Back from the wilds of the dessert southwest, I am still stunned by the beauty and the magnitude of all that I witnessed in my week and 1900 miles of driving. No wonder people flock to America to see great sights.
We drove the first day from NE Colorado to NE Arizona: Page, AZ to be exact, on the shores of Lake Powell, Glen Canyon. Along the way we passed by Vail and all the resorts, on west to Utah and then south to Arches National Park. All of a sudden, round a bend, up a hill, stood huge red rock formations of columns, mounds, ridges, all with the occasional natural hole in the rock or perfectly formed arch. Some of the narrow columns had huge bouldersbalanced on top. After lunch, we drove down to Monument Valley. I felt as if I was in a John Ford movie. By then it was approaching sunset and we stayed to shoot the sunset behind and next to the 10 story rock formations. To keep up the excitement, I ran into a barbed wire fence (trying to keep it out of my shot) and got a great war wound down my right arm. Fortunately, I had a tetnus shot last year.
My photography class was centered in Page, where we arrived in a huge thunderstorm. Nothing of nature is understated in this part of the country. The campground advised against setting up a tent in that weather, so we stayed in a no-tell-motel. Staying in one of those with a straight woman is a bit of a downer, I must admit! But, it was 15 hours since leaving my house; I was tired and able to sleep anywhere.
The next day was the free, no class until 7PM and we slowly drove down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, stopping for photo opportunities along the way. My dad and I were supposed to go to the Grand Canyon when I was 12, but I got an appendicitis the day before. I have waited 36 years since then to see it.
When we pulled up to the first viewing area, the canyon was shrouded in fog. 38 years I waited, for fog! Ever optimistic, we went 100 yards back into the (magnificent) woods and had lunch. When we pulled back into the area, I could see a dark line, way across the canyon. I quickly grabbed my camera and tripod and watched awestruck as the fog lifted. I could barely remember how to set my camera, remember to actually try to shoot what was being unveiled before me.
Gradually, different elements appeared. Colors evolved. Features stood out. Within an hour, the entire horizon was filled with such beauty and magnitude that all I could say is Wow, constantly. Yes, I have seen the Grand Canyon on TV, movies, stills, but they cannot capture what we saw, any more than my pictures will capture it.
We finally drove on to other view points. Each was stunning. Finally, at the very last minute, we drove back to Page, with no time to stop and shoot anything except one view of the aspens changing to gold among the blue spruce, pines and fading light. The drive back was beautiful, but we were at sensory overload. Setting up the tent was a welcome focus.
We met the class and managed to sit for the instructional part of the workshop. 12 students (3 professionals, 2 novices and rest in between photographers) and 2 instructors. All a nice bunch.
We met at 7 AM the next day and had a short hike into a Navaho owned slot canyon. Slots are narrow cracks on the surface that lead down to caves that are open to the sky, sometimes inches, sometimes feet wide. The red rocks have been eaten away by water and erosion and are rounded, showing color striations and variations, swirling around holes, arches and winding around rooms. All of this is below ground. The sun bounces off the walls, producing a luminescence and a glow. Taking pictures of the glow, the patterns is tricky, but our instructors moved through the group, helping.
6 hours of climbing, descending and setting up a tripod in impossible areas proved enough for most of us. The light in the afternoon became harsh and we all climbed out. We were reluctant to leave and all sat around the slot entrance for another hour. We would all find out that we had sore necks (from looking up), sore thighs (from squatting to take shots) and were covered in red dirt.
The next day we divided in 2 groups and hiked about 6 miles to either another slot or a famous rock formation. The hike was hard, hot and beautiful. Wild flowers, juniper, pinons, cactus, rock formations all demanded lots of stops. The glory of hiking with photographers is that we stop a lot. We started early and finished at 3, driving in 4 wheel drive vehicles to an old movie set/ghost town to shoot the vermilion cliffs in the back ground. The next day the 2 groups swapped hikes. A cooler day, thunderstorms came in and drenched us, but we moved on.
The drive back was shorter. We only stopped at Moab, UT to shoot the area and a big storm moving in. On the way back, it started to rain, turning to snow in the Vail and Loveland passes, but we still made it back in 13 hours.
So, vacation was wonderful. Relaxing. My cell phone did not work, I rarely thought of work, I ate well and accomplished some real challenges. I, who think that the Marriott Courtyard, or Motel 6 is camping, did well in the tent and sleeping bag. I am dying to return, soon as I develop the slides!