January 8, 2015: On I-15, between Littlefield, Arizona and the Utah state line.
To me, the Virgin River Gorge is a jaw-dropping spot. I-15's four lanes twist their way through the gorge, the highway elevated above the Virgin River. This portion of I-15 cuts through the Arizona Strip, a remote portion of Arizona, more accessible to Salt Lake City than to Phoenix.
To photographers and tourists, the Virgin River Gorge is a challenge. The challenge is, the gorge is so narrow the highway lacks shoulders or pull-off's. So, there is no stopping or even slowing down to capture a photo in the gorge. I find the inability to photograph this spot depressing.
However, today I was graced with good luck. I had he opportunity to view the gorge and take photos that few tourists ever can. Personally, I did not care about the uniqueness or whether others had been able to photograph here. I only cared about me being given the opportunity to photographically capture one of the most captivating spots I have ever passed through.
So, how did this lucky opportunity arise?
I woke up about 6:30AM. I tried to take a shower in my Virgin River Hotel and Casino room. I was frustrated over the lack of hot water. You may not know this about me, but I love the hot shower. I am one of those persons that comes out of the shower lobster red. But not this morning…I had to subject myself to the cool water of the room’s shower and then race to get dressed.
I topped off my gas tank and ice chest at a gas/food market immediately next to the highway interchange. Sure I cannot drive without gas, but more important is my precious life elixir Coke will not remain cold if my cooler is not topped out. The price of ice I do not recall; the price of gas of course keeps a spot in my mind and journal as gas prices are falling at the moment. The gas did seem like a bargain at the $2.40 range. I would find out in a couple of days that just a few hundred feet (in other words not even a mile) south of the highway exit I kept using to get on and off I-15, gasoline was about $1.97, about $0.50 gallon cheaper than across Pioneer Drive from the Casino and right next to the highway.
I left Mesquite, Nevada around 7:15 AM for Cedar City, Utah. I was interested in seeing if there was any way to get any pictures by driving through the I-15 gorge. I took Hillside Driver east out of Mesquite. Hillside generally runs parallel to I-15 for a few miles east of Mesquite. As a historical side note, Hillside Drive was US91, the historical route from the Utah Territory to the Las Vegas Valley of the Nevada Territory.
A Hillside Drive turnoff (Scenic Road) takes you on a five-mile drive towards some hills and across a small slice of the Virgin River. The narrow slice of this typically scenic river was remarkably unscenic and therefor I did not even stop for a picture.
I drove back to Hillside Drive and headed north/east. Hillside veers away from I-15 for a few miles as the two roads become separated by some rocks known as the Virgin Moutains until I-15 becomes visible again and Hillside prepares to cross I-15 at Littlefield, AZ, heading north into an ancient Joshua tree forest. I got on the 15, heading north towards Salt Lake City, well really Cedar City. I accelerated up to the 70 mph or so local speed, turned up the music and prepared to drive through the gorge.
But not this morning. It was not very long before I was slowing down to a stand still. I was stopped behind a parked escort truck.
I was indifferent at the moment as to whether or how long the delay would be. The unique opportunity this moment was posing did not immediately hit me in the face. But then, I was like...huh? How long will I be here? Who cares, it is picture time. I unpacked my camera and got out of the car.
|Looking up the North Side Wall of the Gorge|
|Llooking back towards Littlefield and looking south. You can see how the Gorge is in the shadow.|
|I heard some noise. Though hard to see, there is a rock slide going on.|
|Hard to see worker up on he top of the southern wall of the Gorge.|
|Easier to see man hanging from the gorge|
|Here Comes Everyone Else - Off to St. George we go!|