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Holding On

With  its root system showing how much the hillside beneath it has eroded, a lone pine maintains a tenacious grip on life. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.I created the photo at right (originally shot on film) on a cold, January day about eighteen years ago, as the setting sun cast a warm glow on the pine and the hoodoos in the distance.

Two years ago, when I returned to Bryce Canyon in the Fall, the Limber Pine still held fast to the eroding hillside. I’ve probably photographed the tenacious pine on every trip I’ve made to Bryce. And each time, seeing how much the wind has exposed still more of its root system, I wonder if I’ll see it when I next return.

Rain and wind have shaped this area of the Southwest for tens of millions of years, producing the colorful and oddly shaped hoodoos that draw more than 1.5 million people a year to Bryce Canyon National Park.

But it was an inland sea, as much as 2,500 feet deep and bisecting the continent for as many as 80 million years, that allowed several thousand feet of silt and sediment to be deposited in a vast area of western North America. Over eons, those materials solidified into the sandstone and shale being gradually eroded in Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, and other southwestern regional and national parks.

I’m not sure how many years it took to expose the roots of this pine or how long the tree will continue to hold fast to the hillside. But each time I travel to Bryce, I visit the tree, pay my respects, and smile.

By the way, one often sees groups of people lining up their favorite shot of the pine, and nearby signage indicates that it’s the most photographed tree in the park. So, I’m not alone in admiring its resolve.