Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Arizona Adventure, Part 5 - Canyon de Chelly Revisited

After the White Pocket Fiasco, we headed toward home and the last stop on our Arizona Adventure:  Canyon de Chelly, near Chinle, in eastern Arizona.

As with some other locations on this trip, I had visited Canyon de Chelly once before, in 2013.  You can read about it by clicking here.

The canyon is a U.S. National Monument owned by the Navajo Tribal Trust and jointly administered by the Trust and the National Park Service.  As a result, all trips into the canyon must be with a licensed Native American guide.  So Alan and I made arrangements with one of the tour companies to get into the canyon early in the morning . . . and this time the guide showed up on time!

Travel in the canyon consists mostly of driving on a very sandy stream bed that, when we were there in October, was completely dry.  

So it requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle . . . or a horse.    We chose the Jeep.

The height of the canyon walls ranges from 30 or 40 feet at the entrance to almost 1,000 feet further in to the canyon.

The walls themselves display beautiful naturally sculpted patterns, textures, and colors . . .

There is evidence of human habitation in the canyon dating back 5,000 years.  There are hundreds of petroglyphs and pictographs on the walls of the canyon . . .

. . . and 3,000 archaeological sites, including at least a dozen significant structures built into the walls of the canyon.


The most notable of these cliff dwellings is White House, which is the image you see at the top of this post.  I didn't get to see White House on my visit in 2013, so I was excited to see it this trip.  Here's a closer view of the buildings:

The White House ruins were made famous by the photographer, Ansel Adams, whose 1942 photograph is an iconic image of the American west.  You can see it by clicking here.

But Ansel Adams wasn't the first to visit the ruins.  If you look carefully at the wall behind the buildings in front, you can see names and dates scratched into the wall, including (among many others) J. W. Conway from Santa Fe who defaced the wall on September 24, 1873.

Now, fences and tour guides keep all visitors a safe distance away from this magnificent ruin.

                                                                            - / - / - / - / -

That wraps up our Arizona Adventure.  I hope you enjoyed the views and the stories.  Thanks for coming along!

If you would like to see larger format versions of the Canyon de Chelly images, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Arizona Adventure, Part 4 - Wire Pass and White Pocket Fiasco

As I mentioned in an earlier chapter of this saga, the primary goal of our trip was to visit a remote area of northern Arizona called "White Pocket" -- a square-mile group of domes, ridges, and weird shapes of eroded Navajo sandstone outcroppings.

I had visited White Pocket in 2014, but was there only in the middle of the day, when the lighting conditions were less than optimal.  (You can read about that visit by clicking here.)  I wanted to return for an overnight stay to capture sunset and sunrise light on the beautiful formations.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Forty-eight hours before we were to meet up with our outfitter, we got a call from his office person confirming the time and place of our rendezvous.  He would pick us up at Wire Pass trailhead at 3:00pm on Sunday and transport us to White Pocket.  All good.

So Alan and I spent Sunday morning exploring some other areas around Page, AZ, then rolled out US 89 to House Rock Road, which leads to Wire Pass trailhead.

Wire Pass is a short (0.5 mile long) slot canyon gorge carved through sandstone, and it leads into the much longer Buckskin Gulch slot canyon.  We knew we only had time to hike to the junction with Buckskin Gulch and return to the trailhead in time to meet the outfitter.  So off we went.

To get to the slot canyon, we had to hike about a mile in a sandy dry wash . . .

Along the way, we passed large hills of Navajo sandstone with weird patterns:

The wash began to narrow into the canyon . . .

and we reached the boulder-strewn entrance . . .

The colorful walls of Wire Pass slot canyon are reminiscent of Lower Antelope Canyon (also near Page, AZ), but not as smoothly sculpted as Antelope.

As we ventured further in, the canyon narrowed, and the opening at the top (maybe 40 or 50 feet up) did not allow any direct sunlight, so it got darker and darker . . .

Occasionally the opening at the top got wider and let in more light . . .

And about three-fourths of the way through, a rock fall blocked the passage.  Fortunately, someone had rigged a ladder to climb the 8-foot-high pile of rubble:

Mindful of the time, we turned around and made our way back to the canyon entrance

We arrived at the trailhead parking lot -- our designated rendezvous point -- a little after 2:00, just to be sure we were not late for our 3:00 pick-up.

3:00 came . . . but our outfitter didn't.  3:15 . . . 3:30.  Unfortunately, we were so far out in the wilderness that there was no cell phone reception, so we couldn't call him.

At 3:45, we bailed.  Even if he had showed up at that time, it was too late.  From the Wire Pass trailhead pick-up point, it was a 90-minute drive to White Pocket.  By the time we got there, we would have had no time to walk in, scout the area for good sunset light on the features, and set up.  We weren't going to pay hundreds of dollars and not get our photography done.

When we got phone reception, we called the outfitter but only got voice-mail.  Eventually, more than 24 hours later, he called back, claiming that he had us scheduled for the following weekend -- notwithstanding the fact that his office person had confirmed the job with us by phone two days earlier.

Needless to say, we were more than disappointed, having invested travel time, lodging, and food to get there.  But there was nothing to be done.  If you ever get an urge to visit White Pocket, don't call Kyle at Grand Circle Tours.

If you would like to see my Wire Pass images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.

Next up, the final stop on our Arizona Adventure:  Canyon de Chelly.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Arizona Adventure - Part 3: Horseshoe Bend

A mile or two below the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, the Colorado River takes a big 180-degree turn.  It's called Horseshoe Bend, and it's one of the most photographed landscape features of the American southwest.

Page sprang up in the late 1950s as a housing community for workers and their families during construction of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, which created Lake Powell upstream from the Grand Canyon.  (The Hoover Dam and Lake Mead are downstream from the Grand Canyon.)

The overlook for Horseshoe Bend is a 3/4-mile hike on a sandy trail from the parking lot, up and over a big hill.

Along the rim of the overlook, there's a strong barrier fence that runs for only about 100 feet.  

Beyond that, there's nothing between you and a 1,000 foot drop to the river.

Look closely and you can see kayaks, tents, and people down there.

The fenced platform isn't large enough to contain all the tourists, so they spread out along the rim . . .

                                                    and climb perilously out on the ledge . . .

                                                          posing for selfies and portraits . . .

Just watching them made me extremely nervous.  Fortunately, nobody slipped while we were there.

If you would like to see these images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.

Next up:  Wire Pass and White Pocket Fiasco

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Arizona Adventure - Part 2: Little Painted Desert at Sunrise

After exploring Petrified Forest National Park, we overnighted in Winslow, then rose early the next morning to photograph an area called Little Painted Desert at sunrise.  

Little Painted Desert was once a county-level park -- not even a state park! -- about 17 miles northeast of Winslow.  It's a hidden gem, with wave after wave of the colorful soft-rock hills and formations like the ones we had seen the day before at the more-visited national park 50 miles to the east.

Here's what it looked like in the "blue hour" before sunrise:

Twenty minutes later, the sun began to brush the tops of the hills . . .

As the sun rose, larger areas were illuminated . . .

Eventually the light's higher angle of incidence began to fade the rich, warm colors.  But I kept shooting because I knew that harsher (but still low angle) light would make for good black-and-white images, highlighting shapes and textures.

After about an hour, we headed back to Winslow for breakfast, then made the pilgrimage to the trompe-l'oeil mural and statue on the corner made famous by the Eagles' song, "Take It Easy," which you can listen to by clicking here.

If you would like to see these images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.

Next stop on the Arizona Adventure:  Horseshoe Bend, near Page, AZ.