Hello, everyone! Yes, it’s me again. I told you I’d be back after my trip to the Southwest, and so here I am. And let me tell you, it was a whole lot of fun.
Flying has never been my forte – I prefer to be a little bit more in control of my transportation methods, and something about being thirty thousand feet above the surface of the earth has never quite computed with me – but I braved the sunny skies to fly out to Las Vegas on a Friday.
Bright and early the next morning, I jumped into my rental pick-up truck (yes, really) and headed out into the desert, where it took me just under three hours to cross into Utah and reach Zion National Park.
It’s really pretty there. Really, really pretty.
The Virgin River, which takes on a beautiful jade green tone as it cuts through the valley, has carved down the rocks for millennia, resulting in the quintessential Southwest stratification that we all know and love. The weather was relatively cool, due to the time of the year and the elevation, which made exploring easy, even for a (very, very, very) novice outdoorsperson like myself.
Unfortunately, I made a bit of a mistake with my directions. Anyone who knows me at all will be aware that this is not a surprise. My navigation skills are less than perfect in familiar environments, let alone new ones, and I probably should have figured that I would get lost even in such a well-marked and busy park.
In any case, I ended up leaving the main trail road, which wanders smoothly through the valley and stops at each of the major sites, and found myself going 20 miles an hour up a series of tight hairpin turns on my way to Nowhereville, Utah.
Despite the fact that there was nothing but gorgeous vista after gorgeous vista, I eventually figured out that I was headed the wrong way. After making it through the 1.1 mile long Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel, built in the 1920s, I decided it was best that I turn around and see if I could spend the afternoon in the rest of the park before continuing on my way to Arizona.
I think it was a good decision.
Another long drive before sunset brought me south and east to Page, Arizona (and yes, I now realize I could have continued on Route 9 to get there, but I would have missed the rest of Zion).
It’s a little town on the shores of Lake Powell that obviously depends highly on tourist dollars, but everyone was friendly and the hotel was perfectly nice. I spent a cool night sleeping off the travel dust before getting up, with the help of jetlag, a little before dawn.
Why so early? Well, I had a date with the Colorado River.
This is Horseshoe Bend, a kink in the same watercourse that runs through the Grand Canyon. With a wide-angle lens and a precarious spot right on the edge of the cliff, I was in perfect position to catch the morning glow as the sun peeked over the mountains behind me.
It’s an awe-inspiring place to be. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s hard to capture just how enormous that rocky outcrop is, but it’s about 1000 feet from the lip of the canyon to the water below. Truly spectacular.
But I couldn’t stay long, because I had a tour booked for somewhere just as magnificent. Antelope Canyon.
This water-carved slot canyon is the most photographed of its kind, and it’s easy to see why.
Located on Navajo tribal land just outside of Page, the Upper and Lower Canyons were formed mostly by flash flood waters running through the sandstone, carving away wave-like forms of rock which are mostly open to the sky.
The Upper Canyon site is only accessible with a tour group led by a Navajo tribal member. We piled into the back of a converted pick-up and raced down the floodplain, bumping and jostling and holding onto our tripods for dear life.
I paid a little extra to get on one of the special photography tours. That meant that our guide was allowed to hold back other groups so we could get clear and empty shot of the formations. With exposure times of up to 30 seconds, this was really important for getting excellent pictures.
In the summer, the famous light shafts can hit the smooth, sandy floor of the canyon, but the sun doesn’t get that high in the winter or early spring. It does, however, occasionally slant up against the walls, and we were fortunate enough to get a glimpse of a little ray of sunshine just before we were about to leave.
The guides quickly cleared the room and started throwing handfuls of fine dust in the air to help illuminate the beam – great for pictures, but not so great for my lungs.
In any case, I was completely enthralled with the experience, and highly recommend it to anyone who happens to be in the area, whether or not you have an interest in photography. It’s just such a beautiful, peaceful, fascinating place to be for a while, even when surrounded by tourists wielding selfie sticks.
I would love to go back again, and maybe try getting to the Lower Canyon, too, which is less popular and a little more challenging, but just as interesting.
But that will have to wait for another trip. Sunday afternoon, I had to rush back to Vegas for my conference on Monday, which meant a five-hour drive from Arizona to Nevada.
I arrived after sunset, tired and a little sore but absurdly happy…just in time to come down with a nasty, wretched cold that has plagued me ever since. I don’t know what it is about healthcare conferences that always make me so sick, but let me tell you. It was hard, hard work to power through those three days.
Nonetheless, the conference was a great editorial success, and every member of my team knocked it out of the park. I couldn’t enjoy Vegas quite as much as I wanted, but it’s still a fun town even if the DayQuil costs twelve bucks a pop.
I may have been lightheaded, sniffling, and sleepwalking my way back to the East Coast, but I made it with little further ado. I stayed in bed all weekend, and I’m just now starting to feel like my normal self again, but it was worth it for such a great trip.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. As I get back on my feet and sort through all the work I built up during the show, I’m hoping to get back into my writing rhythm, finish up editing on Dark the Chains of Treason, and maybe even have a publishable book at some point this year. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Stay tuned!