This weekend I went on an extremely fun solo road trip across the southwest - inspired by a longtime desire to go to Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona. I decided that instead of finding the right time to go, I just needed to do it. A few days out I started to plan my route and made the reservation for my canyon tour, which would make or break my trip. I drove up to my Grandparents house on Thursday night, and stayed with them in St. George, UT, which got me two hours closer to my early morning destination of Zion, and even better I got to spend time with family and play LOTS of cards!
I got up before the sun rose trying to make it Zion before the sunrise, and let me tell you it was well worth it! I knew the park was open despite the government shut down and got there early enough I didn't even have to show my park pass. So I drove into the park, found a really nice view of an eastern facing mountain, and waited for the sunrise. I was trying to get a picture similar to the Yosemite El Capital Mac desktop picture where you can see the light as it rises on the mountain. I was lucky enough to get the shot, no HDR needed, with lots of patience and timing. BONUS - while I was standing on the side of the road to get this picture, three giant deer crossed the road about 15 feet away from me, and it was absolutely epic.
From there, I drove further into the park to get started on the 8 mile hike I had planned for the day. I wanted to do the hike, Observation Point, which is one of the bigger hikes Zion has to offer and takes you to the highest point in the park. It took me a little under six hours, including LOTS of stops to set up my tripod and take pictures, and enjoy my lunch on the top of the mountain along with some mountain top yoga (see the headstand picture below!) This hike did not disappoint with a breathtaking view at the top, and also offered many equally as amazing views all along the way. I was lucky to get an early start, the best parking spot, and a practically empty trail for almost all of my hike.
After my hike, I drove back into Springdale to grab a big burger at Oscar's, then got back on the road. I drove through the park, taking the 89 east towards Lake Powell. I took a small detour to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, which my friend Abbi told me about and I knew I had to add to my route. It was well worth it to see and walk around, I was just wishing I had brought a sled or something else to slide down the sand hills! From there I got back into my car and finished up my drive to Page. The entire drive was incredibly beautiful and I was sad that I couldn't add more stops to my trip!
I arrived in Page a little after sunset, checked into my hotel (KING BED ALL TO MYSELF YAY!) and then headed over to horseshoe bend to take some long exposure pictures of the canyon with the stars overhead. It was a terrible idea because even with my head lamp, two jackets, hat, and gloves, I was scared and freezing cold. It was pitch black out, and looking back, not the safest thing I could have done. But I made it out without getting kidnapped on the side of a giant canyon in the middle of the night, so that's good! I headed back to my hotel, warmed up, and went to bed. (I knew I had a big enough lunch to count for dinner too!) I got up early the next morning to catch the sunrise at Horseshoe bend, and dressed incredibly poorly. It was about 25 degrees out and I didn't wear my hat so my ears were bright red and numb by the time I got back, but it was well worth a little pain for the opportunity to watch the sunrise in an epic location.
After Horseshoe bend, I went on my 9:30-12:30 Upper Antelope Canyon Photography Tour. I went on the upper Antelope tour because the lower canyon was closed for maintenance this January, and they no longer offer a photography tour due to the popularity of the slot canyons. This tour is two hours long and allows you to bring a tripod into the canyon, which is absolutely necessary to get quality pictures due to the low light in the canyons. All of my pictures were taken with 20-30 second exposures using a tripod, a low ISO, and a very high (small) aperture. The low ISO gives your photos less noise, and the high aperture gives you a larger depth of field so that more of the picture is in focus, which is usually necessary for landscape photography. My tour consisted of me, the tour guide Patrick, and four incredibly nice but non-english speaking Asians. This gave me the opportunity to talk and hang out with my tour guide. He helped me set up a lot of great shots, since it can be so crowded and overwhelming in the canyon to know how/where to shoot. He also took some pretty amazing photos of me, since I was alone.
After my tour, I headed back to St. George, taking a different and more direct route through northern Arizona, and again was blown away by the magnificent views along the entire way. I had dinner with my grandparents, watched basketball, and then passed out after my non-stop adventure. I was happy to get to spend the entire next day with them, and then headed back home Sunday evening.
I am a very independent and introverted person, and enjoy being by myself. I wouldn't say that I want every trip I take to be by myself, because that would probably get pretty lonely. But I can say that I think everyone should travel alone at least once, even it it is just a weekend trip in your own town. You are more open to meeting people and having opportunities that would not come your way if you were in a larger group, or even part of a pair. I was able to stop whenever I wanted to and play 'The Greatest Showman' on repeat for 3 hours without anyone else getting annoyed with my choice in music. Yes I am the person who plays one song on repeat for hours on end.
I wanted to end this post with a story from a lady (who is actually a dentist!!!) I met on my trip. She was hiking along somewhere in Washington, and got stranded. She hadn't planned on camping, so she was totally unprepared and kinda freaked out that she wouldn't make it back that night. She also thought she was alone, but then this man came across her path. (I thought at this point it was going to be a creepy scary story!) He was also hiking in the area, but was planning on camping. They ended up sharing his tent that night, and exchanged phone numbers before going on their ways in the morning. AND NOW THEY ARE MARRIED. I thought she was going to tell me a story about the bad side of being a solo female traveler, but it turned out to be the most magical story that resonated very deeply with me. I hope that this story also finds it's way to anyone else who might be needing to hear it.
Until next time,