Some of you may remember that in 2017, the Annual Parks pass, also known as the America the Beautiful pass, looked like this:
Well, once I saw that picture, I was determined to
photograph see that sight for myself, especially after I learned that it was part of the Glen Canyon recreation area, which made it seem like it was just around the corner (“seem,” as you’ll see, is the operative word here). Bob, Daisy, Alice, and I decided to make it our Thanksgiving destination. (Well, Bob and I decided, and Daisy and Alice just went along for the ride because, you know, they’re dogs.)
Turns out that visiting Reflection Canyon is an eensy-bit challenging. First, the trailhead is at the end of Hole-in-the-Rock road, about 60 miles off pavement. Here’s a visual:
From the X to the star is about 10 miles if you walk the route directly, but no trail marks this route. For the first couple miles, there’s a semi-visible path of footprints to follow, but then you hit slickrock, the footprints disappear, and you’re following directions that previous hikers posted on the web, which are
downright mysterious a bit vague. (I’m not kidding. One website read: “Approximately 5 miles into your trek you’ll see a flat, almost squared-off face in the cliffs. This is where you’ll want to leave the cliffs and keep them at your back, turning southeast.”)
Long story short, five hours later, we’re looking at some part of Lake Powell that is nice and all, but it sure as heck ain’t the view with the pretty cove and the pretty rocks on the parks pass. Bob is scrutinizing the map simply, I think, to avoid making eye contact with me, the dogs are fed up, we’re disturbingly low on water because we probably did an extra four miles of unnecessary scrambling over slickrock hills and detouring around slot canyons (which always seemed to magically appear just behind every slickrock hill), and I’m about to cry because the sun is heading toward sunset and forgodssake I’m going to miss the goddamn golden hour. (Photographers reading this, did you just gasp in audible pain? If so, thanks for understanding.)
And then suddenly I had a brilliant idea.
I turned on my cellphone and typed “Reflection Canyon” into the googlemap search. The result looked something like this.
Only, and I’m not kidding, on the map that day, Reflection Canyon was marked with a friggin’ camera, and I was actually able to map a walking route from where we were to that little friggin’ camera, which was only about a mile or so away.
And we walked that mile and we found Reflection Canyon and there was much rejoicing.
Shockingly, we had company: two other couples and another solo hiker (a lovely man whose acquaintance I would later make on Instagram when he recognized my dogs, who introduced themselves to him. P.S. He’s an absolutely wonderful photographer, and you can see his stuff here: https://www.instagram.com/outdoor.detour/). But there was plenty of room for all of us, and we even got to enjoy a backpacker’s version of Thanksgiving (which was pretty darn close to a regular version of Thanksgiving, thanks to Bob’s astounding backcountry culinary skills) and then we got up the next morning and enjoyed the sunrise and ate a hearty breakfast and hiked back to the jeep and lived happily ever after.
Except that Karen got really really excited about taking pictures and in her excitement sort of forgot that, you know, she was on the side of a very steep cliff. And in her excitement, she made some bad decisions. Let me explain what happened.
When I got there, Reflection Canyon looked like this:
Cool reflections and all, but too many bright spots and shadows.
But then it started to look like this:
And then like this!
And ohmygod like this!!
Then suddenly sunset was over, and Karen realized that she had climbed down to a ledge that afforded a very, very nice view but no immediate way of climbing back up to her camping spot where her dogs and beau awaited. And it was getting dark and she had no headlamp and was also carrying a tripod.
There was a moment when she thought she was going to slide to her death and another moment when she thought she was going to have to camp by herself on the side of the cliff with no gear for the night and another moment when Alice tried to come and rescue her and they both almost slid to their deaths. But in the end, Karen made it back to the campsite with no more serious consequences than a lost lens cap, a few scrapes and bruises, and a serious case of vertigo.
But sunrise. It first turned a little spot of water bright gold.
Then the sun peeked over the cliffs.
And then whoo hoo!
Some of my favorite pictures are of the dogs enjoying the view.
And then we walked back to the jeep and lived happily every after
because we found a waterhole along the way.