Milky Way and Snag, Grand Canyon
Simply stated, this trip was my best excursion out west I have ever taken. I’m not exactly sure what was the cause behind it, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with the interaction I had with others instead of the usual solitary existence that I’ve experienced in the past. Was it the fact that I had plenty of time and did not feel under any pressure to get in as much photography as possible in the limited amount of time I usually take on a trip like this, or just circumstances that fell into place through sheer luck?
Final Sunrise at Shoshone Point
Day 28 – 10/21/14 Tuesday
Got up around 430 am, a bit earlier than the alarm was set for, but figured I would leisurely get ready for my final hike of the trip to Shoshone Point. This is a place in the Grand Canyon that does not have any paved roads to it, is generally not known about and is used by permit only generally for weddings so it gets only rare visitation. My goal was to hike the dirt road that is protected by a locked gate and arrive by sunrise. My only concern was the sign along the road just before I parked that warned of mountain lions for the next ten miles!
Day 27 – 10/20/14 Monday
Today I’m starting with the day’s end which since it is the last full day of this adventure before heading back to Phoenix, what better way to end it than by having dinner at the El Tovar Hotel in the Grand Canyon. My only wish is that instead of typing this alone in the dining room, I am chatting with my wife and we are both enjoying this meal together. After so many cans of tuna, freeze dried meals, trail mix and McDonald’s Happy Meals, I wanted the last memory of the trip to be something special, and I’m sure it will be.
Afternoon Light at Mojave Point, Grand Canyon, AZ
A Slot in Antelope Canyon, AZ
Day 26 – 10/19/14 Sunday
Last night, while I was at McDonald’s charging up my camera battery, a German guy told me he would let me know when it was charged since I wasn’t sitting near it. He even brought it over to me when it was done! The only reason I mention it is because I ran into him twice today at two different spots. I saw him in Antelope Canyon and again in the parking lot later, and after that I saw him at Horseshoe Bend, a completely different location! We did talk a while, but I needed to get on the road to make sure I made it to the Grand Canyon by sunset.
Balanced Rock near Lee’s Ferry
Day 25 – 10/18/14 Saturday
I had all of Cape Royal to myself last night being the only human possibly on the roadway all the way from the village. I was thrilled by the little flicker of color in the sunset, but since the sky was basically filled with clouds, I thought it might be a real stretch for a good sunrise. I woke up when the moon started shining into the car onto my face and surprisingly saw some stars, but still felt it was a stretch. Got up an hour early since I was still on Utah time, so 6am was really 5am. When I finally did get out of the car, I could see a line of clouds on the eastern horizon and figured I was right about the sunrise. But I wandered over to the end of the trail by Angel’s Window to nail down where I wanted to set up and all of a sudden the eastern clouds lit up pink, so I quickly put on the 70-200 and zoomed in on the color with a few ridges. Then just as quickly, it was gone. I used the time to run over to The Cape Royal side and saw there was an open white (limestone?) rock on the eastern side with some interesting levels to catch the light when it came out from behind the clouds. It turned out to be a wonderful sunrise with plenty of clouds and great foreground and huge buttes and the south rim so close in the distance with mountains even further away!! Just amazing, and I’m there all alone!! Then I run over to the western side and more great things looking west with all the ridges of the south rim lit with shadows behind going off seemingly forever. I could even take advantage of the haze looking east into the sun and more amazing things. It was one of the best sunrises I’ve experienced and all with the solitude I crave. Just otherworldly.
Then a German couple showed up after all was done and I took a shot of them looking west into the canyon and I had the wife point into the scene and they looked almost microscopic. Actual people in a photo.
It’s amazing what can happen when decisions work out. After all the negativity during yesterday’s drive, it still worked out. However, I can’t say too much about my decision to hike Cathedral Wash near Lee’s Ferry though. After making my final camp food, I lounged near the Colorado River at Paria Beach and waited for the sun to go down a bit so there would be more shadow in the canyon, I started the hike and almost immediately came to a problem for continuing down. The hike was difficult to figure out how to proceed because of the steep sides and pour-offs, so it was almost like a puzzle. I met two young families facing the same problems and we attacked it together, but finally I decided to turn around and head back; it was too much work for too little photos. I did manage one of some of the strangely colored turquoise rocks with some rabbitbrush, but mainly nothing.
I then headed toward Page to get to Horseshoe Bend by sunset and figured I would get there within the two hours I had before sunset. Wrong!! I wasn’t even close, and the sad thing was that the sky was spectacular, and I wasn’t anywhere to take advantage of it. So I just pulled over to the side of the highway and just took pictures of the sky itself. Just beautiful. Finally got to Page, and stopped in at Walmart for water and cookies (a final treat) and next door to McDonald’s to get internet and charge my camera battery and food. I found out I could stay at Walmart tonight, but they close at midnight (then no bathroom) or the original plan was to go to Lone Rock and be at a place that might be a decent sunrise spot, without trying to find Stud Horse Point in the dark tomorrow morning. We’ll see where I end up.
Making Lunch by the Colorado River
Sunrise from Cape Royal, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Day 24 – 10/17/14 Friday
Ended up staying in the Zion Visitor Center parking lot, which is shopping mall huge, and had no problems. Woke up around 3am to the sound of wind and again around 6am because the moon had risen and was filtered through the tree limbs overhead and so was intermittent with the wind, shining on my face.
Valley of Fire State Park, NV
Day 23 – 10/16/14 Thursday
Woke up with the alarm this morning and headed towards the Elephant Arch since that was the only place the ranger suggested yesterday I go for sunrise. When I headed out that way as the sky was just lightening, I really felt that this was not the place for a sunrise. So I headed toward the parking lot near Gibralter Rock because it is one of the highest places in Valley of Fire and felt if I climbed one of the ridges, the light would hit and I could look south into the heart of the park as the sunlight worked its way down the rocks. When I got to the top, I had a few extra minutes after setting up to look for a good foreground to lead toward the major rock face in the area the would light up when the sun finally rose over the eastern ridges. And then it did and I got some decent shots. I then moved down the ridge quickly to a spot I noticed on the way up that had some pretty neat flat round rocks that were good for foreground as well, just not as high up the ridge. One more spot further down and I called it a morning and headed over to the campground to get a shower which was pretty nice.
The Fire Wave – Valley of Fire State Park, NV
Day 22 – 10/15/14 Wednesday
Today was all about indecision. It began a bit differently in that I didn’t try to get anywhere for sunrise since I was staying in Cedar City and not really near somewhere I wanted to get to for sunrise. But when I left the hotel, I felt I might have missed a decent one because there were clouds around and they may have lit up a bit. I was still undecided on whether to go to Zion or directly to Valley of Fire in Nevada since all indications were that there were clouds in the forecast today and tomorrow and Valley of Fire was more about long views for good skies.
Factory Butte ah Sunrise
Day 20 – 10/13/14 Monday
Couldn’t sleep much past 330am last night even though I was in a nice place along Hole in the Rock Road. I guess it was because I was very undecided on what to do in the morning. I wanted to drive to Dance Hall Rock about 37 miles down this dirt road for a shot of giant potholes atop massive stone outcrops with cottonwood trees growing inside the holes, but thought it was a long run for just one shot and I had to find them even though I had some directions, but searching would be just as it began to get light out; and what if I didn’t find them, it would be a total bust.