Tag Archives: National Parks

My Southwest USA Trip

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.

Our planned route ( marked in orange highlighter)

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.


Big Sky Country   Photo: Greg Coman

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.

My 2014 Subaru Outback   Photo: Greg Coman

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/

Great Sand Dunes , Colorado  Photo: Greg Coman

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.

Mesa Verde (meaning Green Table in Spanish)  Photo: Greg Coman

It is  known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings.

Cliff dwellings. Mesa Verde National Park  Photo: Greg Coman

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) .

The Hoodoos  in Goblin Valley State Park   Photo: Greg Coman

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.

Bryce Canyon National Park  Photo: Greg Coman


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.

Greg wading up the Zion Narrows   photo credit: Peter Wiinholt

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.

The Colorado River meanders through Horseshoe Bend, near Page, AZ  photo:Greg Coman

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.

Upper Antelope Canyon  Photo: Greg Coman

Our Navajo guide was awesome, even a  pretty good photographer herself.  Here is a shot  that she took of our group.

Clockwise:  Greg, Peter, Ethan, James, Richard, Jordan, Thomas & Brandon.                                   Photo: Antelope Canyon Tours

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.

Greg Coman