Monthly Archives: September 2014

Upper Antelope Canyon

Today was super amazing.  I can’t even begin to describe the beauty I saw today, but the pictures will tell you.  John and I went on a photo tour into three slot canyons.  There were seven of us in our group plus our guide.  We had two of the canyons to ourselves and spent over an hour in each one.  The canyons are located just outside of Page, Arizona and on Navajo Indian land.  The Navajo control who goes in the canyons.  The tour company we went through is the only one that is allowed in Owl Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon.  There are other tour companies, but they can only go in Antelope Canyon.  More on that later.

Owl Canyon was named for the Horned Owls that nest in there.  We were lucky enough to see them.  I wished I had brought my bigger lens with me, but my 18-200 mm did a fairly good job.  We entered the canyon by climbing down a ladder, even though the canyons are not underground.  We didn’t have to do any other climbing in this canyon.  Owl Canyon was different from the other canyons, as it was wider and more open at the top allowing more light in it.  The other two canyons were very narrow and deep.

Rattlesnake Canyon was next.  I asked Kim, our guide, about the name of the canyon, if I really needed to be careful where I walked.  She laughed, no, it was named that because of all the twists and turns.  There was more climbing in this canyon and tight squeezes as well.  And it was oh so beautiful!  More so than Owl Canyon.  It was so much more striated, curvy and twisty.  I was amazed at each room I entered.  This canyon was more inclosed at the top also, so you didn’t have a lot of bright light to deal with.  A tri-pod was a must.  We were working with time exposure shots that really brought out the detail and colors.  I do not have much experience with that, and Kim was very helpful to me.  And of course, having done this so many times, she knew just where to point the lens for the best shots.  She said this was her favorite slot canyon.  I understood why, I could have stayed in there all day.

One last slot canyon to go, Antelope Canyon.  We were excited to go there because this is the canyon where you get the beams of light.  The light beam only happens certain months of the year, usually to the end of September.  The beam is not as big as earlier in the summer, and there may not be one at all this time of year.  When we arrived, there were so many tour vehicles there, which meant lots of people, well over a hundred.  We joined up with another group from the same tour company. Their guide was Josh, and he knows everything about cameras that there is to know.  He would be helping everyone to get the best shots.  Not only that, he would be doing crowd control.

Josh led us in, told us exactly where to stand and what to shoot at.  He made sure our camera settings were correct and he kept the sand off our lens with his dust blower.  All the other groups were pretty unorganized, just shooting away on automatic settings, with no direction from their guides, except to move on to another room.  I’m glad I did my research before choosing a tour company.  We were going to have artistic shots that would be worthy of framing.

The beam of light did not appear when it was supposed to.  I didn’t feel too disappointed, just lucky to have seen everything I had seen and knowing that I had some beautiful photos.  Then there it was, a skinny stream of light.  Guess what, everyone else had to stay back, while our group had the privilege of photographing it.  The beams only lasted for a few minutes and when it started to fade, Josh took us to the other side of it.  Kim, our guide, stayed to keep everyone else out.  You could still see the beam from that angle, although very faintly.  Josh had a shovel and started throwing sand on it.  It was amazing what the sand did to the beam.  Josh called them money shots, and he was right, they are worthy to be bought.  Not only that, but in another room, he threw sand on one of the ledges and it flowed off like a waterfall.  It made for some beautiful shots as well, and once again, nobody else was allowed in the room with us.

What an experience!  This is high on my list of being one of the best things I have ever done and certainly the high light of this trip.  I’m wondering if the Albuquerque Balloon Festival can top this.  We will see.

 

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Page, Arizona

Leaving Sedona turned out to be quite an experience.  John decided it would be best to take the southern route out of Sedona and hit I-17 to travel north.  The other road out of Sedona is 89A and it is a narrow two lane road with hair pin curves and uphill.  Our RV does not go up steep hills well, slowing way down and holding up everyone behind us.  We came into Sedona that way and we saw all the pull offs were barricaded because of damage from flash floods.  I-17 seem to be the best choice, even with its steep upgrade for many miles, at least people would be able to get around us.  To go that way though, you have to go through nine roundabouts.  We didn’t think that would be a problem.  When we stopped for fuel in Flagstaff, we saw that one of our tire straps holding our car on the tow dolly, had come off.  We guessed it was because of the tight curves on the roundabouts.  Our tire rode up on the dolly a bit causing the dolly to get up against the car on turns.  The bottom strip on the car is dented and a big patch of paint is scratched off the door.  The passenger door was damaged by the dolly on a trip to the Florida Keys.  Time to get rid of that dolly.  We just bought this 2011 Honda Accord in May, without a blemish.  It truly brought tears to my eyes.  Oh the joys of RVing.

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The scenery from Flagstaff to Page is superb.  You pass by canyons, rock formations and the painted desert.  I just kept snapping pictures as the scenery flew by me.  Some of the pictures turned out pretty good.

We are camping in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in the Wahweap Campground.  The campground is very nice with all its desert flora, but watch out for the sand spurs.  They have big ones here and they are all over!  We have a great view.

After we got settled into our site, we rode into Page to the visitor center to pick up maps and get some information on hiking and other activities.  When we were approaching the Glen Canyon Dam, we noticed a sign about a guided hike at 5:30.  We decided to do that.  It was a half mile hike through the desert to a hanging garden.   The ranger gave a very informative talk about how this area was formed and about John Wesley Powell’s expedition down the Colorado River in 1869.

We have a Jack Rabbit hanging around our campsite at times.  His long ears help keep him cool.  They are very thin and as blood runs through the vessels the heat is radiated out through his ears.

Tomorrow we are doing a photo tour inside three slot canyons.  We had planned to do one during our travels last year, but due to delays leaving home, we had to scratch Page, Arizona from our itineray.  Not this year.

 

 

Sedona, Arizona Part 2

After our seven mile hike, you would think we would be so wore out that we would have just returned to the campground.  Not so, well, we were pretty tired and it was getting pretty warm by then.  We were just going to ride around and see some of the distinctive sandstone formations and do a little off-roading.  Pam and I did a very short hike to see the “Devil’s Kitchen,” while the guys stayed in the air-conditioned jeep.

Now for the off-roading.  Wow, the road was rough, but I guess that’s what it is all about.  There was great scenery, but we did not go as far as we wanted to.  We were really hoping the road would get better as we went along, but it didn’t.  I think we only went around four miles before turning around.

Later in the day, Pam and I rode up to see the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  It is built into the sandstone formations and was completed in 1956.  Great views from up there also.

The next day, Pam went to visit a friend in a nearby town.  Mike, John and I decided to go for a hike, but a shorter one than the day before.  The hike we really wanted to do was closed due to damage from flash floods, so we settled on the Fay Canyon Trail.  This trail is only two miles round trip.  We didn’t start out ’til late morning, but the description said it was shady.  Well, there wasn’t as much shade as we would have liked, but it didn’t seem to be too hot hiking.  When you reach the end of the trail, there is a big rock slide that you can climb over to reach a narrow trail that runs along the canyon wall.  That is exactly what we did. It wasn’t too bad climbing over the rocks, and I would stop every little bit and look back down to make sure I wasn’t going to be scared getting back down.  I have learned not to put myself in unsafe situations that I can’t get myself out of anymore.  It was a great trail and the views were outstanding, as they are everywhere around Sedona.  Going back down was not a problem at all.

We relaxed the rest of the day and went out to dinner after Pam returned.  It was a great stay in Sedona.  Next stop, Page, Arizona.

 

Sedona, Arizona Part 1

We made a quick stop in Winslow, Arizona on our way to Sedona.  I just couldn’t pass up the chance to have my picture taken on the Route 66 corner made famous by the Eagles’ song, “Take It Easy.”

Sedona is a very unique town, surrounded by red sandstone formations and desert flora.  The town itself is full of artsy shops.  Tourist flock to this small town to shop, hike,  and just take in its beauty, which is stunning.

We camped at Rancho Sedona RV Park, which is one of the nicer parks we have stayed at.   The sites are roomy and beautifully landscaped.  Oak Creek runs along the back side of the park.  They have some strict rules though.  The most unusual one is, all outside lights must be off by 10:00 p.m. and you must be inside your unit.  They observe Sedona’s “Dark Sky Initiative.”  I understand the 10:00 p.m. curfew is to discourage you from disturbing your neighbors, but I have never come across that in campgrounds rules before.  Usually, they just say quiet time from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. but you can still sit outside your unit and talk quietly with friends.

We met up with friends here and enjoyed dinners, hiking and just relaxing in the campground together.  John’s brother, Ed, and his wife, Judy, drove up from Green Valley for an overnight stay in Sedona.  We enjoyed visiting with them.

John and his brother, Eddie.

John and his brother, Ed.

Our first hike was a seven mile hike in Boynton Canyon.  We went with our friends, Mike and Pam, and got an early start as it was going to be near 90 degrees.  The trail was not difficult with only a 400′ elevation gain. There had been a recent sighting of a bear on this trail.  We hiked a short side trail to a vortex first.  A vortex is believed to be an area of concentrated energy rising up from the earth.  Supposedly, you can feel this energy.  We didn’t, but neither did we meditate or pray.  Sedona has a number of vortexes.

We backtracked to where we left the trail and continued our hike.  We went into a box canyon, and the views were stunning all along the way and to the end. There were a variety of wildflowers along the trail.  Near the end, we had to do some climbing and even though it was strenuous, it was not difficult.

As we were returning the way we came in, we heard a noise ahead of us and off to the side in the woods.  It sounded like a rock had fallen from above.  Then shortly after that, there was a loud snap, like a branch being broken.  Our first thought was BEAR!  Pam and I were getting nervous, but we continued on. Then we heard the noise again, and at last we discovered Mike, who was behind us all, was throwing rocks into the woods.  Good one Mike.

 

 

Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert

Our first stop in Arizona was Holbrook, where we spent two nights.  We spent the first evening just relaxing and doing some much-needed laundry.  The next morning we got a pretty early start for our next adventure.  We knew we would be spending a full day exploring the Petrified Forest NP and Painted Desert.  I packed us a lunch and made sure we had plenty of water.  It was going to be a hot day for hiking in a desert area.

We started with a stop at the Painted Desert visitor center, where we got a park map with trail information.   We were talking about how warm it was going to be that day, when one of the ladies that volunteers there said yeah, but it is a dry heat, not like the humid heat back in Georgia.  I kind of looked at her funny, because I was wondering how she knew we were from Georgia.  As it turned out, she previously lived in Marietta, Georgia.  Then the other lady said she grew up in NC and very near to where I grew up.  It is a small world.

Our first hike was the Painted Desert Rim, which is only one mile, round trip. You follow along the rim and end up at the Painted Desert Inn.  There is a short trail behind the inn that has a great panoramic view.  While taking in this view, we could see hikers going down to the floor of the Painted Desert.  I thought that might be good to do.  It is a trail with switchbacks that goes down 500′ or so. Once you get down to the desert floor, the trail leads you out a ways then stops. From there, you can keep hiking as far as you want to go.  You can even camp in the desert.  We only went a little ways from the trail.  It was pretty warm down there and you could get lost easily.  I just loved it down there though.  This place is so beautiful and we got up close and personal with it.  Take a look at these pictures and see if you agree.

The Petrified Forest has a pueblo ruins and hundreds of petroglyphs.  The pueblo has only been partially excavated.  Fine examples of petroglyphs can be found on two different trails.

The Blue Mesa area was next, and it was a sight to behold!  This is my favorite part of the park.  It is made up of badland hills of bluish bentonite clay.  Petrified wood deposits are scattered among the hills.  There is a trail that leads you down to the bottom and winds around the hills.  We were both tired from our day and decided not to do the hike.  John had a headache and his back has been bothering him this whole trip.  As we drove past the last pull-out on this loop, I could see the trail down below.  It looked so beautiful and I thought to myself that I need to be down there.  About a mile down the road I finally decided that I had to do that hike.  We probably won’t be back to that park again, and I felt I would regret not doing it.  I told John I would go alone and he could take a nap in the car. He agreed and we found a place to turn around.  I am so glad we did. This trail was so much better that the other one we did.  It was so surreal down there, and I could had stayed for hours, if not for the fact I would had surely run out of water and become exhausted mainly from the heat.  Also, I had given John a time frame of when I would return before he would have to start worrying about me.

Our last stop was at the Rainbow Forest Museum, where we enjoyed the air conditioning and watched the movie on the park.  Behind the museum is the Giant Logs Trail, which features some of the largest and most colorful logs.

It is easy to pass this park up because of it remoteness on I-40.  There are no campgrounds there and the nearest town is about 20 miles away.  We visited this park years ago, but only did a quick drive through in our RV, stopping at pull-outs and doing one short hike.  Don’t make that mistake if you find yourself traveling through Arizona on I-40.

Exploring Santa Fe

Wow!  The temps took a dip last night, down to a chilly 47 degrees.  I woke up cold in the middle of the night and had to pull out the quilt.  Ahhhh, all cozy again.  For the first time since arriving in Santa Fe, we have a beautiful, sunny morning.  This is the day we had set aside to explore Santa Fe, but since it was so beautiful outside, we decided to hike first.  We drove to Hyde Memorial State Park, which was a short drive away.

It was warming up nicely by the time we arrived.  I picked out two trails for us to hike that would be about 2 1/2 miles round trip.  One trail picked up where the other left off.  The first one was an easy trail that ran along a little brook with no elevation gain.  The park is at 7500′ elevation.  The second trail had some elevation gain and ended at a waterfall.  It seemed to be rather strenuous for us, and I guess that was due to the elevation we were at.  There wasn’t anything exciting about the hike, and the waterfall was a disappointment, as there was not much water.  It was a beautiful spot though.  Two other hikers were at the waterfall, and we spent quite a bit of time talking with them.  They were from the area and suggested we go on up the road a bit to Big Tesuque National Forest. They also gave us a suggestion of a restaurant to eat dinner at.

We drove up to Big Tesuque Recreation Area and hiked a little there.  The trail runs along a creek with more water than the state park creek.  This area has a large stand of aspen trees, which were in decline since the spruce and firs were getting big.  Aspen love sun, and when the spruce and firs get big, they create too much shade for the aspen to survive.  The trail gained elevation gradually, and really seem to be too much for both of us.  We are just not use to the high elevation yet, and this trail was at 11,000′.  We didn’t go too far and John was just as glad to return to the car as I was.  We drove on up to the peak, which was at 12,000′, and had a great overlook of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, although it was rather hazy, so it did not make for a good picture.

We returned to Santa Fe with plenty of time to enjoy the historic downtown area.

While we were in Santa Fe, we camped at the Santa Fe Skies RV Park.  It was a very nice park with scenic views.  We leave Santa Fe in the morning for Arizona.

Our campsite in Santa Fe Skies RV Park.

Our campsite in Santa Fe Skies RV Park.

We saw rabbits everyday in the campground where we were staying.

We saw rabbits everyday in the campground.

 

 

Taos Pueblo

We woke up to a cloudy morning and the likelihood of rain in Santa Fe, so we decided this would be a good day for the drive to Taos.  The rains were not going to reach that far north.  Taos is a two-hour, scenic drive from Santa Fe.  All the drives around Santa Fe are scenic.

As we approached Taos, we came across a visitor center for the Rio Grande Gorge, and stopped to check it out.  We found out the gorge is 10 miles from Taos. With map and directions in hand, we drove straight thru Taos to the Rio Grande Bridge and Gorge.  There was parking on the far side of the bridge and vendors in the parking area and along the other side of the road.  The bridge has a walkway where you can walk out across the gorge to take pictures.  There were quite a few people there.  I got the shots I wanted, although the time of the day was not the best for photographing the gorge.  We checked out the vendors and I made one purchase.  Past the parking lot we parked in, there is a rest area and paths that take you near the edge of the gorge where you can photograph the bridge.

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After driving back across the bridge, we spotted a herd of Bighorn Sheep grazing close to the road.  It was so exciting to finally see some wildlife!  We had not seen a single Antelope while driving out west, which is unusual.

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We returned to Taos to check out some shops and have lunch.  Taos has a downtown historic district that consist of adobe buildings.  There are lots of shops and restaurants.  We browsed the shops and found a restaurant with outdoor seating to have lunch.  I decided to try the green chili stew, which turned out to be a good choice.  It was delicious.  John went for nachos, and they were OK.  He really liked the local beer though.

Near Taos is the Taos Pueblo, a living Native American community.  John wasn’t so sure he wanted to visit it, but I insisted.  Our guide was a young girl, just graduated from college.  She gave a detailed account of their history and culture. There is no running water or electricity inside the pueblo homes.  The village is surrounded by an adobe wall.  Outside the walls are more modern adobe homes, where some tribe members live.  It was all so interesting, and we both enjoyed it immensely.  After our tour, we had the chance to roam around on our own, as long as we stayed out of the restricted areas.  Some of the adobe homes are shops, so we were able to go inside and get a feel of what their homes are like.  There was a variety of arts that could be bought, from jewelery to pottery.  Everything was made by the natives, and most of them were in their shops working on their wares.  They were all very friendly and interesting too.  You are not allowed to photograph them without their permission, and I never did ask.  I did make a couple of purchases, and would had loved to bought some of the pottery.  They were so beautiful, but very expensive.

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We took a different route back to Santa Fe, which added time to the trip, but it was scenic as well.  The rains never did reach Santa Fe.