Moab » You Can Sleep When You're Dead: Blog by Colleen Miniuk

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Oct 252020

The confluence of the Green (left) and Colorado (right) rivers on the final morning of my paddle adventure.

This is the first October in 11 years that I’m not in Acadia National Park adoring the coast and chasing fall colors. Ongoing pandemic concerns and strict travel constraints cancelled my photography workshops there this year (one of which would have started today…). Those same reasons cancelled my appearance at this year’s Out of Acadia conference too. When I made those tough decisions, I felt sadness, disappointment, and frustration.

Requisite selfie at the start of my trip at Potash Boat Ramp

You know what wasn’t cancelled, though? Life.

I decided to use this unusual gift of time to explore another place that holds great meaning to me: the Colorado River. A couple of weeks ago, I went on a six-day solo paddle on my stand-up paddleboard through Meander Canyon, a 47-mile stretch of flatwater through Canyonlands National Park outside of Moab, Utah I’d not yet experienced—but had wanted to for years.

I launched at the Potash Boat Ramp, and after learning to faithfully follow the bubble line around sand bars to avoid getting stuck, watching big horn sheep rams climb impossible cliff walls, and listening to the river lave the shore each night, I ended at the magical confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. I even had the confluence to myself for 21 whole hours! Yes, tutus and dancing and wine were involved! Don’t worry, eagles and ravens supervised.

So while Acadia wasn’t in the cards for this year, the trip gave me the chance to not only get some fresh air and deepen my connection with the river (which did wonders to uplift my spirits), but it also helped me create new photos for an upcoming exhibition and gather words for a new book project.

As my smart mama used to tell me growing up, “If one door closes, push another one open.” You just never know what kind of meanders your life will take…

See below for some photographs from the trip:

My first camp after a 16-mile paddle, near mile 31 (distance measured from the confluence)


Foam bubbles collected against my SUP during a rest stop. How long do you think I stood there and photographed them?!


Sunrise view from my camp on Day 3 (near mile 12). I hadn’t intended on traveling so far on the second day (about 20 miles), but camps weren’t exactly where they were supposed to be per the map… I was treated to this glorious sand bar and view for my extra efforts.


The Loop refers to an S-curve in the river that travels four river miles but loops back to within a quarter-mile of itself. From this viewpoint, which required a stair-step climb for a half-mile, you can see both sides of the river at the same time…this is the beginning of the Loop looking downstream at mile 11.


The Colorado River had remarkably low sediment, so the bucket I brought to settle water using alum became an extra piece of gear to drag along…until I realized I could fill it with cool water and have it serve as my wine cooler!


View from my camp on Day 3 (mile 7). I had blue skies almost the entire trip–except for night 3 (and the last morning of my trip at the confluence). As the sun started to set, a few poofs of clouds crested the cliffs in front of me. Then a few more, then streaks. I ran to the nearest eddy, which was all of ten feet in front of my tent, to make this image. As I like to say, sometimes “we must suffer for our art.” (LOL)


The view from my SUP on day 4, about 5-6 miles from the confluence


Looking downsteam at the Colorado River (officially the start of Cataract Canyon) after the Green and Colorado merged at sunset on day 5.


Sunrise at the confluence looking towards the Green River on day 6.


Jumping for joy at the confluence where I camped for two nights until the Tex’s Riverways jetboat picked me up and returned me to Potash (a two-hour-plus boat ride UP the Colorado River).


While the trip was 47 river miles, my Garmin InReach logged 57.5 miles from start to finish. Why the 10.5 mile discrepancy? The extra distance I likely covered constantly zig-zagging across the river following the bubbles and avoiding sand bars…(which I was mostly successful at doing…)

May 122016

Photo copyright Sydney Troxell

As I hiked along these heavenly creations, the crisp Utah air whisked atop my 1982 UCLA Rose Bowl windbreaker, feeling free as a bird with my best friends by my side and my camera barreling along with us, as if it were apart of me. I heard my name called from a distance and I looked up to find Jordan, my roommate, enveloped by this beautiful rock creation, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. In disbelief, I quickly grabbed my camera to hopefully capture what was before my eyes. Holding my Canon T5 18-55mm, sitting at 18mm with the ISO at 640, I brought my eye to see through the lens and bang there it was, my moment in time captured at 1/200 of a second. It’s the one photograph that I find the most satisfaction in amongst my gallery of photos. The effortless moments seem to reflect the most accurate depiction of what I see through my eyes.

Capturing the beauty of nature is a difficult feat. Becoming the eye of the beholder is something I strive for in my photography. Looking at a photograph should conjure up some sort of emotion or feeling within someone, which is why I chose this this image in particular. The dramatic beauty of this enormous structure was humbling. Witnessing something so much greater than myself made the essence of this picture worth its moment, now its memory. Pictures are so precious in life because that specific moment in time will essentially never happen that exact same way ever again. Wild to think about but so true in a sense. My trip to Moab, Utah would not have been the same without my handy dandy Canon by my side. Then there’s that sunspot. I will admit though I once had a negative outlook on it, now I do believe is what makes it unique, and in the moment. I decided not to alter the image from its original moment because I believe an organic shot is what gives a photo depth and tells a story in an instant. One look and you know the beginning, middle and end because of the emotion brought forth when we look at a photograph.

Writing about my picture has really made me come to realize that every picture taken should have a reason or purpose, because essentially anyone can take a photograph nowadays. Technology has broadened the horizons of channeling people’s inner artist and with this photo and that trip I really felt as though I did just this.

About the Photographer:

As for me I’m just a 19 year old girl with an optimistic soul. Photography has always been a passion of mine my whole life. I’ve always been capturing moments and sharing them with those around me. I enjoy bringing bliss into the lives of those around me and photos always seem to bring effortless happiness. From the gal who looks through the eye of the lens for most of my free time I truly encourage everyone to look up every once in a while and embrace the beautiful world around us because we miss a whole lot when we aren’t aware of our surroundings. Photography create moments, shares moments, and captures moments. It’s truly a beautiful thing and that is why I love what I do.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at take a minute to leave your thoughts and constructive comments in the Comment section below – Sydney would love to hear from you!