"There is no better designer than nature" - A. McQ
I finished off 2016 with a long overdue road trip up to Northern Arizona/Utah to visit some must see beauties of nature. I Flew into Las Vegas, Nevada and rented a car to drive through several stunning areas including Zion National Park. The 4.5 hour drive consists of driving up and around mountains and leaving and re-entering Arizona/Utah 7 times. There is something very calming about the rocky orange mountains and Cacti surrounded highway. The sun setting across the entire sky, before fading into darkness. I managed to see several shooting stars before arriving in Page, Arizona.
I definitely knocked off a major bucket list item with this hike around Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, USA. The vibrant turquoise Colorado River bends around the orange rock walls. The rock in this area is primarily made up of platinum, hematite and garnet and is a little more rugged than other areas of Arizona and Utah. Upon arrival we were greeted by our little hiking buddy (who evidently loves posing for photos). The hike only takes about 30 minutes to get to the outlook, and is very scenic, filled with views of red rock and desert shrubs as fair as you can see. Once we arrived at the outlook, it instantly lived up to my expectations. The view is simply stunning.
With my Chucks dangling at 4,200 feet above sea level, I can definitely say the outlook is not for the faint-hearted. I highly recommend taking the trip up to spend a few hours taking it in and waiting for someone to fall while taking a selfie, haha jk... From above, you can also see a tiny spec below (look at the bottom right of the last photo) where people are taking tour boats around the bend. The view from below and above (helicopter tours are available) provide an interesting perspective as well.
Another highlight from this road trip was visiting Antelope Canyon aka Tsé bighánílíní (the place where water runs through rocks) as the natives call it. Thousands of years of wind and water erosion has formed quarter mile long slot canyons that are around 130 ft in depth. The slot canyons are on Navajo land, therefore you need pay a fee to Navajo Nation and also book with a tour guide in order to visit. I highly recommend booking in advance (we did not, as it was off-season and we were told we could book the morning of... don't do it! We were left with the most expensive tour available (there are 5 companies) and we felt our guide rushed us through. That being said, the Canyons are stunning natural pieces of architecture that are well worth the whole process.We went to the Upper Canyon, which is known to be one of the most breathtaking places on earth.
It all begins with meeting your tour guide in Page, at one of the meeting points (depending on which tour company you book with), you then load into open safari type trucks and drive out into the countryside. It takes 20 minutes to drive across the very bumpy/uneven sandy wash to get to the opening of "The Crack" (Upper Canyon).
When you take the first step in, you quickly realize how amazing it is going to be. As you begin to walk through, the walls are very narrow, and it is very dark. The best time to go is around noon, so the light shafts shine straight down through the crack. This allows you to view the beautiful vibrant striped walls and light beams. When the sun shines in at the perfect angle, you can see the very fine sand pouring in. Between March and October are the best months to view the light beams and sand dust. I did manage to see one in December, however, it only lasted about 1 minute. I was in awe.
The very fine sandstone dust gently blows it into the crack and it basically gets everywhere. My tip is to wear smooth clothing that will allow it to slide off, and a hood/hat to prevent it from getting in your eyes and scalp. I literally still had sand stuck in my scalp after 4 shampoos. Putting a ziplock bag around your lens would be a good idea to protect it from getting scratched.
Speaking of cameras, It is very difficult to take decent photos between all the tourists or without a tripod, as the light exposure is uneven and it is very dark at the bottom. I quickly figured out that using a piece of sandstone that jogs out on the side to stabilize my arm helped a lot. I suggest setting up in Manual as soon as you arrive in the canyon, as there is no time to stop and mess around with camera settings. In high season, there can be up to 700 people in each canyon, so it is very tight.
I took these photos with a Canon g9x, as it is easy to carry and I didn't want to worry about bringing various lenses on this trip. There is a photography tour you can book if you and your companions all have DSLRs and tripods.
The colours range from orange to purple and brown hues as you walk through. In the winter the colours are more muted than in the summer months, nevertheless stunning.
It truly is as amazing as Apple's desktop background makes it out to be.