Remembering the Desert, Part 1

This is one in a series of entries recounting the 2009 trip that Phil Rose and I took to the desert.  We are hoping to fund another such trip; for more details or to help out, please check out our Kickstarter.  The beautiful photography present in these posts is courtesy of my friend, the very talented Phil Rose.

Looking down on the desert.
Looking down on the desert.

When Phil was taking this picture, I was standing along the side of the highway laughing, and he was stretched out in the middle of the road on his belly, his camera pointing down the center line.

This was from relatively early on in the trip, when we still thought we were going to see the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  We had hit Vegas with no real plan in mind, other than to get a car and head out of town.  We had just come south out of Zion in Utah, and as Phil had always wanted to see it, we were on our way to the world’s biggest hole in the ground.

We had pulled over to the side of the highway, as I recall, to check out our camping prospects in the area.  We had climbed up the slope from the mesas into the pinyon pine forests, and as we were seeing little humps of melting snow along the road, we had to see if there was going to be anywhere to camp.  The evening was creeping in, after all.  We got out of the car and turned around, and the vista was incredible; the long, straight highway gliding back down to the Arizona desert, all the brick reds and bright golds and dusty roses framed by the pine trees, the brown loam, and the white islands of snow.

We drove on, and the snow got thicker and deeper as we went.  There were no open spaces dry enough to set a tent, or with a wide enough shoulder to leave the car overnight.  The sky got dark, and night fell particularly quickly in the forest.  We came across a little hotel with a gift shop and a limited grocery store and went inside.  We bought a few provisions, I think some toilet paper and a roll of tums.  We talked to the owners and told them we were on our way to the north rim, and did they know of anywhere good to camp nearby.

“North Rim’s closed, there’s six feet of snow up there,” we were told.  They asked us what we were doing there in the off-season, and Phil said that he was a photographer and we’d come out to photograph the desert.

Well, it just so happened that one of the owners’ sons had a birthday coming up, and they wanted some pictures of him.  It was hard to come by proper photographers out there, especially during the off season, so he offered us rooms for the night and breakfast in the morning if we would take some photos for them.  The rooms weren’t being used anyway; in fact, ours was one of only two or three cars in the parking lot.

We spent our first night in soft beds since leaving Las Vegas; the hotel was lovely, the rooms were comfortable and clean.  In the morning, we drank cup after cup of good hot coffee, and I had eggs sunny side up and perfect hashbrowns slathered in ketchup and black pepper.  We spent the morning hiking around what turned out to be a pretty sizable property up in the pinyon and ponderosa, photographing a beautiful family in the clear, cool sunshine.

We left, rested and full, heading back down this very highway, knowing we’d have to drive around to the south rim if we were going to see the canyon at all, and looking forward to the journey.


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