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.
As windless as it was when I finished with the Milky Way shots last night, this morning was just the opposite, loads of wind. So any idea of hiking the Narrows was pretty much out of the question. I don’t need a wind chill factor added to the hypothermia threat of hiking in pretty darn cold water all day. While I was still in the parking lot, by 630am people were starting to drive in, catching the shuttles. I figured that many might be heading to the Natural History Museum because I read that is where the sun first hits some of the major peaks in the park. So I figured since I didn’t have anything in mind (I don’t think Zion is noted for sunrise shots) I figured I would go check it out and see how big the crowd was. Turned out it was pretty big, but nothing like Mesa Arch in Canyonlands. And the shot was so dull that I considered not even taking a shot; there weren’t even any clouds that might light up. But I took one anyway, and when the sun did begin to light the peaks, the light only lasted for a few seconds, the sun must have been hidden by a cloud. There was not much else to do, so I headed out of the park, but did stop for a while to photograph another section of Pine Creek Canyon in the high country since I discovered that there was absolutely no wind up there as opposed to down in the valley. I found some more trees that had leaves that had turned and a few more abstracts and had a tough time tearing myself away to begin the trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. You can just keep wandering along in the canyon and you will continually find things to photograph; not everything will be great, but I must have not shot things that I set up for as many times as I actually did trip the shutter.
So, decision one today was to skip the Virgin Narrows and go on to the Canyon for a sunset/sunrise overnight. That sounded good until I got to Kanab. During the drive there, the sky got continually more cloudy and I became concerned about sunset/sunrise conditions because it is a long drive that you have to double back on to go to the Canyon, and I have to try to take into consideration the fact that Route 89 is out between Page and the Bridge over the Colorado, so figure on 50-70 miles extra to get around the detour. Unfortunately, I have plans to do things on either side of the spot and it will automatically add those miles to do them. Anyway, I stopped in Kanab because I had a strong desire for a big late breakfast and I remembered a diner in town, so I kept my eyes peeled for it until I saw what I thought was the spot and it looked completely abandoned…glass out of the windows and nothing inside. Then I spotted another place and I figured I’d stop in and check the weather and I could use some real coffee. Unfortunately, they just shut down the grill for breakfast, so no eggs, etc. Instead, since they said they were a bakery too, I figured I’d try a scone with the coffee. It was absolutely the worst scone I have ever had in my life!! On top of that, it didn’t look promising for today or tomorrow (cloudy), and the local paper front page headlines says that the North Rim is now only open for day use only until Dec 1st; they’re getting ready to shut down for the season. So much for camping there. So, now what do I do?
I decide I will drive toward Lee’s Ferry (part of the south rim of the Grand Canyon) to hike that short 1-1/2mile canyon that leads to the Colorado in the afternoon. But something pushed me to the North Rim anyway as I drove, changing my original decision twice. I figured I wanted to see the canyon rain or shine.
The sky, although cloudy all day was really interesting, not just total overcast. I even stopped to photograph some of the devistation from forest fires about ten years ago with the dramatic clouds in the sky. The damage from the fire went on for miles and miles; quite a sight. And since it was cloudy, I was able to take some aspen shots along the way as well, so it wasn’t a total bust. I checked Point Imperial and then headed to Cape Royal (with Angel’s Window) and decided to take a gamble on the sunset since there seemed to be a sliver of partly clear sky right at the horizon all day. At Cape Royal, I found a great spot just off the trail to the right of an info sign about fern bush, one of the bushes that grow there and had a perfect perch to watch the sunset. I sat there away from the crowds for almost an hour until miraculously, the sun did peak out for a minute just as it hit the horizon, but the angle was such that it didn’t light up much of the buttes and inner canyons. But the sky did turn pink a bit and I changed to the 70-200 for some tighter shots as the pink sky was only a sliver. But I guess it was better than nothing and I had the added bonus of making some more aspen blurs today; this time white trunk blurs surrounding a center oval of yellow blurred leaves.
Now I’m hoping that tomorrow’s sunrise will also have a bit of sunlight with plenty of clouds to turn color again. I guess that might be too much to ask for, but I can always pray for continued luck. Another staple dinner tonight: more tuna, more crackers and more canned fruit.