I arrived in Moab Utah late in the afternoon on Thursday and decided to stay near the hotel rather then venture into the park. The drive and the goblins were enough of an adventure for the day. I was out early and in the park around 6:00am and drove straight to the end of the main road to Devil's Garden where there were three arches, all requiring a short hike.
Delicate Arch might be the most famous arch in Utah as it appears on their license plate. There are two view points. I went to the much closer Lower Viewpoint but most of the crowd climbed up the hill to get a closer view from above.
I wasn't sure I was going to find a parking spot in this large lot, but someone pulled out and I set out to Turret first. When I got there a family was taking photos in the arch with their guide who was saying how great it was they had the arch to themselves. I patiently waited and eventually they cleared the area.
A view of the North and South Windows.
The North Window
On the walk back to the parking lot, I came upon a couple from North Carolina who were Sony shooters. We talked cameras, gear and travel for a good 20 minutes. They were traveling by RV.
More of my photos from Arches National Park can be viewed here.
I signed up for a photography tour that was supposed to take me to some great locations in Moab for sunrise and then pick me up for an evening session. Unfortunately, the tour was canceled because the guide was sick and none of the other photographers were interested in an early morning assignment. The guide told me that if he went to bed soon, he'd probably be well enough to do the tour but I wasn't about to spend hours with a sick person in a car. So, I had to get myself to Dead Horse Point State Park (45 minute drive through dark and unfamiliar roads) for sunrise.
I arrived, the first car in the lot, with a few cars behind me. The others, though, were interested in the eastern view of the sun. I was interested in the golden light on a western view, so I headed in the other direction and staked out a spot with my tripod. After about 45 minutes, I put the tripod in the car and did some more photography before leaving.
More of my photos from Dead Horse Point State Park can be viewed here.
Canyonlands is very close to Dead Horse Point, so it was a quick drive to the park entrance. At this early hour (around 7:30) there was no line to enter and no one was even at the entry station.
My first stop was Mesa Arch. The photography guide said that this arch gets a lot of traffic at sunrise but it will still be interesting light for a while after that and I managed to catch it with some good light and with few people around. The hike was about a mile with lots of elevation changes.
I hadn't researched this location, so I wasn't sure what to expect but the .6 mile round trip hike was harder than I was expecting but the views were amazing.
The "Grand" in this name refers to the Grand River.
My last stop was close to the visitor center. As I left around 11am, I saw a very long line of cars waiting to enter. I was glad to have gotten in early when there was no line at all. Again the benefits of staying on Eastern time were apparent.
More of my photos from Canyonlands can be viewed here.
I mostly kept to an East Coast schedule, so early morning photography was easy - not so much with the evenings. But I thought I should get out on Saturday night and do a short drive along a stretch of the Colorado River near Moab. This was a place the photography tour would have gone before heading to Arches for the evening. I just did the river and headed back to the hotel. Two things were interesting about this stretch of river. One is the presence of petroglyphs. The other is sections of walls that attract climbers. I was there mostly for the reflections in the river and the overall scenery.
More photos of this section of the Colorado River can be viewed here.
My original plan was to visit Antelope Canyon near Page Arizona but I discovered shortly before leaving home that it was closed due to COVID. I struggled looking for an alternative and happened to notice that Mesa Verde wasn't too far away in Southwest Colorado. The park came up in a couple of discussions I had with others during the trip, so I went to see what it was all about.
The park documents many of the early inhabitants of the area and the evolution of their housing, starting from pit houses up to houses build into the cliffs. The park was more interesting than I anticipated and I spent hours there.
When I first arrived, I stopped at the first viewpoint to get out, stretch my legs, and use the bathroom. I pulled behind another car and got out. I noticed they had a Philadelphia Eagles license plate frame and PA tags. They were from Delaware County (my county) and were driving a car back from Portland for one of their kids. These three guys had done a similar trip over 40 years ago and they were enjoying their time being on the road together. Because Mesa Verde is largely a one way road where you drive a bit, stop, get out, view the site, and return to your car, I stuck with them through a good portion of the morning before our paths separated.
Here are some of my stops in the park.
The most well known part of Mesa Verde. It is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. There were two different stops where this city could be seen.
More photos from my visit to Mesa Verde National Park can be viewed here.
I drove to Page AZ from Mesa Verde. It felt like the longest drive of the trip. At one point my rental car asked me if I wanted to take a break. I did but there wasn't anywhere to stop. Page was in my itinerary largely because of Antelope Canyon but the other attraction was Horseshoe Bend. I wished I had the motivation to have gone out for sunset but I did manage to get there for sunrise on Monday morning.
My photography challenge for the week was Precarious and I figured I'd find people in precarious situations standing too close to the edge at the Grand Canyon but I ended up going with this photo as my submission. Is she checking her email or taking a photo? Either way, she seems much more relaxed than I was seeing her on that cliff.
Here is the Colorado River bending as it moves though the area south of Page.
More photos from sunrise at Horseshoe Bend can be viewed here.
I returned to my hotel after sunrise at Horseshoe Bend and left shortly thereafter to head to the Grand Canyon. I would be entering from the East entrance. My plan was to stop at all of the viewpoints along the way to Grand Canyon Village where I would be staying at Bright Angel Lodge for two nights. Day 1 I spent time at the different vistas along Desert View Drive. Day 2 I spent my time along the Hermit's Road vistas. In those two days, I was able to get a good sense of the South Rim.
Shortly after entering the park from the East entrance, I had my first view of the Grand Canyon at Desert View. It was grand.
I found this view point but didn't see it with a name on the map or any signs but it was less populated than other stops, so I used the opportunity to get out the tripod for a self-portrait.
At this stop, the signs said that the rock on the left resembles a duck and emphasized that these formations change slowly but if you were to come back in 50 years this might look like something else.
After finishing up with the Desert Road vistas, I stopped at the Visitor Center and then drove to my hotel to check in. I stayed in Bright Angel Lodge in one of the Rim Cabins. My cabin was just feet from the Rim Trail. This made it very easy to get out for sunrise and sunset both days of my stay.
After sunrise, I walked to the shuttle bus for Hermit's Road and took the bus west, getting out at many of the stops. The first was Trailview Overlook where you get a great view of the Bright Angel Trail that goes down into the canyon.
Mojave Point provided a great view of the Colorado River rapids.
The final stop on the shuttle route is Hermit's Rest. A storm was starting to brew off in the distance.
I skipped Pima Point on the way going West since it was a stop where I could catch a but going East, so I hiked the mile from Hermit's Road to Pima Point, noticing how much the storm was picking up intensity. We never did get any rain on the South Rim but there was some lightning off in the distance.
With my cabin right near the Rim Trail, I spent a lot of time along the trail. I ran into a couple of other Sony users both of whom had the 12-24 f/4 lens and were really enjoying the ultra wide view. It made me question my decision not to bring my 12-24 f/2.8 GM lens. One of the things that surprised me was the extent to which there were often clouds, which are really helpful shooting wide landscapes. From checking the weather before I left, it seemed skies were going to be clear the whole trip. But there were plenty of places where zooming in gave me the composition I was seeking.
My last morning at the Grand Canyon started with waking before 4am, so getting out for an early 5:15am sunrise was easy. I walked further down the Rim Trail than the previous morning. I was going to grab breakfast at the Maswik Lodge but there was a long line when I got there so I hit the road to the next destination.
More of my photos from the Grand Canyon National Park can be viewed here.
My route back to Las Vegas was going to take me right past the Hoover Dam, so I thought a stop would be worthwhile. The weather was not great - very overcast and a little rainy - so I was surprised by the large number of people visiting. The dam was very interesting. Not everything was open due to COVID but I toured the visitor center which included a movie and a slide show. Getting a good photo of the dam was a challenge but I was able to stitch two photos together to get the whole dam in one picture.
More photos from the Hoover Dam, including shots of Lake Mead, can be viewed here.
I arrived back in Las Vegas in time for my 8pm Eastern call with Drum Corps Associates staff. In the call I mentioned where I was and found out one of the people on the call lived in Henderson, so I met up with Pat Bocker, her husband and a friend for lunch the next day. My only photography that day was getting out on The Strip for some street photography early Thursday morning. This photo shows my hotel (Planet Hollywood) right across from the Aria where I stayed on my last trip to the Las Vegas Strip for a conference.
Additional photos from my morning on The Strip can be viewed here.
The flight home was uneventful and pleasant. The trip was great but it was good to be heading home. I'm grateful for the people I met along the trip, particularly since I was traveling alone while most people were part of a couple or group. It was nice to have some people to talk with particularly during long waits in line. I'm grateful for the opportunity to see so many wonderous sights and to receive these images. I'm grateful for a company that was able to carry on without me for two weeks, so work took up a very limited amount of my time. Finally, I'm beyond grateful for my wife Donna for encouraging me in taking this trip and for spending hours on the phone and Zoom talking about my adventure.