Grand Canyon: Palisades of the Desert

Photo: Palisades of the Desert, from Desert View, Grand Canyon

From the popular vista named Desert View on the East Rim of the South Rim (that’s not confusing, or anything) of Grand Canyon National Park, you can look upriver, upcanyon. The sheer cliffs in the foreground are the Palisades of the Desert.

What desert? The Painted Desert in the distance, most of which is on Navajo Nation land. It’s pretty flat out there, high and dry and austerely beautiful.

But anyway: Back to the Palisades. The various layers are nicely visible in this light. And the layers within the major layers. Being sedimentary rock, you don’t have to have an interest in geology to think about how all those layers were slowly deposited millions of years ago, then uplifted, and eroded by forces still in play today.

Photo location: Desert View, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

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Granite Mountain Sunset Fire

Sunset glow on crags, Granite Mountain, Prescott National Forest, Arizona

Hiking down from Granite Mountain on the Prescott National Forest in January. The sweat from walking across the sunny western slope turns chilly in the deep shade of the draw on the south base of the mountain.

Another trademark clear deep blue sky Arizona day is drawing to a close. The sunset lights the granite crags above with intense yellows and golds for a few minutes.

Then it’s time to finish the trudge down the rest of the trail, back to the parking lot at Granite Lake.

Location: Granite Basin Recreation Area, Prescott National Forest, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Grand Canyon: Lees Ferry River Panorama

Panorama, Lees Ferry, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Lees Ferry on the Colorado River in northern Arizona is where all boats running Grand Canyon put in to the river. From here the boats have to go the whole way down before they can come back off the river.

Lees Ferry is also one of the most scenic and historic spots in the American Southwest. A natural break in the cliffs allows access by road, off of Highway 89A at nearby Marble Canyon, on the Arizona Strip. On the east side of the river are the Echo Cliffs (visible across the river at center and left), on the west the even taller Vermilion Cliffs, which in this photo are visible in the purple-haze distance at far right.

In this three-shot merged panorama photo, professional river guides with Canyoneers, Inc. are rigging up their boats for another two week oar trip through Grand Canyon National Park. Canyoneers, out of Flagstaff, Arizona, is the oldest Grand Canyon river running company.

At far left is the historic wooden cataract boat the Sandra, the last boat built by Norman Nevills, who invented commercial river running as Nevills Expedition, the company from which present-day Canyoneers is descended, celebrating 75 years of continuous operation in 2013. The orange boats are modern 18-foot inflated rubber Avon rafts. Thus a Canyoneers oar trip is an experience in Grand Canyon river running history, with modern safety and relative convenience for such a world class wilderness trip.

[Click on the image to view a much larger version]

Location: Lees Ferry, Colorado River, Marble Canyon, Coconino County, Arizona

Grandview Point Panorama, South Rim

Grandview Point panorama photo, South Rim, Grand Canyon

Grandview Point is one of the most popular viewpoints on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Thus it gets pretty crowded.

However, it’s also the trailhead for the Grandview Trail down into the Canyon. Walking a short ways down this trail quickly takes you away from the crowd milling about at the vista.

The Grandview Trail is not one of the park’s main “corridor trails”, so it’s not regularly maintained or patrolled. Because of that, don’t go too far down unless you’re adequately prepared. The trail was originally built by miners to haul copper ore out of the Canyon from Grandview Mesa far below. Even a short ways down this trail and you will see why it was meant for trusty, surefooted pack mules!

This photo was made early in the morning. I had the good fortune of there being enough morning fog in the air to be burning off by the rising sun, giving a somewhat ethereal look to the scene.

It’s several shots merged into one high resolution panoramic image, so click on it for a much larger version, to give yourself an even better sense of being there.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Grand Canyon: Unkar Rapid

Running Unkar Rapid on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Unkar Rapid is not one of the largest rapids in Grand Canyon, but it is one of the most scenic, with wide open views. Enjoy a refreshing minute on the river, with sun and water in your face!

Yucca Swirls

Yucca blades, Arizona

I was hiking up Loy Canyon in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness west of Sedona. I had gone from high desert valley floor vegetation of Pinon pine and juniper, up into the Ponderosa pine zone, then back into dry, tough manzanita on a high south slope. I was almost topping out on the point of the ridge I came to call Hiker’s Perch, when I came face to face with this Yucca plant on the uphill slope above the trail.

The many species of Yucca are favorites on my plant list. This one is the Banana yucca, so named because of its banana shaped fruit pods that appear early every summer. Its green-blue blades are strong, with needle sharp points. You don’t blunder up against one more than once, unless you enjoy punctures in your legs. Their blades spread out at various vertical angles, and growing from a common base this form serves to direct rainwater and snowmelt toward the plant’s roots. Pretty clever.

What especially captivated me about this particular individual was the bright but soft high desert light on it, there in the shade of a big manzanita bush. The tough, sinewy fibers curled off the blades in enticing swirls. I made several exposures before continuing on.

Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness, Coconino National Forest, Arizona.

Chino Valley, First Arizona Capital

Del Rio Springs historical monument, Chino Valley, Arizona

This monument along Highway 89 in the central Arizona highlands is near the site of Camp Whipple, an Army Calvary post at which the first territorial government of Arizona was established in 1864. It’s located just north of the town of Chino Valley in Yavapai County, about 15 miles north of the present county seat, Prescott.

The historical marker reads:

“Del Rio Springs / Site of original Camp Whipple / Established December 1863 / From January 22 to May 18, 1864 the offices of the Territorial government of Arizona were operated from tents and log cabins here before being moved to Prescott, the first permanent capital.”

Lonesome Valley Sunset

Sunset, Lonesome Valley, Arizona

Lonesome Valley. Such an evocative name. The locals don’t use that name for this portion of the Prescott Basin in the Central Arizona Highlands, because it’s no longer as lonesome as it must have been to whatever settler coined the name, perhaps back in the late 1800s.

But there is still lots of wide open country and big-sky views here. Ranches and National Forest land. The Black Hills to the east and upper Verde River to the north.

Lonesome Valley. It suits me fine.

Yavapai County, Arizona

Woodchute Mountain Panorama

Woodchute Mountain, Prescott National Forest, Arizona

Early spring in the central Arizona highlands. Driving the back roads of the Prescott National Forest east of Chino Valley, I stopped at an enticing vantage point. A clear 360-degree view.

To the south was Woodchute Mountain, the northern end of the Black Hills between the Verde Valley and the Prescott basin. Woodchute has a small wilderness area on its steep north flanks.

As the sun sank toward the western horizon, the shadows lengthened, accentuating every fold in the mountains, as well as those of the pinon and juniper trees in the foreground.

Location: Perkinsville Road, northern Yavapai County, Arizona.