I move about the country without a plan. Clarification. I do have a spreadsheet that tells me which state I want to be in each week-ish, but where I go and what I do when I get there is anyone’s guess. I am most fond of following travel advice from other travelers. I meet a digital nomad named Julie in central Texas. She invites me to dinner at her RV and tells me about her favorite route from the Gulf through Big Bend. I meet an artist named Lewis who travels part time to paint sacred landscapes in plein air works. He joins me as I attempt to build fire at my campsite and tells me about the incredible cliff dwellings he explored in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
My friend Tom is a retired airline pilot. His wife Suzanne is a geologist. Many of my favorite travel tips have come from this amazing couple. Tom sees on Facebook that I am in Utah and tells me he and Susie loved the scenic byway from Bryce into Capitol Reef. I didn’t think twice. And that’s how I ended up here, miles from nowhere, with dirty laundry, a can of black-eyed peas and a heart all a-flutter. I have yet to be disappointed by a tip from a fellow traveler. Often I am stretched by them.
It was a brief window of opportunity. I had only two days that temperatures would permit me to explore the area, as my pup Justice was not permitted on any of the park’s hiking trails. I expect this now from most National Parks and try to plan accordingly. Sometimes I choose to skip a park entirely. Sometimes I decide to drive the park, if the roads feel interesting. Sometimes I will head out for sunrise shoots and early hikes, aiming to complete my mission before the forecast takes the thermometer above 70*.
Temple of the Sun in Cathedral Valley
Temple of the Sun – the ranger said this was the best place to view the sunrise, after he asked me if I had the right vehicle to explore this area of the park. Access to Cathedral Valley requires navigating a rugged road suggested for high clearance, 4wd vehicles only. #subarulove! I crept an hour and a half in the dark to get here before the sunrise time of 6-ish. #sunriser #messyhairdontcare
Two other photographers were already present when I arrived, and two more showed up moments later. Apparently these creatures travel in pairs. 😉 The best vantage point was a sandy ridgeline, and I scurried up and situated myself for the shot I wanted. I hugged myself against the cold and waited for her majesty to make her appearance. The other photographers were doing the same, but they were each vying for a good line at the temple.
It was here that I witnessed the *first light glow* that so many photographers talk about. (Ahhhh, now I get it! Wow!!) As the sun ascended in the east, the temple rock gleamed golden in its presence. It was fleeting. It was surreal. It was something truly special to behold. I turned from taking photos of the sun to capturing its glow on the rock formations. I was awed.
The moment passed. The angel chorus faded. The other photographers were taking down their tri-pods and scrolling through their images. “Did you get a good one?” They asked each other. I skidded back down the sandy ridge, camera flung about my neck, just about giddy. They were staring at me. All of them. Why were they staring at me?
Then I saw my pink pajama bottoms and bare feet skimpering past their jeans and sneakers. I reveled in the blush coming on. Priceless. I straightened my shoulders, tossed my hair back and flashed a grin, “What? Ya’ll got dressed for this?!?” Then I fired up my camp stove and brewed the best cup of coffee evah. Nailed it. #pajamaenvy