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Friday, July 29, 2011

Road Trip, Day 9; White Sands Nat'l Monument & More

I'd pre-planned our stop at White Sands Nat'l Monument for a day (May 16th) and time when the nearly-full moon and the sun would both be up low over the horizon, so I could get sunset and moonrise shots. A lot of factors could have destroyed the idea. I was ready to deal with that if anything happened, but it seems the universe blessed our trip.

On our way to Alamogordo, NM, we passed what looked like a sleeping stegosaurus (click to see more detail. The head is to the right.) We also passed the world's largest pistachio nut statue. What a country, this America!

We got into Alamogordo hours before sunset, so we caught up on laundry, swam in the pool and lounged in the hot tub for a while first (both were right across from our room.) It was another good time of doing very little. By this time, we were sold on the value and amenities of the Holiday Inn Express. A full, hot breakfast beats the continental job any day.

Once at White Sands, eagle-eyed Charles immediately picked out the only, little black dot in the landscape (and promptly named him "Beetly.")

There were people up on the dunes all around, but we found one in a deserted enough area that I could get my shots without human interference. Regardless, this lone figure walking in the distance across the vastness of the landscape inspired me to take a shot.

White Sands is tucked between a couple of mountain ranges; the San Andres (seen here,) and the Sierra Blancas (which we'd been through on the way in, stopping at the Hubbard Museum of the American West.)

Charles and I at White Sands.

I liked the gradations of the sky vs. those of the dunes here.

As the sun started setting I started snapping like a fiend. It was difficult to catch the effects of sunset accurately, despite my multiple, rapid-fire changes to my camera's white balance settings.

It was cool the way the gypsum granules sparkled. Click on this shot to see what I mean.

Charles at White Sands. This photo took 1st place, journeyman and journalism category, in a recent Slidell Photography Club contest.

Focused as I was on the sunset, soon Charles pointed out the moon, rising on the other side of the sky.

Shooting the moonrise was much easier. I was glad for the slight clouds, and for the way the sunset painted them pink. "Daily Nature Photo" on The Nature Conservancy's website, Jun. 24, 2011.

On our way out Charles spotted Beetly again. He was nestled into the sand, snuggling in for the night.

White Sands Nat'l Monument was immensely cool and it would've been nice to have been able to spend more time exploring. Despite Charles offering to stay longer, to get up in the morning to come back, we had other stops planned on our route home, until...

Next post; A change of plans.

In more recent art news, yesterday I found out that my Horseshoe Bend photo won Momentum magazine's freshwater photography contest. It will appear in the magazine (of which I'll get a few copies,) and I also get a hardcover book of aerial photos. Yay! :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Road Trip, Day 8 (Pt. 2); Grand Canyon National Park

We rode around on the free shuttles at Grand Canyon National Park, pausing at one point for breakfast at the restaurant in Bright Angel Lodge. Walking in I smelled maple syrup, and the order for pancakes became destiny. They were delicious.

We watched a cool, informative movie about the Grand Canyon at the visitor's center. This was actually our last stop before deciding to go home, but it seemed a good photo to start this post with.

At one stop along the eastern route of the shuttle, I saw this tree stump, which looked like an owl face.

The colors were beautiful.

Yet another lizard, tucked away at another one of our stops.

This shot was taken shortly after dawn along the shuttle's western route. I liked the shadows, which add depth and drama not seen later in the day.

Tree sap near an old uranium mine.

I often tease Charles about his book addiction, so I had to get this shot of him leaving with a purchase. I'm reflected in the glass, too (wearing a symbol of my own addiction, my Pink Floyd t-shirt. In a similar, more recent vein, Thurs., Jul. 28th is Rick Wright's birthday, may he rest in peace.)

Another shot relatively early in the morning. Having gone with too little sleep, by 9am we were practically falling asleep on the shuttles around the rim. We managed to stick it out 'til around 1:30pm. It was a good time to leave--the park, virtually ours, alone at sunrise, was now packed with tourists.

We had a couple of long drives ahead of us. We went through the area of Humphrey's Peak (remember my photo from our day at Meteor Crater?) Here we reached our highest elevation on the trip, about 8,000 feet. We overnighted in Show Low, AZ, then went on to Alamagordo, NM.

Next stop; White Sands Nat'l Monument

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Road Trip, Day 8 (Pt. 1); Grand Canyon National Park

We woke extra early on Sun., May 15th and made our way to Grand Canyon National Park. I'd been here 15 years ago, but then I wasn't able to stay long (not to mention that the camera I was using wasn't working right.) This was Charles' first visit.

Arriving around 5am, we got in for free (the entry booths were not yet open for business.)

It was c-c-cold! About 42F with a pretty steady, 15mph wind. We parked near El Tovar to put on extra layers of clothing. They say that "all things happen for a reason." In this case, we ran into a gentleman who told us about something to see just outside the restaurant at Bright Angel Lodge, nearby.

He wasn't kidding! As mentioned in a blog entry wayyy back in Carlsbad, NM, here's the better shots of elk taken at the more interesting location. They were really very patient and calm. Surrounded by eager shutterbugs, the elk just grazed to their hearts' content.

Charles also spotted this common desert centipede, desperately trying to warm up for the day.

I loved the way the canyon peeked out of the mist as the sun rose.

One of our few sightings of the Colorado River, the same waterway that comprised Horseshoe Bend.

Despite how tired we were, the Grand Canyon at sunrise was an awesome sight.

Next post; The Grand Canyon, con't.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Road Trip, Day 7 (Pt. 4); Cameron Trading Post

I was glad to have booked a room at the Cameron Trading Post in advance--they were down to only 2 rooms when I did! Why, you may ask, would I feature a hotel stop as it's own entry here on the blog rendition of our road trip?

For starters, this was the view from our room.

Just outside was a wonderful, shaded, flower-filled courtyard, complete with fountains and a huge fireplace.

After driving for hours through badlands, it was definitely a welcome sight!

We both loved it.

There were all kinds of birds here, too. We saw doves, grackles, sparrows and even a hummingbird!

Besides a massive gift shop on the premises (at which we bought oodles of things,) they also had a beautifully decorated restaurant, and we'd arrived right around dinnertime. Charles had a huge Navajo taco and I had a hot, open-faced turkey sandwich.

Our room was also quite charming, decorated with a Native American theme from the tiling in the bathroom to the lamps on the end tables.

I was too taken with the gardens to get photos of anything else, however.

I mean...look at it! It's just wonderful.

We had to hit the hay early. We were scheduled to get up at 4am to drive an hour to the Grand Canyon.

I wanted to be there before sunrise.

The only downside to this wonderful oasis was that the walls were paper-thin.

Our sleep was interrupted by people in neighboring rooms showering, thumping suitcases around, etc.

We even had a lovely sunset before hitting the hay, though. All in all, this was a great stop, full of beauty and at least some respite from our hours on the road.

Next stop; Grand Canyon Nat'l Park

In recent art news, my Foggy Morning photo took 1st Place (photography) in Slidell Art League's "Cirque du Sol Art" show. It also rec'd a Purchase Award from Slidell Memorial Hospital.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Road Trip, Day 7 (Pt. 3); Horseshoe Bend & On the Road

We were both pretty hungry when we got back from our tour of Secret Canyon (on May 14th,) so we stopped for some lunch. During the tour, our guide had pointed out the sign for Horseshoe Bend, which was conveniently on our way out of town. I'd looked into it when planning our trip, but it seemed much more out of the way than it actually was. Since we had extra time, I suggested we make the stop, and Charles agreed.
After a short walk uphill from the parking lot, we came upon a sign stating that we were about to undertake a 3/4 mile hike down to the viewing area, and that no shade or water would be available. We'd gotten into the habit of bringing water everywhere we went as a sheer necessity, and after getting pretty badly sunburned at Bosque del Apache NWR some days prior, I'd been more diligent about sunscreen and my hat.

Here are some of the tallest plants in the area. They weren't kidding about the lack of shade! Fortunately it was a partly cloudy day, at least.

Horseshoe Bend was definitely worth the stop. Most photos of this site are unmarred by the desert rocks seen here in the foreground. Considering the 1000' drop, however, I wasn't taking any risks, and stayed safely back from the edge. This image is actually a composite of 3 shots I stitched together. Without a wide-angle lens, the bend was just too massive to fit in one shot.
"Daily Nature Photo" on The Nature Conservancy's website, Jun. 28, 2011.
"Nature Photo of the Week" on The Nature Conservancy's blog and facebook page, Jul. 1-7, 2011.
3rd Place (photography,) Slidell Art League's "Cirque du Sol Art" show and Purchase Award, Slidell Memorial Hospital, Jul. 15, 2011.
Winner, Momentum magazine's "freshwater" photo contest, Jul. 28, 2011.
Homepage of the Win! blog, Aug. 2, 2011.

Here's Charles at Horseshoe Bend. As cool as it was to make the hike, the 3/4 mile hike back UPhill in dusty/sandy soil was a whole lot of not fun. I stopped often to rest.

During one of my stops, I got this shot of a long-nosed leopard lizard and eventually we made it back to the car. Our next stop was Cameron, AZ. Wanting to avoid the kind of lodging problem we had in Page, I called to book a room in advance.

On the road to Cameron; some wide open vistas and some of the driest, roughest badlands we ever saw.

It felt like we could see at least a hundred miles from this overlook.

Next stop; the Cameron Trading Post.
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