Just before sunset, I reached the Flat Tops, a series of isolated buttes in the remote Burr Desert of Southeast Utah.

I drove around on the dusty dirt roads for a while, searching for someplace to get out of the wind that was still howling. At one point, I had to cross some tiny sand dunes that had spilled across the road and that had my tires spinning for a bit.

I found a tiny pass between two buttes that looked scenic, so I opted to bed down there for the night.

But that scenic topography actually served to channel and intensify the wind, so putting up the tent alone was a real challenge, as in the tent’s fabric was flapping and buzzing like some Tibetan prayer flags in Everest’s base camp!

Little Flat Top photo

As if on cue, the winds died down right at 8 p.m., exactly when the National Weather Service’s high-wind advisory expired.

The night remained partly cloudy and a little breezy, so it wasn’t ideal for astrophotography. That wind had kicked up a lot of dust that was now suspended between me and the stars. Nevertheless, I snapped a few photos like the one below before crashing for the night.

Little Flat Top photo

I’d driven the entire day from Denver and had already spent a few hours hiking around Goblin Valley State Park, so I slept like a log.

The next morning dawned clear and windless. It had been chilly at night, but as soon as the sun hit my tent, it turned my sleeping bag into a sauna.

Little Flat Top drone flights

I was excited the wind was no more and it was great weather for flying my drone around the Little Flat Top butte that I had camped beside.

As a side hustle, I sell my drone footage (and other stock video) through a variety of websites, including Adobe Stock and Pond5, so one of the goals of this road trip was to collect some new raw material. Here’s a sample of the footage I shot of Little Flat Top:

It was a fun, easy place to fly: no worries about wind, trees, radio interference, other aircraft, or any obstructions other than the big ass butte standing in front of me.

Little Flat Top photo

The bird’s-eye view of a drone has upped my appreciation for the power—and beauty—of erosion. You get a novel view of the impact of gravity, water, wind, and other forces when you’re looking down on a landscape.

I can only go 400 feet above the ground with my drone, due to FAA regulations. From a commercial airliner, you gain similarly insightful vantage points on the forces at work over vast geographies and time scales.

As with my previous stop, Goblin Valley State Park, I would’ve been happy to spend even more time at Little Flat Top, but I was excited to head off to my next destination, an overlook beside the Dirty Devil River . . .

This post is part of a series on my May 2018 trip to Southeast Utah. Check out the rest:

Mitch Tobin

Mitch Tobin is an author, multimedia journalist, and FAA-certified drone pilot based in Durango, Colorado.