It was a dark and cold night. Well, at least I knew it would be after the sun went down. The family and I had just returned to the hotel after rafting down the Colorado River in Glen Canyon when I remembered that Greg wanted to try and capture the sunset overlooking Horseshoe Bend (a part of the Colorado River that we had rafted down earlier that day). Normally, I’m the photographer in the family, but Greg has developed an interest (ahem, stolen my hobby) in photography lately. Even though I was literally falling asleep upright in a chair, I summoned the willpower to get up since I adore shooting landscape shots.
After a short drive outside of Page, AZ, Greg and I unloaded our new metallic hiking sticks and started racing across the undefined, sandy trail like some weird, clacking, prehistoric insects. Although there were a few people heading in the same direction as us, most people were walking back to their vehicles while there was still daylight available. We barely had time to set up the tripod before the sun dipped below the canyon rim.
Once I caught my breath (hey, hey, the air is thin at this elevation, okay?!?), the view of Horseshoe Bend was AMAZING. Unfortunately, in order to shoot the entire bend, you had to get precariously close to the 1,000-foot plus drop. Mom, Dad–if you’re reading this, just stop here since me getting close to any cliff edges seemed to freak you guys out on the trip. Anyways, for some reason, I’m not scared of cliff heights (building heights are another story), but I did make sure I stood on solid pieces of rock. I may have laid down flat by the cliffs edge, too, in order to try and capture some unique shots. Sadly, if I remember our rafting guide correctly, some people have died in years past when visiting the Horseshoe Bend overlook due to rock slides. Our guide said to be very careful of stepping on any sandstone that jutted out from the rest of the canyon wall since the stone could easily crumble and fall into the river below.
As night (and the temperature) quickly descended, it wasn’t long until the other sunset photographers packed up and left. With no one else but a crazy, squeaking, canyon edge-darting mouse to keep us company, Greg and I remained under the starry sky experimenting with timed exposures and trying out a technique of using flashlights instead of the camera flash to illuminate nearby objects.
Finally, it became dark enough to see the Milky Way Galaxy, which as a hobbyist photographer I always have wanted a chance to capture. I’ve seen some amazing shots of the galaxy photographed in this area, but alas, those photographers used some crazy, expensive lenses. It still feels so surreal to have seen and photographed something so far away!
After taking as much shivering as we could stand, Greg and I packed up and carefully started walking the three quarters of a mile hike back to the parking lot. Thankfully my Dad had reminded us to pack flashlights in our hurry to make it to the Bend before sunset; otherwise, we would have been in the pitch dark. As we walked with our hiking sticks primed to be used as weapons, we nervously scanned the vast emptiness surrounding us, keeping our ears peeled for any signs indicating we were not alone. I had hoped to see a bobcat on this trip, but I did not want to meet a hungry one at night up-close and personal. Apparently we were not as alone as we had thought the entire evening. Another couple that was hidden behind a rock not too far from us also started the journey back to the parking lot once they saw us leaving. Apparently, they were a little wary of the dark as well. I felt slightly bad that we must’ve been annoying the crud out of them as we waved our flashlights like crazy people in their general direction all evening!
Thankfully we made it back to the car safely with no wildlife encounters, as did the other hikers. Although Horseshoe Bend can be a bit dangerous at night, I’m glad we had a chance to experience the magic of being (mostly) alone with nothing but God and nature.