Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Moab: Manti-La Sal National Forest

The Manti-La Sal National Forest is completely different from all the other places I visited on my trip to Moab (see photo at right). Most noticeably, it is a lot cooler! The temperature at Arches National Park was 103 degrees Fahrenheit when I was there and at Canyonlands, it was 95 degrees F. Moab hovered between 101 – 103F at the beginning of the week and then dipped to 96F and 98F after that. In contrast, the temperature at Manti-La Sal was only 86F. I don’t know how Ben and Roger and the other cast members managed to look so comfortable in all those heavy clothes they had to wear—shooting in this mountain area must have been a very welcome respite!

There are three discrete sections of the Manti-La Sal National Forest. One is located south of Moab, near the town of Monticello, and can be seen from Interstate 191 (see photo at right). Another section is located in central Utah and the third area, the one I visited, is on the outskirts of Moab. The La Sal Mountain Loop road is another scenic byway; about 60 miles long, it takes approximately two and a half hours to drive, including stops for taking photos and eating lunch. The scenery was beautiful (see photo above)!

The elevation where I was, as far as I can tell, was around 6,000 feet at the highest point but the highest peaks in the Manti-La Sal National Forest reach over 12,000 feet. Although trees and vegetation covered much of the mountains, the legacy of a fire can also be seen (see photo at right). A sign provides a telephone number where you can call to find out what happened in the area, which I did after I returned to my lodging, not realizing that cell phone access was available at that particular spot. Further on, I came upon another sign—I thought it very helpful that such information was being made available to the public in this way. The vegetation noticeably changes as you ascend the mountains. At higher elevations, there are, of course, fewer tall trees and the flora is more alpine than desert-like (see photo above). Scattered throughout Manti-La Sal National Forest are State and privately-owned lands. Evidently, ranching is still permitted as I unexpectedly came upon some cattle while taking photographs of a mountain stream I heard trickling in the distance (see photo above). The cattle’s ears were tagged but when I moved closer, they turned and fled into the woods.

When Heyes and Kid are laying their traps in High Lonesome Country, and then tracking the cougar that Kid wounded, those scenes must have been shot in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. I don’t know where exactly ASJ shot those scenes but I assume they were somewhere in this section since it’s the closest one to Moab. About halfway through the drive, I entered an area filled with aspen trees. I took several photos of the aspens and tried to duplicate the shot in High Lonesome Country where the camera pans the tops of the trees (see ASJ screenshot at top right and my photo underneath). But it was sprinkling at that time, as it did throughout the day, and I didn’t want raindrops to fall on my camera lens so I didn’t quite get the same photo.

At the Visitor Center in Moab, you can pick up a sixteen-page booklet about the entire Manti-La Sal National Forest. Interestingly, people recognized way back in 1903 that this area was special and petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt to protect it. It finally became a national forest in 1958.

Visiting Manti-La Sal National Forest is a wonderful counterpoint to the red rock cliffs and arches; the deep canyons and gorges; the narrow, slow-moving Colorado River; and the high desert that surrounds Moab. Along with Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point, Castle Valley, and a boat trip on the Colorado River, it should not be missed on a trip to southern Utah!

Official website for the Manti-La Sal National Forest: