be hot and stormy, but it was flooded and stormy when I came through in early-June so I’m not sure if it would ever be feasible to plan on a time where weather might be best.

Camping and hotels

Camping spots are sparse through Arkansas and Oklahoma, and hotels are cheap, so be prepared to hotel it some through this area. Once further west, it is possible to camp almost the whole way once you get past the Westcliffe / Salida region, a good thing as hotels can get quite expensive in some spots. It is a nice extra to get a hotel in Moab even though rooms there are pricey - you should book in advance as Moab can fill up (there's lots of camping options in the area though). Be careful about counting on hotels over the weekend in southern Colorado - I had one Friday night I ended up driving for 5 hours extra as there was nothing available anywhere I stopped.

You can check out the prior blog posts to get specific GPS coordinates for places I flagged as campsites. If you're going west to east later in the season, be prepared for some heat at night - I had really warm evenings in the Sawtooths and near Moab, and I skipped the western Utah desert on the return trip.

Truck and gear

In 2017, I ran the TAT with 33” mud terrain tires on my Jeep and a soft 4” lift. Much of the TAT terrain is quite pedestrian, but some is not! I would be hesitant to run a stock JK through a few of the sections. I did find with my rig, the 3.73 gearing and 33” tire combo was great for 98% of the trip, providing good highway and backroad gas mileage and lots of power for mild terrain. But, I did – literally – power out in 4WD high range on some of the steeper sections of the trail (Corkscrew Gulley, Hurricane Pass) and had to go to low range when there should have been no need for it based on road conditions. My Jeep 2.0 incarnation that I used for the TAT is pictured below.

The TAT stopThe TAT stopJust into Arkansas, doing the official TAT stop. I was #33 for 2017, Many 28, 2017. In late-2017, prior to a winter overland trip from Atlanta to Vancouver Island, I had Fortec, who are based in Atlanta, do some major upgrades on my Jeep. I upped the tire size to 35", added a tire carrier on the bumper for the spare, upgraded to 4.56 gearing (which means I could go to 37" tires in the future if I wanted), and replaced the saggy Zone Offroad coils with a much heavier set of Icon Dynamics coils, which brought be back up to a true 4" lift when fully loaded. I also picked up one additional alu-box for the roof and some Frontrunner rack-mounted flood lights that helps with setting up camp after dark. And I replaced the cable (that out on the Port Orford beach became uncrimped from my Warn winch spool) with synthetic rope. Jeep 3.0 is below.

Jeep changesJeep changes Definitely put on a high-quality roof rack for the trip. After much debate on Gobi versus Frontrunner, I went with the lower profile Frontrunner system and have been very happy with that. First, I could still get my truck into my carpark in Atlanta and did not have to leave it on the street, as I would have had to with the Gobi rack (I had 6’ 11” clearance in my carpark and just squeezed in). The canopy worked like a charm, and I found that it was easy to attach lots of stuff up top (MaxTracs, 2 jerry cans, 2 alu-boxes, hi-lift jack, and a Frontrunner canvas bag). The only change I would make for the TAT next time would be to add my extra alu box and scrap the Frontrunner canvas bag (in which I had 2 wolf pack plastic boxes and room for firewood). I found the canvas bag leaked some but most importantly the Alu-Boxes lock, whereas you can't put anything in the canvas bags you would not be too sad to see someone walk away with. I have a Frontrunner extendable ladder to make working up top easier, but the bottom rung fell off after limited use so I was not very impressed with quality.

On the White RimOn the White RimThe White Rim Trail is a 2-3 circuit on a jeep trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. It follows along, and above the Green and Colorado Rivers, offering spectacular offroad driving and views, and gives photographers a whole different perspective on the landscapes that many of us have photographed many times from up top of Island in the Sky. March 18, 2019.
I have a TruckVault drawer and extendable heavy duty table installed in the back (my first purchase when going from Jeep 1.0 to v2.0), which is great and secures all my camera gear. The table works very well for cooking, organizing, and for acting as a platform to stand on when getting recovery gear off the roof. I can confidently leave the truck unattended knowing the critical things I have are safe – I cannot imagine traveling with expensive camera gear if it was not absolutely locked down.

Coffee break on the White RimCoffee break on the White RimI'm always up for a brew and love brews with a view. Snack stop on the White Rim trail, Canyonlands, March 2019.

My recovery gear mainly stays on the roof in an Alu-Box. As I travel alone, I carry recovery gear that I may need to extract myself from situations going forward or backward. I installed JCR Offroad Vanguard bumpers front and back during the 2.0 upgrade, and they have holes for jack lifting built in. I also put in a basic Warn winch but went with cable initially instead of synthetic rope, a mistake which I rectified prior to my 2017 winter trip with the 3.0 upgrade. I carry a tree protector, 2 snatch straps, one winch extension strap, numerous soft and metal shackles, a hi-lift jack fitting for rim lifting, a pulley/block for the winch cable, a unit from JeepNeeds (a DLA) that binds the hi-lift to the bumper via a shackle (thereby decreasing the odds of the jack slipping), and a top fit-on piece for the hi-lift that allows for a more direct pull when using the jack to do a backwards extraction with chains.

I carry a portable compressor (much to my delight much faster to use than a friend’s onboard compressor system), 20’ and 12’ chains (in case I need to use the hi-lift to extract in reverse direction), tire repair kit, and basic tools. All this adds some weight, but I don’t see any way to solo travel overland without all this stuff. I’m not mechanically oriented, so do just face up to the fact that I may at sometime end up having to accept a very steep towing bill. But if I have to do that, I want it to be from a major mechanical breakdown, not me getting myself stuck in some remote mudhole.
My favorite piece of gear on the whole trip was the JeepNeeds Hurricane manifold - I found I was changing air pressure often as I went from pavement to gravel to mud. This works great and makes airing up and down way, way faster than it would normally be with an on-board unit. Hats off to JeepNeeds for a great addition to the compressor bag! 

I do not have a fridge onboard. I use a Yeti 45 cooler, which is fine for my needs – on the TAT, one is never too far away from food and ice so I just don’t see the need for a fridge or freezer. Even in the heat, with the Yeti it will be 3 days between changing ice. I will rethink this if I go north to Alaska and the Yukon in the future. 

For camping, I use the same set-up I use for backpacking. I have a small 2-person MSR tent (below) that will withstand any weather, along with a 5-person MSR basecamp tent for times when I will be in one campsite for awhile and I know the weather is going to be foul (I've used these in the Himalayas and was super impressed). I know many overlanders are enamored with roof-top tents, but to me they make absolutely no sense. First, I can set up and break a camp very fast; second, I’m sure the MSRs are far more weather proof than any rooftop tent will ever be; and third, because I’m getting old and need to pee at least once during the night, I don’t want to break my leg or neck crawling down a ladder in the middle of the night. A tent on the ground is far more convenient and safer - specially after evening beers around a campfire!

Logging road campLogging road campAfter the summer TransAmerica Trail trip, I spent 3 weeks on Vancouver Island. I shared this camp with a mean sounding pack of wolves just across the valley, on the road to Port Renfrew, Canada Day, 1 July 2017
From an electronics perspective, I have a simple set-up. I use Garmin Inreach so that I have emergency tracking, signaling, and satellite text capacity when I am out of cell range – a good portion of the TAT. I use Bluetooth to connect my phone to the Garmin. I carried Sam’s paper maps as well. My Jeep has the Uconnect 430, so I had a second independent GPS system, which worked well as I was able to compare routes on the different systems (even though the Uconnect uses Garmin maps, they are not entirely the same) and had a backup in case I lost the Garmin InReach. I carried a standard laptop as well, with which I was able to update my tracking on the Garmin webpage whenever I had web access. Prior to my winter trip, I added a heavy duty dash mount system by Vector Offroad and an iPad mount by RAM so I had a bigger map screen (below). 

Cab viewCab viewNavigation and communication equipment in the cab of my Jeep. I travel solo a lot, so use a Garmin Inreach - there's a surprisingly large swath of the USA where there is no cell signal.
Other than that, I had one small box of clothes, standard camp cooking equipment, extra durable food, one small box of bathroom stuff, and one small box of work-related stuff I needed to bring along. I added an extra Alu-box for the winter trip so that I could free up back seat space. 


I love doing stuff by myself. It is so much more flexible, which I really like. I have always been solo-oriented, even when it comes to activities like backcountry skiing or, occasionally, climbing.

Despite what many jeep enthusiasts say, to always go with someone else offroading, I'm not inclined to do that. I would say always go with someone else offroading if you are not prepared to (1) survive on your own for a number of days and (2) pay for a big towing bill that comes as part of the cost of your solo travel.

There are some parts of the TAT that are remote and did cause me to think about them - particularly Craters of the Moon (below) and the last section of the Oregon TAT (I ran that part in 2017 with Brad Self, an overlander who I met on the trail mid-Oregon  there's some video of one of the remote sections in my prior blog entry). But because I travel solo, I don’t venture in to some terrain where I am more likely to get stuck and am super careful about watching for other vehicle tracks on the road (to see when I’m getting into uncharted territory) and making sure I retain turnaround options.

Big landBig landA photo stop part way through the passage across Craters of the Moon, Idaho. Taken during my TAT Backwards west-to-east USA crossing, 16 July 2017.
Re. animals, I did camp in some areas with bears and wolves this summer (heard a really mean sounding wolf pack near my camp up on Vancouver Island). I keep my keys in my tent all the time, so can fire up the jeep remotely along with all the lights and I can lock and unlock the doors to beep the horn. That should put the fear of god in any animal near camp.


Without going into all the details, I’ll just say I went with full kit this summer and it was a little excessive. For bodies, I had my Canons (1DX mk ii primary; 5DS landscape/backup; and 6D converted to infrared). I had 2 big telephotos (300mm f/2.8; 200-400mm + 1.4 convertor zoom) and really never used the zoom other than a couple of times. Other than that, I had utility zooms (15-36, 24-135 and 70-200mm Canon f/4s; 2 good Zeiss lens (21mm Distagon; 55mm Otus), and one 100mm Canon macro. Plus I had a tripod and 2 heads (Arca Swiss; Wimberly) plus a range of normal accessories. I also had 2 Garmin Virb video cameras, though one was crushed after the hood mount shook loose on Colorado washboard roads.

(Tendrel Images) backroads overland overland photography overlanding photography locations rural america rural usa trans-america trail trans-american trail https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/5/trans-america-trail-some-thoughts-and-tips Sat, 19 May 2018 12:00:24 GMT
Trans-America trail trip report: part 8 (Oregon) https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/4/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-8-oregon This is the last installment of the Trans-America Trail (TAT) trip report blog. Well, of the actual travel part anyway - I will add one more with information about gear and vehicle later on. 

I don't have very many pictures from Oregon. On the trip west, I came through here in mid-June. When returning east on the TAT backwards trip, I skipped Oregon as it was hot, there were some forest fires, and I was on a schedule, not wanting to spend an extra 5 days on this section of the trail (I instead cut across Washington and Idaho to pick up the TAT at Horseshoe Bend, Idaho on the west to east trip in July 2017).

In my May/June 2017 westbound trip on the TAT, I took 28 days in total to reach the Oregon coast, but that included some extended photography breaks in Colorado and around Moab. If you're driving the full TAT in a truck, you should count on roughly 18 days solid driving to take you from start through to the Oregon border. For westbound overlanders, I'd recommend camping along the Boise River in Idaho and then doing a single day that will take you through the last part of Idaho and well into the national forests in Oregon. The Oregon section of the TAT contains some rough sections, some very remote sections, and some pretty obscure and infrequently visited trails in a few spots. I had to backtrack a few times due to blocked roads (trees and logging gates). You should allow 5 full days to get from the Idaho border to the end of the TAT in Port Orford. 

Central Oregon was comprised mainly of high plains and grasslands, there was hardly any other traffic, and the TAT is something like 90% gravel roads in this section. The Oregon section starts with high desert country. There is an occasional reprieve such as an irrigated cemetery in the dry high plains (N 44.412 W 117.722 - this would be an acceptable camping stop as there's nobody around and there is an artesian well feeding the cemetery).

Shortly after this, you get a taste of how the TAT route follows some quite obscure old roads. You come past a ranch at the Little Malheur River, take a sharp right on the west bank, and then contour up an obscure trail through the start of the Malheur National Forest to pick up a regular forest road. It would be nice camping on the west side of the Little Malheur if it is late in the day, but there's a really nice forest service campsite right on the North Fork Malheur which I highly recommend. Coordinates there are N44.208 W 118.383 - the picture below is of the river right beside my camp. The Little Malheur is a designated wild river and is really beautiful. It's a reasonable day's drive to get here from a camp along the Boise River in Idaho, even with some stops along the way (Placerville in particular). There's other campsites in the area, including Little Crane, just a few miles farther up the road and right on the TAT but I did not see any others in this area as nice as this one. 

My second day in Oregon took me on a mix of some paved sections, some good gravel roads, and some super obscure old tracks (bushes scraping both sides of the truck on tracks that looked like they were hardly ever driven). There's a nice overview of the mountains from the Dry Soda fire tower (N 44.207 W 118.912). You can also camp here, either in the fire tower area itself or across the road in some fields with fine views to the west. 

Shortly after that, you come to a country highway that takes you north to the town of John Day. This is a comfortable lunch stop from the North Fork camp and a good place to gas up. After a short drive to Mount Vernon on pavement, the TAT again heads inland to cross the same mountain range once again. More back country roads eventually bring you to the South Fork of the John Day River and from there, the gravel roads heading up to the high plains are wide and fast, for awhile anyway, across the Black Plain Wilderness.

Up on a narrow, little-traveled road in this part of the TAT, I came across a large tree down over the road at N 44.340 W 119.794. There was a steep logging road cut heading uphill, and it looked like it might connect with a parallel road up above, so I turned around and gave it a go. After some cross-forest driving and exploring, I could not find a way to connect so headed back down the logging spur to start back and do a work-around. As the spur had a sharp left at the bottom of a steep bit, I went right back towards the log over the road as I knew there was an area I could turn around. When I got there, much to my surprise there was another overland Jeep at the tree and the driver was out inspecting whether it might be possible to use a chainsaw to get through (no - it was 4 ft diameter).

So, that was the first Jeep I met heading the same direction as me and it was on one of the most obscure places on the trail. If I would have managed a left turn instead of going right, I would totally have missed the other Jeep (well, I may have driven back to see again as I am always watching for tracks of other vehicles and there were no other ones up here - additional fresh tracks would have had be totally perplexed). 

The other person was Brad Self (www.hivisoverland.com) from South Carolina. We ended up traveling together to the end of the TAT, and had some great camping and swapping stories along the way. After our short diversion around the big log, we pulled into a nice forest service camp on the Arvid Nelson Road (N 44.328 W 120.076) just before dark and enjoyed some good beer around the fire. For me, this was now 2 and a half days driving to get roughly half way across Oregon (and the more rugged coast mountains were still ahead). 

Day 3 took us out to some highway driving into Prineville, and then up along the very scenic Crooked River. Brad had to stop to do some work on his rig, so I took advantage of the stop to take out the big telephoto and take some pictures of guys out in the river fly fishing. 

Angler at workAngler at workFly fisherman on the Crooked River, Prineville, Oregon, 19 June 2017. From here, the TAT is into a section that has long traverses across pine forests and pine plantations. It was hot and dusty up here, reaching 100 F for the first time on this trip. There was a couple of places that were just pure fun. The Oregon ‘sand blast’ was a section of the trail on forestry plantation roads in a sandy section prior to arriving at Crescent City. Dust clouds were huge, the dust-sand mix extremely fine, and it was great fun, well so long as you have nobody in front of you. We came through here late afternoon and after gassing up in Crescent City, headed for the first of the passes in volcano country, Windigo Pass.

Despite the summer heat, as we headed up through the forest towards Windigo Pass we came to the first patches of snow a few hundred feet in elevation before the pass and soon the road was completely blocked by snow at only 5700 ft. elevation. This was on the 18th of June, on the lee side of the coast mountains, and certainly got my anxiety level up about the balance of the route, which would take us through remote passes in the heavy snow zones of the coastal mountains. 

We reversed from here and camped at a forest service campsite on the NW shore of Crescent Lake, right by the beach. I build a blaze to try to keep the smoke up as this area had some of the most voracious mosquitos I'd ever seen (I swear if each mosquito there managed to get a single meal, there would not be a single living animal left anywhere in the entire region). 

Next morning we had to backtrack all the way out to Crescent City, where we had a nice breakfast at this cool old restaurant, which had stuffed animals of all sorts all over the dining room walls (for some reason it even had a stuffed armadillo!). 

We continued on paved highway just north of Crater Lake (this would be an easy side trip but Oregon was taking so much time, at this stage both of us wanted to get to the coast) and then picked up the TAT again and headed into the Umpqua National Forest. The rest of the day took us through a mix of good gravel and obscure tracks, working southwest. This is slow traveling as there is lots of winding around. You come out to a short paved section on the Tiller Trail highway and Sam's maps show there is gas available here, but there is not. We were both running near empty here, so pulled off the jerry cans to top up 10 gallons each and get us to the next gas station. If you need gas here, you need to head NW on the Tiller Trail highway to Canyonville, which looks to be about 15 miles down the road. 

After that bit of pavement, it is back to gravel for a ways. We eventually got out on to paved roads and camped for the night at Devils' Flat (N 42.818 W 123.026). This was now 4.5 driving days in Oregon and we still hadn't reached I-5. 

Next morning, it was out on some easy roads and down to Glendale, along I-5. We stopped at a nice little cafe that catered to locals, near Glendale, and then headed out again, hoping to make the coast in early afternoon. Sam's maps are a little out of date in this section. He has the TAT running through a logging and sawmill operation in Glendale, but that is an easy diversion around. From there, we headed up old logging roads, and were after about a half hour turned around by a logging road gate, blocking us from traversing through an active logging area. That was a pretty substantial diversion back and around. Later the TAT takes you through two mountain ranges but with multiple ups and downs on the way, and some of the steepest and narrowest roads on the whole TAT. 

Fortunately we only had one spot where we had a patch of snow, but nothing serious. These roads are remote and obscure. Through many of these areas we were seeing zero sign of any prior traffic through this year and we were both wondering how many people that 'do the TAT' actually do the Oregon section of the trail. I was very happy to be traveling with another vehicle through here, as it would be a major operation to get extracted if something went seriously wrong out in this section. 

Below - a couple of shots of Brad Self out along this remote section of trail in the Oregon coast mountains. 

Retro Jeep treatmentRetro Jeep treatmentHigh in the mountains of Oregon, on the Trans-America Trail, 20 June 2016.

Oregon TATOregon TATOn the Trans-America Trail in Oregon, I met up with Brad Self (project hi-vis) and we travelled together for the last 3 days of the TAT, finishing up together at Port Orford Oregon. This was on some of the really remote backroads crossing the coast ranges.

After I took the shot above, Brad was going to wait just up the road for me. It turned out it was so steep, he kept going for a little ways. We both stayed in 4 high but we had both considered going to 4 low, one of the only places on the TAT this may have been really useful. Here's a short video clip of the climb up the hill. This was some of the steepest, narrowest, and most remote road on the entire TAT. And we saw no signs of anybody - truck or motorcycle - having come through prior to our passage on June 20th. 

Oregon backroads (1)Probably the most sustained steep section on the whole Trans-America Trail. This was super remote in the coastal mountains of Oregon. At this time, myself and a fellow solo TAT traveler, Brad Self, were crossing Oregon together. I go a lot of remote places on my own, but this would have had my anxiety level way up if I was doing it alone. I think this was on Day 20 of the TAT.

Each time we came down in elevation and picked up a more traveled road, we thought that might be it for the challenges of the TAT. Then, however, Sam will have one of his little surprises and run the TAT along even more obscure side trails. Just how untraveled? For one descent, I decided I wanted to get Brad on video going through our bush road and over the bumps and humps on the way down. Of course to get close enough to be able to see the other jeep in a video shot on a very wide angle Garmin Virb, I had to stay just about up his tailpipe as we careened down the mountain road.

Oregon backroads (2)More of the Trans-America trail in the coastal ranges of Oregon. Tailgating Brad Self in order to get close enough for super wide angle action camera shots.

Finally, after some bush whacking and narrow mountain roads, one comes down to the coast and the conclusion of the TAT on the Oregon beaches. Brad wanted to drive down onto the beach. The sand was pretty soft (it had been windy and was almost like drifted snow, a little deeper where the track runs down to the beach), so we decided that he would try going down and I would stay up top until we knew we could get out okay.

Good decision! He ran into problems in the sand, even after airing down to 14 pounds pressure. Max Trax did not get him unbogged and we needed to run a couple of lines down from my rig to winch him free.

Port Orford beachPort Orford beachBrad Self in the process of getting bogged in the soft sand after finishing the TAT, 21 June 2017. Onto the beachOnto the beachBrad Self bringing his jeep down on to the beach at Port Orford, Oregon, at the end of the Trans-America Trail, 20 June 2017.

We arrived at the beach after a full day driving and by the time we were unbogged it was time to enjoy the late evening sunset right at the longest days of the year. Below: sunset over the Pacific, at Port Orford, Oregon, the end of the TAT. After we watched the Pacific sunset, we went to the tavern in Port Orford to try to get something to eat can found out they had no food and some really sketchy patrons. Then we found out that all campsites on the coast were full so ended up having to drive north to get a couple of the only remaining hotel rooms in the whole region. I was starving by that time (it had been early afternoon since eating) and I lucked out in my hotel room, finding some frozen brownies in the freezer. I promptly scarfed them down, not thinking too much about it until the next morning when I woke and could not stand up. After some anxiety (was I having a stroke??), I realized (1) that I had some heightened sensory powers and (2) that cannabis was legal in Oregon. Quickly I put 2&2 together... and went back to bed for the rest of the day. Quite a finale for the TAT!

So, to summarize, it took me five and a half solid days driving to cross Oregon, following the TAT the entire way. When I rolled into the parking lot at Port Orford, I had logged 9297 km (about 6100 miles) from my starting point on I-75, north of Atlanta. Adding the distance for the first two days I did on my April dry run, I had driven 6400 miles in total on the TAT. This included some extra diversions in Colorado and Utah, but my guess is that anyone driving the entire TAT start to finish will probably put on at least 5300 miles. I ended up having 23 driving days on the full trip, and 28 days in total not counting my Colorado Springs maintenance - some drivers do it faster than 23 days, probably by making better time across the midwest, but after having done all the trail except snowed in passes, I'm hard pressed to see how you can cut much time. If there are any road or weather problems, this could be slower.  

I'm going to conclude this blog here, but I am going to come back with a final TAT blog, giving some of my opinions on what to take, how and when to do it, and some other information that I hope might be helpful for drivers thinking of doing the full TAT. 

Next stop for me after completion of the TAT was Vancouver Island, via the Oregon and Washington coast.  




(Tendrel Images) backroads oregon overland overland photography photo locations photography locations rural america rural usa trans-america trail trans-american trail https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/4/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-8-oregon Fri, 27 Apr 2018 19:53:43 GMT
Trans-America trail trip report: part 7 (Idaho) https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/4/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-7-idaho I'm back with another installment of my 2017 Trans-America Trail (TAT) trip report blog. This one is all about Idaho.

Just to retrace a little, after starting the TAT in Andrews, North Carolina, it takes - for a vehicle - around 16 days of solid driving to arrive in Idaho. The TAT traverses the southern part of the state and can really be divided into 4 sections: the Pocatello; Craters of the Moon; and the Sawtooth crossing, with two parts, the first to Ketchum / Sun Valley, and the second through the western Sawtooths out to the Oregon border. 

Because I'm focused on photography opportunities along the trail, I just love Idaho. The good stuff starts quite literally right on the Utah state line (not to say that northern Utah is not good too, but the real old farm action starts at the border). The photo below is on the Idaho side of the line. The Pocatello Valley itself is this little oasis with Interstates running south and east of it. It is still actively farmed and some houses look as though they're used in the summer, but when I was there in December 2017, I didn't see any house lights around the whole valley. What makes it so good for photographers is that many of the farms still have the old buildings standing, making for a stunning combination with the mountains and big skies. 

Jeep in the Pocatello ValleyJeep in the Pocatello ValleyPhoto stop on a farm road, Pocatello Valley, 17 July 2017

I'm not giving coordinates for all the specific sites (a sampler below) as you can see across the valley and roads are laid out in blocks, making it easy to explore and find interesting locations for shooting in different light. 

  Pocatello valley farmstead (monochrome)Pocatello valley farmstead (monochrome)A retro treatment for an abandoned farmhouse on the Trans-America Trail, Pocatello Valley, Idaho, 19 December 2017 If you're a photographer, I'd recommend diverting the short distance over to Malad City for the night so that you can get an afternoon shoot in the Pocatello Valley and then another one in the Arbon Valley the next morning. There's a good, clean, cheap hotel right up by the Interstate, a nice restaurant just down the side road by the hotel, and gas and a Burger King if you roll in later in the evening. This is a pretty easy day's drive from Bonneville Salt Flats. 

At the south end of the Pocatello Valley, the TAT goes right past a couple of classic old abandoned farmsteads, then up a back road that brings you right to the Arbon Valley. If you go the other direction, east to Malad City, you pass one more old falling farm on the way.


If you head straight through without photography stops, you can make it all the way to the entrance to Craters of the Moon on pavement or generally good gravel roads. Heading east-west on the TAT, I did a long day from Wendover to get to Craters of the Moon. I'd intended to get a hotel in American Falls but the ones I saw were disgusting, so I just set up camp at the start of the National Monument (picture a little lower down). 

The Arbon Valley, the next north from the Pocatello also has great old farmhouses right along the TAT. The TAT itself takes some side roads that are really bumpy for a little. There are numerous gravel roads running south-north in the valley parallel to the TAT. Again, the valley is narrow enough you can see things in the distance and divert to farmhouses as you feel. There's a classic leaning house (below, 1 shot in summer, 1 in winter) that is right on the country highway. Allow yourself at least 50 minutes to get here from Malad City and time it to arrive before dawn. Drive the highway, not the TAT route, as the TAT will take twice that at least as it just runs over cobbly roads and mud holes. After a few shots here, you can then go down a few miles and hang a right to a group of old buildings on the side hill. This spot gives great morning views down over the valley and looking up towards the mountains (photo above). There's also a bunch of other nice buildings in the area, an old shot up truck, and some abandoned gas pumps, and a cool two story barn. 



Going, going, ...Going, going, ...A leaning farmhouse in the Pocatello Valley, Idaho, 15 June 2017. This is right on the Trans-America Trail

35.9 cents per gallon35.9 cents per gallonIt's been a while since gas was that price. Abandoned gas pumps on an old farm equipment and repair shop, Arbon Valley, Idaho, 16 July 2017

The drive up to, and past, American Falls is quick once you leave the Arbon, then it's wide, flat gravel country roads to the start of Craters of the Moon. There's reasonable camping possibilities right at the entrance (below, N42.908 W 113.126) or if you come through here before dark, you can also do the first part of the road out and camp at the old Crystal Ice Cave side road (second below, N 42.951 W 113.215). 

Impromptu campImpromptu campAfter a very long day, I pitched a tent quickly at the start of the Craters of the Moon traverse on the Trans-America Trail, June 2017.


The great riftThe great riftInformation sign at a deserted tourist sight in Craters of the Moon national monument. On the Trans-America Trail, 16 June 2017.

I had been quite anxious about Craters of the Moon as I knew it was very remote and not a place you would want to get towed out of. When I started into the area in the morning, I drove pretty cautiously around mud holes but as the day wore on, I had great fun just plowing through the middle of them. It hadn't rained for several days so the mud wasn't too bad, but this section could be a real mess in a rainstorm. Below: coffee break at the intersection with the Minidoka-Arco Road, near the Bear Trap Cave (only half way through the mud for the day!). 

Coffee break, Craters of the MoonCoffee break, Craters of the MoonHalf way through the Craters of the Moon mudfest, I decided it was time for a coffee break. Espresso was brewing on the rear table, way out in the middle of nowhere, Idaho, 16 June 2017 The next section of the trail is among some of the remotest territory on the entire TAT. At a few points, the road gets pretty faint and there are some potentially serious mud holes along the way. Eventually you come to a backcountry air strip near Cox's Well and then the road gets progressively better for the rest of the way till you hit pavement again near Arco.

Big landBig landA photo stop part way through the passage across Craters of the Moon, Idaho. Taken during my TAT Backwards west-to-east USA crossing, 16 July 2017.

Once up to Arco for gassing up and picking up supplies, I headed up (on June 16) towards Antelope Canyon, the first of the higher passes in the Sawtooth Mountains. There's a good camping site at the Antelope Guard Station and also decent camping possibilities up to the pass. The photo below was taken on my TAT Backwards trip in mid-July. This area was packed in June when I went through - fishing season was open - but completely deserted when I came back through in July. 

Camping site in IdahoCamping site in IdahoAt the bottom of the Antelope Pass road, Idaho, 15 July 2017.

When I was heading east in mid-June and started up this road, it quickly turned into a creek. Some Chevy pickup truck was up ahead of me and had done a creek crossing so I figured all was fine, and passed him and continued up. Eventually I had to turn around well short of the pass due to a combination of snow and severely washed out roads. I talked to some ATVers coming down from the pass, but I was the only truck it looked like that had even made it that far up the road in 2017. I later heard Antelope Pass had opened about 5 days later.

While I was up farther messing around, it had started to rain and when I was coming back down what had been a stream was now a river! I definitely had some anxious moments going through some bits were one side of the road was largely gone (video link below). It was already getting dark and I ended up having to divert all the way out to Boise as other parts of the TAT were also flooded or under snow cover still. 

Antelope Pass washoutWhen I was on the Trans=America Trail east to west in May/June 2017, I encountered a lot of snow and numerous closed passes (one Oregon pass was still blocked by snow in mid-June). The entire Sawtooth range in Idaho ended up being closed (I came back in July on my TAT backwards trip and got through most areas closed on the trip west). I tried to get up Antelope Pass but it was hopelessly blocked higher up. It was warm with heavy snow melt and was raining heavily, so when I reversed my earlier course conditions were actually significantly worse only 90 minutes later. This clip was taken while coming down through the washout, 16 June 2017.

Coming back the opposite direction, I had really wanted to do the entire Sawtooth crossing but it turned out that a couple of sections were still closed as the floods from the storm and meltwater on June 16, when I was trying to navigate Antelope Pass, had washed out some bridges and caused mudslides. I did manage to do the Ketchum to Antelope Pass route fine (pictures below).

Below: road in the Copper Basin, heading east towards Antelope Pass on the TAT Backwards trip. 

Below: looking down the valley from the top of Antelope Pass in July. In June, I was turned around by snow and flooding well down in the valley where the forest is.  East from Cinnamon PassEast from Cinnamon PassThis was the section of road I could not get past on the trip West on the Trans-America Trail. Without snow and floods, it is narrow but easy. Cinnamon Pass, Idaho, 15 July 2017.

In June, I headed out from Boise to re-connect with the TAT on its way up to Idaho City. In July, I came the other way from Horseshoe Bend (after having come down from Grangeville via McCall) and camped at a great spot along the Boise River. My camping spot was at N 43.662 W 115.727, but there are all sorts of campsites along the river and in the forests throughout the region. 

Heading east in July, I tried to work around the washouts but had to divert out to the main highway to the south a couple of times. Eventually at Dollarhide Summit, where one can look down into the valley and see the Ketchum / Sun Valley area, there was a gate up. I tried to head down anyway but turned around after seeing the only tracks were made by mountain bikes. Later I heard there was a major bridge washout prior to reaching Ketchum, so that sounds like something for TAT 2018 drivers to check out. This whole area is really pleasant with a nice mix of forests and riverside driving. 

Back to east-west, you hit pavement for a little ways heading up to Idaho City, then it is back to gravel for the drive to Placeville and down the great twisty road from Harris Creek Summit towards Horseshoe Bend. Placerville is just off the TAT and definitely worth a stop. There's a couple of stores and small museums, a nice old pioneer cemetery, and a bad-ass fire truck. This town has residents year round and the woman at the general store was telling me they had 12 ft of snow on the ground the winter of 2016-17.

I lost a son as an infant - I sometimes don't know why I persist in visiting cemeteries so much, but this one was an especially tough one to see. It must have been such a hard life up here between work, weather, and a lack of medical help.  

Once down out of the Sawtooths to Horseshoe Bend, there's a couple of nice little restaurants and coffee places (and a garage on the left that did some welcome tire valve repairs in 104 degree heat in July for only $5). Just downriver from Horseshoe Bend there's a major bridge out, so even in 2018 the TAT will probably require a minor diversion out and around on the highway to Montour. From there, it's a mix of easy farm roads and some pavement through the Payette are until you come to the Oregon border. 

In good conditions, allow two full days to do the drive across the Idaho section of the TAT. That brings the total up to about 18 days. As much as I loved doing Craters of the Moon twice by myself, I would not head out there alone if it was raining or had recently rained hard. There's very little to use to winch out on, so getting stuck could be really expensive!

Photo stopPhoto stopOn the roadside in the wonderful Arbon Valley, Idaho. On the Trans-America Trail, July 2017.





(Tendrel Images) backroads idaho overland overland photography photo locations photography locations rural america rural usa trans-america trail trans-american trail https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/4/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-7-idaho Fri, 20 Apr 2018 18:59:36 GMT
Trans-America trail trip report: part 6 (Utah) https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/4/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-6-utah I had a cancelled flight to the Faroe Islands last Thursday, so have ended up with an unexpected open weekend at home. Rather than taking pictures as I'd hoped, I'm just doing some processing. But that has given me some time to get another installment on my TAT trip report blog finished. In this report, I cover the rest of Utah once out of Canyonlands. 

To recap, it's now about 13-14 days of steady driving to get to this point on the Trans-America trail. Given some Moab time, it's more likely that most Jeep overlanders would be around 16 days at this point. 

As I'd mentioned in my last installment, I had camp reservations for the White Rim trail but pulled out of the full circuit because the Green River had flooded the road at one point, making it an out and back trip, and a crazy wind storm had made it impossible to set up a tent or canopy at the Airport camp on the White Rim. I ended up staying at an official campsite up near the Mineral Bottom road the night of the windstorm and then headed out of the Moab area first thing in the morning. 

I'd seen some YouTube videos of some really rough terrain between Moab and Green River, so was expecting a slow trip. That must be the trails on the Kevin GPS TAT route though, which as I understand it are more motorcycle-oriented than Sam's choices. The road out of Moab was easy but the wind was still howling. I stopped for some quick infrared shots near the Dubinky Well - you can see the sand accumulating on the road, sort of like driving in a winter snowstorm in spots. The road to Green River is mostly easy driving, much of it which you can do at 50 mph. The windstorm continued to worsen as I headed north and was so bad that I grabbed a room at the Super 8 in Green River rather than continue on and having to try to camp it the wind again that night. The hotel filled quickly as it's on the Interstate, and all the motorcyclists were pulling in to also get out of the sandstorm. Normally coming out of Moab, I would go for a lazy start (or do the Lathrop Canyon side road in the morning - see the last blog entry for details) and head the west side of the Green River for one of the best camp sites on the entire TAT. 

2019 postscript. I'd been past Dubinky Well a few times and had been curious about some side roads that headed west towards the Green River. Coming through the Moab area in Spring 2019 I had some time and headed out that way, visiting Secret Spire and Dellenbaugh Tunnel. There's great scenic vistas (below) and some fun, technically easy rock climbing to and from Dellenbaugh Tunnel (rating 2+ for Moab but far steeper than anything encountered on the TAT itself). There's all sorts of camping options through this whole area, which is all BLM land. Next time back in Moab I plan to spend a lot more time exploring out here. I also did the whole White Rim in March and loved it. My kind of negative comments above were, it turned out, based on the least attractive bit of the trail. It can be done in 2 days but I took 3 so I had lots of photography time. My favorite spot was Candlestick camp - only one vehicle allowed to camp here, so I had the evening sun on Candlestick Tower all to myself. 

Desert moonDesert moonThe last of the day's light falling on the desert and buttes on BLM land north of Canyonlands National Park, Utah, 17 March 2019.

Coming south out of the town of Green River, once over the river itself, you're onto a long stretch of easy driving for the next couple of hundred miles. There's only a couple of patches of moderately rough road now until getting all the way to Craters of the Moon in Idaho, so progress through Utah can be quick if you aren't stopping much. 

Coming south out of Green River, there's a few points of interest. There's a nice photo opportunity and a mud flats/pond area called the Horse Bench Dam, just as the road comes through some oddly shaped bluffs (infrared below). Just beyond that, there's a road to the left (Irvine Ranch Road - intersection at N38.849 W 110.216). The road is okay for the first 5 miles then gets very rough. There's some famous fossil deposits here if anyone is a geology fan. When I was in here, a big rental SUV pulled in with a bunch of very clean (for the moment) geologists from Wisconsin. 

Dry resevoirDry resevoirAn old resevoir, now filled with anerobic ooze and a dry crust over top (trust me, I know), on the west side of the Green River, Utah, 7 June 2017.

Just a little farther down CR 1010, you come to the San Rafael River bridge. Just before you get to the bridge, there's a road (CR 1028) that heads left towards the Green River and its well worth taking a few hours to explore. There's a small geyser about a mile down the road (below) and from there there's a road (on the upper side of the fence) that leads down to the Green River. This is mainly an easy drive but the last part is pretty sandy. I went down by myself but was a little anxious as (1) I have not really had any pure sand driving experience and (2) there was not much to winch out of for most of the way. Anyway, it was fine in the end and you can get right down to the river, which is quite pretty (2nd picture below). 

After crossing the San Rafael bridge, there's a good camping site on the right hand side of the road at a place called Moonshine Wash. Watch for a dirt track heading right about a mile after the bridge. This would be a highly recommended camping spot anywhere else along the TAT but given there's a spectacularly good camping site overlooking the river only a few miles down the road, I don't think it makes any sense to camp here unless you are coming through late in the day and want something real easy and nice, just a short distance off the TAT. 

My vote for the best camping site on the entire TAT goes to the Trin-Alcove Bend site, which is just another couple of miles down the road. There's a dirt road that heads up a small hill on the left (N 38.711 W 110.146), then bends around, contours around a creek (with a couple of rougher sections - high clearance useful but I think a normal height truck could also get through fine with some care), and comes out in a big flat area overlooking the Trin-Alcove Bend. I found this place on the trip west but had been at a hotel in Green River due to the windstorm the day before, so did not camp here in June. But on my TAT Backwards trip, I made a point of staying here. I had even thought about staying a second night so I could explore the side canyons, but it was just too hot in mid-July. I had a terrible sleep the night I was here - it was still 90 F at 11 p.m. and I just could not get settled, and dragged my butt over to Moab and a hotel with air conditioning for the next night. 

The views here are spectacularly good and odds are you will be totally alone. This is White Rim quality but without crowds to go with it. 

Above: from the top of the bluff that drops straight into the Green River (i.e., if you stepped off, you would land in the water). Below, the outlet of the side canyon (called Three Canyons). For photo overlanders, I just cannot recommend an evening and morning session here enough. 

Back onto the main road heading south, the next stop of potential interest is the Horseshoe Canyon trail. This is part of Canyonlands National Park and is apparently very nice. I drove down to the parking lot for a coffee brewing stop but did not do the hike as it looked quite far in to the pictographs. Having spent a lot of time on the other side of the river at Needles, I was anxious to get on the road. Good gravel roads make for quick progress now out to the Highway 24 crossing, and over through the Capitol Reef. The TAT then swings north, crosses I-70 again, and then meets up again with the San Rafael River. 

There's a good camping ground right at the San Rafael river bridge. Just beyond that was one of the surprise highlights of the TAT, the pictographs at Buckhorn Wash. As I drove up through the spectacular canyon, I came across the small site that has pictographs on the canyon wall right beside the road. I'd never heard of these before but if they were in the Moab area, you would never be able to get close to them for crowds. I had this place to myself for about an hour while taking some photos. 

After Buckhorn Wash, the TAT comes down into a valley where you can gas up and get ice at Castle Dale. From there, it's back up into the next mountain range in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. At Indian Creek, the TAT does a sharp right up the valley and eventually a sharp left back down. This adds some time and you end up coming out just a few miles up the road. I debated cutting this side trip off as it was getting well past dinner now, but did head up in the end and found a great Dept of Agriculture camp up at the end of the main road, the Indian Creek Campground (N 39.445 W 111.238). I was alone up here, in a campsite with 2 huge picnic tables and an industrial size fire pit, in a really pleasant site that could have taken about 15 people. Even in mid-June, I had a chilly evening and there was frost on my tent in the morning.

The second day's driving out of Moab took me from the Indian Creek camp all the way to Wendover, on the Utah/Nevada border in a long driving day. In the morning it was some pretty obscure gravel roads in the Uinta National Forest that were quite slow (there are options for some corner cutting in this region for anyone in a hurry). Note that before you get to Highway 28, the TAT route takes you up the Maple Creek Road. This is not passable as you eventually come to a gate and private farm land (N 39.398 W 111.873). This is one of the only places that Sam's maps were drastically out of date. Eventually you cross I-15 and work up to Delta, Utah, which gets you back to desert high speed driving.

Past Coyote Knolls, you're on Death Canyon Road and then through an area with some sand dunes and into an area where everything has 'Rattlesnake' in its name. Not sounding like the sort of country one wants to camp in and a bit of dilemma as to where one would want to break down if you had a choice (will it be Death Canyon or Rattlesnake Bench???). Sam's maps have the TAT going out to Eskdale and a gas station at this point. For jeeps, there's no need to do this. At the Foot Ranch Rd intersection, swing north and head for Gandy (N 39.293 W 113.763). 

2019 postscript: I came west to east on this section of the TAT in March 2019. From Callao I instead headed east, past a Pony Express memorial site and some wetlands, then south on the Flourspar Rd, through a pleasant pass and past old mine sites (and good camping sites along the way, especially just north of the intersection of Weis and Brush highways. I liked this route better than the TAT itself as it had way more points of interest along it. Basically in this section I think you can just follow any of the roads through the western desert just aiming to get to angle up to Callao. 

Callao, UtahCallao, UtahAn abanoned house near Callao, Utah, in the western desert southwest of Great Salt Lake, 14 June 2017. This town was a stop on the historic Pony Express.

The roads up the western border region in Utah can be driven fast and it's easy to put on a lot of miles here. There's an acceptable campsite at Tom's Creek (N 39.858 W 113.774) but better options further up the road. Just past Tom's Creek is the historic town of Callao, which still has a few people living in it. This was on the Pony Express route, as is the section of the TAT to the north of here. There's some good photo opportunities in Callao, where there are some interesting abandoned houses (above).

Just north of Callao, there's a turnout and information on the Pony Express station that was at this point, and there's a nice view east out over the Utah desert. From here, it's up through the appropriately named Overland Canyon and into a more hilly part of Utah with some grasslands. There's numerous good camping spots through this section as it's really infrequently traveled. In some places, I was almost driving through plain grasslands there had been so little traffic on the road. 

I wanted to get a morning photo shoot in at Bonneville Salt Flats, so I pushed on through to Wendover, arriving after dark, but not super late. I grabbed a hotel room at the Super 8 on the Utah side of town (the state line runs through the middle of town) as that the end closest to Bonneville, which was <15 minutes from town. 

The state line is also the boundary between Mountain and Pacific time zones, so you change your clocks as you go through town. I set my alarm that night for about an hour and a half before sunrise so that I could get out to the salt flats early and try to set up prior to sunrise. My alarm went off in the morning and I got a coffee ready, then got thinking it was quite light for that time of the morning. During the night, somehow my phone decided I was in the western part of Wendover, in the Pacific time zone, so I was actually an hour late getting up and had only 20 minutes until the sun actually rose. In a panic, I bolted out, watching all the good pre-sunrise light fade as I drove, and arrived at the salt flats just as the sun came out. I literally set my tripod in front of the jeep, took about 6 shots, and then the good light just disappeared. I managed to get two decent shots, but desperately want to get there again for a longer visit. Mental note for self: always carry a mechanical alarm clock!

Dawn at the Bonneville Salt FlatsDawn at the Bonneville Salt FlatsThe rising morning sun catches the undersides of the cloud cover at Bonneville, just on the Utah-Nevada border, 15 June 2017.

After taking the few photos, I drove down to the end of the paved road and took a drive out on the salt flats themselves. It was a bit bumpier than I was expecting but I got the rig all the way up to 76 mph, which is just a touch off my all time speed record in the Jeep. I will try to insert some video in here at some time in the future, but for now I  just have a picture of the salt that looks like snow on the truck. 


After leaving Wendover in the morning (I went back for a leisurely breakfast after the early morning shoot), I headed north, to the west of Salt Lake City. This section was again mainly fast driving on good roads, but did have a few side diversions that Sam had managed to include in the TAT route.   Straight and narrowStraight and narrowOn the Trans-America Trail in northwest Utah, 15 June 2017.


For people wanting to camp in western Utah, there's the obvious choice of out on the Salt Flats. I'm not sure if you're officially supposed to, but it would be easy and would give the best options for evening and morning photographs. A little farther north, the TAT does a nice diversion around the Bovine Mountains and there are camping options there as well. There's a couple of camping spots on the road up to the pass (looks like a popular area for ATVers) and another option in a lonely and picturesque area with some really interesting rock formations (this one over the pass and directly north of Bovine Mountains at N 41.531 W 113.688). After that the TAT starts to swing back east to come over top of the north shore of the Great Salt Lake.

A little past Kelton, the TAT does a short diversion south in the Locomotive Springs Waterfowl Management Area and there are some great photo opportunities here. There was a pair of buildings I saw in the distance and I ended up stopping and walking out to them (in my excitement for even more deserted buildings I forgot to change into boots, so just had my driving sandals on - not a good idea in snake country!). There are a couple of great, shot-up, graffittied, old cabins out there - selection of infrared and full spectrum below. I even got one of a snake crawling up bullet holes on a painted-up tin shack - something totally out of a post-apocalypse scene. 

Welcome homeWelcome homeAs much as I like Utah, this farmstead must have been hellish to live on - super hot on the northern fringe of Great Salt Lake, bugs from the adjacent wetlands, and infested with a variety of snakes, all on super saline soil. This is an infrared of the driveway in, Great Salt Lake, Utah, 9 June 2017.

From here, Sam's TAT route takes you to Tremonton. I suspect this is another motorcycle gas-up spot, as it otherwise makes no sense to get back on to paved roads when you can head north on country roads that lead you into Idaho. 

On the day I traveled through here on the trip west, I ended up having my longest day on the TAT, and ended up camping at the entrance to Craters of the Moon National Monument. I've been back through this area twice since and now have a different recommendation specifically for photographers (if you are just into overlanding, I'd say swing north at Blue Creek and pick up the TAT again where it crosses I-84, which is what I did on my trip west). 

If I was doing the TAT east to west again, I'd spend the morning in Bonneville, then take my time coming up through northern Utah, explore back roads up the Hansel Valley (Salt Wells Road), and then head east for a few miles on I-84 to pick up the TAT and cross the border to Idaho. When you cross the Idaho border, you're into the Pocatello Valley, which is, I think, the best area I've ever seen for photographing old farmhouses and rural vistas. The last 2 trips through here I've gone into Malad City and stayed at a hotel (there's a simple, clean one up alongside the I-15 intersection) and then gone back out into the Pocatello and Arbon Valleys for morning and afternoon photo shoots. I'll provide more information on that in my next blog entry.

If you're not a photographer and just want to keep going, be aware that there aren't many good camping options for quite a long ways now. For planning purposes, you should consider camping options out of Moab as:

(1) slow photographer's version: Moab to Trin-Alcove Bend (camp, evening and morning shoot); Trin-Alcove to Indian Creek; Indian Creek to Bonneville (morning shoot - only way to make Bonneville for an evening shoot on arrival would be to skip some of the meandering dirt roads in central Utah); Bonneville to Malad City (with afternoon shoots in Locomotive Creek and the Pocatello Valley); or 

(2) quicker overland version: Moab to Buckhorn Wash; Buckhorn Wash to Bovine Mountains; Bovine Mountains to Craters of the Moon (you'd miss good morning and evening photo shoot times at Trin-Alcove and Bonneville but would still have time to visit them). 

Any way you cut it, you're looking for 3 full driving days to get from Moab to Craters of the Moon (or if you are on a mission, maybe even a little beyond to a good camping site at the start of the Sawtooth Mountains crossing). 

Bonneville Jeep (01)Bonneville Jeep (01)Late afternoon golden hour light at Bonneville Salt Flats, 15 March 2019









(Tendrel Images) backroads overland overland photography photo locations photography locations rural america rural usa trans-america trail trans-american trail utah https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/4/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-6-utah Sun, 15 Apr 2018 12:35:00 GMT
Trans-America trail trip report: part 5 (Canyonlands) https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/4/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-5-canyonlands Welcome back to my TAT trip report blog. This section is dedicated to the Canyonlands region of Utah, specifically the Moab side of the Green River (more on the other side and the balance of Utah is coming in the next post). 

It's hard to even know where to begin with this area as there are so many great things to do and see. To recap, and for those who have not seen the prior trip report blogs of the trip west from North Carolina, to get to this point on the Trans-America trail in a Jeep takes about 11 days driving. Motorcycles can compress that period significantly. Last blog stopped at Monticello Utah, after covering the Colorado mountain crossing from the Westcliffe area. 

Canyonlands is quite amazing in that it is a national and international epicenter for multiple activities, including mountain biking, off-roading, and photography. My blog is mainly focused on TAT practicalities and photography, so don't expect much in the way of specifics on popular Jeep trails (but I do include a lot of photos, both full spectrum and infrared). I've now visited the Moab area on four cross-USA trips, including my back and forth on the TAT in 2017; I've also been here a couple of other times on photography-only trips, so know the area fairly well now. Some of the pictures below are from other trips (noted) but I thought I'd include them to show some of the sites I did not specifically visit while on the TAT visits.

From Monticello, the TAT turns north and runs through some ranch land and past a mining operation before crossing the La Sal mountains. The La Sal crossing was the only part of the TAT that I have not done. I stayed in Needles on the trip west (see below) and then went straight into Moab to restock in the afternoon, and then headed straight to Island in the Sky for an evening photo shoot and camping. I'd assumed the La Sal section was really straightforward, and I had been to the north of the mountain before, so I viewed getting other places as higher priority. Later I heard from a trail friend that the section I skipped was, however, among the most technical on the whole TAT. Next time in Moab, it will be on my list of things to do.

For photographers, I would recommend a diversion from Monticello to the Needles for a couple of days. On the road into Needles, there are some pictographs on a canyon wall at Newspaper Rock (but for people who don't do this side trip, there are better pictographs later in Utah that you can park right beside). Once in to the national park, there's a nice campsite (below) but if you are going to stay there, you probably should reserve ahead. There are other camping options outside the park as well, including some informal backcountry options on BLM land (which is what I do).

There are great campsites in the National Park, at Elephant Hill. You can walk from here up behind the camp for great vistas of Elephant Hill and with lots of twisted juniper trees. There's also trails heading deeper into the park, so opportunities for day long photo trips. The Elephant Hill jeep trail is just 5 minutes from here, so that is also an option. I did not do that trail while here on the TAT as I was fully loaded for overland travel and didn't want my stuff jostled all over the place. 

Red rocks, red JeepRed rocks, red JeepMy first time into the backroads of Canyonlands with the new Jeep, 30 December 2016.

Above is actually Jeep 1.0, as I purchased it in autumn 2016. Quite the naked look compared to its current incarnation! It is really dark here at Needles and I saw more stars here than I'd ever seen before.

Below is where I now camp in the backcountry, a very cool informal camping spot back in the desert, outside park boundaries. 

Desert campDesert campOut on BLM lands near Needles District, this was one of my favorite camping spots on my trip across the US. From the TAT, this is about a 30 mile diversion and definitely this area is worth a couple of days exploration. Also the Elephant Hill jeep trail is here - each time I've been through this area, I've been fully loaded for overland travel and have been hesitant to have all my stuff tossed around the truck. One of these trips...

My favorite photography location here is the Colorado River overlook. From the park welcome center, air down in the parking lot and take the sand road from the rear of the lot. The trip there involves some short steeper bits, some driving over sandstone sections, and a couple of steps (where someone has added concrete at strategic spots to allow vehicles without high clearance to make it through). 

At the end of the trail, you have an incredible view down over the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers, straight over to the White Rim and Island in the Sky, and south towards the Needles. The pictures below (visible light and infrared) are just a few of the possibilities; 

Desert (bleach)Desert (bleach)New Year's Eve day in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park, 31 December 2016.

Next stop is Moab itself. Many TATists will spend a number of days here and it is a good place to hang out, though a bit expensive after getting used to midwest prices. If you want a hotel, reserve in advance - I've been here before when the only hotels available were way up in Green River.

From just north of Moab, the TAT runs up Gemini Bridge road to get up to Island in the Sky. There are some nice side trails off of the Gemini Bridge road that explore pretty canyons. Gemini Bridge itself is about a 5 minute walk from the parking lot and has some good angles back to the La Sal mountains, so has good photography potential (and it is not photographed often). 

At the top of Gemini Bridge road, the TAT jogs right on highway 313 and then heads left across the desert and out of the canyons quite quickly. There is a campsite to the right and also a small, more private site to the left (Cowboy), which I prefer. This is a perfect base for photography as it gives easy access to Dead Horse Point, Gemini Bridge, the Green River Overlook, Mesa Arch, and the Mineral Bottom overlook. There's also access to the Shafer Canyon Road, which has fabulous views down to the White Rim and off to the La Sal mountains, and which leads down to the White Rim Trail (more on that below). Some of the photography options up here are shown below.

Dead Horse Point - there is a $10 state park entrance fee (the best money one could ever spend on a shoot location!). From the parking lot, wander along the rim for a variety of perspectives and angles, and some of the most shot juniper trees in the world. 

Dawn at dead Horse PointDawn at dead Horse PointSunrise at Dead Horse Point, Canyonlands, Utah, 15 Oct 2015.

Summer storm (2)Summer storm (2)An approaching thunderstorm, looking down from Dead Horse Point over the Colorado River, 19 July 2017

In the photo above, can you see that tiny structure at the top of the cliff? That is a large viewing platform with quite a number of people standing on it!! The scale in Canyonlands takes some getting use to.

Gemini Bridge has nice vistas beyond the bridge.

Green River overlook is my favorite location up at Island in the Sky. From the parking lot, wander to the right along the rim. There are also good photo possibilities down a little farther, about a mile past the Willow Creek campground turn-off, right where the Upheaval Dome road comes up adjacent to the Canyon (park and wander down on the northern side of the rim). The photos below are from the Green River overlook. 

Canyonlands, Utah (16 Oct 2015)Canyonlands, Utah (16 Oct 2015)Sunset over Green River Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, 16th October, 2015. Green River sunset 01Green River sunset 01A brilliant sunset over the Green River canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. On the Trans-America Trail, 10 June 2017.

The Shafer Canyon road offers a couple of good possibilities. First, you can drive down the road to where it is pasted up against the huge drop-off: as you go along, you come to a wide turnout spot that gives a perfect view down the valley (first photo below).


The second option is to shoot from just beyond the National Park welcome center, at the narrow isthmus above Shafer Canyon (park in the parking lot and wander down - the best location [2nd photo below] requires a step across a bit of a void so is not for those squeamish about heights). This location also offers an opportunity to shoot the Shafer Canyon road from above and, from the same place, to get some great vistas down the canyon (3rd and 4th photos, respectively). 

Blue hour in CanyonlandsBlue hour in CanyonlandsDusk on the Shafer Canyon rim road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, 6th November 2015.



Mineral Bottom overlook. I've never seen any other photos from over here but it is great. You can walk right out to the tip of this enormous prow to set up landscapes and there are lots of great trees around. Drive out the Mineral Canyon road to just before it drops down to the Green River (this series of switchbacks is the final hill on the White Rim Trail) and wander obviously left to get to the best location.

Mesa Arch. This is one of the world's classic landscape photography locations, so expect an international spectacle when you are there as it is virtually almost always crowded in the morning, when the sunrise hits the wall and lights up the arch. It was my fourth trip to Canyonlands before I actually photographed Mesa Arch as there were always too many cars in the parking lot. Christmas 2016 I decided to give it a try and figured being December I should be okay an hour before dawn. Wrong! There were already at least 20 cars in the parking lot.

Next morning I got up insanely early and decided I wanted to go out in the dark and get the best tripod spot reserved. I arrived at the parking lot 2 hours before sunrise, hiked down in the dark (hint - it is really useful to do the walk down prior to your morning visit in the dark!) for 10 minutes, and had the place to myself for the next 45 minutes. It was incredible to be there, at night, alone, and just sitting back until dawn light started to appear. Highly recommended...

When I was there, most people were interested in getting a straight-on shot, getting a burst at sunrise. I thought the best light was well prior to sunrise, when the wall below started to reflect light and light up the arch itself. I also had looked at lots of photos and found a view from the side to be more pleasing that a straight-on shot. Being out so early I was able to set up the tripod exactly where I wanted and then kick back with my thermos of coffee, watching the other photographers roll in and jostle for spots later. I might only ever shoot this location once, but it is an experience that probably every serious photographer will want to have a crack at. If it is too crowded to handle, simply divert down to the Green River overlook or out to Grand View Point, both of which have fine sunrise potential. The second photo below was after most people had packed up and were heading back to the parking lot. (I used a 21mm lens for the photo below - a 16mm would be useful here)

Sunrise glow at Mesa ArchSunrise glow at Mesa ArchThe morning sun just about to come over the horizon, giving the Mesa Arch its characteristic morning glow, Canyonlands National Park, 30 December 2016. Shot with a Canon 1DX ii and Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens; shot with long 30 second exposure at very first light, f/18, and ISO 100. Processed with Adobe CC (Lightroom; Photoshop), Nik Collection Color Efex Pro. This is available for sale as a print with or without framing, or as a vibrant, frameless metal print.

Many people doing the TAT will also want to do the White Rim Trail while in Canyonlands. I made my access and campground reservations about 6 weeks in advance and planned on doing the loop (Shafer Canyon Road, down to the White Rim, around, and back up Mineral Canyon Road) over 3 days, taking lots of photography time and leaving time to explore some of the side canyons off the White Rim. When I arrived at Island in the Sky welcome center to pick up my permit, I was informed that the Green River side of the White Rim trail was flooded, where the road comes right down to the river shore. Plan B was to go out and back, which is what I started to do. 

The drive down Shafer Canyon Road is easy as it is wide and smooth relative to the prior sketchy TAT passages. The photo below shows the road from lower down on the switchbacks. I also have a very short video clip link that I've inserted here. 

Shafer Canyon clipJust a quick taster of the Shafer Canyon switchbacks. While the terrain is impressive and the road really imposing looking from above, it is wide and easy after the White Rim trail.

Shafer Canyon on the White Rim Trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, photo by Murray Rudd, Tendrel Images, 3648x5480.JPG

Once down to the intersection with the Potash road (the Shafer Trail), which comes up from just outside of Moab, you are on the White Rim. There's a couple of early photo opps of Colorado River overlooks and natural bridges. Incidentally, if you are a fan of the movie 'Thelma and Louise', take a diversion down the Shafer Trail to the Thelma and Louise cliff, where the final sequence was filmed. 

Next, there's a wonderful side track that leads down Lathrop Canyon, taking you on creekbeds, sand, and some steeper bits, down to the Colorado River. It was one of the highlights of the TAT for me (as a bonus I found a place with arrowheads lying around on the ground while wandering around near the river). Just above the river is a grove of cottonwood trees, which were great for infrared photos.


That afternoon I went to my allotted campsite at the Airport 'campground' (i.e., flat spot in the desert - a real letdown after all the fabulous camps over the past couple of weeks). It had a nice bluff near it - you could really see how rubbly the canyon is when you see it up close - but it was crazy windy. I couldn't set up camp due to the wind and blowing sand, and ended up having some beers while huddled behind the door of my truck, the only place outside where I could get any respite from the wind. Finally it go so stupid I decided to pack up, head back up Shafer Canyon Road, camp up at the Mineral Point Rd campsite, and then hit the road out of Moab the next day.

Are you currently planning for the TAT? Here's my recommendation on White Rim and how I would do it next time.

(1) I'd still spend several days poking around photo sites, either camping up at Island in the Sky or staying in a hotel in Moab.

(2) I'd drive the Gemini Bridge portion of the TAT on one of my local exploration days and probably spend time poking around in the side canyons of that road

(3) When it came time to leave Moab, I would head up Potash Road to intersect the Shafer Canyon Road and then do the diversion down Lathrop Canyon for a few hours, before heading up to Island in the Sky via the Shafer Canyon Road (you need a permit to do this) and connecting with 313.

(4) Once on 313 for about 10 miles, you reconnect with the TAT and it is easy gravel road driving to the town of Green River. 

(5) Gas up there, then head down the west side of Green River valley on the TAT. About an hour plus down there is one of the best campsites on the entire TAT (more about that in the next blog entry). Basically you can go from Moab to Trin Alcove Bend in a single day, allowing for a great side trip down Lathrop Canyon and doing the iconic Shafer Canyon switchbacks. 

The last couple of photos I've inserted below are of some other photo locations that are close to Moab in Arches National Park and up the highway that follows the Colorado River.

First, there is an easily accessible site for morning shoots at the Courthouse Towers. This is a quick trip out of Moab, so good if you don't want an even earlier start to get to Deadhorse Point or Island in the Sky. There's good photo opportunities in 3 directions (first 3 photos) from right beside the parking lot pullout area (not the first one on the left, but a little beyond on the right side). Second, Delicate Arch (4th photo) is up here - it is about a 45 minute walk in and, like Mesa Arch, gets crazy busy. When I was there in late-December 2016 there must have been 200 people out there. It was a major challenge to get a photo of the arch without someone running in or out of the picture, even as it was getting dark. 

Dawn at the Tower of BabelDawn at the Tower of BabelDawn light coloring up the already red desert in Arches National Park, 28 December 2016. Dawn overlooking ArchesDawn overlooking ArchesEarly morning in Arches National Park, Utah, 28 December 2016

The second side trip out of Moab that is good for photos is to take a day and head up the Colorado River on highway 128. There's a nice side trip up Castleton Valley Road (1st photo) and further opportunities all along the Colorado River. The road runs right by the river through some narrow sections, past the Fisher Tower, and if you follow this road all the way almost to I-70 you reach Cisco, a uranium mining ghost town with some cool old buildings and abandoned cars. 


That's it for this entry. Of course, given the diversity of things to do around Moab it would just as easy to go on at length about the offroad trails or the bike trails. It is an amazing place and one that I hope that I continue to get back to regularly even though I now live in Europe. While someone could easily go from Monticello to Green River in one day on the TAT, I can't imagine that anyone doing the TAT would actually want to do that. For me, I'd plan of 4-5 days minimum to spend in this area. 

Next up in the coming blog post will be most of the rest of Utah, starting with the departure from Moab and then covering a variety of terrain and photo opportunities on the west side of the Green River, through the Capitol Reef area, Buckhorn Wash, the western Utah desert, and up to and including the Bonneville Salt Flats. There's some epic driving and sites through this part of Utah. 

I started with Jeep 1.0 at the top of the blog, so figured I should end with v3.0 - taken on the White Rim trail later in March 2019. 

On the White RimOn the White RimThe White Rim Trail is a 2-3 circuit on a jeep trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. It follows along, and above the Green and Colorado Rivers, offering spectacular offroad driving and views, and gives photographers a whole different perspective on the landscapes that many of us have photographed many times from up top of Island in the Sky. March 18, 2019.

(Tendrel Images) backroads canyonlands moab overland overland photography photo locations photography locations rural america rural usa trans-america trail trans-american trail utah https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/4/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-5-canyonlands Thu, 05 Apr 2018 19:30:10 GMT
Trans-America trail trip report: part 4 (Colorado) https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/4/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-4-westcliffe-colorado-to-monticello-utah Welcome to Part 4 of my TAT trip report blog!

Just to recap briefly, in past blog entries I've covered the TAT from its start in North Carolina through to Westcliffe Colorado. That's about 9 days driving time for a Jeep, without many photo stops and in relatively dry conditions. In this installment, I cover the mountains of Colorado through to Monticello, Utah. Instead of heading directly north to Moab from Monticello, I spent several days in the Needles area so next blog will just be about Canyonlands region. 

I needed a little suspension work on the front end, so went into Colorado Springs to have the work done (great service and very reasonable price, so I would recommend Perkins if you need any maintenance). 

The TAT heads north from Cotapaxi and does a leisurely loop up over Badger Creek and then reconnects with the highway at Salida, which is really the entry point to the Rockies. I had hoped to get well past Marshall Pass, but was a little slow getting out of Colorado Springs and then took a leisurely lunch along the way. At Poncha Springs the TAT veers south and gets onto forest service roads quickly. The TAT itself does not run up the main Marshall Pass road but follows Poncha Creek in a more direct route to the pass. There are many camping spots along Poncha Creek, increasingly more isolated as you get higher. 

It was getting quite late as I worked my way up here and eventually I started to hit snow in the forest, and then on the road. I managed to punch through a few drifts but had to do a tight turnaround as there was solid snow cover to the pass, which was only 200 ft elevation higher. Poncha Creek is really in a dark hollow, so don't be surprised to find it snowy quite late in the spring. My consolation for not getting over the pass before dark was a wonderful campsite right on Poncha Creek, high up the valley all by myself. 

The next morning dawned clear and I was soon off to divert around onto the main Marshall Pass road. As I came up the road nearing the pass, I came around a corner to find a herd of mountain sheep on the road, eating holes in it. Whatever was in the base of the road, salt presumably, they quite liked it and were not too shy about vehicles, so I was able to pull out the tripod and big telephoto for some nice pictures.

I arrived at the pass shortly after that only to find the road down the other side closed and completely covered in snow where the road cut down. As I was about to turn around, two guys randomly wandered out of the forest and asked if I had any beer (this was 8 a.m.!). It turns out it was two Spaniards who were hiking the Great Divide Trail, travelling very light through the high passes already having come from the Mexican border. I later found out Marshall Pass opened fully a couple of days later but I had to divert all the way back down to Poncha Springs and take the main highway 50 until I was able to pick up the TAT again just before Sargents. Given this was the first pass, on the lee side of the Rockies, and not in the main core of mountains, I was quite concerned about the balance of the Colorado drive.

The TAT wanders for a ways on gravel and a few paved roads to the McDonough Ranch, where the road gets washboard and you get into an area much less traveled. There's a remote and very nice informal campsite at Killdeer Creek (N 38.127 W 106.905) if you are running into this area in the evening. There's more good campsites about another hour plus down the road as well but there aren't that many sites and could be full. 

I should add in a tangent option here. On my TAT backwards trip I came through this area west to east, went past the McDonough Ranch and then diverted south on secondary highway 114. My destination was Great Sand Dunes, and I went through Saguache, where there was a great collection of vintage jeeps for sale. From Great Sand Dunes, it's possible to take trails through to Muddy Creek, bringing you out to the TAT at Gardner Colorado. If I did the TAT again east to west, I'd really consider cutting off Westcliffe, Salida, and Marshall Pass and taking this route instead. It has more country highway but brings you through Great Sand Dunes (Great is in the name for a reason) and directly towards the more interesting section of the TAT in Colorado. If you stop at the dunes, I'd say you should allow 90 minutes to get from the parking lot to the top of the highest dunes and get set up. 


Back to the TAT, the next good photo stop is at a ranch entrance beside country road 45 (N 38.093 W 107.030) (infrared shot below). Past here, the TAT goes through some gorgeous canyons and ranch land, then up till it intersects the Silver Thread Scenic Byway (highway 149). There's some really nice campsites but the farther the go, the more people you see. If you don't plan to stay at Lake City or continue up to Cinnamon Pass, I'd recommend the prior informal campsite I mentioned, not the ones along this section of road as they may well be full. Note that the larger campsite at the highway intersection is now closed - it was seriously damaged by forest fire sometime over the past few years. 

Colorado barn (infrared)Colorado barn (infrared)A peep of sunlight was just catching the barn wall and skull at the top on a cloudy, showery afternoon in a remote part of southern Colorado. 2 June 2017 while on the Trans-America Trail.

Lake City is a good food and gas stop. There's a variety of restaurants and a good bakery on the main street, to the left of the highway as you drive into town. From Lake City, you are back out on gravel roads very quickly heading for Cinnamon Pass. Engineer Pass was still closed with snow when I came through, so I had no option on the route over to Ouray. 

Cinnamon Pass was to be, I had the impression from YouTube videos, a gravel highway. But it was not! It went above 12000 ft,  was wet, occasionally muddy and rutted, sometimes quite steep, and had a very committing feel to it early in the season (i.e., first week of June). There was still snow on the pass when I came back through on the TAT Backwards trip in late-July. I hustled over as quickly as I could and then dropped down to Animus Forks. From there, I took the road south to Silverton as I was not sure if the other passes on the TAT were open.

Below: Cinnamon Pass in mid-July on the TAT Backwards trip. 

Cinnammon Pass, Colorado, on the Trans-America Trail, photo by Murray Rudd, Tendrel Images, 3648x5472.JPG


In the waning light of evening I hustled north of Ouray for a highway bypass to Telluride as Ophir Pass was also still closed. I arrived in Telluride just as it got totally got dark and continued on to the next gravel section of the TAT to find a great mountain campsite (along Meadow Creek, at the start of the Lizard Peak trail, N 37.797 W 108.038), just past some old cabins to the right of the road. The section out of Telluride was quite remote and had very little traffic for the first 30 miles (I saw 2 vehicles, one of which was a bulldozer repairing slide damage) in June (it had more on the TAT Backwards trip). I spent time at the cabins in both directions of my trip to shoot some color and infrared photos. There is also a good official campsite just a little further on at Burro Bridge. 



On my TAT backwards trip, all the mountain passes were open. I did do Ophir Pass to get to Ouray (easy, you just need to watch for traffic coming down from the pass as there is single lane only for about a mile with no passing spots) and then Corkscrew Gully and Hurricane Pass (the official TAT route) to get to Animus Forks. This section took much longer than I expected (it was quite steep in parts and had some blocky rocks and cobble) and by the time I got to Animus Forks it was totally dark and raining. I spent a short night there, got up super early in the morning to shoot some of the mining ruins (it cleared overnight) and then was back up and over Cinnamon Pass to a short stop in American Basin.

Pre-dawn mountain lightPre-dawn mountain lightUp early this morning to do some light painting on decaying mining buildings at Animus Forks, Colorado. On the Trans-America Trail, 21 July 2017.

I had not realized it, but American Basin (just on the east side of Cinnamon Pass) is one of America's premier photo locations for wildflowers. I didn't have time to set up (and it was 9 a.m. by the time I got there and well light - see picture below), after my morning shoot and breakfast, but there were a lot of photographers there. Camping is a little sketchy there, so for a good dawn shoot it would be necessary to camp lower down the valley and drive up in the dark. There's also some great waterfalls in the forests - I did not set up properly but the waterfall shot below gives a feel for the opportunities. In July, the Cinnamon Pass road was just stupid busy, bumper to bumper with jeeps, trucks, ATVs, and an occasional rental car, and you need to be careful navigating the traffic (not something I would have thought of on the TAT!).

Back to the TAT westbound... From the Meadows stop, the TAT heads west on mainly gentle forest roads past Black Mesa Pass (more snow here but it had just opened early June) and down to Groundhog Lake. From there, there's more easy roads through forests and ranchland to the Dolores River and the Colorado border just beyond. Down to the Utah border was a real interesting drive, and included one bear sighting. The image below is an infrared from that area.

Colorado backroads (infrared)Colorado backroads (infrared)A photo stop near the Colorado / Utah border. On the Trans-America Trail, 03 June 2017.

Once into Utah, you are in ranch land and there are again abandoned farmhouses, so it seems more like Oklahoma than the rest of Utah. It's a short trip to Monticello from the Colorado border and also close to Moab, so it is easy to get by highway to Moab. Many of what had been gravel country roads between Monticello and La Sal have recently been paved, so I'd suggest just taking the highway up to La Sal and then either do the mountain roads into Moab or head straight in on the highway to allow more time for Moab's other sites. 

In general, it looks like up to early June there will be a high probability of being blocked by snow. Even in late-June, some passes were still closed in Colorado (and beyond in Idaho and Oregon). There are websites available where you can check if passes are open.

Overall, the Colorado section of the TAT ventured through diverse and interesting country and the roads have certainly made me curious about re-visiting the area to try some of the high-country routes in the Ouray area.

You should allow two full days driving time for this section, and it would be easy to spend an extra 2-3 days exploring mining town ruins, taking pictures of mountain scenery, and/or doing some of the more difficult jeep trails. 



(Tendrel Images) backroads colorado overland overlanding photo locations photography locations rural america rural usa trans-america trail trans-american trail https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/4/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-4-westcliffe-colorado-to-monticello-utah Mon, 02 Apr 2018 11:45:46 GMT
Trans-America trail trip report: part 3 (Oklahoma to Westcliffe, Colorado) https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/3/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-3-oklahoma-to-westcliffe-colorado Like most TATists, I was wondering if Oklahoma might be boring. Even driving fast it was going to be a minimum of two days across. I crossed the border into Oklahoma from Arkansas early afternoon and immediately was blocked by flooded roads. After some work-arounds, I made it to Big Cabin, Oklahoma and stayed for the night in a Super 8 hotel. The country between the border and Big Cabin is rural farmlands and forests, very similar to Arkansas. There are lots of interesting old farms to photograph along the way. I spent more time in this area on the TAT Backwards trip as it was a favorite on the way west.

On my TAT backwards trip in July I stopped for gas and lunch far out west in Oklahoma and happened to run into 3 motorcyclists (one solo, and a father and son) all travelling west on the TAT. They'd been doing 80 mph across a large part of the state and were going to end up making the crossing in a little over a full day. I, however, loved Oklahoma and on my trip eastwards I spent a lot of time photographing old farms. I found Oklahoma anything but boring. Functionally, one can just head cross country on any of the gridded farm roads, either the official TAT route, or other roads parallel to the TAT. On my trip across the region in December 2017, I took the same strategy in Kansas, just using GPS and making ad hoc decisions about which roads to take across the plains and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

But, back to running the TAT westwards... After Big Cabin, the flooding continued through eastern Oklahoma. The road at Whippoorwill was under a lake but it was a relatively minor diversion. From here, the TAT runs right up to the Kansas border. Turning west, I managed a slippery, muddy water crossing of Coon Creek but was completely stopped by Cedar Creek (N36.998 W96.241). This road looks rarely traveled. I didn't need a camp at the time, but the area past the Coon Creek crossing would be good for camping. I backtracked just a touch and headed up country roads through Elgin Kansas and Hewins Kansas (a depressing town) before heading south again to pick up the TAT. This region is the transition from the rolling forested farm lands to the Great Plains.

Below - a bridge just east of Whipporwill, Oklahoma. 

Below, storm clouds over the grasslands near Lenepah Oklahoma.

Oklahoma skyOklahoma skyEastern Oklahoma was very stormy and wet on my first 2017 crossing, late-May on the Trans-America Trail. This shot was taken on a remote country road somewhere in eastern Oklahoma, 30 May 2017.

Farther west, things dried out in some areas. There were wind farms, hog farms, a cowboy cemetery (N36.967 W99.150), abandoned farmsteads, run-down towns, huge ranches, huge fracking operations, and friendly people who would pull up beside me to talk when I’d pulled over to send a text or make a call.

Cowboy cemeteryCowboy cemeteryIn the middle of nowhere in northern Oklahoma, I came across this small memorial. On the Trans-America Trail, 31 May 2017.

There was a potential camping spot at N36.968 W97.661. A little further west, there was a real good camping spot at an abandoned farmstead, N36.987 W97.861. 


I had intended to camp at Great Salt Plains Lake halfway across the State but the whole area was flooded, so I ended up staying in a hotel in Cherokee. Note that a number of maps show a free campsite just north of Jet but that is not the case - the road to the lakeshore 'camp' is private and just runs into a small community of mobile homes.

Motorcyclists can get away with camping in lots of places out here as they are pretty inconspicuous on what is almost all private property. A big red jeep is a little more noticeable though. On my TAT Backwards trip, however, I did find some abandoned farmsteads that had some secluded areas you can pull a jeep into and camp out. Watch for groves of trees in the distance - lots of time those are where the abandoned farmsteads were. 

Farther west, there are camping opportunities at: N36.765 W101.152 and at Black Mesa state park N36.843 W102.882. After 2 hotels earlier in the state, I camped on my third night at Black Mesa State Park in the far northwest corner of the State, a fabulous oasis in the grassland and highly recommended for a cost of $12 per night. Just south of here, there's also a bunkhouse that is right on the TAT - watch for a motorcycle on a pole in the middle of nowhere!

Typical looking farm roads in central Oklahoma: Northern Oklahoma farm roads on the Trans-America Trail, photo by Murray Rudd, Tendrel Images, 3633x5450.JPG

The farm roads of Oklahoma were a real challenge in places. If dry, it was easy to drive 50+ mph. If they were wet, the mud was so slippery that driving >20 mph was difficult. Travelling solo, getting stuck was a real concern here as there really were few areas that had any trees that one could use to winch out of. Getting stuck probably meant finding a kind farmer with a tractor to extract a vehicle, so easily a half day job if stuck in a really remote area.

The other driving challenge on the farm roads was deep ruts. Roads made of topsoil can support a bike or jeep just fine, but when wet they could not support heavy oil tankers. When big trucks had earlier driven a road in muddy conditions, there were huge ruts left behind, sometimes for miles, and which, when dry, solidified into rock-like grooves. Not fun…

Throughout this part of Oklahoma, there's all sorts of great photo opportunities at the abandoned farmsites that dot the area.

Grasslands monochromeGrasslands monochromeDeep in the heart of north central Oklahoma, monochrome photo of sparse vegetation, 31 May 2017

The TAT cuts briefly across the extreme northeast corner of New Mexico and one gets, after seemingly driving through someone’s farm yard, the first steep hill of the trip (well, there was one other in Tennessee but it was brief and rough). Once up the hill, then it is on to Colorado (past a wonderful abandoned farmhouse) on good gravel road. This is a good camping spot prior to hitting the private ranchland of southern Colorado – I camped here on the TAT Backwards trip. Note that it is also possible to go north from Black Mesa campground, then head west on scenic country roads (Dry Cimarron Highway) to re-connect with the TAT prior to heading up to the Colorado border (this would be a little faster than driving across New Mexico ranchlands if you are in a hurry). Trinidad has hotels but on weekends it can be really hard to get a room - I tried on TAT Backwards but could not find a room in the city, so ended up driving until 1 a.m. to get back to the old farmstead near the NM border to camp.

I had expected southern Colorado roads to be quite rough and isolated but there were a lot of backcountry residences through the section to Westcliffe. There was also a stunning old church in the middle of nowhere that might not be standing much longer. Coordinates are N37.676 W105.097. 


This area is still Great Plains type of scenery, and there's lots of opportunities for photos of cool trees, grazing land, and landscapes. The selection below are more infrared shots from the region south of Gardiner Colorado.


Storm clouds (infrared)Storm clouds (infrared)A juniper in the high plains of southern Colorado, on the Trans-America Trail, 1 June 2017.

Just before arriving in Westcliffe the TAT does its first mountain diversion, heading up into the San Isabel National Forest on scenic, easy roads - easy but the extreme washboard shook off my hood RAM mount video camera. Of course, I ran over that and crushed it just before coming around a corner to find a mom bear and yearling, neither of which were too concerned about my presence. 

If you want to camp rather than to push to Westcliffe and get a hotel (reserve early - it is hard to get a room there on weekends), there is a campsite at the top of the hill going into the San Isabel National Forest, just where the first road intersects with 165 (N 38.066 W 105.105).

I took a few extra days in Westville for a ranch photo shoot (run by Dan Ballard Photography and highly recommended) and then a couple of days in Colorado Springs for some front-end Jeep maintenance prior to rejoining the TAT. 


The next installment of the blog will cover the Colorado mountains.


(Tendrel Images) backroads oklahoma overland overland photography photo locations photography locations rural america rural usa trans-america trail trans-american trail https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/3/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-3-oklahoma-to-westcliffe-colorado Fri, 30 Mar 2018 10:55:39 GMT
Trans-America trail trip report: part 2 (central Tennessee - Arkansas/Oklahoma border) https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/3/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-2-central-tennessee---arkansas/oklahoma-border Hi again!

After the last blog and all it's details, this one is lighter in content. 

Just to recap, the first part of this trip report took me from the start of the Trans-America Trail (TAT) in Andrews, North Carolina through to Tim's Ford State Park in Tennessee. This would be 2 full days of driving (in a vehicle) if one started from Andrews in the morning and drove fairly steadily.

After a heavy overnight rain storm at Tim's Ford, I headed back down to Winchester to pick up the TAT. From there it was a super enjoyable drive through to the Alabama border, largely on country roads and through some forest roads. This section is really an exploration of rural Tennessee and traverses places that no tourist would ever get to. At times, it seems one is driving through farm yards and there are a couple of water crossings along the way. There's great rural scenery and some very cool cemeteries and churches, which made me very happy.

Only a little way out of Winchester the TAT goes right past the first great old log cabin of the day.

A little while after that, after a long stretch on gravel roads through forest plantation land, the TAT comes to the Mt Zion church, this impeccable church sort of out in the middle of nowhere (N35.065 W87.232). 

The church was cool for a few reasons. First they had this sign on the back of the building by the parking lot (below). To the left of the church in this picture is a fairly good size river. I arrived coming down the road you can see, and there's really no homes up in that area, but the river does not have a vehicle bridge over it. There's an old pedestrian suspension bridge behind the church (imagine Granny having to walk across a foot bridge to get to church) but it is not used any more. The only other way to get here for people on the other side of the river is to drive your vehicle through the river at Peach Road - Sunday water crossings! While not bad for the jeep, the crossing was not trivial and there was a steep muddy hill on the far side of the river. That left me wondering exactly who kept this place up so immaculately and how many people did the water crossing each Sunday. The questions that become important on the TAT....

After the church, the TAT winds through country roads is way rural Tennessee. There's one steep, rough hill to go up that had me wondering where I was going. Sam's maps are pretty well spot on though, and it turns out that the farther one goes into the wildlife management area (don't have my TAT maps with me and cannot remember the name), the better the roads become. 

I had a long steady day driving and made it to the Pickwick Dam State Park - think I left Tim's Ford around 7 a.m. and arrived into Pickwick around 6:30 p.m. The area near Waterloo, on the east side of the Tennessee River was very interesting - steep, winding roads along the river through a recreational residential community. There's supposed to be a Pickwick west campsite but I did not visit it as it was a long day already and I had campsite reservations that night for the main (boring) campsite (I would not do this again, but it was not clear prior to departure how many informal camping sites there might be - and I was trying to push to get to Clarksdale on time). Motorcycles could do more miles in the day, but for a truck this is about as much as most people would want. This also works well for getting through to either Clarksdale or the Arkansas border the next day, providing the Mississippi mud isn't bad. 

Quickly after leaving Pickwick Dam, I arrived in Mississippi and spent most of the day driving forest plantation roads. The soil here is red and the mud slippery. It had rained heavily a couple of days prior but with the heat most mud holes had dried out adequately so as to allow steady travel and good speed. This area is somewhat barren. That vegetation in the back of the photo below - a plant imported from China and meant to be used for stabilizing road cuts - has gone crazy and is gobbling up much of Alabama and Mississippi. Trees are shrouded in vines and it covers hundreds of square miles of previously forested area that has been clear cut. I heard that goats really like it, so who knows, maybe Mississippi will be the next goat farming capital of the world?? There's quite a few places on these roads to camp but I didn't see many attractive campsites.

Mississippi kudzuMississippi kudzuCrazy infestation of the invasive vine Kudzu in rural Mississippi. This stuff was choking hundreds of square miles of trees and fields. On the Trans-America Trail, 26 May 2017.

Further along in Mississippi, while on some rural paved roads, I came around a corner to find a vinyl-sided, plain Jane church. I needed a coffee, so pulled around the back to brew some up and found there was a great old cemetery out back. It would be possible to camp behind this church and have a nice private place. I don't think the church is used anymore, so even Saturday night should be okay. Coordinates are N34.375 W89.284 (between New Albany and Oxford, in the Holly Springs National Forest). 

From here on towards Lake Enid, there are a few informal campsite possibilities (just south of Paris, just before the Tombigbee National Forest). These might be necessary if the road through Mississippi is wet, as it looks like it could be really slow when it gets fully muddy. With mainly dry roads when I came through, I did Pickwick Falls to Clarksdale in about 13 hours. 


Once west of I-7, there are more rural roads in the forest prior to getting into the Mississippi delta farmlands. And more churches of course...

From here the TAT winds up through the farm land and rejoins the highway at Helena to cross the Mississippi. There are some campsites on the west side of the Mississippi, up in the Ozark-St Francis National Forest. 

I'd highly recommend a visit to Clarksdale, however, especially for any fans of American delta blues. This was the epicenter of American blues music and it has museums, blues clubs, and many music festivals (check online to see if you can time your arrival for a festival). I stayed several nights at a B&B that was walking distance to the clubs downtown. I also had a fashion photo workshop going on while I was there, so got some jeep shots that are a little out of the ordinary for the TAT!.

I spent a couple of evenings at Ground Zero, a club owned in part by actor Morgan Freeman. Our photo shoot was actually at the lakefront house of Freeman's fulltime pilot, but Morgan himself was filming something in Berlin so was not around. Music was great and they allow photography - I did not bring by camera along as we were shooting all day and I had good intentions of shooting the clubs on my TAT Backwards journey, but I did not make it quite far enough to get to Clarksdale in the evening as hoped. Memphis is only a short drive up the highway, if any Elvis fans are doing the TAT.

Ground ZeroGround ZeroClarksdale Mississippi is the home of the Delta blues. Ground Zero is one of the great blues bars here (it is owned by Morgan Freeman and partners, and set up in an old warehouse). Definitely worth a 30 mile diversion off the Trans-America Trail.

Once the shoot was over, I put on a different hat and got back to overlanding. Just over the Arkansas border by about 20 miles you arrive at the TAT check-in. You can see how many people have been through before (I was #33 registered for 2017, as I went through on May 28th). I had to divert out to the highway after this as some of the farm roads in this area were impassible due to flooding.

The TAT stopThe TAT stopJust into Arkansas, doing the official TAT stop. I was #33 for 2017, Many 28, 2017.

The drive towards the Ozark is very pleasant, mainly on country roads and through some quite affluent areas. The TAT cuts through the city of Beebe prior to heading up and entering the Ozark National Forest at Scotland, Arkansas. Be aware that there are few campsites in the national forest lands as many of the sites are taken up by private cabins. Though I had not been in a rush to get out of Clarksdale in the morning, I ended up driving way longer than I wanted to that evening and ended up with a logging road campsite at N35.501 W93.067, just down a spur road.

If you have a little more time, the best camping spot in the Ozarks for the TAT is about an hour further. As you go through the Piney Creek WMA, driving up on top of a ridge, there is a sharp spur road that cuts sharply back right and up a steep, narrow road. Stock Jeeps can probably get up with careful driving but high clearance definitely helps for the first bit. Coordinates here are N35.587 W93.250, at a place that is on the map called Pilot Knob. At the top of the hill is a parking area and one of the only clear views of the Ozarks that you get on the TAT. It would be easy to camp up here and get sunrise views of the Ozarks.

Below: brewing coffee and grilling bagels at Pilot Knob breakfast stop.   Coffee timeCoffee timeA break for a 2nd breakfast in the Ozarks, 29 May 2017.

From Pilot Knob, the next stop of interest is the Oark Cafe. You can gas up here and they have great food and pies. On the westbound trip, it was crazy busy as it was Memorial Day (busiest day of the year I found out later). On my TAT Backwards trip, I stopped in for a leisurely lunch and piece of pie, and had a good chat with the owner, who loves to have TAT riders and drivers stop in.

Oark CafeOark CafeEach time I've been through the Ozarks, I've stopped for a meal at the Oark Cafe. This is a gas and food stop on the Trans-America Trail, and a bit of a hub for overlanders on cross-country trips. July 24, 2017.

As much as I don't like to say it, and as much as I liked the countryside drive to the border of the Ozark National Forest, the national forest itself was disappointment to me. There were limited camping spots (I had my first night of logging road camping here) due to lots of private property with summer cabins. More importantly, there were few views of much other than forest (which I’d seen a lot of through the sections east of the Mississippi). 

On the TAT backwards trip, I took an alternate route and highly recommend it. Instead of following the TAT west, head north on Country Road 34. This is gravel, super rural, and winds up to meet with paved country roads at Arbaugh. To me, this is the real Ozarks - occasional small settlements, driving high up on ridges (often with good views, unlike the TAT), cool old family cemeteries, and even a couple of restaurant stops. I thought this was far superior for scenery and enjoyment, compared to rattling through a bunch more bumpy gravel roads in the forest. The picture below was from a cemetery about 5 miles north of Oark. This diversion will eventually meet up with the TAT again in Lincoln Arkansas; if you go on the TAT, the section west of highway 540 is much more pleasant than the road in the Ozark National Forest (there are some good local swimming holes in this section if it is hot!). 

That brings you to the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. I drove from here on to Big Cabin, Oklahoma and grabbed a hotel for my next night. Eastern part of the Ozark National Forest to eastern Oklahoma is reasonable for a day driving as the roads are quite slow for a large part. I'll elaborate more on the Oklahoma roads in my next post, which will cover the 2-day traverse across Oklahoma. 

Below - a silent swing just on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border.


(Tendrel Images) backroads overland overland photography overlanding photo locations photography locations rural america rural usa trans-america trail trans-american trail https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/3/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-2-central-tennessee---arkansas/oklahoma-border Wed, 28 Mar 2018 21:07:14 GMT
Trans-America trail trip report: part 1 (North Carolina to western Tennessee) https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/3/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-1-north-carolina-to-western-tennessee It's the time of the year that drivers bound this summer for the Trans-America Trail (TAT) are doing preparations. Last year this time, I was laminating my maps, installing a roof rack, and getting organized for the long trip west.

TAT planningTAT planningGetting organized for my first Trans-America Trail trip, April 2017.  The USA is big. And diverse. There is nothing I suspect that could prepare one for the geographic and environmental diversity of the US that one sees while driving the TAT. It is a completely different experience than crossing America on Interstates or even the smaller rural highways such as Route 66.

Into the fogInto the fogAbout to drop down from the first pass on the Trans-America Trail back into Andrews, North Carolina. A storm was just on it's way in and it was really blowing hard this day and a few minutes later visibility on the curvy track dropped to about 30 ft, 18 November 2917,
I thought I'd do a series of blog posts on the TAT over the next week or so, show some of the sights, give some tips on logistics and camping options, and highlight some of the awesome photo opportunities along the way. I anticipate 5-6 blog posts, but we'll see how much I get writing. 

The Trans-America Trail starts (2019 update - past tense, should be 'started' now, as Sam has added extra distance up the Appalachians) in Andrews, North Carolina, a few hours north of Atlanta, where I was based for work for 2+ years. Over some 5000 miles the TAT winds its way on gravel and country roads across rural America to the Pacific coast in Oregon. States visited during the trip include North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma (right up to the Kansas border line), New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon (also updated - routing on west has been changed some so that the Pacific route to Port Orford is now a spur).

For me, my TAT trips were focused on photo opportunities across rural America. I shot some basic dashcam video during my first trip, and will include a few short snippets in the blogs as well to illustrate the type of terrain a TAT driver/rider can expect. Note that I followed Sam Correro’s maps (www.transamtrail.com), so when I talk about the TAT, it is the routing from Andrews, North Carolina to Port Orford, Oregon.

In 2017 I ran the TAT east to west, starting in late-May. That trip took 28 days but I had stops for two photo workshops along the way and one stop for Jeep maintenance in Colorado Springs. 

In late-July, after an extended visit on Vancouver Island, I reversed direction and ran most of the TAT on my 'TAT backwards' trip. On that trip I picked up the trail in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho after cutting down across Washington state and western Idaho. Utah was very hot mid-summer, so I bypassed the western desert and drove directly from the Pocatello Valley down to Moab, via Salt Lake City. From Moab I stuck to the TAT mainly (but for a diversion to Great Sand Dunes National Park) and cleared all the mountain passes that were blocked by snow in June. 

I've also run much of the eastern part of the TAT several times on shorter trips out of Atlanta. You'll notice some autumn pictures in the blogs, which were taken autumn 2017. 

Most people do the TAT east to west (but it is great the other way too), so I'll start the blogs in the east and run through some highlights in a east to west direction.

Unfortunately my TAT maps are packed away in storage in Canada at the moment (I'm working in Sweden), so I cannot give mileage from Sam's maps for particular features or highlights, but I will give GPS coordinates from my waypoints. 

Forests of the Southeast

The TAT starts in Andrews, North Carolina and within the first several miles is on gravel roads in the Appalachian Mountains. The TAT winds its way through a short section of North Carolina before entering Tennessee, and the route continues across Tennessee with shorter diversions into Georgia and Alabama, before crossing to Mississippi and traversing forest service roads across the north part of that State. Some gravel roads are good, some are quite rough, and there are a number of paved sections across the rural countryside.

There are a few different options logistically for the start. One is to get a hotel in Andrews the night before and set out in the morning - that should get you to the Georgia border, where there are some good camping spots.

The other option is to start from farther afield (e.g., Atlanta) and stay the first night at some beautiful, remote campsites in the Nantahala Game Lands. There's some great campsites along the river and an old historic cabin (the Stewart Cabin), which is the first good photo opportunity. GPS coordinates here are: N35.341 W83.937, and the best campsites are just west of the cabin, along the river. 

On my dry run out of Atlanta (2 day loop of the first part of the TAT), I organized my rig some while enjoying a nice lunch along the river. Be aware there aren't any campsites on the first gravel section, so you need to allow 2 hours from Andrews to get to the campsite I mentioned above. 

Above is Jeep 2.0, just at the start of the TAT in 2017. I did some further modifications autumn 2017, so Jeep 3.0 is a better equipped for the rigors of overlanding.

Jeep changesJeep changes

The next section of the trail follows gravel and paved roads to Tellico Plains. At one point along North River you reach a T junction where the TAT goes left on a long winding tangent. If you are a photographer, I'd recommend going right towards the fish hatchery on River Road as there are some great waterfalls down here. 

North River, TennesseeNorth River, TennesseeSmall waterfalls on the North River, a tributary of the Tellico River in the southeastern part of Tennessee. This was taken on the Trans-America Trail, 18 November 2017.

A surprise find in TennesseeA surprise find in TennesseeI was out along the TAT in November 2017, exploring some alternative options for a couple of the sections I thought were kind of boring (all trees). This falls was a surprise find along the way, just a little before Tellico Plains, just on the Tennessee - North Carolina border. 18 November 2017.

Tellico Plains has a great bakery, so if you are on the trail early in the day it makes a perfect lunch stop. As you go into Tellico Plains, take a left into the historic downtown. It's just along the main street (not open on Sundays and Mondays though). 

After Tellico Plains, the TAT heads south and gets onto some quite rough roads and the first water crossings (the ones you always see on YouTube). The low quality frame grab from my video shows that it would be possible to hang up if you are too far left on the last of the 4 crossings and drop into a bit of a hole out there. There are a couple of crude campsites at the crossings - best is just over the last crossing on the right (directly ahead in the picture below) but I wouldn't recommend staying here with nice campsites in both directions. 

Water crossingWater crossingA low quality screen grab from video that shows me slightly cutting a corner on a water crossing )watching for the ledge of the left). Trans-America Trail Day 01 in Tennessee, 29 April 2017.

This road takes you through some real rural areas of Tennessee, and eventually out to the small town of Reliance. At Reliance, there's an old Baptist church on stilts. About 20 minutes beyond Reliance there's good camping at the Lost Creek forest service campsite; I've stayed here on several trips and quite enjoy it. 

Beyond Lost Creek camp, you get into some of the remotest parts of the TAT in the Southeast. There aren't any regular campsites for a long ways now, though there are lots of places you can just pull off. First time I came through here on the dry run in April 2017, a tree blocked the TAT (the video frame grab below) so I diverted south to intersect the Kimsey Highway (actually a little-used gravel road). The TAT is a little rougher still and less traveled than the Kimsey Highway option, but I found a very interesting Rymer family cemetery on the diversion (N35.129 W84.443). To get to the cemetery, there's a spur road left at a bend (watch for the sign on the left) that leads up (one could camp up here too). 

Blocked in TennesseeBlocked in TennesseeLow-res screen grab from my video. I was just a bit too tall to get the Jeep under this tree, recently downed in a storm. On the Trans-America trail in the Blue Mountains, Tennessee, 30 April 2017.

Backcountry cemeteryBackcountry cemeteryAfter being blocked by a downed tree on the Trans-America Trail in Spring 2017, I found this cemetery way back in the hills of southern Tennessee. This was taken late-autumn 2017, when I was back in this area again on a circuit of the first part of the TAT.

The forest out here is great. I hit a wonderful sunset in November 2017 out in the middle of nowhere. Both the TAT and the alternate diversion have some good views down into the valleys below as you run trail up on the ridge tops. 

Tennessee forest sunsetTennessee forest sunsetWhile on a weekend trip on the eastern section of the Trans-America Trail, I hit am amazing sunset in the forest of the Tennessee mountains, 17 November 2017.

As you come out of this section, you're more onto rural roads for the next while, down through Dogtown and Ducktown area, before getting back onto gravel near the Tumbling Creek Recreation Area. That road winds along through forests and eventually comes out very near the Georgia border. The TAT then does a long loop up and overlooking Parksville Lake, before coming back to within 3-4 miles of where you originally came out at Sheeds Creek (maps show a camp here but it is derelict). That loop adds several hours and is mainly through forest, so I'd consider cutting a corner here and heading south at Sheeds Creek, the couple of miles to the Georgia border. There are nice campsites here along the river, just over the border at the horse camp (Willow Flats I think it might be called - just a mile or two down the road once over the bridge), or - best option - another hour or so down the road at Lake Conasuaga Campground (but take bug spray in the spring!). It is possible to do a short diversion out to Cisco to gas up if needed. For trucks, this is a good day driving from the Stewart Cabin area. 

Coming down the long hills after this brings you to the Mulberry Gap Rd. The TAT officially goes right here but the road was closed most of 2017 due to a major washout. Last time I was there (Nov 2017) heavy machinery was in working, so it will likely be open for the 2018 season. Note, however, that there's a great old fire engine photo opportunity just 100 yards left down the Mulberry Gap Rd. If you stick on the TAT at that intersection, you won't see it (N34.801 W84.613). 

Fire engine in the forestFire engine in the forestAn old decaying fire engine along a backcountry road in northern Georgia. This vehicle is no more than 100 yards off the Trans-America Trail, just after coming to the long hill dropping out of the Cohutta Wilderness. 23 October 2017.

Decaying fire engineDecaying fire engineA surprise find on backroads of northern Georgia. This truck is not more than 500 ft off the Trans-America Trail but you would never see it unless you did a slight bend back around a corner spur. 22 October 2017.

From here, you're on paved country roads for quite a long time. For anyone interested in photographing old cars in the woods, you absolutely have to divert 25 miles down to White, Georgia, and visit Old Car City (check to see what days and hours they're open prior to visiting - it is a $25 admission fee for photographers). If you camp back up at Conasuaga Lake, you could spend a morning at Old Car City and then do a longer drive through pretty mundane roads to get to the next decent campsite, back up in Tennessee, for the evening. 

Old car collage (black borders)Old car collage (black borders)Portraits of old cars in the forest, Old Car City, White, Georgia, 2 September 2017. Canon 1DX mk ii; Zeiss Otus 55mm; individual cars shot at between f/1.4 and f/5.6.


For my initial April dry run, I ended where the TAT crossed I-75. I then picked up at the same spot in May when I started the trip west. The next section of the TAT was not, in my opinion, super interesting (lots of country roads, so it was nice but nothing like being back in the woods the first few days). I left Atlanta in the morning, and drove all the way to Tim's Ford State Park (below) for a very urbane first camping experience on the rest of the TAT.

Tim's Ford is just past Winchester and quite close to the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg. I did not visit the Jack Daniels factory despite being close (I was on a mission to get to Clarksdale on time for a fashion photo shoot!). I also had noticed while watching YouTube videos prior to my trip that some people driving the TAT made it to the Jack Daniels factory and then mysteriously never posted any more on their trip – I’m sure there are some stories there!

Expect slow progress (i.e., 200-250 miles a day) through much of the Southeast. If you do it in foul conditions, expect really slow progress. There are some bights of road that can be cut off to save time; after seeing so many forests in the Southeast, I would certainly recommend cutting a few corners as the scenery does not vary a huge amount in the forest.

As a photographer, I love cemeteries, churches, and old farmhouses; this part of the TAT had some great ones along the way, including some in some really remote locations. I found this part of the country to be very friendly and picturesque and a real pleasure to travel through, and certainly not like the rural stereotypes one sometimes hears about.

That's it for the first blog. This one's more detailed than most of the rest will be only because I know these areas really well after living in Atlanta. I'll get to the next one, which I think will cover from this western Tennessee stopping point, through to Clarksdale Mississippi. Until then, happy TAT planning! 

(Tendrel Images) backroads overland overland photography overlanding photo locations photography locations rural america rural usa trans-america trail trans-american trail https://tendrelimages.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/3/trans-america-trail-trip-report-part-1-north-carolina-to-western-tennessee Tue, 27 Mar 2018 19:46:29 GMT