“Hey would it be stupid to try to remake that picture in my office from when I was a kid?”

“No! That sounds really fun!” – It was.  A LOT of fun!

If you’ve been by my house any time in the last 25 years, you’ve likely seen the image above on the left, either hanging in my room or office.  I took it on a family vacation to Utah with my film camera, a Canon F-1, given to me by a long time family friend, Roger Givens.  Well, on Holly’s and my recent trip to Utah, I hatched a plan to recreate it.  Not in a cheesy, let me see if I can dress up and look just like I did 25 years ago kind of way, but in a “this is me now” kind of way.  Honestly, I had no idea how fun this would be.

Let’s start at the start.  In the Summer of ’96 (it actually might have been ’97, we’re not 100% sure now), my dad had a meeting in Utah to attend for work and my mom and I tagged along.  We made a little road trip out of it, driving up to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone before returning home.  Dad’s meetings were in Ogden, so we ended up exploring around there a bit.  None of us remembers if we had spotted this particular trail while driving up Ogden Canyon, or if someone had suggested it, but in any case the three of us went for a hike.  As the hike progressed, I had decided that I wanted to go on further to see if I couldn’t find a nice spot for sunset, but mom and dad (who at the time were 4 – 5 years older than I am now) decided to turn back.  From the trail we could see a parking lot at the end of a street that looked to go all the way in to town, so we agreed that they could figure out where that was and we’d meet there after sunset (the grid layout of the streets in Utah make such a proposition pretty straight-forward, as crazy as it sounds now, with none of us actually having a map).  They turned back, and I carried on, assuming I’d be able to figure out a way to get to that parking lot from the mountainside.

After about another mile or so, I came upon an awesome clearing at the top of some cliffs overlooking the city.  No need to go further, this was a great spot.  From my perch I could clearly see the agreed upon rendezvous spot, and I could see that there were multiple trails to get me there.  Nothing to do now but hang out and wait for the sun to set.  I found a big rock to hide in the shadow of, and I waited.

Unbeknownst to me, as I was chilling on the cliff top, mom and dad had gotten lost trying to find their way back.  At one point on the trail they could see their car, but couldn’t see how to get there, so they just went down the mountain.  To hear mom and dad tell it, it was quite the harrowing adventure, involving lots of sliding on their butts down a rocky embankment until they finally made it to the car. While Holly and I were there, I tried to find the spot where they had parked, but there were multiple locations it could have been (I was never able to work out what trail we had started on), and all of them would have been nuts to try to just slide down the mountain to! LOL  Frankly, after having hiked the trail we did, I’m even more impressed now, because that mountain was TOUGH!  Oh to be 19 again!

(story continues below)

Mom and Dad on the trail – 1996(ish)

In the time since that day, many of the details of my day had escaped me.  I remember setting up the shot of myself, and I remember the excitement of getting the film back once we got home to discover that it had turned out good.  I couldn’t remember though, what exactly the view from where I stood looked like.  Why didn’t I take any pictures of that?  Did I actually stay until sunset?  (After Holly and I hiked down in the dusk light, that seemed unlikely to me because it was not an easy hike down, and it was almost 2 miles).  What did the area around me, outside of the frame look like?  I couldn’t remember.

Lots of missing details, BUT, I knew it was in Ogden, and I knew a trailhead started from a parking lot at the end of a long straight street.

After digging around on Google Earth, I was able to piece together that the street was probably 22nd street, which had a trailhead right at the end of it.  Thanks to AllTrails, I spotted a trail that left from that parking lot and had pictures of what looked like a similar view to my picture.  Holly and I drove to that parking lot, and yep, there were cliffs up there.  After inspecting further it looked as though the trail passed right by the tops of those cliffs… that HAD to be it!  I checked the weather and we decided to do it the following evening.

AllTrails lists the Hidden Valley Trail as being 4.9 miles and hard.  After having hiked some other trails that the app listed as moderate, I was inclined to believe we were in for a rough go.  I was not wrong.  The trails was steep and rocky, and honestly none of it rang a bell.  We actually missed a turn, adding probably a half mile to our journey.  Several spots along the trail had had rock slides, leaving only a thin trace of where to go and a whole lot of sketchiness.  I wasn’t even 100% sure we were in the right place, and we were both getting gassed.

When we finally reached the clearing I had spotted on the map, we turned off trail and headed towards the cliff.  Was this it?  Doesn’t quite look how I remember it.  Hmmm… that’s definitely the view in my picture. Oh! And there’s the rock I was leaning on!

Holly and ended up messing around with the shot for a few minutes, but after standing in the spot where I was, I looked around and there was an obvious spot I would have put my tripod.  We checked the original picture and I zoomed in to what looked like the correct aspects, and glancing down I realized I had landed on 50mm – yep, that’s exactly what I would have been shooting with on my film camera!  We didn’t have the strong side-lighting of the original, but we did have some color in the sky – mostly from lingering smoke of the California and Nevada wild fires – and we had wind.  Lots and lots of VERY heavy wind!  Well, close enough! LOL  We also had the ability to see how the whole thing was turning out, without waiting several weeks to get the film back, and we had time to work out the shot.

What we got, was a snapshot of life, 25 years later.

Since setting up this shot I’ve had several occasions to sit and think about how life has changed in the time since that original photo. At the time I was working as a seasonal park ranger for the Tennessee State Park Service.  I decided that wasn’t for me and tried my hand at a few other things before landing in technology.  I met and married my lovely wife Holly, who I’ve been married to for 18 years now.  We’ve walked through college degrees, job changes, infertility, cancer.  We traveled all over the world.  Bought a farm and built a house.  We’ve watched nieces and nephews grow from being babies to young adults, and we’re now almost the age our parents were back then.  I remember the guy in that old photo, but I’m quite different now.  The path from him to me isn’t one I could have ever guessed, BUT, I’d do it all again to be here now.


Hey I hope you enjoyed this as much as we did.  After getting home I actually started digging through some old photos and negatives, trying to find originals to scan for the site.  In the process I found that I did in fact take a picture of my view.  I did stay for sunset.  And I have no idea how I made it down in the dark.  🙂  Keep scrolling for some more pictures.

More next week!

–Dan Thompson

Title Address Description
Hidden Valley Trail
22nd Street Trailhead, 1898 22nd St, Ogden, UT 84401, USA

My view for sunset – 1996(ish)

It was a good one too!

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