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Same Place – New Face

25th March 2021

Visiting Monument Valley with the Grandkids

I have a habit of revisiting fabulously gorgeous places. Some have a magnetic attraction that just keep me coming back.

Each fall I ferry Mom’s car to Arizona and then back to Michigan in the spring. When I can make the arrangements, I ask one of our grandkids to come along to keep me company and in turn share some wonderful sites with them.

The small town of Kayenta, AZ lies along the route between Phoenix and Michigan. A few miles north of the town along the Arizona/Utah border is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park – a most unique and eye-popping location. There you will leisurely drive along the 17-mile dirt road to view a multitude of amazing cliffs, buttes and mesas.

These photos were taken at a spot with with either the iconic West Mitten Butte or Merrick Butte in the distance.



Taken April 2011


Taken July 2014


Taken Nov 2014


Taken Apr 2015


Taken Apr 2018


Taken Apr 2019

The photos are a great way for me to remember this magnificent area. Hopefully the grandkids will recall their visit in years to come.

Another Amazing Feat of Nature

The story goes that hundreds of years ago herds of antelope grazed on the grounds where natural forces carved an assortment of narrow passages through the sandstone to create what native Americans call Tsé bighánílíní or the place where water runs through the rocks.

This sacred Navajo monument is commonly known as Upper Antelope Canyon. This slot canyon is a phenomenal site to experience and photograph.

Since Antelope Canyon is a Navajo Tribal Park, access is is granted only through one of five guide services that operate from nearby Page, Arizona which is also home to the Glen Canyon Dam. I chose to take an extended 2-1/2 hour photographic tour.

I’ll illustrate my visit with photos that show you the scale of the passageways and canyon walls in relation to the size of an average visitor.


This is one of vehicles used by our tour operator. The ride from Page to the canyon entrance takes about twenty minutes.

Notice the vehicle’s sizable off-road tires.

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The canyon entrance is at the end of a long, sandy road, hence the need for off-road, four wheel drive transportation.

The road is actually a wide channel that serves to drain the watershed for a large part of northeastern Arizona.

With five tour operators, there is a steady stream of visitors coming and going.

This is the parking area immediately in front of the entrance. My experience was that each of the tours was well organized.


Judging from the size of the two photographers here, you can gauge the narrowness of the pathways in the slot canyon.

The color of the canyon walls varies greatly. Here the opening at the top of the wall is quite wide so it lets in a lot of bright light.

The pathways are very level making it easy to walk on the hard packed dirt surface.

You can see that the walls jut out randomly along the pathway. As you are walking, you need to take care not to bump your head or appendages.

The coloring is quite different here. The dim lighting accentuates the texturing of the rocks.


The widest part of the canyon is a cathedral-like alcove near the entrance.

Here the canyon opens to about 30 feet wide and the walls are simply splendid.


For anyone interested, I chose the 2-1/2 hour photographic tour from Antelope Canyon Tours. The cost was $80.

Before this visit, Antelope Canyon had been on my list of “must see” places for several years. Now that I’ve experienced this enjoyable place, I am again thoroughly impressed by Mother Nature.

 

 
Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 

 

 


The Rest of The Story

I’ve been wanting to visit the iconic Horseshoe Bend for many years and I finally had my chance a few weeks ago.

As its name suggests, the Colorado River makes an abrupt 270 turn in the shape of a horseshoe. It’s located downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell near the city of Page, AZ. Drive 5 miles south on US89 from Page and you’ll see a gravel parking lot. From there a half mile hike on a moderately sloped dirt trail brings you to the overlook.

I arrived late in the day and found quite a few onlookers and photographers awaiting the sunset.

 

The overlook is about 50 yards across and provides a wonderfully wide view of the river – both upstream and downstream. The Colorado sits below the jagged cliffs about 1000 feet down.

These spectators are standing pretty close to the edge of the cliff. And while I love the scenic surroundings, I am not a big fan of steep cliffs so I made it a point to stay behind this couple.

There’s plenty of room to accommodate dozens of visitors without feeling crowded.

As you can see these photographers had lots of space in which to set up their equipment while waiting for the sun to go down.

From this vantage point, the cliff on which they are standing looks safe…….

However, in this next photograph I’ve stepped away from the edge so that you can see the rock platform on which they were positioned.

These people are a lot more brave than me. I couldn’t bring myself to stand next to them. I wasn’t about to stand just inches from the cliff’s edge that drops down by a thousand feet. No, not this photographer.


So how did I get this unobstructed view of Horseshoe Bend?

As Paul Harvey would say here’s “the Rest of the Story”.

My shooting position was immediately to the left of the four photographers with tripods. To take this photograph, I laid on my stomach and carefully crawled to the edge of the cliff. My camera was safely hanging from my neck by its strap.

Since I had a very wide angle lens (15mm), I first took a deep breath to get some courage, leaned over the edge, calmly composed the scene in the viewfinder and finally snapped about three shots.


 
So there you have it. By itself, this Horseshoe Bend photograph certainly doesn’t tell the story behind it. To inject a slight bit of humor here, let me say that I’m not afraid of heights, only of falling from them. I wasn’t going to leave the overlook until I had my shot. A little dirt on my clothes is the price that I had to pay to get it.

 
Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

 

 

I wrote this article almost two years ago. The purpose of this cross country journey was to deliver an auto to Phoenix. Whenever possible, I try to record my travels through photographs. Since I’m planning another repeat of the drive from the Midwest to the Southwest in a few weeks, I wanted to refresh my memory to see how I might stuff even more photos into my next trip to Phoenix.


Written: November 2008.

Here’s some rambling about nothing in particular.

When the weather starts cooling off in Michigan, Mom starts thinking about going to the warm environs of her Winter home in Arizona. Normally she waits until after the Christmas Holidays, but this year she decides to travel early.

Here’s where I come in. She flies and I drive. As the designated driver, I drive her car from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Phoenix, Arizona to use for the months that she is there. I don’t mind, in fact I look forward to the 2000 mile trip. After delivering the car to Phoenix I’ll fly back to Grand Rapids.

During the cold months to avoid bad weather, the preferred driving route is through Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and then on to Arizona. When I leave Grand Rapids on Friday at 7PM, my plan is to follow this route. But two hours into the trip I call my son Paul by cell phone and have him check the road conditions forecast for Colorado. According to weather.com, he assures me that the roads through Colorado are clear. So I decide to take the more northernly route through Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado. The reason is simple – the scenery in Colorado is preferable to the scenery of Missouri and Oklahoma.

Except for refueling, a rest area just east of Des Moines is my first stop at 3AM. Mom has thrown a blanket and pillow in the back seat for me so I recline the car seat for some sleep. My alarm clock is the cold temperature of the car. After a few hours sleeping in an unheated car (the engine is off), I’m too cold to sleep any longer so I’m back on the road. I reach the Iowa-Nebraska border at 7AM.


I fill up the tank again in York, Nebraska where the gas is only $1.99 per gallon. This turns out to be the lowest price for this trip. As I pass by the large and fragrant stockyards in Ogallala, Nebraska I know that I’ll soon be leaving the East-West Interstate 80 and heading south into Colorado.

Since I’m getting a little drowsy, I pull off into a rest area in Sterling, Colorado for an hour nap. Then I’m back on the road through Denver and a short jog onto US 185. Now I’m passing through the very pretty mountains and high plains of central Colorado.
Although today is a Saturday, the roads in rural Colorado are nearly traffic-free. This makes my drive through the mountains very relaxing. Five hours later I arrive in the southwest corner of Colorado and the picturesque town of Durango.

Durango is most well-known for its narrow gauge railroad that climbs the steep mountains to Silverton. During the summer, this unique railroad attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to the cozy town. A few years ago, our youngest son lived in Durango so I know the town well. So I point the car towards East by Southwest Restaurant to treat myself to sushi after my first 24 hours on the road. Then on to the Best Western motel.

After checking in, I ask the clerk for a 6AM wakeup call and hit the pillow for some real sleep. The next thing I know my wakeup call is harkening me back into the car. It’s still dark out when I pick up a coffee from McDonalds and leave town driving south.
A few miles out of Durango I cross into New Mexico. Northwestern New Mexico is also the Navajo Indian Reservation. I stop in Shiprock to snap a few photos of the famous monument. Then I continue south to Gallup where I pick up Interstate 40 westward into Arizona.
An hour later, I’m at the entrance to Petrified Forest National Park. Although I’ve passed through this area a dozen times before, this is my first visit to this National Park.
The 28 mile loop through the park yields about 75 photos. Then, I’m back on the road for the last leg of my journey. In the scenic east central area of Arizona I drive over mountains and through winding canyons and past the cactus covered deserts. I arrive in Phoenix just as the sun is setting.

Here’s a few observations from this cross country drive.

My biggest surprise is the cost of a medium chocolate shake at McDonalds in Holbrook, Arizona – $3.81 including tax (ouch).

Best breakfast – Golden Corral in Gallup, New Mexico

Best dinner – East by Southwest in Durango, Colorado

Prettiest site – Shiprock monument in Shiprock, New Mexico and Painted Desert overlook in Petrfied Forest National Park

Sleepiest section – eastern Iowa at 1AM

  • $2.03/gallon – Walcott, Iowa
  • $1.99/gallon – York, Nebraska
  • $2.59/gallon – Sterling, Colorado
  • $2.58/gallon – Farmington, New Mexico

Mom’s Toyota Camry performs OK. I check the mileage twice and find that it gets 25 miles per gallon on the interstate highways where the speed limit is 70 mph to 75 mph. However in the high plains of Colorado where the speed limit is 55-60 mph, the car gets an impressive 35 miles per gallon. The bottom-line to maximize your gasoline dollars – slow down.

I pull up to Mom’s house at 6PM – just about 48 hours after leaving Grand Rapids. I unload her belonging from the car, have dinner with my sister and brother-in-law (who also live in Phoenix) and then retire for the night to get some sleep. I’m up at 5AM the next morning for my early flight back to Grand Rapids.

Here’s a few observations about my return flight on Monday morning.

A one-way ticket from Phoenix to Grand Rapids is a sky-high $470.

The leg from Phoenix to Chicago is overbooked. United Airlines asks for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for free travel. Within 5 seconds of the gate agent’s announcement, a dozen volunteers are offering their seats. This is not surprising. With high prices for airline tickets, consumers are on the lookout for ways to save money. Since I want to get home, I don’t volunteer.

One of the passengers confesses that she is upset over the $15 charge for checking her luggage.

Onboard, I find that not only are United’s prices for beer and wine up from $5 to $6, the prices for purchased meals is also up from $5 to $6.

After the 3 hour flight to Chicago and short connection to Grand Rapids, I’m back home by 3:30 PM. Mom’s car is now in Phoenix awaiting for her arrival. I’m happy to have a set of photos from the cross country trip and I’m also happy to get back to work. And all of this completed before the snows begin out West.