Marlan asked that I write up about some of our many adventures in photography, after all CWUAP is Claire’s and Walt’s Unique Adventures and Photography! Here is just a small tasting.
[note from Marlan/RV52 – click on the pictures for more backstory on the individual picture.]
Most of our adventures have been by accident, which, contrary to what you may think or have heard, is how most photographers make their great shots. And although by accident, we do try and plan a little.
Number one on our list is the grandfather of all national parks, Yellowstone National Park. If you haven’t been, go. Our favorite is the Northern Tier. This is the road from the North Entrance, through Mammoth Big Springs, to the Tower turnoff (turning east) and through Slough Creek, Lamar Canyon, Lamar Valley and then into the East Entrance. We usually turn around at Pebble Creek or Trout Lake.
Through this trek are all manner of animals from the most delicate birds (just east of Floating Island is a field that is full of all the birds on your checklist), through the Lamar Canyon (a fav for nesting Osprey) and then into the Lamar Valley, nicknamed the Serengeti of North America – that means there are always lots of animals, action and drama going on in the valley.
That’s not to take away from the geothermal fun, and even though Yellowstone contains more geothermal activity than the rest of the world, it’s the animals that we love. But there is of course Old Faithful and around sunset there’s a beautiful rainbow to take in and while waiting, there’s usually a surprise geyser or two that will delight you geothermal fans. Also for photogs, in the spring at Artists Point from about 9 to 10 am is a beautiful rainbow at the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.
Because we love the Northern Tier so much, we always stay at Yellowstone RV Park, which backs up to the Yellowstone River where we watch eagles and osprey fish the river (and they are dang good at it too!). Make reservations early as they fill up fast. They have a clean restrooms and laundry if a little well-used, but they are very clean and well-kept and have full-service hookups.
Moving on, there are other national parks, and southern Utah and Northern Arizona is our next visit. You can not travel this part of the country and 1.) not feel like you’re in a John Wayne western and 2.) not be enthralled with geology, even if you’ve never acquainted yourself with the science, and after all – isn’t that what we’re all doing – traveling to expand our horizons and learn new things?
Starting at the top of the steps of the Grand Staircase, is Bryce. It’s worthwhile to see the hoo-doos and learn about their formation in Bryce, but to be honest, the huge buses of tourist flood the area, that it makes visiting Bryce a little difficult. Our suggestion is to drive through, spend an afternoon there, then take in the slot canyon hikes of the GSENM (Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument). Lick’s Wash and Buckskin Gulch are two fab slot canyons. I don’t need to tell you not to do this during the rainy season do I?….Good – Don’t! These canyons were formed by rushing waters through the rocks which you will see ample evidence of. This part of the park is into the Grey and White cliff area, so the rocks aren’t as colorful as further south.
Next, take in just south of his area, and Page, AZ. You may not think so, but this is a real hot spot to stay. There is so much to see here.
Start with a short trek to the Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River. It’s about ¼ mile walk from the road to the cliff of the Horseshoe Bend and the best time to view it is mid-day. This amazing formation was of course carved out by the famous Colorado River that did a lot of carving in it’s day!
Next travel further south on SH 89 and then you will turn right onto SH 89A to Carmel Canyon and the Navajo Bridge. Stop here. Doesn’t look like much, but stay a while – and you’ll see these huge birds and then it hits you – they are California Condors – yep, that’s right. They are all numbered, and this is where the San Diego Zoo releases the condors after they have raised them – just north of the Grand Canyon and they fly all around here on a regular basis. This is a MUST on your bucket list.
OK further down south on SH 89A, you will come to the Northern border of the Kaibab National Forest, as you come out of the Plateau toward Kanab, you will look north and this is the only chance you will have to see 5 of the 6 steps of the Grand Staircase – Bryce in the distance (Pink Cliffs), then the Grey, White, Vermillion and finally Chocolate Cliffs in the foreground. The 6th step is the Grand Canyon and of course you can’t see all of them because of the curvature of the Earth.
Take SH 89A back to Kanab and then SH 89 to Page to return home. But Kanab is also where the GSENM has their geological Ranger Station and do drop in to get some wonderful education on the formation. Also if you want to do the Wave hike (aka Coyote Buttes), this is where you come for the drawing (click the link for more info).
One other excursion outside Page is east into the Navajo Reservation to see Antelope Canyon, one of the most photographed slot canyons. You will need to arrange a tour through the Navajo Nation, and if you are at least interested in taking any pictures, take the “Photographers’ Tour”, which is a little pricier, but worth it.
In Page, stay at the Wahwep Marina & RV Park within Lake Powell National Park. This park is pristine, updated and really nice. All sites have cement level slabs, and are arranged well so as to take in the view of Lake Powell. The price is reflective of the nice accommodations, but it’s worth it.
Next stop should be Zion National Park. As the saying goes, you look down in Bryce and up in Zion, because you are at the bottom of 5 of the 6 steps of the Grand Staircase. Do not fail to come through the tunnel – as a matter of fact, I would make this your entrance into Zion – it’s breathtaking. We stayed at the Zion River RV Resort and like Wahwep, this is a very nice facility, we highly recommend it.
Finally, I can’t leave this without saying that as well as these fine national parks, state parks are some of the most special finds we have out traveling – within our own state of Oklahoma, Great Salt Plains State Park, Red Rock Canyon State Park, Osage Hills State Park (adjacent to the Nature Conservancy Tallgrass Prairie Preserve), Greenleaf State Park (near Tenkiller Lake), and Beavers Bend State Park (one of the favs of the state) are all highly recommended by CWUAP, and we urge you to always look into state parks when traveling. They can be delightfully special and accidental finds which always make traveling and your trip memorable.