The Fairytale National Park

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After our longer than planned stay at Zion National Park due to technical issues, we had to revisit our upcoming schedule and make some tweaks. Our next planned stop was Bryce Canyon National Park, another place I tried to get to previously without success. The weather in Bryce was looking sketchy: windy, rainy with a chance of snow showers in higher altitudes. But Hector was steadfast, he insisted on stopping there, if only briefly, because he really wanted me to see the park. And once there, I realized why he was so insistent, I will always remember this place as the fairytale national park.Bryce-2

Bryce-3The drive from Zion to Bryce was uneventful. Yay! Hector wanted full hookup and he chose a park that he had stayed at on a previous visit which also happened to be the absolute closest to the park. Check out my review of Ruby’s Inn RV Park and Campground here.

Bryce-12Bryce-4Bryce Canyon National Park was established in 1928 and protects 35,835 acres. Technically, it is not a canyon but a series of amphitheaters containing the park’s most distinctive features, the hoodoos. These colorful rock pinnacles were formed by frost weathering and stream erosion. Continue reading

Zion National Park

zion-56zion-54I was finally on my way to Zion National Park, a place I tried to visit a couple of times previously without success. I love all of the National Parks and felt very fortunate to be visiting my 37th!zion-4

zion-5Zion National Park protects 229 square miles and is known for its steep Navajo Sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons. It is hard to believe that 250 million years ago those same cliffs were sand dunes in a vast desert.

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Tips for Tours of Antelope Canyon

We did a limited amount of advance research prior to our Antelope Canyon Tour. And we found that there are a lot of details that are important in order to find the tour that is best suited for each person. There are also some important things to know in advance to best capture photographs of these places. So here are some tips for Tours of Antelope Canyon.

0.6 sec @ f13 ISO 250 17mm

0.6 sec @ f13 ISO 250 17mm

Upper Canyon Tours

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4.0 sec @ f9 ISO 400 17mm

4.0 sec @ f9 ISO 400 17mm

The Upper Canyon Tours are the most popular and get the most crowded. March through October is the peak season and November through February is considered off-season.

Guided tours are offered by several Navajo-owned tour operators. Each offers some version of sightseeing tour multiple times a day. These tours spend about one hour in the canyon.

The most popular time of year is summer, followed by spring. This time of year is when the famous light shafts shine into the canyon.

The light shafts appear mid day, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. That is also when the canyon has the most light. And also the time when the tours fill up the quickest and the canyon is the most crowded.

You may want to consider other times of day and/or times of year that may be less crowded, but may have dimmer lighting with no light shafts. We understand that these times bring out the deeper blue/purple hues that you find in the darker sections.

Each tour company runs a photographers’ tour starting between 10:15-11:30 to catch the best time of the day. These tours require each person to have their own SLR camera and a tripod. It is not necessary to be a professional photographer but they do insist on proper equipment.

AntelopeCanyon-15The photographers’ tours stay between 11/2 and 2 hours in the canyon, and their guides take the groups to the most photogenic spots, while they block traffic in both directions to give the group a very few (2 or so) minutes to get clear shots. It is a bit frantic and all the photographers are shoulder to shoulder, but it works really quite well. Continue reading

Antelope Canyon

AntelopeCanyon-42Upper Antelope Canyon in Utah has been on Hector’s “photographer’s bucket list” for a while. This slot canyon is in the Antelope washbasin within the Navajo Nation. We have seen many iconic photographs of the dreamy red curved rock and moody shafts of light and we wanted to see it for ourselves.AntelopeCanyon-48

But this place takes some effort to get to. Access to the canyon is via guided tours only, and there are three Navajo owned operators that run the tours.AntelopeCanyon-49

There are two kinds of tours. The regular guided photo tour where tripods and monopods are prohibited. And each company runs one photographers’ tour each day which gives more access and time in the canyon.AntelopeCanyon-37 Continue reading

Lake Powell

Lake Powell-19Lake Powell-1Many years ago, we spent several nights in a houseboat in Lake Powell and fell in love with its multi-colored rock formations and the beautiful light reflecting from the sun into the canyon. So on this visit we were hoping to spend some time on the water once again, kayaking or renting a boat, or hopefully both.

Lake Powell-4Lake Powell-9We read about a beach that allowed camping right by the water, Lone Rock Beach. We also read that it had several areas with soft sand so we carefully scouted the beach in our car. And we found a lovely site on hard packed sand and gravel. Check out my review of the campground here.

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Monument Valley and the Milky Way

MonumentValley-11MonumentValley-65MonumentValley-32Hector has been interested in photographing the Milky Way for a long time. But we haven’t really been in the right place at the right moment: a place with limited light pollution with a view in the correct direction, on a clear, dark night, at the right time of year – spring or summer. Not easy. Now that spring is here, the galactic center of the Milky Way begins to make its appearance in the sky. So we made a specific plan to go photograph Monument Valley and the Milky Way.
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This is our third time visiting Monument Valley. The first was a brief drive through the area. On the second visit, we drove from Denver in our Airstream, Luna, and camped in the area. Unfortunately, there was a huge sandstorm for several days during our visit, but we finally had a chance to take a guided tour after the storm subsided.

MonumentValley-1MonumentValley-31MonumentValley-40We were hoping to skip the sandstorm this time and happily the forecast was for good weather, either clear or partly cloudy. There were two nights left before the new moon, so we had a good chance for a clear night on at least one of those.
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The Grand Canyon in One Day

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In the early part of the year, we realized that our planned four day visit to the Grand Canyon was going to coincide with our friends Katherine’s and Erik’s arrival in the canyon. They live in Atlanta, and every year they travel to the Grand Canyon to join a group of their friends and backpack into the canyon for a week.

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Williams is home to the Grand Canyon railway

GC Conspiracy-3Our plan was to drive to the Grand Canyon immediately after we left Tucson and meet them the night before they began their hike into the canyon. Hector was especially eager to see them, as he was not able to make their daughter’s wedding in Puerto Rico, which I attended.

As time went by our schedules shifted a bit, but it still looked as though we would have a chance to meet. Then we realized that we needed to make a slight detour after Tucson.GC Conspiracy-7

Our detour was to Congress, Arizona, where Vern, of Penner’s Mobile RV Repair resides in the winter. We needed to replace an intake valve on Island Girl. Vern worked on Island Girl in February and we were happy with his work so we decided to have him handle the install.

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The Sonoran Desert Garden

sonoran desert-114sonoran desert-25In addition to checking out the city of Tucson, we made sure to get out into the Sonoran desert garden. Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert and is surrounded by mighty saguaros and many other fabulous desert plants. During this visit,we were super excited that we were going to be in the desert during the springtime bloom for the first time ever.sonoran desert-100

sonoran desert-18sonoran desert-19Tucson Mountain Park is a 20,000-acre county park that is adjacent to Saguaro National Park West (there is a Saguaro National Park East on the other side of town). Offering many outdoor opportunities on the West side of town. Hiking and biking are popular.sonoran desert-20
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sonoran desert-40Our friend Jean knows a TON about the native plants and we always learn new things from her about the diverse vegetation that is everywhere.  Our problem is we can’t remember it all!  But we are getting better at it. sonoran desert-38sonoran desert-51
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Touring Tucson

Tucson-90sonoran desert-29Tucson, Arizona marks the beginning of a transition for us, this is one of the towns that we are considering as our next home. Many people know that we planned our walkabout for three years and that last year we extended it for one more year. Well we are now well into that fourth year. So in the month of March, we will be touring Tucson.

We fell in love with Tucson and the Sonoran Desert three years ago when we approached the city from the West and were greeted by so many beautiful Saguaros. I wrote about them in my post Tucson and the Sentinels of the Desert.

Tucson-66Tucson-1So we are here to check out the town once again and compare it to our other final choice. I will write more about how we came up with our “finalists” in later posts.

But back to Tucson – we stayed in the center of town at Sentinel Peak RV Park, so that we could have easy access to the city. Check out my review of the park here.

Our plan was to enjoy some of what the city has to offer, select a realtor, look at some houses, and best of all visit friends.Tucson-6

We began by finding out about the local happenings, and the biggest one was the Tucson Festival of Books at the University of Arizona. In its eighth year, the festival attracts over 100,000 people. Continue reading

Thunderbirds in Tucson

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F-16 Flying Falcon

Thunder-19We arrived in Tucson to spend the month of March, our third visit in three winters. Shortly after our arrival, we heard that the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s demonstration squadron, were performing at an Air Show at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. So we went to see the Thunderbirds in Tucson.

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A still flying B-25 Mitchell

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We have seen the Blue Angels (the Navy’s demonstration squadron) perform twice, including one time in Key West in the early part of our walkabout, but we had never seen the Thunderbirds.

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KC-10 Extender

C-130 Super Hercules

C-130 Super Hercules

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KC-10 Extender

There were two air shows on the weekend and both days featured plenty of activities at the base with many military aircraft on static display, including some that were open for inside viewing.

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EC-130H Compass Call used for electronic warfare

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E-3 Sentry

Not only were there military planes, but other government vehicles were on display, including police and border patrol vehicles, a bomb squad truck, and a mobile SWAT team command center.

The show seemed particularly focused on kids, with fun activities and Air Force personnel spending quality time with them.

And, of course, there were lots of food booths. The base is massive so it took hours to see everything there was to see aside from the air show. It was quite an event.

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