In May of 1997, I spent two weeks in Arizona and Utah . The first week was without spouse and I
drove 2000 miles. The second week, with my wife and mother-in-law, we went another 1,000 miles.
All in all it was an incredible journey - but it wasn't without it's adventures. Got stopped one time by
the Navajo Nation Highway Patrol and another time by the Arizona Highway Patrol - got off both
times (I'm good at boot shining), encountered a rattlesnake in Antelope Canyon, weathered a storm at
Monument Valley that almost blew the tent off a cliff (literally) and I tromped through a quarter mile
of mud just to get some photos of a Navajo woman herding goats. Oh yeah, and if it hadn't been for ABS brakes, there'd be one less cow in Utah and the rental car company would've been ticked.
It was a great trip. Arizona, Utah (and the Colorado Plateau) are incredible places. The first week I went
from Phoenix through Sedona via Montezuma's Castle up to Page where I camped at Lake Powell.
An aside - I stopped at a Casino in an indian reservation - I was only going to play one hand of
blackjack for $50 - win or lose. They didn't have tables there - just slots, so I got 20 dollars in tokens
and 5 minutes later I cashed in $40 dollars and walked out - not bad eh?
I shot lots of film in Antelope Canyon (a slot canyon - just outside of Page, AZ).
Antelope is incredible. It is only a few feet wide and in some places ya gotta suck in the gut to get
through but mostly it is very walkable. The narrow canyon goes up over 100 feet and the light
bounces off the reddish sandstone walls to give this yellow/gold/red glow that is spectacular. I was
going to do another one or two slots, but given I was trying to cover a lot of territory - it was all or
nothing at Antelope. I went into it hoping I didn't screw up - it was extremely difficult to meter and
there were some long exposures where I did't think I compensated enough for reciprocity but I was
real pleased with the shots
I also took a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam while in Page - It's around 710 feet high and 300 feet wide at the base - regardless of your DAM politics it is a truly impressive achievement. Almost 3 dozen men lost their lives in it's construction.
From Page I went north into Utah's Red Rock Province - drove right by Zion and Bryce (that took will power, but I can't go there without Barbara - It was part of our wedding vows), had to check out Kodachrome Basin though (a photographer's obligation). Drove up through Escalante, the Dixie National Forest, across Capitol Reef National Park, down to Hite Crossing, a quick tour through Natural Bridges National Monument and then down into a town called Mexican Hat.
The road (a state highway) from Natural Bridges to Mexican Hat, is a fairly flat and relatively boring road that just goes to the end of a Plateau - then it drops down 1200 feet in 2 miles (about a mile the way the crow flies). This road is called the Moki
Dugway - basically we are talking about a series of switchbacks dropping down a cliff. What makes it
so wild is that, where it goes down, it is a gravel road - at a 10 percent grade with literally 5mph
corners. I am not one to be intimitated by heights but this was, shall I say, unsettling. At this point it was dark. Minutes after getting "back on the ground" I see two little flecks of light on the road ahead of me. I was so tired it took a moment to realize that they were my lights reflecting back from the eyes of a large calf (they roam freely in many parts of Arizona and Utah). I slammed on my brakes and swerved to the left (thanks ABS) and the cow moved faster than it probably ever moved before in it's life. It was very close - but as good as a mile.
From Mexican Hat (where I got a shot of a B2 Stealth Bomber doing a fly by) I went to Monument Valley which was one of the most impressive parts of the trip. But the weather was not good. I had hopes of setting my tripod outside my tent and taking perhaps great star trail shots then waking up at 5:00 to get the very early light - but I had a very rare cloudy night sky and an even more rare
cloudy/rainy morning. Some bad words were uttered - I was not pleased with the Rain Gods. But I did make the most of the even light and got some good shots none the less. And Acually, there was about 5 minutes of rich sunset light falling on "the three mittons". It was quite spectacular.
From Monument Valley I went to 4 corners - that's the only place in the United States where 4 states converge at the same point. There's not much to it but I found it a worthwhile stop . After 4 corners, I drove a short way into New Mexico to get a shot of Shiprock - an incredible rock formation. Then it was on to Canyon De Chelly (pronounced Canyon de Shay).
The ruins at Canyon de Chelly may not be as impressive as other places but the setting and the Canyon is truly amazing. It was then on to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park which was very much worth the diversion. From there I went through a town called "Show Low", which, I
guess, is named after a part of a poker game where everyone shows their low hole card - that being the
lowest card turned down in 7 card stud and variations thereof. The main drag through Show Low is
called Duece of Clubs Blvd.. From Show Low I took Highway 260 toward Payson and went down
the Mogollon (pronounced Mugiyan) Rim. The Mogollon Rim is the edge of the Colorado Plateau
and drops you a long way in a short distance - I forget the specs - but this road is wide and pretty
straight - pretty easy to drive even though it drops so quickly. Definitely impressive. But I hear from
Payson up to Strawberry is better yet.
Then it was down to Phoenix via the mountains on Rt. 87 and on to Tucson where I linked up with
Barbara (my wife) and her mom. We spent the next 4 days exploring the Tucson area, hiking and watching my mother-in-law swim in the Senior Olympics. We saw Kitt Peak Observatory, Mt. Lemmon, Sabino Canyon, Saguaro National Park and more. It was a pretty neat and pretty busy few days. Barb's mom got a ribbon for the 50 meter breast stroke - we were proud of her. She also swam the 50 meter back stroke, the 200 meter freestyle and the 400 meter freestyle. Can you imagine doing that at 82 years old?
Then all of us went up to the Grand Canyon via Montezuma Castle, Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon (again). At the Grand Canyon, the most physical activity was a hike over the West Rim Trail (about 8 miles). That was some spectacular hike. Most the other time we just did little short hikes and drove to overlooks. We basically took it easy. Then driving back to Phoenix we made stops at Desert View, The Little Colorado Gorge (bought some Navajo Jewelry), Wupatki Ruins and Sunset Crater National Monument, had dinner in Sedona and then finally arrived at our Motel before flying out the next
morning. What a great trip - We can hardly wait to go back.