I headed into Arizona with relatively no plan. I knew I needed to get to Page, but I’d yet to figure out where I would be camping. None of this worried me. In fact, it comforted me. I had all I needed, it was just a matter of getting to the next place. Soon the landscape gave way to huge pines, warm red cliff faces, and a sky bigger than any I’d ever seen. I found myself on the outskirts of the Grand Canyon. I’d been here 12 years ago with some friends, to the exact same spot, however this time it looked completely different. Was my memory wrong, or had it changed? I thought back to that trip. How different I was… yet so much the same. The same voice spoke to me, from somewhere inside of my conscience… always helping me. Telling me to trust in that invisible thing I felt when making decisions. It’s what had led me here…to this wild gallop across the USA.
Paying my respects to the beauty of the Canyon, I headed on to Page, where I fell into a campsite in complete darkness late that night. The air there was relatively cool compared to Palm Springs and I slept well. Waking to the pinpricks of sunshine on my face, the surroundings were nothing like I’d imagined. Red rock faces wrapped around the site, and my fellow campers seemed eager to be eating breakfast at 5am… time to go the canyons guys!
I lay three cameras out in front of me and in the end, took them all. I probably looked a little Terminator-esque with this kit, but it felt so good to be a tourist. I headed to Lower Antelope Canyon, which a local had told me was the better of the two. Don’t quote me on that, but I trusted him. We were guided through a crack in the ground narrower than I felt comfortable sliding into with the entourage of lenses banging against the rough stone. Gritting my teeth I lowered myself down, getting as skinny as possible to avoid further damage. Then there it was….this other world…
If you can let some intense classical music erupt in your imagination for a second, please do so, because that is what I heard. Violin, piano, flute…. it was bouncing off the canyon walls so beautifully, that for a moment, it was just me in there. My head swirled around as I gazed skywards, only a few fluffy clouds in the sky to remind me what dimension I was in. This was incredible. I fear my photos don’t really do justice to this place. It was almost as if the spirits of the land only let us capture so much through our lenses, before nudging us on, leaving some for the rest. When your time comes to visit, you will see what I mean.
Beyond the canyon later that day, I saw the sun set behind Horseshoe Bend. Another impossibly breathtaking spot. Humans measured like ants against the size of the cliffs, and a couple of campers lit a fire on the shore of the bend miles below us.
Fast forward couple of days, and I was entering Monument Valley. This would be a massive highlight in my trip and somewhere I’d been looking forward to visiting for a long time. I knew I would be riding a horse, doing my best impersonation of John Wayne, but I didn’t expect the rest. Camping over sunrises and sunsets. Watching the stars for endless hours. Meeting the local Navajo people and stumbling upon one of their once-a-year family reunion horse rides. I won’t go into too much detail about this, but let’s just say I found this group ride purely by listening to a voice in my head telling me I must turn around and go back. I was already heading out of the area on departure day, and I had no idea why I was being told to turn around. You need to understand, I’m a horse person, so seeing them, or being around riders is quite exciting to me. Anyway, surely enough, there I was in the parking lot where the ride began, running into the owner of the horse trek I’d done the day before. He was the last group to head out, and as I bolted from my car (still rolling along), I managed to capture one single frame on my Pentax 67 which is my favourite of the entire trip. That one photo holds the emotional total of my entire journey through the States. To me, it is perfect timing, instinct, freedom and truth in one shot. This is just a personal attachment obviously, but I hope you enjoy the image anyway.
“Go forth in peace.
Be still within yourself, and know
that the trail is beautiful.
May the winds be gentle upon your face,
And your direction be straight and true
as the flight of the eagle.
Walk in beauty and harmony
with God and all people.” – A Navajo Blessing