Catching a Lake Powell Sunset

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September 28th 2006
Published: October 1st 2006
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We’re on the road again, this time to Page and Monument Valley in Arizona. Alan is attending a photography workshop while I tag along in search of writing material.

The drive takes us through most of Arizona’s climactic zones. Leaving Tucson, we travel through desert until reaching the outskirts of Phoenix. Then, its big city driving on jammed-packed highways at morning rush hour.

After we negotiate our way through Phoenix, the road starts to climb; and, for a few more miles, saguaros still dot the landscape. Soon, the highway becomes a rollercoaster of downhills and uphills with plenty of twists and turns. We end up on a grass-covered plateau in high desert country.

The road eventually drops down into the Verde Valley, a green oasis of trees and water. Then, we climb back up in elevation and into pine forests and mountains. Near Flagstaff, we are at 7,000ft and continue that elevation until we turn off Interstate 40 and start the drive on Highway 89 towards Page.

At first, the trees are still with us. We pass the turn-off to Sunset Crater and Watpuki National Monument saving their exploration for another day. As the road descends, we return to the high desert of the Navajo lands. There is little grass and few trees. But, the hills and cliffs are tinted red, pink and orange giving a colorful beauty to an otherwise stark landscape.

We pass the Vermillion Cliffs. Rising high above the desert floor, they appear to be standing guard over the beginnings of the Grand Canyon. The road starts to climb again as we approach Page. Soon, we can see the deep blue fingers of Lake Powell winding their way through the rugged earth.

In the afternoon, we meet Jim, the photo workshop leader, and three other participants. Jim leads us to one of Lake Powell’s overlooks off Highway 89 for a session of sunset photography.

Lake Powell shimmers with the silver reflection from a late afternoon sun. Boats motor on the water far below our lookout. We can hear the hum of cars on pavement.
Orange hoodoos stand in front of sculptured cliffs. To our right, smoke rises from the tall stacks of a power plant. And, sacred Navajo Mountain reigns over it all.

Other tourists join the scene, the accents of German and French mixing with the clicking of cameras. We’re all in pursuit of one of nature’s greatest shows, the pinks and yellows of sunset reflected on this dramatic landscape.

The sun sinks behind the hills and the tourists leave, thinking the show is over. But, the photographers know the best part is yet to come. As the sun drops farther behind the hill, the cliffs blush with one last orange glow, giving the lake a pinkish cast. A sliver of a moon watches as the sky turns dark blue and power plant lights twinkle on the desert floor, a beautiful ending to our day.

To read more about our photo workshop experience with Jim Altengarten, vist this page at my blog about baby boomer travel, My Itchy Travel Feet .

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