Journey through America’s Wild West

Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time will live with me forever. It was so vast and, at first, it didn’t seem real. It was like it was a backdrop painted for a Hollywood movie of yesteryear.

Watching the sun set over the canyon from Hopi Point, an hour or so after that first glimpse, was simply magical. An experience I’d recommend to every visitor.

This was the beginning of a week-long road trip through Arizona for my wife Paula and I, an adventure we’d long looked forward to, and the best was yet to come.

The next morning we were up well before the sun, to make our way by bus to the start of the South Kaibab Trail. Setting off on foot still in darkness, our intention was to hike from the South Rim to the Colorado River and back to the South Rim (via the Bright Angel Trail) all in the one day - about 23km in total, descending 1.45km in elevation before climbing 1.35km in elevation. A feat that, due to the oppressive desert heat, the authorities warn visitors not to attempt.

Sunrise at Ooh Aah Point was beautiful and as the sun climbed higher into the sky we felt amazing. 

The hike was enjoyable and the scenery so picturesque.

Hour upon hour we continued along the trail, me with about 15kg of photographic equipment on my back and Paula also carrying a considerable weight in food, water and other provisions.

There were of course plenty of stops, often involving me running off the trail to look for interesting compositions for my photographs.

Eventually, with the sun now almost overhead, we reached the river … and thus started the climb back up. With the harsh midday lighting not as flattering, the scenery coming back up the Bright Angel Trail wasn’t as appealing photographically and so the image-making took a back seat. 

That was probably a good thing. Sure enough, with about 4km or so to go, I was really struggling. The weight of the camera gear was now a real burden, with my body exhausted and energy zapped by the heat of the day.

We made it safely back and it felt like an incredible accomplishment, however I must admit by the time I reached the rim I had newfound respect for the warnings issued by the authorities. If it had have been the height of summer rather than mid-September, I would likely have joined the list of the many people who are rescued every year attempting such a hike.

From the Grand Canyon, we ventured to Monument Valley (a backdrop used in many old Western movies) before taking in the incredibly beautiful Antelope Canyon and Tuba City’s dinosaur fossils.

Switching more from “photography trip” mode into “tourist” mode, we ended up several hours further south in the famous Wild West town of Tombstone, home of the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral involving Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday among others.

Tombstone was an incredible place to visit, with the whole town themed around its Wild West past including O.K. Corral actors carrying six-shooters wandering the dusty streets.

All in all, we absolutely loved our time in Arizona. I look forward to sharing more of the photographs I created, some of which I intend on entering into awards.