Cruising Canyon Country

North Rim, Zion, Bryce, and Antelope Canyons - AZ/UT Aug 2014

Rising Storm
Our couple of days at the Grand Canyon's North Rim were marked by churning clouds in the sky above... and in the canyon below. This might sound like a disappointment, but I have always found the canyon is most dramatic in bad weather and this was no exception. Walking down the North Kiabab Trail, we watched as clouds formed in mid-canyon and then broke against the white cliffs of the Coconino Sandstone like waves against a beach.

Hit-n-Miss Cliffs
As we rested at Coconino Point, clouds would alternately fill the canyon and then clear out - playing hide-n-seek with the canyon walls. The above pictures were taken only a few minutes apart.

Roosevelt in the Rain
Looking north from Roosevelt Point, Nankoweap Basin and Alsap Butte were wrapped in wreathes of constantly moving clouds that almost looked like plumes from forest fires. Much of this 'weather' was forming in the canyon itself as warm moist air from the canyon depths rose against the cooler rim air above.

Vishnu in the Clouds
Just before the Cliff Spring Trailhead, we got our first view of the river. The dark clouds of the passing storm were breaking at the high elevations, while smaller pale clouds produced by the canyon continued to form and disapate around the formations of Vishnu Temple and Freya Castle. The combination of cloud layers and the dappled lighting they produced gave the entire scene a mystical quality.

Cliff Spring Curve
Cliff Spring Trail is one of the over-looked gems along the road to the Cape Royale overlook. This easy hike into a pretty little side canyon leads to a small cliff-side seep spring (similar to the more famous Dripping Springs on the Hermit Trail).

Sunset Cape
The view of Whotan's Throne from Cape Royale is one of the classic North Rim views - particularly at sunset when the western face of the formation is bathed in warm light (by this time our storm was fading).

Zion Sunset
The next day we drove over to nearby Zion National Park where we had an equally beautiful sunset featuring the famous 'Great White Throne' rock formation.

Hanging Gardens of the Narrows
Hiking the famous Zion Narrows has long been on my list (water levels and other circumstances had prevented it on past trips). I was not disappointed. I had been expecting the dramatic canyon walls, but was surprised by how lush and green the lower sections are. Numerous seep springs create hanging gardens - and even small waterfalls - along the route.

Steep Seeps
The canyon continues to narrow. In places, rows of seep springs along the walls (caused by a change in rock layers) increase erosion and undercut the overhanging cliffs.

Entrance to Orderville
About 3 miles in - near the narrowest part of the canyon - is the small tributary of Orderville Canyon (near the lit-up rock face in the back). The hikers give some sense of the scale of the place. Later in the day, the lower parts of the canyon were filled with people. If you want to get clear shots here, go in early and go in deep.

What's Everybody Looking At?
The Zion Park Lodge features a large grassy lawn in front that attracts deer in the evenings - much to the delight of visitors. These folks were so busy photographing the other deer further out on the lawn to the left that they missed the young fawn walking past them.

Zion Rocks!
There is much more to Zion National Park than the main canyon itself. The surrounding area (especially eastward on the road to Kanab) is populated with dramatic rock formations (much of it Navajo Sandstone) shaped in bizzare patterns by erosion. Over time, rain and oxidation bleeches out the reddish iron minerals from the top layers of the rock creating a landscape of whites, pinks, and reds.

Bryce is Nice
From Zion, we climbed up to Bryce Canyon where some of the rims top out above 9,000 feet elevation. Bryce is not really a canyon per se, but a series of colorful curved cliff faces that have been eroded over the years to produce odd spires and ridges known as 'hoo-doos'.

Giants of Wall Street
Most of the Hoo-Doo area is moonscape barren, but somehow a couple of ponderosa pines managed to gain a foothold in a narrow side canyon known as 'Wall Street' for its towering sides.

Riggs Spring Camp
Wanting to get in a little backcountry time, we got a permit and spent one night backpacking down to Riggs Spring in a valley below the cliffs on the southern edge of the park. It was a nice 8.8 mile round-trip hike through a wide range of forest and scrub. The campsite itself was in a very pretty location with a reliable (if meager) spring nearby. The larger group campsite (only a few hundred yards away) was closed due to recent bear problems, but all we saw was deer, squirrels, and a surpriningly large number of amusing horned lizards (aka: 'horny toads').

Antelope Canyon seen from Above
The last stop on our trip was the famous Antelope slot canyon near Page. Looking at the narrow canyon from the top, it would be hard to guess that this crack in the rocks is over a hundred feet deep. At the bottom of the picture, is the hat of a hiker emerging from the depths. Metal stairs fixed to the canyon wall allow access at either end.

Enter the Antelope
Antelope Canyon has become so popular that there is a constant stream of people going through it. In all of these images there are probably over a 100 people within a 100 feet of me in either direction. This limits the chance of getting clean shots looking along the canyon bottom at eye-level and so most of the following shots are looking upward (to varying degrees) along the canyon walls above.

Antelope Canyon 3

Antelope Canyon 4

Antelope Canyon 5

Antelope Canyon 6

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