As I sat down to write this blog I realized why I had been putting it off. Simply put, it is overwhelming! How do I encapsulate a month long trip with hundreds of memories and thousands of photographs to choose from, into one blog. To do it justice, it may take a series of blogs, but I will endeavor to at least summarize it now.
As an assistant leader with the Phoenix Explorers, Peter (the other leader), myself, and our group of a half dozen 17 year old adventurers from Ontario, headed out on July 28, 2017 in our two trusty SUV’s, to explore lands afar for 4 weeks.
Looking at an old fashioned map put the route that we hoped to follow in perspective.
We bee lined it across the 1-80 West during the first 3 days, crossing through the States of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska to get to Colorado.
Before I go any further, I’d like to share a few logistics stats from our trip.
28 -Number of days travelling 8 – Total number of adventurists 2 – Number of Vehicles 1- Trailer 4- Tents 11,240 – Total Kilometers traveled 10 – Number of States visited 4 – Number of Walmart parking lots slept in
Yes, Walmart. Their parking lots have easy access, and offer a free rest-stop on a long drive. Most often though, we found beautiful campsites like the one below.
Speaking of camping, here are a few details. We picked up two National Park Passes, good for entry into any of the US National Parks. We definitely got our money’s worth as we visited 10 National Parks, in addition to a couple more State Parks. Here’s a few of them.
The first National Park we visited was Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado (below) which had just gotten a downpour of precipitation. We generally had hot dry weather, but check out one of my previous blogs about a big storm we encountered. https://gregcomanphotography.wordpress.com/2017/09/08/weather-or-not/
Next up was Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado, who’s ominous landmark looked like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
It is known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings.
The next day, we took a wild, scenic drive through Silverton, Colorado to Moab, Utah. This part of the the world is Bugs Bunny/ Road Runner country with Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and the less known Goblin Valley State Park. The bizarre landscape is home to thousands of hoodoos, formations of mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles, which can resemble mythical Goblins ( especially when you’re alone , at night) .
Then off we tootled toward Zion National Park, where we would set up camp for a few days. However first we stopped for a hike through beautiful Bryce Canyon.
Zion National Park
The Zion Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. The trail literally follows the Virgin River, through a gorge, with walls a thousand feet tall. Do not attempt this hike if there is any threat of rain, which can create sudden flash floods.
Angel’s Landing . After a series of 21switchbacks, called Walter’s Wiggles, we made it to the top of the ridge, at Scout Lookout. For the final 1/2 mile, the trail followed the ridge across a saddle and up the hogs back. This is where things got interesting, as it was very steep, and we were grateful for the chains.
The view from the peak of Angel’s Landing , 1488 feet Photo: Greg Coman
This challenging hike would prove to be good warm-up for our next biggest challenge- the Grand Canyon. However we still had a couple more days to prepare for that. From our campground in Page, Arizona we would venture out on day excursions to Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon is a photographer’s dream, but also a challenge. Light is low, and there are lots of people. The canyon is protected and run by the Navajo nation, and all visitors must be on a guided tour, so time in the Canyon is limited. Additionally no bags are allowed, so it is just one camera, one lens, and make the best of it.
The shot below is straight out of camera, with no filters, or adjustments.
Our Navajo guide was awesome, even a pretty good photographer herself. Here is a shot that she took of our group.
Our group will then go on to hike to the bottom of the the Grand Canyon, and up. That is worthy of a second blog. After the Grand Canyon we had some R&R in Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona where we recovered from our hiking adventure, before heading north to Wyoming.
In Wyoming, we venture into the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park, and find ourselves a great spot in Wyoming to observe the Full Solar Eclipse.
Stay tuned for more adventures of the Phoenix Explorers in the Southwest, coming soon to a Blog near you.