When I was photographing for my book Spirit in the Grass, I explored the canyon-grasslands as deeply as I could, seeking the beauty that hides around every corner. The one spot I will never forget, is Churn Creek Canyon, situated in Churn Creek Protected Area. As humans, I feel we have a great need to enter the land.
One day, my friend Mike (above) and I descended into this chiseled canyon for a better view of the creek below. It was a landscape that provoked deeper thought. It was as if somewhere, when we reached our goal, we would understand the answers to life.
Just before Churn Creek enters the Fraser River Canyon, it has carved out a canyon of its own. In the above image, you can see how deeply it has eroded through the vast grassland landscape. Big Sage, Rabbit brush, and fir trees cover the foreground, providing a touch of green to an otherwise brownish hue.
We eventually reached a lookout place where we could go no further. The view through the deepest part of Churn Canyon was staggering. The gentle earthly hues seemed in direct conflict with the dangers of the vertical walls. We sat there and enjoyed our lunch. This landscape had entered us, and we would never be the same again.
Now I’d like to take you on a hike into the canyon from the southern side of Churn Creek.
In the above image you can see four of us hiking along a fingered ridge. A few metres beyond the hikers, the ridge drops down vertically more than 250 metres (820 feet) to tiny Churn Creek. The crumbling pillared cliff in this photograph forms the opposite canyon wall.
As part of my photographic challenge to capture the beauty of Churn Creek, I climbed down to the canyon floor with a friend and spent the night there. I was hoping for a clear sunrise that would provide high contrasting light. This would dramatically display the canyon walls. I was not disappointed.
After our two-day hike in Churn Creek Canyon, My friend Mike and I returned exhausted to our vehicle. Since darkness was setting in, I thought my photography for the day was over. Never for a moment did I expect that one of the most unforgettable moments of the trip was about to take place.
I was just untying my boot laces, when I looked up and saw a halo of light rising above the horizon, far away across the Fraser River Canyon. Suddenly I realized it was a full moon evening. Back on my feet, I ran for my camera and longest lens. I had to work quickly. At this magnification, it’s amazing how rapidly the moon moves across the viewfinder.
A few minutes late I captured the full moon in its entirety as it rose above the Big sagebrush. When the shoot was over, I was both exhausted and elated!
Churn Creek Protected Area can be reached by driving west from Highway 97 just south from 70 Mile House along Meadow Lake Road. After an hours’ drive along this gravel road, you will reach the Gang Ranch bridge where you cross the Fraser River and enter Churn Creek Protected Area. For further information about hiking and exploring the Churn Creek area, visit The Friends of Churn website.
Hiking in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region of BC
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