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Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Monument Valley
Wednesday, January 10, 2001
From Flagstaff, we first drive to Grand Canyon National Park to see what it looks like in winter. We revisited the Bright Angel Trailhead from where we started last summer. There's not much snow in the canyon itself, but on the trails and walls, which the sun does not reach very often, there is still quite some snow. The sky is blue with 30% clouds that hang so deep that they drift inside the canyon - an intriguing sight from the rim. Next, we drive along the road to Hermit's Rest on the west rim of the canyon. We couldn't take that road on our first visit because it is closed to public traffic in the summer, but now in the winter it's open. We can actually see the Colorado River from some of the viewpoints there, which we hadn't been able to spot from the other viewpoints we visited in the summer. Finally, we drive on the Desert View Road toward the east entrance of the national park, stopping only at two viewpoints to see if they look any different than in the summer (they didn't much, except the summer photos are brighter and more colorful because there was more sun :-).
After leaving Grand Canyon, we turn north-east to drive to Lake Powell - an artificial lake that was created when the Glen Canyon Dam at Page was built. Although it is kind of sad to know that a wild canyon landscape like Grand Canyon was inundated by the water, the new landscape that was created is beautiful, too. Islands of rugged red stone rise from the deep blue water, and hundreds of boats are moored at the Wahweap Marina for the season. In combination with the blue sky and the white clouds, the panorama makes for some nice photos.
Since the weather is relatively good at Grand Canyon and Lake Powell, we decide to try our luck with Monument Valley again. The first 100 miles from Page to shortly before Kayenta, the beginning of Monument Valley, are nice indeed: In the late afternoon sun, the ground is virtually glowing, creating a stark contrast with the dark clouds at the horizon. We are confident that we will see the rock formations in Monument Valley against the background of a great sunset, but shortly before Kayenta, we literally hit a wall of fog that is so thick we can't even see 50 feet sometimes. We drive through the fog virtually blind, hoping that the cloud will end before the actual beginning of Monument Valley.
Indeed, when we reach the highest point of Monument Valley Pass, we have the clouds below us and can see the silhouettes of all the rock formations at the horizon, their bases surrounded by billowing white clouds. It is an incredible sight - the rocks really seem to float in the air, resting on cushions of clouds. To our right, the clouds seem to spill over from behind a high rock wall, creating a wide "waterfall" of clouds. The whole panorama looks more like a mirage than a real landscape. And certainly enough, as we approach the formations, we dive back into the thick white clouds again. They shield the monuments completely from our view even when we drive right past them.
Because of the clouds, it seems to get dark early - by 6 pm, we drive through absolute darkness on our way to Moab - we only realize that it's a full moon when the layer of clouds opens up a bit around 7 pm. We stay in the Super 8 motel in Moab that we already know from last time.
|© 2001-2003 Matthias Book (Text), Nils Grunwald (Photos)|