Last summer I went with David Aleksandrowicz for a photo trip to Yellowstone. This year David was busy traveling around the Europe so I decided to go for a two weeks trip to Utah and Arizona visiting the landmarks and national parks there. Those two states have some amazing nature wonders like Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, The Arches National Park, Antelope Canyon and of course Grand Canyon just to name few.
I started my trip on Sunday, July 6th at sleepy town of Kingman, Arizona located 150 km south-east from Las Vegas. I decided to start from Kingman as it is relatively conveniently located only one hour of drive from Vegas and it is a home for famous rocks’ murals.
I made it to Kingman from San Francisco - little over 1000 km - in about 9 hours. Not to shabby considering there was a traffic on highway 5 down LA (surprise, surprise) and I had few stops along the way.
The town itself is really composed of two towns. During 50s and 60s Kingman was tourist attraction and was living off the traffic along the famous Route 66. The golden era has ended around 1980 when the last part of Interstate highway I-40 was finished. That took all the traffic of the route 66 and money generated by it rendering Kingman somehow obsolete.
South part of the town quickly become relict of the past. The new part of the city grew north of the interstate highway I-40. It does not present a particular photographic oportunities.
The time in south Kingman stopped in year 1960. Motels and diners painted in bright pink, red and blues with photos of Marilyn Monroe and King Elvis hanging on the walls are now weird tourist attraction looking more like an exhibit in curiosity museum than a real places.
One thing that is hart to pass by unnoticed are old water towers with huge Route 66 logo:
Few minutes drive on north towards Vegas, right off route 93, lies Chloride. A home of some art and antique shops and famous rock murals. To get to the murals I drove Tennessee Avenue all the way to Murals Road. Then I took right into Murals Road and followed along it for the next 10 minutes climbing up the mountain. It’s a dirt road and 4x4 cars are recommended but honestly I had no issue getting there with Mini Cooper S which means that unless you have some sport cart with very low clearance you will be able to make it.
Murals looked interesting but unfortunately I was too late for great sunrise light.
My next stop was Zion. It is 400 km north-east from Kingman. You have to count 4-5 hours to get there depending on the traffic around Vegas.
I was in Zion two years ago with David. Back then we did Angel's Landing hike which is hands down best one in Zion. It's pretty steep at times and challenging in the end but it overlooks whole valley…it’s worth the sweat.
This time I wanted to do less intense hike and I was hoping I could ride my bike as well. I parked car on big parking lot by the visitor center right after entrance gates to the park. There is a shuttle bus that will drive you up to the end of the park. There are couple trials along the shuttle route. Emerald Pool is a short one while Zion Narrows that starts on the last bus stop at Temple of Sinawava is a longer one. I decided on Narrows. I loaded my bike on the shuttle rack jumped inside and after 20 minutes of ride I landed at Temple of Sinawava.
As you can see the weather in Zion was horrible. All the time it looked like it was about to start raining in 10 minutes.
Narrows are fun but be prepared to get wet. Since you are pretty much walking all the time in the water up to your knees going upstream, you are risking of destroying your shoes and any equipment you drag with you. I highly recommend renting special shoes from the shop next to visitor center. I made a mistake of going in my own shoes. By thew way if you don’t have a good hiking shoes it’s very easy to slip on the rocks a get wet. Thus make sure you have your camera in a backpack that will not let the water in immediately.
I saw few people in front of me slipping and falling into the river. One guy submerged with his DSLR…ups.
Since it was cloudy I walked upstream only for 30 minutes took a shot and decided to come back.
Wet and kind of discouraged by the weather I jumped on the bike and rolled down back to visitor center. It was very enjoyable ride, especially for the fact it was going down :) The views of the Zion canyon were nothing short of spectacular. In the end the main road diverged and I took right towards Pa'rus Trail. That is a nice shortcut that allowed me to bypass busier road and end up by bus shuttle and visitor center.
Next morning I woke up at 5am to get to Pa’rus trial before the sunrise to shoot Courts of Patriarch. The weather was not cooperating. The sky was overcast and after over an hour of waiting and disappointment I got nothing.
Tired and hungry I was in desperate need of food. Luckily this time for me I found a cool place right outside park entrance called Cafe Solei. Literally in walking distance. After decent breakfast burrito and good cup of hot coffee I continued my trip to Bryce.
Bryce Canyon is only 170 km from Zion and in the beginning it’s a nice ride through mountains then it flattens out and becomes more rural and kind of boring. My boredom was interrupted by picturesque Piute Reservoir that unfolded on my right. I stopped there for a short break
Eventually I arrived to Bryce in early afternoon. I couldn’t find any place to stay in park. However I found very nice and quite motel in Tropic which is within 10-20 minutes driving from park entrance. Not ideal but Bryce is busy park and you should plan few weeks in advance if you want to get a spot inside park…which I did not.
Bryce is most spectacular at sunrise and sunset....but that's of course true of most of places. However in case of Bryce warmth light just renders canyon’s sandstone especially attractive. All the reds and oranges are glowing in front of your eyes.
Since I had plenty of time to kill waiting for good lighting I decided to drive along the main road to the end of the park. There are many vista points along the way. At the final stop there was a parking lot and few shaded benches. I went for a shor hike along the ridge.
For sunset I installed myself in one of the vista points correctly named…Sunset Point. As you can imagine I was not alone there. Waiting for sunset there was a bunch of photographers with tripods. I joined the crowd to claim one of few still available spots. We were waiting for the perfect sunset light…and waiting and waiting and to our uttermost disappointed the sun never fully broke through the clouds. Only few rays of light has escaped unblocked by nasty clouds letting some lights pour into the canyon.
Next morning I woke up around 4:30am to get to…you guessed correctly…the Sunrise Point. Even though it was so early the spot was occupied by few hardcore photographers like myself. Soon more people started to come and by 6am the crowd flood the place. By the time the sun was about to show from behind the horizon the spot was so crowded that almost impossible to take a shot with wide angle lens without catching somebody in a frame.
Following a rule of thumb that says where there is a lot of crowd most likely it is not the place to be, to huge surprise of many I packed my tripod and left without taking a single shot. Surely two minutes of walk from the Sunrise point I spotted a great opening exposing gorgeous view of the canyon with dead tree trunk in foreground. As if somebody just meticulously arranged the scene for me. What a win compared to Sunrise point.
Half an hour later when the sun was way above a horizon and everybody decided to pack the cameras and head for a breakfast I decided to do the opposite. I put the camera on the tripod and got this dramatic shoot
Happy with the shots from the morning I scouted for some breakfast place. I found one in Tropic. To my surprise the place was packed with tourists. What didn’t surprise me was the quality of food. I set the bar low considering location yet kitchen was able to beat that. I ended up with some greasy, not fully cooked, hash browns and two over easy eggs and a salad of questionable freshness. Being on vacations and not being in the mood of arguing with waiter I eat the only edible things - eggs - and left. After this healthy start of the day I took off for Arches National Park in Utah.
This was my first time in The Arches. Drive from Bryce to Arches was a long one. It’s 400 km and little over 5 hours of drive. I was driving in the middle of the day and it was brutal. Temperatures were north of 40 Celsius degrees with no cloud on the horizon and sun just melting the road. What sugar coated the drive were one of the most magnificent vistas I had ever had a chance to experience in my life. Open spaces of high deserts were so immersive that in many places I just stopped to enjoy the view for few minutes.
By the time I get to Arches there it was 4pm. I had a place in hotel in Moab which is just 10 minutes of drive south of Arches entrance. Moab is the only place to stay if you want to visit The Arches. I quickly checked in, took a cold shower to cool down body and wake up brain, already shutting itself off to prevent overheating, packed my photo gear and took off for Arches.
From the park entrance to my first point of interest - Balanced Rock - there is a good 20 km of driving. Yes, this park is quite big. Be prepared for a lot of driving to get from one point to the next one.
It is pretty interesting formation but not really something that would blow my mind and the view from this point is also kind of limited.
From there I drove to Fierce Furnace to observe storm in the far distance. Even though it was good 20 km away the rain was pouring so heavily that you could see streaks of water coming down from the heavy clouds.
After half an hour or so the the clouds dispersed. Around 7pm with sun much lower on the sky and temperatures much more tolerable I took a hike to Delicate Arch. Probably the most spectacular arch formation in the park. After relatively easy 30 min climb I arrived at the destination. Bunch of people have already been hanging around there waiting for the sunset. Most of the crowd was sitting facing the front of the arch. I decided to join few outcasts gathering further down on the left of the arch. I got a great spot where I could comfortably sit on the angled rock bottom. The viewpoint there was much better than.
The sunset didn’t pan out as heavy clouds starts gathering again but I got few decent shots right before sunset.
As it started to get dark I packed my toys and head back to parking lot. By the time I made it half way back the sky was dark and covered with heavy rain clouds. In far distance first lightings tore the sky illuminating whole park. Few seconds later a sound of loud thunder roared the valley. Within 5 minutes the storm was in full swing. The lightings were happening every minute or less.
I installed my tripod in the darkness, hooked up remote to the camera set in bulb mode and opened the shutter for 3 minutes to get this dramatic shot.
Soon the wind started blowing. From a light breeze it turned into strong gust bringing first rain drops. It was a high time to pack the bags. The race with time has started as I knew I had only few minutes before the storm will reach me.
I almost run down the trail in total darkness. There were dozens of people walking the same direction but there were some fools going opposite?! Not sure what were they hoping to see other than pitch black of nothingness there. You couldn’t see a star or a moon through the clouds. The smell of rain was in the air closer and closer with every minute. Maybe getting hit by the lighting in the open space sounded like interesting proposition for those folks? Hard to tell. The “best” part was it looked like they were organized group of school kids led by their guardian.
In a rush I reached car, dropped the backpack on front sit and literally by the time I started the engine the rain started pouring down. I got of the parking lot to the road along with others rushing out of park. Lightings have grown and became more frequent and the thunder louder and louder. Within minutes the wall of rain was so thick that driving was almost impossible. The wipers at highest speed couldn’t keep up with the amount of water hitting the windshield. Afraid of the road flooding I kept driving but it was more of a turtle crawl.
Storm in the high desert it is one of a kind experience. Mightiness of the nature’s forces in full swing. That was rough night but the rain cleared the air a bit and cooled the temperature allowing for much nicer sleep without the need for air conditioning.
Next morning I got up again at 4am to make sure I can be by the sunrise at Fiery Furnace viewpoint. I spotted this place the day before and it had a great overlook of massive valley cutting the park plains.
Morning was quiet and warmth and surprisingly dry. Even though the storm was going for few hours the night before you could hardly tell there was any rain happening, clouds were the only reminiscence of the storm.
Unlike in Bryce there was not a single soul on the road to the park neither on the Fiery Furnace viewpoint. I guess the crowd was too lazy to get up earlier and drive for 45 min to get to the park.
Clouds were not a good sign I thought it would be the same crappy shot as in Zion. I was so wrong. By the time I setup tripod and camera a spectacular scene started unfolding in front of my eyes. The backlit rocks with clouds liten from beneath started looking like a real furnace.
At the same time clouds on the sky behind me started glowing with pink tint. I knew the time has come. The time right before sunrise that lasts only few moments and then is gone forever. I had to work quickly to recompose to capture fleeting moment.
Five minutes later the sun flooded the valley with the harsh light destroying the mood. I drove back towards park exit. Stopped by at Park Avenue Trailhead for a short hike. After 30 minutes of exercising I came back to hotel to get a shower and find some breakfast place.
Moab town is great for chilling out and all sort of outdoor activities like mountain-biking, quads, parachuting, bungee jumping, kayaking, river rafting, etc. If you plan to go there probably renting some quad or atvs and going into the region of Slickrock park would be cool adventure.
If you are spoiled by getting used to nutritious but light on stomach breakfast from places in the SF then the best place for breakfast in Moab is Love Muffin Caffe. I had a very tasty white egg omelet stuffed with spinach and served with the side of a corn bread. And let me tell you something. Even though I am normally not a big fan of corn bread this thing was phenomenal. Soft inside, crisp outside, full of flavor. I have never tasted corn bread so good.
Other breakfast places are typical stuff with greasy pancakes with maple syrup and sausages :D
After breakfast it was time to give a spin to my Cannondale. I drove to Sand Flats Road to Slickrock. Slickrock is…not slick at all but it rocks. It is a crazy mountain bike trail that i mainly singletrack. It winds up and down through sandstone formation called slickrock. It is like sandpaper. The grip your tires get there is just insane. You can pretty much climb any hill up to the point where law of physics would force to either step of the bike or risking backflip.
I got there at 7:30 am and sadly I was late. But I learned this later. When I started the ride the temperature was already around 23 Celsius degrees which I thought was nice. By the time I reached 1/3 of the trail it reached 28 Celsius degrees! Not so nice anymore. I didn’t want to risk hyperthermia and dehydration and I decided to turn back. When I checked temperature on a parking lot, while putting bike back on roof rack, it showed 30 Celsius degrees.
Riding with Cannondale Lefty was just sick. When I looked at the one arm fork I thought “is this thing not going to break”. My lefty got a good bitting there. I bottomed it few times but this thing is stiff and at the same time so smooth that it gives you confidence to get you through any whole or rock no matter how dip or big.
After three fun days in Moab it was time to cross the state border again this time from Utah back to Arizona. I was going to Page.
Driving from Moab to Page was another 400 km of mainly great open spaces. I started in the morning and arrived to Page after 3pm. It’s solid 5 to 6 hours of driving. Be warned though, there is absolutely nothing along the way. There might be two small towns in a stretch of 200 hundred or so kilometers.
Page is very much unappreciated town but it has a lot to offer. It is a home of Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, Navajo Dam, Horseshoe Bent and probably the most serious BBQ I've ever seen.
Horseshoe bent is this remarkable nature formation where Colorado river has carved U-shaped canyon in the rock.
After checking at Best Inn…not really that good let alone Best…I packed my gear to scout Horseshoe Bent location. It was only 5 min drive from the town at the end of road 89. The road did not really end there was a big sign it was only opened for one for a local traffic of the Navajo tribes.
Right before the sign I turned right and pulled to the parking lot. From there I walked for 10 minutes, first uphill along the sandy path, and then another 200 meters down the windy path to the edge of Horseshoe Bent.
I have reached the edge of a cliff at 6pm and it was already quite crowded. I was lucky enough to arrive early enough to get great spot right in the middle of the u-shape at the edge of the cliff.
Half an hour later Horseshoe Bent was packed with more people than Fisherman Wharf in San Francisco. Everybody was waiting for the sunset.
You had people with smartphone cameras, compact cameras, entry level DSLRs to a medium format cameras. Probably few hundred people cramped at the edge of the cliff overlooking Colorado River humming few hundred meters below our feet.
Occasionally rhythmic sound of the river was cut by noise of a motorboat engine working hard going upstream.
The view was breathtaking even with the harsh light. It only got better from there as time passed and more people joined to admire the view. The light started warming up painting rocks with yellow and red pigments.
I was one lucky bastard to stand on the edge of the cliff with my tripod installed firmly and the camera ready to shoot. 20mm lens with polarizer and natural density filter 0.9 and remote control attached to camera made me confident in success of this mission. The only thing that bothered me was the fact that one leg of my tripod was literally touching the edge of the cliff. One sloppy move and my camera would fly down the canyon. Yet the risk was necessary in order to capture the back wall of the canyon on the frame. Otherwise the shot would look less dramatic.
Finally the sun started to set and even before the magic lights appeared the scene begged to be photographed.
Few moments after this shot the sun was behind the horizon bringing all the the richness of reds on the rock, emerald in the river and greens of the foliage growing by the river banks.
After that moment I decided to hung out for few more minutes waiting to see how the scene will unfold at the dusk or with the moon on the sky. To my great surprise it didn’t deliver. It looked flat and uninspired. However when I turned my back around a lovely frame caught my attention. With all the people coming back to parking lot and the moon lighting the scene the soft trail of light reflected from people as they walk had painted the path.
Next day alarm clock brutally interrupted middle of my deep sleep. 4:30am and I was driving to Horseshoe Bent again, this time for sunrise. When I arrived the parking lot was empty. Not a single living soul. I grabbed few dried fruits and a handful of nuts and took off. After a few minutes of walk led by moon light I arrived at the same spot as yesterday.
I was the only one there. The dawn was breaking up the night. Tripod and camera ready. The same setup like yesterday except filters on lens. While I was taking this shot.
Few more people showed. Even though the rock had nicer colors in the morning I kind of missed the richness of the river from the sunset image.
Nuts and fruits from the morning at Horseshoe Bent didn’t keep me going for a long. I had to get some fuel for the rest of the day.
Best lunch breakfast place I found was this small coffee shop inside hiking shop, yeah I know crazy, called River's End Caffe.
With batteries charged the time had come to conquer famous Antelope Canyon. There are two canyons: upper and lower. Upper is bigger and more spacious but a lot more crowded and harder to get in. You have to book a few days in advance. The lower on the other hand is smaller and considerd of lesser tourist attraction thus easier to get in without booking in advance and also a lot less crowded.
I tried to get to Upper but sine I din’t book it in advance it was sold out for upcoming days. I decided to take my chance and drove to Lower Antelope Canyon. Turned out it is pretty much walk-in type of thing. Since the canyon it is a whole carved in the desert the best time to get there is when the sun is high to assure enough light will pass inside. I was there at 11:30 am and it was perfect. I had to wait 15 min for the previous group to finish and I was ready to go…almost.
Both canyons are on Navajo land and thus they are managed by the tribe and as such entrance to canyons is not free. There are different rates depending on whether you are “professional” photographer or not. If you have tripod you are professional. But you also have to have DSLR or medium format camera to get photographer pass. I guess if I had mirror less camera and tripod they would not sell me photographer pass and use my tripod?! Rules are rules! As a “professional” photographer I had to pay $50 - double of what regular folks pay. But it was totally worth every penny.
The canyon, in proper light, was a stunning piece of art by mother nature. The colors, the richness of textures, the shapes, everything came together to create this feast for eyes
Sun was pouring through the cracks creating visible beams of light. Some photographers were intentionally throwing sand into the air to get more visible beams.
The amount of dust there was so huge that if you by any chance would have opened your camera to change the lens you would have most likely destroyed the camera or at best risked very expensive sensor cleaning.
Guides are native Navajo and some of them are quite entertaining and giving you good tips on where to shoot and how to catch the best light so don’t forget to tip them. On top of that our guide was also playing flute to create the mood…pretty cool experience.
Lake Powell and Navajo Dam
After Antelope Canyon I decided to chill and in the afternoon took a stroll along Navajo Dam overlooking Lake Powell.
Navajo Generating Station
The evening brought some highly anticipated cooler and fresher air. I decided to take advantage of great weather and jump into Mini with backpack full of gear to scout for a shooting location of Navajo Generating Station.
Driving ten minutes or so along route 98 I spotted a wide soft shoulder. I pulled over, walked on the other side of the street and started looking for best place to install tripod in the sand soil.
The sun was setting and lights on power plant were turned on. Sky was covered with mushy clouds. Not the ideal backdrop for my scene but I took a chance and got.
I stood there for a while admiring this weird yet somehow magical view. What a mind conceived building this massive power plant in the middle of the desert, and why? What was even more disturbing was juxtaposition it created to such a marvels of nature like Antelope Canyons. Contemplating this I didn’t even realized when night pulled it curtain over the sky. Power plant was now glowing against the ever slowly dying off sun.
Three days in Page was really enjoyable. The town was clearly not as nice as Moab but in terms of photographic possibilities it delivered big time. I was in the middle of my two week trip. The busiest part of the trip was behind me. Now I was going to spent another week in much more relaxed mode in Grand Canyon. First I was going for three days to North Rim and then for four days to South Rim.
I’ve already visited both rims. I explored North Rim with David two years ago and South Rim with Anna a year ago. They are very much different animals.
North Rim is elevated higher and much more secluded thus harder to get. That results in lower temperatures, more rain and dense forestation and less tourists. North Rim is also less developed…hence again less tourists. I recommend North Rim over South. It has great lodge with decent restaurant which is rarely too crowded to get a sit unlike places in South Rim especially for breakfast. Lodge has awesome sun deck with chairs and you can order beer or drink and wait for the sunset.
Driving from Page to North Rim took around 4 hours. All in all I had over 220 km to go and it was mainly windy roads that are climbing all the time.
I got there early afternoon. I jumped out of car after parking on big parking lot by the Lodge to stretch my legs walking to Bright Angel Point. Then I kicked back and read a book on one of the couches in [Lodge] while admiring view of Grand Canyon.
In the late afternoon I spent half an hour waiting for the sunset but “good old” clouds ruined everything. To somehow compensate for a lack of success in photography this afternoon I ordered cold beer on the sun deck and relaxed there enjoying the view of Grand Canyon stretching to the horizon. Far in the distance I could see San Francisco peak close to Flagstaff around 150 km away!
Since it was impossible to book any room in the Lodge and nearby cabins unless I planed it half a year ahead I ended up sleeping in the car. I thought would be impossible trick to pull in such a small car like Mini but since need is a mother of invention I made it. I folded back seats that created large flat surface where I put sleeping foam such that it extended on the armrest then I used my sleeping bag as a pillow and lay with head on towards trunk why legs stretched along the armrest. I wouldn’t say it was going to win the most ergonomic solution of the year but it did the job. I got a good night of sleep.
Next morning, to surprise of few early birds hanging on the parking lot the trunk of the Mini opened and I rolled out of the car. Mr. Bean style ;) Some people couldn’t believe their own eyes.
Of course sleeping in your car in the park was completely illegal according to some nonsensical law. But guess what I figured out they were not going to tow away my car with me sleeping inside.
I woke up early again as I wanted to get a decent shoot of North Rim if not for sunset at least for sunrise. I strolled to Bright Angels Point which was already full with spectators waiting for the sunrise. The problem was that they were facing wrong direction. They were looking into the sun. You can’t see much of Grand Canyon if you are blinded by the sun. I positioned myself in quiet spot on the opposite side of Bright Angels cliff.
And here is myself a few minutes before I took the shot above.
After successful morning shots I got awesome egg white omelet in the Lodge’s restaurant. It wasn’t as good as the one in Moab but hey, you’re eating at the edge of Grand Canyon. It can’t get any better. But actually it did. The icing on the cake was price of the breakfast that was not only reasonably priced, considering that this restaurant has pretty much monopoly for food in North Rim, but actually cheap! There is literally no food competition there unless you want to include saloon place that sells some re-heated egg burritos…pretty nasty stuff…yet the lodge restaurant has still decent pricing. Kudos!
David no offense to our PJ sandwiches we used to eat on the trip, nothing wrong with them but as the one gets older one starts appreciating small things like hot breakfast ;)
I spent day on the couch reading and in the afternoon I decided to visit the furthest point into the canyon on North Rim - Cape Royal. It is a good 40 minutes of driving from the Lodge. Once I arrived there it was pretty obvious that there will be no sunset. Overcast sky again…I decided there was no point in coming back to the Lodge’s parking since I’m sleeping in a car anyway.
I converted Mini into sleeping wagon again but this was a rough night. The storm rolled over the canyon. Similarly to the storm in The Arches it was harsh, loud and full of lightning. And the worse part was that the temperature didn’t drop during rain like it did in The Arches. The air was warm and stuffy. Bottom line I didn’t get much sleep at all.
Next day “drugged” with double espresso I was for driving to South Rim.
Where South Rim wins with North Rim is an access to better views of the canyon and better weather. Weather thing is peculiar if you think about this. In straight line the two rims are only 15 km apart or so yet they can have very different weather conditions during the same day it can rain on North Rim with temperature in 20s while it will be sunny on South Rim with temperatures in 30s.
To get from North to South I actually had to drive over…you ready…300 km! Yes you read it correctly - 300 km. I had to do a masive loop. First I drove 60 km north along 89 then east to pretty much came back to Page to cross Colorado River and then then I followed the road south towards Tuba City for another 100 km to eventually turn west towards South Rim.
Since the road there was not really a highway I had to drive much slower and the whole trip took me around 6 hours.
Every motel on South Rim inside park was already booked so I had to stay outside park. Not the worse thing ever but every day I had to pass through entrance gate. Because South Rim is much busier than North Rim there was always a line to the entrance gates. That made the experience with South Rim so much worse when compared to hassle free North Rim.
I could potentially sleep in Mini at South Rim as well but after two nights and one sleepless due to storm I decided I will not take another chance.
At that point of my trip I relax completely and stopped chasing every occasion to take a photo especially that the weather was not cooperating. I rode a bike few times in the area. Nothing really exciting out there. Compared to Slickrock pretty much anything looked weak.
One day there was a storm on the North Rim that put the canyon in deep shade rendering it unusually blue.
I was trying to get a good sunrise shot of the Canyon but for two mornings in a raw the sky was miserable. I gave up. Instead I drove few times to Grand View point and as the name, correctly, implies the view there is really grand.
Backlit canyon rendered dreamy mood of some Martian like landscape.
The other day I stopped by at Grand View to admire sunset. But it looked so deceptive as you might think it’s a sunrise.
On my last day in South Rim I decided to get to the most distant part of the South Rim park. I drove to Desert View. Besides of great and unobstructed view of Grand Canyon.
I got this strong flare shooting against sun. Initially I thought it ruined the photo but after few days I tend to like it instead.
Hanging around till sunset was a joy in a place like this where you feel a close connection with the nature.
Desert View is not only know for a spectacular views but is also a home of old Watchtower. This structure was designed to resemble ancient Pueblo People watchtowers. It works as a gift shop and lookout point. The shop is located on the ground floor and then you have to climb windy stairs to the observation deck on the roof top. View from there is breathtaking.
When I get there in late afternoon the Watchtower was very busy place. But once the night started to roll in it quieted. Instead of voices speaking in different languages the air was filled with hum of beetles flying around mating and looking for food.
That was my last night of the trip.
Next morning I started very early. It was Saturday and I wanted to beat LA noon traffic. In order to get to LA from Grand Canyon before lunch time I took off at 4am in the morning. Driving south on route 64 towards Flagstaff I spotted this morning fog unveiling the mountains with San Francisco peak in the far background.
It was intense two weeks full of stunning views and photographic opportunities. I had fun riding mountain bike too. I am thinking my next year trip will be either New Mexico and Texas or I will be back to Yellowstone or maybe even fly further north to Alaska.
Maybe we will be able to organize a trip with David to some places we have never been yet.
Time will tell.
Until then enjoy and keep shooting!
Once you get to any of the parks buy a one year pass for all parks. It will cost you $80 but you don't have to pay separately for every park you enter. Especially cost efficient if you plan to go in and out of a park like in case of having a motel or lodge outside park borders. It is the most economic and hassle free way of entering parks. Otherwise you usually have to pay from $15 to $25 per entrance.
If you have never been in high deserts be aware that it is very hot and dry. Be prepared for temperatures close to 40 Celsius (over 110 Fahrenheit). You better get yourself few litters of water to the car so you won't run out of water and waste a time to find gas station or convenient store.
I suggest getting hydration backpack like Camelback or Offsprey. You keep your stuff in backpack and have water readily available. It’s super convenient.
Also refill those containers when you can find a fountain in a park. Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon have good mountain springs fountains around visitors centers and trails.
Stock with nuts and dried fruits. You don't want to spin around to find a place to eat in some of those tiny towns where the only thing you can find is gas station and if you are luck a fast foods like Mc’Donald or Taco Bell.
Distances in Utah and Arizona are pretty brutal. You can drive for 100 km and there will be nothing around. Literally nothing.
Get a hat and a pair of sunglasses and/or sunscreen. Sun in Arizona can be pretty harsh. The best is to get a hat. If you forget one you can buy it in most parks. This will be $30 best spend dollars ever. Make sure it has chin strap so you want loose it with first wind blow :)
Best places in South Rim are:
- El Tovar hotel on the edge of a rim, you can eat there and grab coffee
- rim trail that starts in El Tovar hotel and goes along the…rim
- the best idea is to rent bike, get it on the buss that will drive you to the end of trial and then cruz back
- Desert View with old Watch tower
Best places in North Rim are:
- Lodge with sun deck and restaurant with good food
- Bright Angel Point trail - if you want to observe sunrise you walk 5 min from the lodge
- Cape Final - more isolated spot with less tourists and great canyon views
- Angels's Window