Escape to Utah: Journal entries from a constant wanderer

Travel and destination photographer T.J. Drechsel, a Wilmington resident, just returned from Park City, Utah where he brought in the New Year alongside a few celebrities from Dancing With The Stars.

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The Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, the headquarters of the Mormon Religion. (Photos courtesy T.J. Drechsel)
The Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, the headquarters of the Mormon Religion. (Photos courtesy T.J. Drechsel)

It was his fifth visit to the Rocky Mountains, but once again, T.J. Drechsel was reminded why that spectacular view from the airplane window never gets old.

“When you cross the plains in Kansas and start flying into Colorado, the contrast in landscape is just beautiful,” said Drechsel, a travel and destination photographer from Wilmington, who spent this past New Year’s Eve weekend in Utah.

“I told my friends out there that Wilmington is a very nice place to live. But we have hills. They definitely have mountains.”

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The Rockies stretch more than 3,000 miles from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, all the way to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States. The highest elevation in the mountain range is 14,440 feet at Mount Elbert in Colorado.

About 400 miles west of Mount Elbert, Drechsel spent four days in and around Salt Lake City, Utah. During the final day of 2016, he hit the slopes at nearby Park City, Utah.

Drechsel, an avid snowboarder, said he fine-tuned his mountain skills a few months earlier while wakeboarding in Wilmington.

“It’s the same movement but I’m not used to those huge mountains out there so I had to be careful,” Drechsel said. “Especially at my age. I didn’t want to break any bones. Just came away with a few bumps and bruises, which was expected.”

He said the conditions on the mountain were ideal with plenty of fresh snow and limited ice. Because of the holiday weekend, however, the ski lifts were busy.

“The slopes were slammed but I was still able to have fun,” Drechsel said.

“There is Park City, which is where I was but then they have all these connecting canyons. It really is the best place in all of Utah to snowboard or ski. I would say it’s up there with Vail, Breckenridge and all the other spots in Colorado that everyone talks about.”

And like any successful traveler, Drechsel was able to mix a little business with pleasure.

The Hough family in Park City, Utah. (Photos courtesy T.J. Drechsel)
The Hough family in Park City, Utah. (Photos courtesy T.J. Drechsel)

Through a mutual friend, he was introduced to Julianne and Derek Hough, the brother-sister celebrity duo from the television show “Dancing With The Stars.” The Houghs, who are from Utah, were also in Park City and Drechsel was in charge of shooting a family portrait.

“They are pretty down-to-Earth Hollywood people,” said Drechsel, who took photos of the family outdoors in multiple locations with the snowy Utah mountains in the backdrop.

“There was Julianne, Derek, their mother and three sisters. It was the first time they had all been together in a really long time and I had my camera with me so the whole photo shoot came together organically.”

As a dancer, Julianne Hough won “Dancing With The Stars” twice before she became a judge in 2014 while Derek Hough has won the show six times.

So did Drechsel finally ditch that snowboard and ask for some dance lessons in the snow?

“I didn’t ask, but I am sure they would have,” he said. “I don’t know. Snowboarding in the Rockies can be dangerous but it’s probably nothing compared to dancing the tango.”

T.J. Drechsel, owner of Drechsel Photography, is a travel and destination photographer and has called Wilmington home for the past 12 years. He was born in Idaho, raised in Missouri and went to college in Michigan. He can be reached at tdrechsel@gmail.com

Salt Lake City with the mountains in the background. (Photos courtesy T.J. Drechsel)
Salt Lake City with the mountains in the background. (Photos courtesy T.J. Drechsel)
The Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, the headquarters of the Mormon Religion.
The Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, the headquarters of the Mormon Religion.
The Capitol building in Salt Lake City.
The Capitol building in Salt Lake City.
The Capitol building in Salt Lake City.
The Capitol building in Salt Lake City.
Main Street in Park City, where the Sundance Film Festival is held.
Main Street in Park City, where the Sundance Film Festival is held.
A mountain in Park City, Utah.
A mountain in Park City, Utah.
The Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, the headquarters of the Mormon Religion.
The Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, the headquarters of the Mormon Religion.
The Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.
The Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.
Derek Hough, from Dancing With The Stars.
Derek Hough, from Dancing With The Stars.
Flying over the Rocky Mountains.
Flying over the Rocky Mountains.
Flying over the Rocky Mountains.
Flying over the Rocky Mountains.
Hitting the slopes in Park City, Utah.
Hitting the slopes in Park City, Utah.

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(Photos courtesy T.J. Drechsel)
(Photos courtesy T.J. Drechsel)

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