The Cathedral of Mother Nature. My Recent Adventures in the West, Part II

I was sipping my plain coffee. It was early and still completely dark outside. I sliced some strawberries into my oatmeal. I had slept well after all the hiking the day before and it was difficult to wake up. The dream world of the vast landscapes at Grand Canyon was still with me. 早上好! Good morning! I almost dropped my knife. Mr. Li was standing right behind me in the doorway to the restaurant where many of us were still working on our breakfast. Fifteen minutes and we should be at the bus…A-HA…if we wanted to come along on today’s adventures.

The first stop of the day was at Lake Powell soon after sunrise. This spectacular lake has over 2,000 miles of shoreline, it’s 400 feet deep and 186 miles long. We would take a boat ride and see a couple of miles of that shoreline. And needless to say it was dramatic.

The high rock walls were perfectly reflected in the water and a new waterscape revealed itself after every turn. I enjoyed this early morning boat ride, but was getting very excited about the nest stop. I covered my camera and lens in a plastic bag to protect it from dust and sealed it with duck tape. I got some curious glances, but knew that the Antelope Canyon was waiting and this slightly humorous improvised cover would serve my camera well .

We arrived at the Navajo Nation’s parking lot, about four miles from the Upper Antelope Canyon and were loaded up on small trucks to take us to the canyon the Navajos consider a spiritual place, a cathedral of Mother Nature. My Navajo guide was Abraham. He would take me through the canyon and back.

This sandstone slot canyon is about 660 feet (200m) long and 120 feet (37m) deep. It is amazing! The sandstone formations come to life like beautiful art work when the light hits the walls from the small openings at the top.

Some of the views of the formations have given names. The view above is called “the Heart” and the view below is known as “the Eye”. I am sure it sees some mysterious truths amid a continuous stream of visitors like me.

I was truly grateful for the opportunity to be able to access the whole canyon. No rain meant no flooding, just bright sunshine providing one glorious view after another.

Needless to say this amazing experience left me breathless. So before walking back through the canyon, I sat down on a rock to take in some fresh air. And my guide Abraham snapped a picture with my phone. I realized that my improvised camera cover looked like a soda can…but it was safe from the fine dust in the air that found its way everywhere.

Walking back through the canyon did not include any photo stops, but I could not resist the temptation to snap a few more pictures on my way back.

This canyon certainly made an impression on me. It was like walking in a huge gallery full of live art created over time by Mother Nature. And it felt, indeed, like a cathedral.

My journey continued to yet another creation of nature, the Bryce Canyon in Utah. It is also called the ‘red canyon’ and you can see why. Even here the views were breathtakingly beautiful.

It was cold and lots of snow still covered the ground. We left the red canyon when the sun was already low and started our long journey back to Las Vegas. What an adventure!

Part 3 of my adventure in the west will include some flashes of my whirlwind trip to a couple of cities in Nevada and California and of my impromptu work trip to San Francisco last week. Thanks so much for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the art of the nature as much as I did.

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A flash report on the Osprey Family here at home: It looks to me that there are at least two chicks in the nest. I have not yet been able to spot them properly from the ground, but here’s one picture where I was able to capture the whole family about a week ago. The second picture is from this morning taken from my terrace. It is obvious the chicks are growing and I am just hoping both of them will survive.

Positively Grand! My Recent Adventures in the West, Part I

I laughed. A-HA! He spoke in Mandarin and I didn’t understand a word. Then he spoke in Cantonese and I still didn’t understand a word. Apart from the now familiar A-HA. It indicates a pause, and doesn’t translate to much else than a simple “so”.

Mr. Li was a captivating guide, he made me laugh at jokes told in two dialects of a language I did not speak. And when he finally spoke in English he made me laugh again. The sky outside the tour bus window started to turn red. It was almost 6:30 a.m. and we were traveling through the Nevada desert. Las Vegas was far behind us.

I was on my way to the canyons in Arizona and Utah. After almost five hours, countless A-HAs, more laughter and a couple of convenience breaks in small towns along the way, I could finally step out of the bus and walk out to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The canyon is truly Grand. And it is impressive: 227 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and 6000 feet (1800 meters) deep. It is breathtaking when you admire it from one of the lookout points. And no pictures can do it justice.

I decided to hike along the rim from the Mather Point to the Yavapai Point and back.

I enjoyed every minute of it and took pictures of the majestic canyon and the wide landscapes opening right in front of my eyes. I observed that many other visitors took selfies. The famous last Instagram picture at the edge of the ledge is no joke. Or the video of the cartwheels on the narrow ledge (see below) to be posted on social media.

Mr. Li had warned us not to go too far out on the ledges. A-HA … safety first. And we didn’t lose anyone. Unfortunately three people fell from the rims during the week I was there.The focus on self in the midst of the most magnificent nature is a mystery to me. I just don’t get it.

I loved it there. I felt one with nature. And I heard the wing beats of times gone by.

Later in the afternoon we reached a third lookout point, near the Desert Watch Tower. The current structure is a replica of an ancient native watch tower.

Needless to say the views from there are magnificent. This became my favorite spot to observe the canyon. And I hiked again along the rim enjoying being a really tiny human in the vast embrace of Mother Nature.

After returning to the watch tower late in the afternoon, I rewarded myself with a generous scoop of ice cream. I enjoyed it sitting on a big boulder looking out over the canyon. And no, my feet were not dangling over the ledge.

That ice cream proved to be a good investment because dinner would be very little and very late that night. We said goodbye to Grand Canyon and started an hour and a half journey towards the Horseshoe Bend, a horseshoe-shaped incised meander of the Colorado River located in Arizona, not far from Utah border. We arrived at the parking lot just before sunset.

After climbing up the first steep hill in deep sand (phew!), the view downhill towards the river (darker area in the middle of the picture)was great. But I also realized it was a long sandy trail. Many people decided that the climb back up from the river would be too much and sat down on the benches at the top of the hill to watch the sunset. Not this girl.

I made the journey all the way down to the river and was rewarded with a glorious sight. I walked around the ledges and lookout points and managed to capture a view of the river bending like a horseshoe around the rock formation. Beautiful. Looking down to the river basin I noticed some people had kayaked there and now sat around a fire enjoying the peace. They would camp there overnight.

But this girl would need to climb up the long hill. Think hiking on the beach but uphill. Luckily it was not very steep and the sand was not too deep. At the end of a day that listed over 20,000 steps, it felt like a workout. But the experience was well worth it. I was secretly grateful to my personal trainer, Mr. Dylan, for keeping me somewhat in shape. I stopped only once to catch my breath – with the excuse of taking pictures of some stones that people had collected on the side of the trail.

We arrived to the little town of Page late in the evening and I was happy to get my key card… a hot shower and a nice bed were calling. This ‘night owl’ had an apple for dinner and slept early that evening. She would need to be up before sunrise the next morning. Mr. Li had promised more adventures. A-HA!

To be continued shortly. Thanks for coming along.

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For those of you who wonder how the Osprey Family here at home is doing, I can tell you that it is now obvious that they have at least one hatchling in the nest. I have been hanging out on my terrace ever since I returned from my trip and finally spotted a tiny head yesterday afternoon. My typical grainy first picture of the hatchling from almost 300 yards is below.

Now this paparazza has her work cut out for her… better baby pictures. Wish me luck.