A few miles west of the Oregon-Idaho border, after driving through Boise and what felt like a high altitude wind tunnel on Highway 84, we happened upon a little RV campground called Catfish Junction. On a less dramatic portion of the Snake River, the grounds are nestled in golden hills. There we met the tall, scraggly-bearded groundskeeper, Daren. Wearing a dilapidated black hoody and blown out denim jeans, his demeanor was laid back as one would expect from a cat fisherman and rural RV site overseer. He kindly lent us an old taped-up fishing pole and some fresh night crawlers. Seemingly, Daren doesn’t often meet many young travelers willing to step out of their RV’s, and was happy to chat with us about our adventures with Brownie In Motion.
On the boat dock, we cast out our lines while I played guitar to the rapidly shifting sunset. Ten minutes in, Daren got a bite. Casually working his fishing pole, he effortlessly reeled in a catfish over 2 feet long. “That’s your breakfast,” Daren said as he plopped the fish into a bucket for overnight storage. While removing the hook, he muttered, “Stupid cat,” over and over….
Friday morning, we mingled with Daren while I prepared our catfish and French press coffee breakfast. He regaled us with stories about the Junction: natives raiding travelers on the Oregon Trail, an eccentric who used to farm a small island in the lake, and his own experience working heavy machinery in L.A. As we drove off, I couldn’t help thinking of this adventure as our own little salute to the Oregon Trail.
The day after our sunburn-inducing adventure in the Bonneville Salt Flats, we spent time in Twin Falls, Idaho reaching out to contacts in Oregon and lazing in the park next to the local library. This was much needed rest after our foray in Bonneville’s muddy expanses. Before leaving town, we felt compelled to do some sight seeing.
Snake River runs westward through the awkward little town in an epic canyon ¼ mile deep. The site of Evel Knievel’s failed Skycycle X-2 steam-powered rocket jump across the river, a dirt ramp on the south side of the falls still serves as a tourist attraction. The canyon is littered with waterfalls cascading brilliantly into the river, however the overabundance of strip malls and buildings around the falls dilute its natural beauty. I’m not sure if it was the town or the lack of sleep, but it left a strange taste in my mouth.
The amount of distance traveled and total waking hours began to take their toll on us. From Carbondale in Colorado, to Idaho via Utah in 72 hours, with no more than 10 hours of sleep we longed for rest. But movement is the name of the game; with only 48 hours until The Great Oregon Steam Up, again we hit the highway.
Colorado was a blur and our workflow was irregular at best. Between visiting with friends and family, being rained out of several locations, and wanting to sightsee, the Brownie-In-Motion team managed only 2 camera obscura shoots in our 8 days there; the Genoa wind farm, and the Red Rocks Park. We fell in love with the rapidly shifting landscape, the color palates painted on various altitudes. It was with a heavy heart that we left Carbondale on Monday, quietly driving away from our little mountain paradise.
Our next location, Arches National Park just outside Moab, Utah. That evening we cruised through the park scouting locations for our shoot the next day. The surrounding landscape, epic in proportions, compared with nothing I have ever seen. To the south, Mt Peale darts into the clouds and the Moab fault runs into an adjacent valley seeming to stretch on forever. Deep reds, washed out greens, and endless blue skies serve to accentuate the stone formations that towered around us. Throughout the whole time at Arches, my sense of awe never diminished.
Overnight we camped out on Route 162 about 10 miles northeast of Moab. Route 162 is a scenic byway that runs down the Colorado river in Southeastern Utah, coming out of the Rockies and slowly dissipating into the desert. It was dark by the time we arrived, but our camp setup is rather minimalist and easy to accomplish in the dark. A hammock, sleeping pad, or simple tent make for good sleeping pretty much anywhere.
Our campsite was hot, humid, and riddled with insects of all kinds. Not 20 minutes after we set up and prepared dinner, a strong wind picked up and our non-rainproof camping arrangements started feeling quite inadequate. We rushed to get our things packed away again but before we finished the rain came on without hesitation. With one of our tarps and a nearby fencepost, Stephen created an impromptu lean-to that connected to the back doors of the van. With our aluminum Bud Light bottles and mac n’ cheese, we settled in for a nice, albeit wet, dinner. Laughing at the improbability of rain in a desert, we slowly got cold, drenched, and dirty. When the rain let up, we relocated camp to a picnic shelter down the road. On our nighttime drive through scenic 162, we laughed, shivered, and sang ‘Strangers in the Night’ to passing cars as we made our way down the lonely road.
By 6:15 A.M. the next morning, with only 3 hours of sleep, we were back at Arches ready to work. The only others inhabiting the park were clearly photographers, hobbyists & professionals alike. No one in the park seemed to interested in our giant camera; a few tourists scampered by with raised eyebrows but during our 6 hours there we only spoke with three people. Right as Steve was finishing what would be our final shot at the park, a ranger approached us. We narrowly escaped a $500 citation at the graces of the ranger, and were issued a verbal warning. Luckily the large paper negative Steve had just developed turned out to be perfect
After breaking down the camera, I encouraged a little more exploration since we hadn’t actually got to go up to the rocks much. I climbed around gaily while Steve snapped some pictures inside the Double Arches. The next destination for us, the Bonneville Salt Flats. Hopefully we catch some wild speed trials, or at least perform some ourselves.
Hello Readers! I wanted to let you know that we are now approaching the final hours of our fundraising effort for the Brownie In Motion project on Indiegogo. Please consider donating to the campaign at: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/brownie-in-motion/contributions/new before midnight tonight! There are lots of great rewards available for backers, including limited edition prints, postcards, and even the chance to have the camera obscura travel to your town for a visit! Help us document disappearing trades across America with the world’s largest Brownie camera!
If you’d like to hear what Japan Camera Hunter has to say about the project, click this link!