Whew...I made it through the kinetic, crazy energy of Austin, TX during the season of frenzy which is SXSW! My first trip into that cauldron of creativity; swirling, churning, burning creativity, and I survived!
Flying out right in front of a few thunderstorms raining down on what was left of the conference, I felt that I had escaped, just in the nick of time! It was an amazing journey to leave that incredible energy, wing my way back to Los Angeles (the land of concrete and plenty) load up my faithful Rav4 and hit the road!
As I drove the "long way 'round" to the mountains of Taos my mind seemed to, literally, off-load information, every few miles by the side of the road. The contacts, the business deals, the potential projects, and all of the "workings" of networking at such a huge entertainment industry event, peeled away layer by layer to fall by the wayside with the litter and dirt.
The photographer and creative core of my self started to take over as I roamed the early evening streets of Springdale, Utah! Situated on the edge of Zion National Park, I sat in wonder in the yard behind my hotel and watched the play of light as the sun set across the mountain peaks. A peaceful, centeredness took over and my mind finally let go the last vestiges of the big city atmospheres that had been polluting my brain, and my adventure truly began!
It was so refreshing to breathe clean air on the patio of The Zion & Pizza Noodle Shop. Sipping a Wasatch Polygamy Porter (you just have to love the name!), and listen to the conversations swirl around me; the wind blowing clean, cool, and breathable!
In the morning, I was up early, eager to be on my way for my first sojourn into Zion National Park; the gateway to seven of Utah's incredible national parks; the other 6 of which are all on my list.
I think a few photographs will describe better than I ever could just how breathtaking Zion really is...
Then, back in the car, winging my way across Arizona, I found the "pond" of what is typically Lake Powell. A stark reminder of the terrible drought that most of the West has been facing. It's teal blue-green surface was tantalizing in the arid climate; and, completely out of reach until my 3rd stop!
If you head out that way, and just want to take a peek, beware that most of the turn offs heading east from west are campgrounds with a $25 fee to enter! But, third time's a charm, and I persevered! It was so windy that people were literally hanging on to their small children and elderly parents to keep them from blowing away with the fierce winds!
Still, the view was extraordinary!
So, on I traveled, and with each mile, the more fierce the wind became. I found myself sailing on 4 wheels across the Navajo nation. Racing through dust storms, a tail wind at my back. Winding through mountain roads, and marveling at the human capacity to survive in the harshest of desert conditions. And, then, just like that the wind would die down, the view would clear, and the glimpse of mountain ranges, and rocky mesas would loom up in the sun, marvelously bright! The shifting colors as the rock formations changed exuded the presence of a sovereign country; I was, indeed, a visitor on foreign land.
As I drove through the rocky outcroppings, I imagined the tall spires, hollowed spaces, and weather-worn designs representing ancient cities from another time. These "cities" rivaled the structures of ancient Egypt; reminiscent of the pyramids, statues, and sphinxes; no less grand for having been crafted by Nature's hands.
The drive became a process of re-assessing; of what is real, what is known,and what is magic...
As I finally pulled into my last hotel stop in Bloomfield, AZ, I realized the windy, cold, dusty weather would most likely prevent me from tackling Chaco Canyon on my last day before arriving in Taos. Yet, as I sat quietly eating dinner at the local diner; watching the crowd, a softball team, the families, and such, I realized that while my plans had been to photograph at Chaco; a place where the earth meets the sky, that the real gift of travel on this journey was the road.
This long, winding beautiful road where water was scarce, dust filled the air, and yet, the earth rose up like sentinels; warriors watching over our brief time on this earth, granting me an ability to see that life is not about arriving...it's the path you take that matters most.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF: @konceptfilms2016/karencriswell