When you hear, “We flew into Vegas and picked up an RV for a four-day video shoot in the desert,” you might conjure-up some sort of wild, Fear and Loathing-style debauchery.
But if you did, you’d be wrong.
Of course, we don’t want anyone feeling sorry for us. After all, we did fly to Vegas in the middle of a cold and wet northwest November. We did rent an RV, and we did spend a few days romping though stunning slot canyons and driving through one of the most amazing parts of the world. And we got paid for it. However, the amount of work, lack of sleep and utter lack of debauchery that goes into such a production might surprise you.
Take Day 1 for instance.
Beginning around 5 a.m., we headed to the Seattle airport, landed in Vegas with a fortress of luggage, took a cab to the grocery store to shop for five people, got another cab across town to the RV rental place, drove four hours north to our first location, got a tour and found out it wasn’t going to work out. After a quick timelapse of the setting sun, we headed to the last place in town that was still serving food. We ate some canned goods passed-off as Mexican food and unwittingly ordered tequila-less, wine-based “margaritas,” thanks to Utah’s unique, good-drink-prevention laws. Who knew?
We enjoyed all of this while being unavoidably regaled in a humorously revolting, third-person narrative of someone’s father’s severe gastro-intestinal issues from an adjacent table. Then it was back to the RV for location plan B – a six hour drive north, ending in a bleary-eyed, roadside bivy at 2 AM.
Day two started with a 5 AM wake-up call, reminding us that no director can pass on the opportunity to try and get one more amazing time lapse of a sunrise. Then it was on to another three hours of deafening, tooth-loosening washboard driving deep into the desert. We arrived at our trailhead, shouldered some obscenely large packs, and finally began filming in earnest. Now, finally enjoying a slight feeling of living large, our legs began to move down the sandy wash. With ear-to-ear grins, we descended through geologic time, into some stunning slot canyons, while the sun warmed our soggy Seattle bones. This is the part where the dream approaches reality, but it only lasted until we realized that, for the seasonal spring we anticipated drinking from, it was apparently the off-season.
This unfortunate bit of news left us no choice but to use our Platypus GravityWorks filter on the muddy, foamy, foul-smelling water running through the canyon’s main channel. Clearly the result of some rude, bovine intervention upstream, we filtered it and then boiled it to nuke anything still potentially alive.
Since we didn’t bring the carbon filter, the result, though “safe” to drink, tasted like cooked cow piss and hay. So began our new-found reluctance to drink, and a slow dehydration process that would last for the next 48 hours.
The show must go on however, so that night, as with the next and final night, we shot until after dark, ate dinner and then shot long-exposure stills and timelapses until the wee hours. We woke an hour before sunrise each day, and though we did get to enjoy a mid-day siesta on the middle of three days in the canyon, it was pretty much non-stop from the moment we left the trailhead.
I won’t say we were glad to get back to the RV on the afternoon of our last day, but I can say that gallon jugs of water from a gas station never tasted so good. We had some fun geeking-out about how best to dig and place the rocks and sticks under tires to ensure we got out of the trailhead’s bottomless sand, then shoved off for the marathon drive back to Vegas (baby!). We flew out that evening, the red dust of nirvana still leaking from our shoes.
Despite the fact that for three days in the desert we were running a serious deficit on water and sleep, and constantly on-point to make sure everything happened that needed to, we never lost site of the fact that that stuff like this is just a pretty phenomenal part of our jobs. It will always–always–be better than being back in Seattle behind a desk. We had an amazing time, walking through and above sublime canyons on redrock clouds, and had the place entirely to ourselves. Few places can make you feel less significant than the wild, arid and unforgiving red-hued treasure that is Utah’s redrock canyonlands, and there’s nothing like a good dose of insignificance to keep everything in perspective.
Watch the video here.
Ed. Note: The redrock landscapes of southern Utah are under unprecedented threat of destruction and exploitation. If you love them as we do, or have plans to make it there, please consider visiting the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance to learn more about what’s happening and find out how you can help save this amazing, international treasure.