Kachina Bridge: Beneath The Belly Of The Beast

Kachina Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Kachina Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

For this evening’s hike I went down to the floor of the canyon to photograph Kachina Bridge from below. High clouds to the west cut off the sunlight, so the usual high contrast was absent this time. Just as well: I intend to photograph every aspect of these stone wonders, in all seasons. The soft overcast evening light was lovely in its own way.

The trail down to Kachina Bridge is only 1.4 miles / 2.3 km, dropping 400 feet from the canyon rim to the floor. It’s a beautiful trail down the Cedar Mesa Sandstone slickrock, with switchbacks and rock steps – both cut into the slickrock and built up with blocks of cut sandstone – along with some metal handrails and one short section of ladder.

Shortly after reaching the streambed, you’re soon walking up to the beast. Kachina Bridge is massive, considered to be the youngest of the three in Natural Bridges National Monument, because it is the thickest. The older a natural bridge is, the more time that erosion has worked on it, and so it gets thinner and thinner until at some point it collapses into a pile of massive chunks. Erosion never sleeps.

Photo location: Natural Bridges National Monument, San Juan County, Utah.

Goodbye, October

Lonesome Valley sunrise colors, Arizona

October 30, only one day left in the month after this. In the perfect month. But the perfect month has almost run out of time.

A cold front had come through, with some clouds to possibly make sunrise colors. I launched myself out at dawn, wanting to roam a bit into the heart of Lonesome Valley.

In the beautiful high country and wide open spaces of the Central Arizona Highlands you can’t lose be being out in nature. Just go out, soak in the view, the fresh air, the friendly waves of people driving the other way on the country roads.

Anyway, I chose to drive east from Chino Valley on Perkinsville Road, because the views are wide open right away. High country grasslands, ranches, a chance to see one of the antelope herds, too.

The clouds above the Lonesome Valley Buttes lit up with the reds of the yet-unseen sun. Land shapes, sky shapes, color. The freezing dawn was warming up with sunrise, and the sun would soon warm the landscape with golden sunlight, too.

Goodbye, October. You’re the perfect month to me. The good news is that the second best month follows. November, when I get to savor the remnants lingering from your glowing light of autumn leaves.

Photo location: Lonesome Valley, Yavapai County, Arizona.

The Right Clouds

Arizona sunset, Chino Valley

Clouds make the sunset. If it’s a clear sky, the sun is just a little orange ball sinking out of sight below the horizon.

Too many clouds on the western horizon cuts off the sunset afterglow colors.

But it doesn’t take many of the right kind of clouds, well positioned, to dramatically enhance the colors. Here, only a few cumulus clouds are on the horizon, but just high enough to leave a gap above the distant mountains, so that the sun’s rays aren’t cut off from the sky above. The clouds reflect the warm colors of the just-set sun and, in this instance, even spread it out into rays.

Photo location: Little Chino Valley, Yavapai County, central Arizona highlands. Elevation 5,000 feet.

Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL5, shot in Camera Raw format, post processed in Adobe Lightroom 4 for control over the values, such as contrast and shadow detail.

Silver Road

Thumb Butte Road, Prescott, Arizona

The morning after an April snow brought breaking clouds as the storm front moved on. I drove west out of downtown Prescott into the hills, on Thumb Butte Road. The thin layer of wet snow was still sticking to the ground and the trees and shrubs.

Stopping at a small turnout, I was able to shoot back into the sun. The clouds provided just enough screening to avoid lens flare, and the wet road was shining silver with the reflection of the bright sky. The “S” curve to the road was a distinct bonus, composition wise.

Photo location: Prescott National Forest, Yavapai County, Arizona

Squiggly Road Ahead

Thumb Butte Road, Prescott, Arizona

A late snowfall in mid April in the central Arizona highlands around Prescott. The clouds were breaking up some in the morning, so I drove west of town into the hills. On Thumb Butte Road I stopped at this curve for a nice shot with the mountains on the Prescott National Forest.

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.

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.