Sometimes things don't turn out quite as planned, and this is of course true for travel plans as well. I comfort myself in such situations, knowing that one lost opportunity might open up for others, and that the unexpected often brings on the most memorable moments.
This was my situation when I traveled through the States in September -06. A rendezvous with a friend had to be canceled with short notice, and I suddenly had several days for improvisation.
I arrived at Stu and Yo's in Page, Arizona for a few days with the Franzén clan. It had been years and years since we last met, but before I knew it the few days had turned into a week. I had come to a house with open doors and open arms, and in Page, the optimal base camp for a lover of the South West. I was in for a truly great week.
Upper Antelope - the most accessible of the slot canyons - is a favourite of many photographers, and understandably so. When the sun rays fight their way down to the sculpted walls, through the narrow crack forty-fifty feet above us, the visual impression is overwhelming. Twisted rock with wonderful lines in red, yellow and gold. Shadows and light. New shapes and formations wherever you turn your head.
Here I managed to run out of batteries after only two pictures! Well, well - serves me right. Actually it's not a bad idea to forget about taking pictures once in while, and instead just take in all the impressions with all ones senses, and store them in your own hard disc. Antelope Canyon is a true gem, and will stick no matter what.
Here is another photographer's top ten pick, this time for the ultimate wide angle shot: the perfect U-bend of the Colorado River 1100 feet below the edge of a precipitous wall. Well, my Coolpix didn't quite fit it all into the frame, but the scenery and landscape around The Bend was an endless flood of visual treats, suited for any kind of camera, and for anyone's eyes.
I walked along the rim for a couple of hours, and having left the twenty some people at the view point, I had the whole world to myself after only a few minutes. A vast blue sky, the river down below and an ocean of red rock. Waves and whirls. Even surfs. Small towers and amphi theaters. Vibrating silence. A small rabbit jumped up behind a rock and took off - without making a sound, of course. I peaked down to the river over the rim. A tourist boat passed by, and there were fishermen standing just off the shore with their rods. They're just small dots from where I was standing. I could have continued walking here for hours and hours, but Stu was picking me up. She had to listen through my enthusiastic recapturing of my little walk. She didn't mind.
The North Rim
To my great fortune John and his daughter Alex were going for a day trip down to the Grand Canyon. Thirty years ago I walked down to the bottom of this immense, eroded wonderland, and I had wanted to go back ever since. Now I was on the way, and the North Rim would be a first.
The drive down from Page is a highlight in itself, crossing the bridge over the Colorado and then miles along the Vermillion Cliffs. The last hour is through the tall coniferous forest on the Kaibab Plateau - a strange contrast to the wild, wide and rocky desert.
The North Rim is a truly nice spot. The South Rim is fine, but here the human presence is quite a bit more modest. We passed through the main building and continued along the path down to Bright Angel Point. With too little time to venture down into the canyon this is how good it gets. But I mean good - really good. The point is a narrow, high ridge with the path winding it's way with a devouring drop first on this side, and then on the other. By the end of the path one can climb a little summit from where the view is absolutely astonishing. Such vastness and majesty. Such beauty.
From this starting point, one can easily reach an endless string of scenic wonders. Places to stop by for a quick look and places one can explore for days and weeks: the slot canyons; Lake Powell; Horseshoe Bend and the Grand Canyon, just to mention some.