Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A well traveled bottle of wine

After having a couple of rooms with great decks that were perfect for sitting and sipping wine while enjoying the view and NOT having any wine, we bought some. That pretty much spelled the end of perfect decks and time to enjoy them.

We did drink most of the red, but not the lovely Benziger Lane had chosen as the white. Bummer. So, rather than trying to pack it in my luggage to take it home, I passed it on to a collegue at the conference who will be visiting some of the same parks I just enjoyed. He inisisted he would bring it back home for me. I insisted he drink it -- preferably somewhere with a lovely view.

He did as I requested.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Home Again After Our Utah Adventure

We had a really great trip. (My conference was good too.)

I’m working on getting my posts together and posted, but between the two of us, I’m estimating there are over 2,000 pictures to sort through – and that’s after throwing out the worst of them as we went along. It’s going to take me awhile to clean up and expand on my (sometimes cryptic) notes and then size and add all the photos. Stay tuned though, because I’ll keep plugging along on it.

Utah - August 2006
A Late Night Flight into SLC (Tuesday, August 1)
Along the Way to Capitol Reef (Wednesday, August 2)
Ending the Dayat Capitol Reef (Wednesday, August 2)
Leaving via the Scenic Backway (Thursday, August 3)
The Burr Trail and Highway 12 to Bryce (Thursday, August 3)
Evening at Bryce (Thursday, August 3)
Fairyland (Friday, August 4)
Kodachrome Basin (Friday, August 4)
Touring Bryce (Friday, August 4)
Sunrise at Bryce (Saturday, August 5)
Red Canyon (Saturday, August 5)
Along the Way to Zion (Saturday, August 5)
Evening Along the River (Saturday, August 5)
Morning at Zion (Sunday, August 6)
East of Zion (Sunday, August 6)

Arizona - August 2006
Searching for Sunset at the Grand Canyon (Sunday, August 6)
Sunrise at Point Imperial (Monday, August 7)
Along the Cape Royal Road (Monday, August 7)
A Mule Trip (Monday, August 7)
Sunset Again (Monday, August 7)
Morning at Bright Angel (Tuesday, August 8)
On the Road in Northern Arizona (Tuesday, August 8)
Antelope Canyon (Tuesday, August 8)
Antelope Canyon Old-Style Photo Gallery (Tuesday, August 8)
Sunset at Monument Valley (Tuesday, August 8)
The Goosenecks (Wednesday, August 9)
Natural Bridges in the Rain (Wednesday, August 9)
Hovenweep (Wednesday, August 9)

Colorado - August 2006
Morning at Mesa Verde (Thursday, August 10)
Afternoon at Mesa Verde (Thursday, August 10)
A Morning Tour at Mesa Verde (Friday, August 11)
???? (Friday, August 11)
Evening at Cliff Palace (Friday, August 11)

Newspaper Rock (Saturday, August 12)
Dead Horse Point (Saturday, August 12)
An Evening at Arches (Saturday, August 12)
Almost Sunrise at Arches (Sunday, August 13)
Floating Down the Colorado (Sunday, August 13)
On the Way to Park City (Sunday, August 13)
A Taste of the Olympics (Tuesday, August 15)

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Monument Valley

Previous Post: Antelope Canyon Old-Style Photo Gallery

Monoliths and dramatic buttes begin long before we reach the park itself, huge hints of what is to come. I keep asking Lane if we are there yet and isn't that rock formation in the distance one of the Mittens? (We are not and it is not.) As we drive, the sun drops lower and lower in the western sky.

But at last we arrive at the Monument Valley Tribal Park itself and the Mittens and all the other famous stone icons of the west are right there.

The detour to Antelope Canyon (and the need to wait to get on a tour) means sunset is already nearing when we pull into the park. We run into the inviting gift shop and museum for advice on how to best tour the area in the short time we have. Along the way we pass the inviting restaurant with its patio that overlooks the valley. This would be a great place to stop and enjoy the scenery and a meal. . . maybe tomorrow.

Inside we pass the gift shop. It is a huge open room filled with wooden cases stacked with amazing Indian jewelry. One case alone must hold over a hundred gorgeous inlaid bracelets. I stare greedily into the case. I could spend a week in here just looking at everything, but we have less than two hours before the sun sets. I can shop or I can go out and see the park.

We get some advice on traveling through the park and head out.

The road is a horrendous rutted sand track that bounces over the uneven terrain, but the scenery is amazing. The first sites we reach are the Mittens, with West Mitten in shadow and East Mitten bathed in the late sunlight.

I almost expect John Wayne to come riding toward us from behind one of the mesas.

About halfway through the 17 mile loop I suggest we find a scenic spot and await the sunset.

We consult our map and head to John Ford's Point. The view is nice, but not what I want. Instead we drive a short way down a nearby dirt track with a turn-around at the end. Perfect. I set up the tripod, open a soda, and we watch the light change for the next hour until it is gone and the spectacular scenery is swallowed by darkness.

Next Post: Around the Goosenecks

Antelope Canyon Old-Style Photo Gallery

Previous Post: Antelop Canyon

We have so many photos I want to put them all up, but how many pictures of an orange and blue-black canyon do you really want to see?

As a change of pace, I have taken some of Lane's pictures and removed most of the color to emphasize the lines.

Next Post: Monument Valley

Antelope Canyon

Previous Post: On the Road in Northern Arizona

My goal has always been to avoid Page, Arizona, a town that would not exist if Glen Canyon Dam did not exist and that is (at least in my mind) the premier location for annoying water-based motor sports. But now I have a reason to come here - I'd like a little more information on visiting Antelope Canyon before we head out to the tribal park. Surely there is a visitor information center in town that can help me.

Information on visiting Antelope Canyon has been difficult to find in my guidebooks, so I am surprised to realize what a major tourist attraction this must be: Every business in town seems to sport a big sign proclaiming "Buy Your Antelope Canyon Tour Here." There are also plenty of "visitor information" centers, but they actually seem to be tour operaters. I finally give up on locating a visitors' center and choose a place that looks respectable, bears the appropriate name of Antelope Canyon Tours, and doesn't advertise motorized activities. (We later learn there is a Visitors Center hidden around the corner on the back side of a strip mall.)

Inside, my request for information on seeing Antelope Canyon without booking a tour in town is met with a pretty snotty response, but the background information provided (the survivors of 11 people killed in another part of the canyon sued the tribe and won because the canyon represented an attractive nuisance) explain why the tribe is so touchy about controlling canyon access. Ok, so we'll book a tour. When does the next one leave?

Back in the tour office after a quick lunch, we find the spacious office packed with people. Uh oh. They load us into the back of a converted land rover (visions of Africa) and soon we are racing off through Page's sprawling edge and out into the desolate landscape beyond.

Inside the tribal park, we bump along a dusty, rutted wash along with quite a collection of similar tour vehicles. It feels frenzied and chaotic.

And then we shudder to a stop.

We are there, although I'm not quite sure where "there" is. A low hill runs along beside us and off into the distance. Is this it?

Our guide gathers us together, introduces herself as Irene, and lays out the rules.

The entrance to the canyon that runs through this petrified sand dune is crowded and dusty, the swirling orange wall only hinting at what lies within.

Inside it is cool and dark, orange light streaming through the slots in the canyon's ceiling and bouncing against the contorted walls high above.

Inside we are told to stay together until we get all the way through the canyon. We are told we will walk through the canyon as a group and then walk back on our own. So I mount my camera on my tripod and prepare to take as many pictures as possible while traipsing along behind the group. Irene is a good guide with a long connection to this place. She tells us this was where her grandfather would go to be alone until a little girl with a big mouth lost her livestock here. Along with brief lessons in history and geology, she also points out interesting angles for photography - grabbing a visitor's camera at a particularly photogenic location and taking a picture. (By the end of the tour she will have taken at least one picture on every camera except mine, trying to ensure that each visitor will have at least one good picture.)

We move too quickly for me to understand this amazing canyon. I'd like time to be still, to sit and listen to the cool dark walls have to say - but that isn't possible. And maybe that isn't such a bad thing. I capture a fleeting sense is a living creature, but one that is cold and somehow malevolent. I can almost imagine the fury as a flash flood races through, the relentless waters gouging new shapes into the soft stone. Somehow the force of its creation lingers within the hushed canyon. Despite Irene's recommendation that photographers brace themselves against the twisted walls, I have no desire to touch them. I would never want to spend the night here. Irene says this place was never used by her people and was not a sacred space. . . maybe her ancestors also felt unwelcome in this otherworldly canyon.

But as we wind through the narrow passageways, my camera aimed at the ceiling high above, I am in awe.

When we reach the end of the canyon, Irene points out that the walls form the outline of a coyote. She takes her final picture on Lane's camera.

And then I am free to walk back through the canyon taking pictures at my own pace - for ½ hour. Lane teases me about being the last one out and Irene carefully stays behind to keep an eye on me, but I am not actually the last person out. Close though. I am not ready to leave.

Next Post: Antelope Canyon Old-Style Photo Gallery

On the Road in Northern Arizona

Previous Post: Morning at Bright Angel

It is hard to leave the Grand Canyon and I think about someday planning far, far in advance to get one of the larger cabins with a deck that overlooks the rim. Maybe we'll stay for a week then, watching the canyon from our deck, taking another mule trip, doing a few short hikes. . .

The route out of the park is the same one we followed to get in - there really aren't any other options. When we once again reach Jacob Lake, we turn east on 89A and head toward the cities of Marble Canyon and Page.

Our route follows the Vermillion Cliffs, which mark the edge of the Paria Plateau and provide stunning close-up views of this layer of the Grand Staircase. The cliffs rise straight up above the plains for a thousand feet or more, dwarfing the farmsteads scattered below. We drive below them, in awe, for miles.

At the end of this magnificent rock wall we come to the rest area at Navajo Bridge. The museum and other structures are lovely, designed to blend with the landscape.

The original Navajo Bridge was built in the late twenties to replace the ferry crossing. It is still the only bridge across the Colorado River for hundreds of miles. The original is now reserved for pedestrian use and somehow it seems sedate and peaceful, isolated even, while cars whiz by on the adjacent replacement structure.

As I cross I am startled by the rich green color of the river crawling 400-some feet below. Tiny splotches of bright colors - motorized rafts - move down the river, their passage marked by a buzz like that of persistent mosquitoes.

Across the Colorado, we continue on to find more red rock walls. There is a wonderful view from the parking area where the local Navajo sell their wares to the bus loads of tourists passing through on their way to Monument Valley.

Next Post: Antelope Canyon