Hi Kara here…I’ve had to take over the blog from Gunther temporarily as he’s currently in the ICU. I dunno what happened…but the last intelligible words he said were “That woman did it to me again…dragging my skinny sea level bear ass up to those ridiculous altitudes temporarily was bad enough…but now she’s done gone and parked the rig at almost 7,700 feet. After that he either fell into a coma or hibernation…I can’t figger out which…so I’ve had to temporarily take over the blog and try to upgrade the overall quality of the blog. He is a 12 year old (maturity level anyways) after all…with a resolution to never grow up…so I’ll try to keep the bodily fluid humor to a minimum until he’s recovered enough to resume his normal duties.
Monday morning we got up early for our scheduled tours of Upper Antelope Canyon…that’ the more famous one with the sunbeams in it…it’s also a lot easier hike as it’s only 250 or so yards long and flat with a walk in/walk out layout. Neil was scheduled for the 1100 photo tour which has the best sunbeams and Connie for the 1300 regular tour which is half as long. The advantage of the photo tour is that since you paid a lot more for it…you get to barge through the hordes…Upper is a lot more crowded than Lower…you get the best photo positions where you can setup your tripod…and the guides stop the hordes for you so that your pictures don’t have the hordes in them and it looks like you’re alone in the canyon. You’re not because the folks in the photo tour group are shoulder to shoulder and the hordes are either held behind you or around the bend for 2 minutes while you get your shots.
We arrived and met the photo tour guide George…he’s normally a probation officer in Page but sidelines as a photo tour only guide for Chief Tsosie’s Antelope Slot Canyon Tour company…most of the other companies and even Chief Tsosie’s company with the exception of George just use regular tour guides for the photo tours. George is an avid photographer himself and as such makes sure you get the best shots available even though it means going back and forth through the canyon as the sunbeams don’t arrive in order and some of them only last 8-10 minutes with only 2-3 at the optimum angle.
Turned out that there was one unclaimed space on the 1100 regular tour…which Connie took so as to minimize the time either of them had to wait on each other. The other advantage of the photo tour is that you get to ride in an air conditioned Suburban instead of the open back safari truck the hordes have to go on.
You get to the upper canyon by proceeding to the lower canyon area then heading off on what Arizona calls an unimproved road but what anybody else would call a mad dash through the sand dunes between the rock walls. Four wheel drive low was engaged and we plowed through soft sand out 5 miles to the upper canyon. Connie said later that there were 4 trucks in her regular tour group each with a driver/tour guide. They followed each other but offset to opposite sides of the sand track to keep out of the dust trails being raised by the truck in front of them. Think racing through the Sahara Desert and you’ll get the picture.
Ok, on to the photos.
These two are the most famous shot taken in the canyon…again, everybody that comes here gets these. This is about 50 feet into the canyon looking back towards the entrance and the canyon is about 15 feet wide and 70-80 feet tall at this point. These are a mix of photos taken by both of them.
Connie took this one looking out from the right side of the safari truck as they bounced through the sand.
These next two are the same shot…first one is the best single frame Neil took and the second is an HDR version…which is much closer to what it actually looks like inside the canyon. Photos don’t do it justice though…it’s simply spectacular inside and the Fun/Effort ratio is way, way up there. The sunbeams range from about 3 feet in diameter down to about 8-10 inches…the size depends on the shape and size of the hole they’re coming through at the top of the canyon. The sunbeams are generally only visible in the summer months and the location, angle, duration, and quality depends on the month, time of day, and clarity of the sunlight. The sunbeams are much less visible until the guides toss sand into them…they actually don’t throw it into the beams directly but bounce it off the walls…the heavier sand and gravel falls quickly to the ground and the lighter dust swirls around and 5-15 seconds later drifts into the beams to highlight them. You can see in some of the shots where the dust is in the beams as opposed to the less bright portions of the beam that don’t have any dust.
Sandfalls…very similar to waterfalls except they’re sand. Again, the guides toss shovels of sand up onto the rock and 5-10 seconds later the sandfall starts and runs for 10 seconds or so until it’s time to toss some more sand up. Neil’s tripod broke a leg early in the tour so he was reduced to using it as a 2 legged bipod and had to run the ISO up a bit higher to allow shorter shutter speeds so that they wouldn’t be blurry. A lot of the sunbeam and sandfall shots were still at 1/2 to 3/4 of a second in length anyway…good thing he was using his widest angle zoom at it’s widest setting for most of these.
This is the narrowest and longest beam they saw.
A shot of Michelle who was in Neil’s photo tour…I put this in because (a) she is cute and (b) I wanted at least one with a person in it for scale. This was taken right near the entrance…it’s an out and back hike through the canyon…shortly before we exited and headed back.
At the conclusion of the tour we piled back in our air conditioned Suburban…George was right in that we would appreciate the A/C much more on the way back…and made the bouncy jouncy trek back to the center of town. Neil got a text from Connie…she had found a nail place across the street and was there getting her nails done…once that was done they headed home for a late lunch.
Tuesday was devoted to errands and getting ready to leave Page. We did manage to stop by the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center and Lake Powell overlooks for some information and photos.
Glen Canyon Dam is one of the two major dams on the Colorado River in the AZ/UT area…it’s more famous cousin Hoover Dam forms Lake Mead. Hoover is 16 feet taller and thicker at the base but about 300 feet shorter across the span…Hoover is a gravity arch dam and Glen Canyon is an arch dam…whatever that means. Glen Canyon actually has more concrete in it…4.4 million cubic yards instead of 3.3 in Hoover and while Hoover has a higher design capacity at full pool…29 million acre feet vs 27 million for Glen Canyon…Glen Canyon actually has more water in it most of the time and is within about 80 feet or so of full pool. Neil tried to talk her into taking the dam tour but she said “big fat no on that one.”
The dam looking from the bridge just downstream.
And the remains of Glen Canyon downstream.
One of the electrical turbines impellers the dam uses to generate electricity.
And the bridge over the canyon just downstream of the dam.
From the dam visitor center we stopped by and got a few shots of Lake Powell and Wahweap Bay which is in the former Wahweap Canyon which is a side canyon off of Glen Canyon.
This is the main Colorado River course looking upstream towards the rest of Lake Powell. The dam is just out of sight to the right.
Looking slightly to the left of the shot above…this is Wahweap Bay. That’s Wahweap marina you can see…the campground is just to the left of the marina buildings.
Wednesday morning was travel day…we had about 150 miles to go to get to Bryce Canyon City just outside Bryce Canyon National Park. On arrival we quickly checked in at Ruby’s Campground and Inn…which essentially takes up about 80% of what is named Bryce Canyon City…think South of the Border over on I-75 but less tacky and touristy and you’ll have it about right. We are scheduled for 10 days here…not because we need that many days for the park but to get us past the 4th of July weekend. Originally we were supposed to move sites halfway through stay but Judy at the office was able to juggle some other reservations around and get us into site 232 for our entire stay.
In the late afternoon after planning our 10 days here we drove over to the park for the obligatory park entrance sign photo, to watch the movie and check out the visitor center, and get the lay of the land parking wise for our further forays into the park.
In the evening the smoke from the fire pick up in our area…here are some shots taken from our site right about sunset. The sites here are in the open and are gravel with full hookups…each one has a nice grass sitting area and they’re quite wide and you have decent separation from your neighbors.
Looking east (away from the fire direction) at our setup.
West toward sunset and the smoke from the fire.
And south towards the park…as you can see most of the smoke today is passing north of the park and it’s predicted to remain so for the next several days. Thursday morning as I write this it’s pretty smoke free…there’s a little high haze from it but no real smoky smell and little impact on visibility. The rest of Thursday’s agenda is to get some tickets for a cowboy dinner show and a rodeo that we want to go see and hopefully pick up Neil’s new tripod assuming UPS successfully delivers it from Amazon today.