NAVAJO NATION & GRAND CANYON
For the third and last part of our journey through Southwest USA (Check out Part I and Part II), we drove to Navajo Nation to visit Monument Valley, the slot canyons and Horseshoe Bend. We crossed the state border from Utah to Arizona, and then kept travelling to the last spot of our trip, the overwhelmingly beautiful Grand Canyon.
Driving from Moab to Monument Valley was long and exhausting. The trip had been pretty intense so far and we were starting to feel tired. Our first goal was to reach the Mile 13 mark on Highway 163. This is the famous spot were Forrest Gump decides to stop running in the movie. Once we got there we felt excited, got out of the car and carefully (its a highway!) began taking pictures, running and doing all sort of “tourist” stuff, we needed to wake up!
The sunset was almost upon us so we packed our stuff and kept driving to reach the Mittens View Point of Monument Valley. It was a great drive with the spectacular sandstone buttes and classic scenery of Hollywood’s Western Movies.
We got to a very big Navajo hotel at the end of the road and we weren’t quite sure were the view point was. To our surprise, the famous Monument Valley view point, was right near the parking lot of the hotel. Kind of a disappointment to see such a spectacular landscape, covered in tourists, cars, shops and hotel infrastructure. Not the wild, wild west, experience we were hoping for at this epic location. We took our shots and after the sunset we had to drive to the nearest open restaurant and then a two hour drive to Page, Arizona. We reached our hotel at 1am. Sleeping was everything we needed at that point.
The following morning, we headed out to Lower Antelope Canyon, and booked a “photo tour” just for photographers with a tripod and DSLR, no iPhone photography allowed! So we waited for an hour and then began our journey into the slot canyon with our Navajo guide. Almost every location in Navajo nation, needs a guide.
The slot canyons were beautiful and intriguing. The soft and subtle movements of the rock with its warm hues and light beams created a surreal atmosphere.
Sadly, the experience becomes too chaotic for photographers. The space is limited, the time is limited and the tourists are not. It was stressful trying to get good shots with people moving around inside such a tight space. I felt the Navajos somehow didn’t do a good job of protecting the land, every single Navajo owned landmark becomes a tourist trap. It seems like they care more about the money than the landscape and the experience for the visitors.
Feeling like we needed another “slot canyon experience” away from the crowds. We decided to visit Water Holes Canyon. And thankfully we did. After buying our permit from the Navajos, we drove to the location. Its a tricky hike down to the canyon, no steps nor guidance, just rock. This canyon isn’t as beautiful as Antelope but it’s a tourist free zone. We took portraits, hiked, took lots of video footage and enjoyed the adventure.
Horseshoe Bend was waiting for us at sunset. By far my favourite location during this part of the trip. A massive open landscape of epic proportions. A great spot for photographers.
The rim is long and it offers plenty of space at all directions even though there are of course, a lot of people there. The sun lit the clouds with intense oranges and magentas, the dramatic landscape got even better. The wind was strong and the sand was harsh against our skin. Its was tough trying to shoot long exposures but I managed to get my shots, the ones I wanted from this location. I was happy.
Our next stop: Grand Canyon National Park
Grand is an Understatement
The first view we got of Grand Canyon, blew us away. The Desert View Point is dramatic, rich with contrasts, overwhelming and absolutely gorgeous.
It began to snow! The cold was too much, and the wind was so strong I couldn’t feel my fingers. But the views! Those views made you forget all of it. What a spectacular game of lights and shadows, textures and drama.
We kept driving and reached Yavapai Point, our sunset spot. The clouds were building up and created so much movement and contrasts. The sunset began, with the light moving quickly through the canyon. The peaks burning with the last rays of light and the clouds reflecting the warmth. It seemed to kept going and suddenly, behind the horizon, the moon rose and the blue hour took over.
We felt our road trip through the Southwest needed a perfect ending, a perfect goodbye, Grand Canyon gave it to us. We had only one afternoon, one sunset to meet, but it was enough to made us fall in love with its power and everlasting beauty.
This trip might have ended but it left us with so much to be grateful for. It was hard, it challenged us in many ways, but it was rewarding. The journey keeps going for there are countless places to discover in this spectacular world we’re privileged to live in.
So cheers to the road ahead and the dreams we chase!
Luis Solano Pochet
Founding Photographer & Director
“Travel to the tough places. Travel to learn. Travel to discover. Travel to the places that will challenge who you think you want to be.”