AN AZ PHOTOGRAPHERS GROUP ROAD TRIP
Thirteen strong, the AZ Photographers traveled to Canyon de Chelly (or should I say “Chilly”) and Monument Valley, most leaving the Valley of the Sun (for what was to become the Valley of the Snow) early Friday morning.
Most everyone took advantage of the beautiful weather to explore the overlooks before meeting for dinner at the Thunderbird Lodge cafeteria (one of the 3 ‘restaurants’ in the town of Chinle) to find out about the next day’s agenda. Given a 6:30 a.m. meetup time, coupled with the lack of alcohol within a 90 mile radius, everyone got a good night’s sleep and arrived ready to go in the morning.
Saturday’s tour of the bottom of Canyon de Chelly was more than expected – more snow, more sleet, more wind and more rain. But also more opportunities than anyone could have imagined – frost encrusted desert flowers, pine trees wearing their snow caps against the steep canyons, reflections in puddles, all under the natural soft light of the cloudy sky.
Some say that Canyon de Chelly is a mini-Grand Canyon. I think it’s the Grand Canyon’s Lady– beautiful, quiet, majestic and intimate, revealing secrets around every turn and
nurturing it’s people and animals as evidenced by the farmlands, hogans, the ruins of the
Navajo’s ancestors’ homes and horses curiously eyeing us – the strangers in a strange and
wonderful land. .
Our amazing tour guides showed us not only the canyon, but shared with us their culture
and their home, and provided a safe and exciting journey as we forded streams and
flooded fields, navigated muddy paths, and climbed incredible embankments.
They say that a picture is worth 1,000 words, and never has been this been more true
than trying to describe the awe, the vistas, and the beauty of Canyon de Chelly. I guess
that’s why we are photographers. (However, in Stacy’s case, a yellow tree is worth 1,000
Late afternoon brought a return of the sun and most of the group once again explored
the stunning views from the overlooks of the Canyon. Dinner was at Best Western
Restaurant, which, interestingly enough, closes at 8:00 on weekdays, but 7:00 on
weekends. We arrived just in time for the “last seating” – and knew it was time to leave
when they turned the heat off.
Somehow on Sunday, faced with not only a time zone change but also a switch to
daylight savings time, the Monument Valley crew managed to meet up at the same time
and form a caravan. Sunday found a smaller group going to Monument Valley. The
sunshine and scenery made the 2 hour trip seem much shorter, and the anticipation of a
sunset tour made the afternoon pass swiftly. Also passing swiftly was the warmth of the
sun as the clouds once more gathered overhead.
So while there was no sunset, there were still the natural illumination of spirit seen in the incredible rock formations – The Mittens, The 3 Sisters, The Stagecoach, the Totem
pole, and many more. As dusk turned to dark, our guide stopped on a mesa and played
a prayer for us on his flute. In the night, he brought a lightness and peacefulness to the
It was an early morning on Monday was well, posed and position for the sunrise. But, being the AZ Photographers, the weather du jour was once again cloudy, windy and frigid. Few ventured far from the restaurant patio (where hot coffee brewed inside). Then, time for breakfast and goodbyes as we headed back home – much like the US Mail – through rain and snow and sleet and hail.
As they say…the weather is here, wish you were beautiful. Thanks to Nick and Joanne
for an unforgettable and wonderful adventure.
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