Sometimes it pays to listen to the kid working at the outdoor shop. We had stopped in to grab a map of the greater area around Zion National Park in Southern Utah. “You should check out The Barracks,” he offered up casually while swiping my card. “It’s as spectacular as the narrows, but not as popular.” OK he had my attention. “And you don’t need a backcountry permit.” Stop everything, what was that? We have a special vault where we file potential adventures on public lands that don’t require a permit for overnight backcountry trips. We really enjoy the spontaneity of letting a trip play out as it goes sometimes, both personally and to produce our work. A lot of the designated ‘must use’ camps in the backcountry are selected for their ability to stand up to user impact, not how photogenic they are (Wonderland Trail I’m looking at you).
The outdoor brands that we work with rely on us for many of the locations or trips we shoot for them. We were at a meeting with the creative team at Gregory Mountain Products when the discussion turned to options for a spring backpacking shoot. That’s when it’s nice to have an out of the way canyon hike in the back pocket. After showing the client some details on The Barracks and how it would play out in the shoot plan, it was given the green light. Another thing we like about lesser know areas is that they are usually easier to secure a commercial filming permit. A ‘backcountry permit’ is what you and your friends need for a personal backpacking trip. A ‘commercial filming permit’ is sometimes required for producing our work. We contacted the BLM office in Kanab, Utah and inquired about the permit: couple hundred dollars and could have it next week. The same permit for Zion National Park could run a grand and require three-months notice.
Of course just plain ‘easy’ doesn’t cut it in our business. A location or trip has to produce, which The Barracks did without a hitch. The three-day trek through the canyon is mostly in the Virgin River, which prompted numerous good natured water fights. One section requiring wading waist-deep with packs above our heads. This after scrambling under an enormous pile of boulders blocking our way. Camps where on sandy shelves up above the river and sitting out at night was absolutely sublime. The crew (two talent and an art director) worked together to keep a good vibe going through it all. Even when the biting flies came out or the sand made their feet sore. The trip produced a good amount of signature work for Gregory that has been used online and in their print advertising. It also produced some memorable stories, like when we came across the jeep hopeless stuck in the sand waayyy off the road. The five of us put our back into it and pushed him free. It quickly became obvious that his passengers were actually ‘clients’ and he was operating a tour. With out a jack, shovel or tow rope. I bet he didn’t have a permit either.