From Denver, Colorado to Mountain View, California

It’s always great to spend time at my parents’ place in Denver.  For almost two weeks I hung out with my family, ate unbeatable mom-cooked food, caught up on photos, and was generally pretty lazy.  Then on the Thursday after Labor Day Marie flew out to join me so we could drive back to California together and check out some interesting places along the way.

 

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Mom, Dad and Hunter at Little Mountain Park

 

Our first stop was Moab, Utah, where for a couple of days we explored the two nearby National Parks – Canyonlands and Arches.  Marie was a good enough sport to wake up early with me both mornings to catch the sun rising though Mesa Arch in Canyonlands.  The first morning, just as we started out on the short trail to the arch, I tripped in the pre-dawn darkness and fell awkwardly.  “Will you put that in the blog?” asked Marie.

 

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Marie at Delicate Arch

 

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Mesa Arch September Sunrise

 

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Mesa Arch Underglow

 

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Double Rainbow Over Canyonlands

 

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Rainbow Over Canyonlands

 

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Grand View Point at Canyonlands

 

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Marie at Double Arch

 

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Landscape Arch Sunflare

 

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Mesa Arch Frame

 

From Moab we drove southeast to the Bisti Wilderness in northern New Mexico.  I’d been impressed with Bisti when I first visited and was excited to show Marie the otherworldly landscape and bizarre rock formations.  We arrived in the afternoon, loaded up our packs with everything we needed to camp that night, and hiked out into the trail-less badlands.

Our first goal was to find a group of improbably-shaped rocks called the Stone Wings.  My directions were a little off, but we happened to spot the wings while checking out another interesting formation.

 

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Three Stone Wings at Bisti

 

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Bisti Stone Wing Sunflare

 

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Marie at the Stone Wings

 

Mother Nature provided a dramatic background for photos by sending an isolated thunderstorm to pass just south of us.  The storm even offered up some vivid lightning strikes – one of which I managed to capture hand-held – and then left a rainbow in its wake.

 

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Lightning Over the Bisti Badlands

 

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Rainbow at Bisti

 

Marie picked an ideal spot for our campsite and we set up our tent.  Before sunset we made a quick side trip to check out the Bisti arch (which is much smaller than it looks) and the cluster of rocks known as the Cracked Eggs or the Alien Egg Garden.

 

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Campsite at the End of the Rainbow

 

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Our Bisti Campsite

 

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Marie on a Hill at Bisti

 

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Late Light on Bisti Arch

 

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Alien Egg Garden

 

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View from Bisti Campsite

 

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Bisti Sunset

 

Early the next morning we packed up our gear and followed a normally-dry wash back to our car.  Thanks to the recent rain, however, the wash was saturated with muddy water.  At one point I stepped down onto what I thought was solid dirt at the bottom of the wash, only to have my left leg plunge into thick brown mud.  “Will you put that in the blog?” asked Marie when she was done laughing.

About seven hours later we arrived at White Sands National Monument, another amazing place I was excited for Marie to see.  One of the backcountry campsites was available, and under the hot afternoon sun we hiked into the dunes to set up our tent.

 

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Afternoon Light on WSNM

 

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Marie Backbending at White Sands

 

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Light and Shadow at WSNM

 

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Blue Shadow Curves at White Sands

 

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WSNM Late Light Portrait

 

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Mellow Late Light at White Sands NM

 

Around midnight a sudden noise woke us up.  “What was that?” I asked Marie.

“I think a coyote just took off with our trash bag.”  We’d left half a sandwich in a plastic bag, just outside our tent but still under the rain shell, and a bold coyote had crept right up to snatch it.  We followed the coyote’s tracks the next morning, hoping to collect our inadvertent litter, but we weren’t able to find any signs of the bag.

Our next stop was Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.  Marie had visited the Painted Desert on a memorable childhood trip and wanted to see it again through adult eyes.  We drove the length of the park and hiked the short Blue Mesa trail.

 

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Marie at Petrified Forest NP

 

The next day we headed to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, where we were lucky enough to find an open site at the Desert View Campground.  That night under the glow of a full moon we cooked hotdogs over our campfire.

 

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Late Light on GC Desert View

 

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Late Light on Desert View Watchtower

 

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GC Desert View Sunset Layers

 

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Full Moon Setting Over the Grand Canyon

 

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First Light at Desert View

 

Our final stop was Sequoia National Park, where we paid a visit to General Sherman, the largest tree in the world.

 

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Marie at General Sherman

 

We’d covered a lot of ground in just a week!  By the time we pulled into Marie’s garage in Mountain View we were both beat and ready to stay in one place for a while.  I still hadn’t decided where I wanted to go next and was looking forward to thinking through all the different possibilities.