Tuesday, July 27, 2010

By The Time I Get to Phoenix

By the time I get to Phoenix . . . it will be hot as you know what. And, everyone tells me, "Oh, but it's a dry heat." Well, so is my oven, but I have no desire to stay inside it. Seriously, it is a different type of heat. And, surprisingly, I find that I can adjust fairly well. You don't have to worry about "glistening" (a southern woman's variation of sweat.) But I digress.

I decided to fly in on Saturday to have a day to myself to drive up to Lake Powell. (A good idea at the time.) My flights went well. The temperature, a mild 102.  The nice guy at the rental car counter informed me that yes, I would be going through Flagstaff (which I thought was my final destination) but Lake Powell is on the Arizona/Utah border, 130 miles north of Flagstaff - a small error in navigation. My 2 hour drive just got extended by an additional 2 hours.

Another fun fact about Arizona is that they don't play by the rules. They don't like Day Light Savings Time, so they opted out (I didn't realize it was an option.) So even though all the states around them are on Mountain Time they are an hour behind. You know they are "special" when you go to program your cell phone and the choices are "Eastern Time, Central Time, Mountain Time, Arizona Time, Pacific Time". This is confusing. Do I subtract 3 or 4? Do I subtract 4 and add 1?

As I leave Phoenix the speed limit continues to rise, 55, 65, 70 . . . 75. This I can deal with , 75 miles per hour and wide open spaces. Although, I notice there are many white crosses along the side of the road, which I assume represent locations of loss of life. Maybe everyone shouldn't be driving 75. The Desert is incredibly beautiful, the scrub bushes, the tall cactus, the mountains in the distance. And, the occasional cars on the side of the road that had run hot. I am suddenly concerned about the lack of cell coverage out here. I can see the headlines now, "She headed north toward Flagstaff never to be heard of again."
As I start climbing into the mountains, the steep inclines slow traffic down. The scenery is incredible. If I had done my homework, I would have realized that I was going to the Grand Canyon. Of course, if I had done my homework and looked at a map, I would have realized that my hotel was 130 miles out of Flagstaff. A minor detail that is quickly becoming major as my day gets longer. Oh well, I'm sure the Grand Canyon is on the list of 1000 Places You need to See Before You Die. (I did check and both the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell,  as well as Red Rock Country are on the list. A Trifecta!!)

My main motivation for this journey was to tour Antelope Canyon. I had seen the most awesome photographs taken of this canyon. After doing some research, I learned that you needed to be in the canyon between 11:30 - 12:00 (AZ time) March - September for the sun to be directly overhead. After further inquiry, I found a well recommended photography tour which promised a small group for serious photographers only (and no young children.) I had a reservation for the tour on Sunday and I was excited.

When I showed up for the tour, there were 25 or so people standing outside the tour company. This was bad. Then they ask all the people in my tour to gather by the Ford Excursion, there were only 7 of us. This was good. The other six were French and spoke only passable English. This was unfortunate. As we load up with our guide, I asked her how we would be able to photograph in the canyon with all those other tourist (the remaining 17-18). "That's why we are leaving first to get ahead of them."

Then she explains that the upper canyon we will be in is only 1/4 mile long and fairly narrow. (I would later appreciate her use of the term "narrow". )

It took us 15-20 minutes to get to the canyon. In the meantime, I learned that my fellow photographers were from Paris, vacationing here, and chose Arizona for its "Wide Open Spaces" (this canyon not being one). As we turned a corner and first see the entrance to the canyon, there were 7 or 8 tour vehicles parked. (I assume they were not there for show.) This was not good. We climbed out and made our way into the narrow slot. The canyon is maybe 10 feet wide at a very few places, usually 6 feet wide, and at some places as narrow as 3 feet. It is probably 75 - 100 feet deep. It is hard to describe the effect the sun light through the small cracks in the top of the canyon has on the different colored striated walls.

But, when you put 75 -100 people in this canyon at the same time, suddenly trying to capture this beauty is a little frustrating. But beauty trumps all. Thankfully, our guide was most helpful working with us to manage the crowds and in some cases, hold them back (for a minute or so) to enable us to take a photograph of the natural beauty of the canyon with out little Jimmy in the picture trying the climb the wall. After two hours of, what seemed to me, to be hand to hand combat at times, we were making our way out of the canyon.  The crowds had thinned and we actually had time (and room) to take some (hopefully) great photos.

Now it was time to make my way back to Phoenix. I returned my rental car and boarded the shuttle bus to return to the terminal for transportation to my hotel. As I sat down, I looked down at my clothes. It was not pretty. I still had on my garb from earlier, that showed evidence of dirt and grime from crawling around on the canyon floor and generally being out in the desert heat. (Not what one generally sees leaving the car rental complex.) On the hotel shuttle I am with an American flight crew. But, I am not concerned. With the way I look, they will never recognize me if they see me tomorrow. Of course, that is if the hotel will let me check in.


Lynn said...

OK, but it still doesn't excuse the absence yesterday! And, you are still a bit sick in the head for going into the cave, with or without a guide!

I hope those French tourists had their identification papers handy and correct!

AC said...

Being politically correct, I didn't ask.

As for the canyon, you and Steve had the same reaction - his words were creepy and frightning.