Return to THE FORMATION, etc. - The Second Time Was, Indeed, the Charm - 18-20 May 2017

Oct 25, 2017
***As a slight disclaimer, this isn't a true backpacking trip, but it's not a normal hiking trip either...I didn't see an area for "multi-day car-camping trips" so I added this here. I refer to the main area, which will be known to many here, as "THE FORMATION" in order to not have anything I post directly contribute to internet searches that would further increase the main area's popularity. I know a lot of people know about it, but a lot more don't know about it and I'm doing my little part to do what Gandalf suggests, "Keep it secret. Keep it safe." This was a great hiking/photography trip that took us to Horseshoe Bend near Page, AZ, then to a couple of days at THE FORMATION, and to watch the sunset from the north rim of the Grand Canyon as well. Great adventure with my sister and two of my very good friends.***

Some friends and I decided to pool resources, rent a capable offroad vehicle, and spend a day out at THE FORMATION, an area I've visited previously and now, like then, will not refer to in too specific of terms to keep what I post here from contributing to the area's popularity. Those who have discovered the area know what a special place it is, and know that there's only a few factors that are combined to keep this area from being absolutely buried with visitors such that permit regulations would be imposed and the wilderness feeling now so strongly attending the area would be lost, perhaps from that time forward. There is plenty of information out there on this area that I refer to as THE FORMATION but you'll likely not find it unless you're really intent on finding it. I have no problem with conscientious explorers visiting this area and these people usually find their own way out there - but the masses looking for easy access at low personal effort, those are the folks I hope to keep away as long as possible by maintaining a certain anonymity about exactly what or where this place is. Like last time, I request if you know where this area is and you leave a comment below that you are careful not to refer to the area in any specific terms. Thanks! :)

We left central Utah Thursday evening and traveled into the late night to spend the night on the shores of Lake Powell near Page, where we had pre-arranged to rent an offroad vehicle capable of taking us out to THE FORMATION the following day. Camping was simple and we were able to get a nice spot not too far from the shore, yet away from too many other campers (of which there were many). I took a picture of the night sky since the Milky Way was visible, even though the lenses I had with me aren't really geared for that and the moon had recently risen and we were closer to a city than I cared to be for that type of photography. I was happy, nonetheless, to have my main camera set-up upgraded - it would rock my upcoming landscape efforts, as long as the light cooperated out on THE FORMATION, and that's what I was most concerned about anyway, photographically speaking. :)

Lovely Milky Way with my non-night photography set-up...don't have the ideal lens yet for night-sky work, but this isn't bad. :)

We all slept well; a cold front had come through earlier that week across the western U.S. and so it was uncharacteristically cool - day and night - during our trip, but we had warm gear and so were comfortable through the night.

I woke up early the following morning to catch the sunrise over the lake, though I didn't necessarily know what I would find there and expecting the location would be lovely but well-captured by other photographers long before this morning when I would see things for the first time; still, I figured I might as well capture what lovely scenes I saw. I was happy, in a clear morning, to get some great light and capture some beautiful scenes from near the lake shore of formations near and farther away.​

Hoping to capture the neat purple glow on the distant mountain before the sun crested the cliffs across the lake: Mission accomplished! :)

Sunrise from a Lake Powell beach.

The photo I wanted from this area. Look at that light... :)

Sunset on the cliffs a little later...

Enjoying the interesting formations across the lake through the morning haze...

This reminded me of a miniature version of Devil's Tower.

Our lovely campsite near the beach at Lake Powell.

Once everyone was up we pulled our overnight stuff together, had some breakfast, and loaded up to head to Page. Picking up the rental vehicle was a snap and the business we chose to deal with down there was extremely pleasant and helpful - as a bonus he even mapped out some local areas we could go to that were off the beaten path, including a way to see the famous Horseshoe Bend while also avoiding the crowds that throng the place.

We signed the contracts required and paid the rest of the cost for our two day rental of the vehicle, and then loaded all our stuff from my car into the rental vehicle, a large green Dodge Durango the owner said he'd taken to THE FORMATION multiple times in various conditions without any issue. Before we loaded our things the owner showed us how to engage the 4WD in its various modes as necessary and some things to watch out for along the way, etc. Once we were loaded up we were off and on our way.

We chose to only visit one of the two suggested locations the owner gave us because one of them would've taken an extra hour and a half in the opposite direction (RT) to get to. We did go out to the overlook away from the main Horseshoe Bend overlook and really enjoyed avoiding all the crowds while taking in the views there. Avoiding the crowds was worth "the price of admission" to get there alone; it wasn't until we visited the restrooms at the main trailhead after we'd quietly enjoyed the area with only one other semi-distantly located photographer that we realized how blessed we were by the vehicle owner's suggestion - the trailhead was packed! Probably over 100 different vehicles there including large tour buses and more cars streaming in looking for parking the whole time we were there, with a constant flow of people up to and back from the overlook located some distance away from the reason to keep THE FORMATION as secret as can be...It's amazing how much crowds of people milling noisily around diminish the otherwise wild feeling of a place...​

Neat wiggly rock formation near the alternate viewpoint for Horseshoe Bend.

Perspectives on Horseshoe Bend.

My sister, Brittany, at Horseshoe Bend.

Melanie taking the view in on the edge at Horseshoe Bend.

Brittany wanders a little closer for a better view of the river below. The high outcropping in the distant upper-right is where the masses go...

Melanie frequently sits closer to the edge than I'm comfortable with...but it does make for some epic pictures... :)

Part of the nice section of approach road into THE FORMATION; there's about twenty miles of this where the worst you have to deal with are some occasionally deep ruts; this whole stretch could be navigable in a passenger car if you were careful around the deeper ruts, but shortly after the turn-off from this road things move rapidly into the 4WD/high-clearance zone.

Rainbow-colored hills in the distance along the way. Cool stuff. :)

After leaving the exceptionally crowded restrooms/parking area at Horseshoe Bend we began the lengthy drive to THE FORMATION we took a more southern approach that still requires a lot of rough driving but avoids what are, often, the very worst parts of the road in to THE FORMATION. Even taking the "easier route" we didn't take any pictures on the road in because we were too busy trying to make the drive safely. We had written directions saved into our phones we were following in addition to a GPS pre-mapped route I had carefully put together while comparing the details of our written directions and satellite imagery of the area. Getting lost out here is a very real possibility and navigation should not be taken lightly. We found the drive out very adventurous (and fun!) and we were able to complete the journey there without any major incident attending - which took about an hour and a half to cover the approximately twenty miles of "decent" dirt road that connects to the main highway and the fifteen much rougher miles over occasional substantial rock obstacles and through a lot of very deep sand thereafter that bring you to THE FORMATION. Some destinations can be reached in a passenger car with a bit of bravado (and questionable judgment), but THE FORMATION is not one of these; please do not underestimate the difficulty of the drive there and back - come prepared in that regard.

Upon reaching the trailhead/parking area for THE FORMATION we found a few other vehicles: some dune buggy-typed things and several large high-clearance 4WD units. Not too long after we arrived and had eaten our lunch in our nearby chosen campsite (it was early afternoon at this point) most of these other vehicles were gone and we found ourselves largely alone till much later that evening when two or three other cars showed up out there. Despite others being out there with us the area never felt crowded and we rarely saw anyone besides our little group while we were out there.​

Coming in to the outside edge of THE FORMATION.

When we'd completed our lunch I led our little group out onto THE FORMATION. As expected, the others were blown away - as was I on my first visit out there. I led them around a bit and gave them a little orientation to how the area was spread out and then, after a while, our little group split up for a time before we linked up again an hour or two later. I was taking a lot of pictures of the area and the others wanted to wander a bit around while I occasionally had to wait for better light as sporadic cumulus clouds floated over the sun. While taking photographs of various things I noted to myself and expressed to the others with me how the skies looked like they were primed for an exceptional sunset later that day, with good cloud activity but a clear opening to the west nearer to the horizon...I hoped it would stay that way...

Brittany and Sarah hiking through the beginning of some of the most spectacular desert terrain on the planet.

Melanie heads towards a small slot canyon-like area that requires some very light scrambling.

Down in the slot-like area.

My sister, Brittany, scoots down some steep rock while Sarah snags a photo behind. :)

This is one of many curious geologic phenomena out here on THE FORMATION; there are bands of color that have somehow shifted in contrary directions many times over a small distance as though someone intentionally took a section of rock and moved it up, then the adjacent section down, then the next section up again, etc, but not in any definitive's a very curious thing I've observed in a number of places out here but it is, at the very least, very visually interesting - which, out on THE FORMATION seems par for the course. :)

Melanie scrambles up to a higher vantage point while Brittany checks out the area.

Nice of Melanie to provide a little scale to the area. :)

Check out this texture, though...amazing! :)

Mr. Lizard.

Mr. Lizard in context. :)

I really enjoyed this little pocket of color and texture; just tucked away into a little, easy-to-overlook corner...

Cool striations in the rock and an odd green mass of vegetation...

More vegetation amidst swirling rock. There is very little plant growth out on THE FORMATION; most of what's out there are sparse grasses, but there are little verdant patches out there occasionally...

So many colors and textures! :)

Neat lines; it's a bit dim here because of a large cloud that was passing over...

Some of the examples of fine and intricate sandstone eroding out here are absolutely stunning - such magical little details abound out here unlike anything I've observed in any other area...

More extremely fine sandstone erosion; many of these features could easily be broken off the larger wall by hand so care must be exercised to preserve the landscape for future adventurers...

Even footsteps in the sand can turn into art out here...

Brittany enjoying one of the little areas we hiked through as we explored around THE FORMATION.

Not sure if this is Sarah reflecting on Brittany or Brittany reflecting on Sarah...either way, it's visually intriguing... :)

I really enjoy this shot of Brittany walking through the chaotic swirling landscape toward that small pool of gathered rainwater. Happily, it had rained recently, so there was more water around than normal - we had a lot of water with us so didn't need use any on site, but the photographic opportunities water affords in an area like this are very cool. :)

Brittany strikes a pose over a reflective pool out on THE FORMATION.

Neat perspective out on THE FORMATION. An individual formation nicknamed "The Swirl" can be seen in the upper-right.

Sarah and Brittany pause for a moment while I snag a shot of them in one of the reflective pools out on THE FORMATION.

I love the eccentricity of this area. Weird little formations abound out here on THE FORMATION and exploring into the nooks and crannies and paying attention to the little things in the midst of a stunning landscape is almost always rewarding. This particular structure is like a weird bowl, maybe three feet across and a foot and a half high. Very cool.

Another random, nigh inexplicable sandstone swirl randomly protruding from the surrounding landscape enigmatically...


Scraggly desert flowers. :)

One of my favorite little sections of THE FORMATION. If any single area looks like Dr. Seuss designed it it might be this place... :)

Impressive and intricate ledge detail.

Looking back across one of the sections of THE FORMATION - fantastic terrain! :)

More neat ledges. :)

Brittany found a mini-arch. :)

Brittany posing in the mini-arch.

Enjoying a little lighting contrast from the frequent patchy cumulus clouds in the sky that day. :)

Melanie provides a bit of scale to some of the formations near the area that looks like it might've been planned out by Dr. Seuss. :)

Brittany sitting up on top of one of the formations. As you climb around on or near these things you have to move or step carefully so you don't break off think fins and ribs of rock as you go. This structure Brittany is on here is very thick and sturdy in the middle, despite the fragility of the outside edge.

Another perspective on that formation that Brittany was on; the way the rock erodes out here is incredible! :)

Looking across some neat lines toward the central area of THE FORMATION; notice the small grassy area surrounding that little place where some of the rainwater gathers. Most, if not all, the water out here is seasonal - disappearing in the hotter, drier months of the year.

Brittany and Sarah on the edge of "The Swirl". :)

A view along the top edge of "The Swirl" to distant country beyond THE FORMATION.

Melanie paused for just a couple of moments between two larger formations - providing this lovely, expansive view with just a touch of the human element. :)

Nice shadows on beautiful terrain. :) The lower-left foreground shows some fine examples of that shifting of the lines that occurs so frequently out here...

More light and shadow play as the afternoon advances.

Brittany poses near a large structure on THE FORMATION.

These little stones are a rare and curious form of desert wonder called moqui ("moh-key") marbles - exactly how they form is a bit of a mystery, but they are very abundant out here on THE FORMATION. Moqui marbles have a sandstone core and are surrounded by an iron-rich stone of completely different composition, color, weight, etc; they range anywhere from fractions of an inch across to several inches across but are always interesting. For me, the moqui marbles appearing in such abundance serve to add to the magic and allure of THE FORMATION.

Close-up of the inside of a moqui marble that was embedded in the stone around it. Not all the moqui marble have this "tree ring" look to them, but this one certainly does. :)

Generally speaking, Melanie spent the most time away from the group exploring on her own and scrambling around on some of the larger formations while Brittany and Sarah and I, except for a little bit of time, tended to wander around together, which is why I have more pictures including Brittany and Sarah than I do of Melanie while we were out at THE FORMATION. After we'd been out for about four hours Sarah expressed a desire to return to camp to rest and eat and Brittany wanted to go there too, so they began to head back in and Melanie joined them back at camp while I decided to stay out and photograph more things while waiting for the evening golden hour and sunset, which still appeared to be primed for excellence with the atmospheric conditions then extant.

From the time our little group split up in the early evening I only saw a couple of people far off in the distance on some of the high formations near the entrance to THE FORMATION but I didn't hear any other "people noise" for hours and no one was anywhere near where I was. As I had been exploring with the others earlier in the day I'd been identifying and mentally cataloging potential sunset destinations. While I waited for the evening golden hour to arrive I explored around some sections on the fringe of THE FORMATION to see places I hadn't seen before.​

These "polygonal cracks", as they are called, which run across so many parts of this area are one of a number of phenomena on THE FORMATION that science doesn't have a definitive answer for...they're here, but how they formed as they did and why they're so abundant here is part of the secret of the place... :)

A small basin filled with little moqui marbles atop a section of "brain rock" as it's sometimes called, with colorful cliffs in the distance.

Starting to get into the beginnings of the evening golden hour...

Looking down from a higher spot of ground into a little corner of THE FORMATION that I hadn't ever seen before .

"Brain rock" all over the place in the afternoon light...

Well, the sun had to work its way through some thick cloud bands to the west, but the lower horizon still looked clear and with it the hopeful promise of a glorious sunset to come...but I took to wandering again to see more stuff out on the edges that I hadn't seen yet. This intricate little structure is only fractions of an inch thick, but how amazing is it that something like this was eroded like it has been over the course of years unnumbered to us? There's little wonders like this all over THE FORMATION.

Look carefully and you'll see a small section - maybe 15 - 20 feet long - of a super-long line of ants near the bottom of this photo. As I hiked around a particular corner of THE FORMATION I passed over this line a number of times; my guess is that it was 200 - 300 feet long, all told, with the ants hustling and bustling to and fro across the weird terrain.

Well...that's interesting... :)

More lovely desert flowers blooming during the brevity of spring.

Barbed wire detail.

Barbed wire detail - alternate view.

The sun finally broke through some of the thick cloud bands about the time I came upon this large collection of moqui marbles scattered across some atypically orange-colored "brain rock" (out here on THE FORMATION the "brain rock" is typically more of a whiter hue).


I wanted to find this area of THE FORMATION last time I came out here but wasn't able to...this time I finally found it, and during nearly ideal lighting conditions too! How cool is it that the moqui marbles have naturally come to rest as borders outlining the joints in the "brain rock" here? Amazing! :)

Incredible, intricate ridge detail along a rock face on an out-of-the-way corner of THE FORMATION.

More little ridges. :)

Sandstone looks so good in the golden hours of the day... :)

Another little wonder I came across - this little triple-pointed structure hiding out of the way in an unfrequented area of THE FORMATION. I'm blown away with how fragile so much of this place is; I hope future visitors tread carefully so many generations to come can come and find these things and see them firsthand. This whole structure could be broken off by hand accidentally with very little force. I captured this and the next few images while waiting for the sun to break through the last cloud band before the glory of the evening golden hour would burst across the landscape...

Very interesting rock swirl. How do these things happen, and why are they so abundant out here on THE FORMATION?

Impressive stacked ledge detail, again, from way out in a part of THE FORMATION few people ever venture out to. There's so much to see out here it's easy to miss lots of cool stuff while seeing lots of cool stuff.

The evening golden hour arrives in a big way! I love this eccentric formation - like a weird bowl standing on its edge, with larger formations in the background.

I also really enjoyed the way this smaller curved formation in the right foreground visually echoes the three much larger pinnacles in the distance. :)

Looking across some of the terrain along one of the outer borders of THE FORMATION during the evening golden hour.


Spectacular light on spectacular swirling rock. What a treat it was to be in the midst of such a landscape in such conditions! :)

The lighting was so good - it was what I had hoped for in observing a sunset out here. :)

The lighting was so good - it was what I had hoped for in observing a sunset out here. :)

THE FORMATION, despite remaining unknown to the general public, has been visited many times by excellent photographers from around the world and so my task was to try and show it from a different angle than what I'd seen in the work of others. I first set up my tripod in an area I'd identified to get a distinctly different view of THE FORMATION from anything I'd seen before, while still capturing the brilliant light, and then proceeded to (sometimes literally) run around - camera and tripod in hand - as that glorious light continued and deepened into the rich tones of the sunset.

This was the shot I had pre-planned earlier in the day to represent THE FORMATION from an alternate point of view than other sunset pictures I'd seen by other photographers. I really enjoyed the way the taller formations in the distance were lit up in that late golden hour light and how the swirling lines on either side draw your eye around the image. The conditions I'd hoped for came together nicely. :)

The sunset was everything I'd wanted it to be (how often can you, in all honesty, say that?!) - with spectacular light blazing across the almost otherworldly terrain of THE FORMATION with lovely clouds up high to catch color and add interest to the sky. What a treat it was to be out in a place like that in conditions like those then present! I can't say enough of what this was for me, and I consider the whole experience of this trip to be a gift from God that He allowed my friends and I to experience after all the planning and effort we expended to be here at this time. Unforgettable. :)

Stunning light continues to blaze across the terrain around me as I race around during the golden hour...I was, many times, running as quickly as I could with my gear - making adjustments to my tripod and the camera settings as fast as could be safely managed without tripping or dropping something at each new spot. For this shot I had to be somewhat in the water for the angle I wanted, so the creative process at high speed was both exciting and challenging...The entire landscape around me was lit up with glory light as I was running from place to place and it was all I could do to get to the various locations and catch a piece of what was happening all around me...Again, the privilege of being in an area like this under conditions like this is a thing I don't know that I'll ever forget.

What more can I say? Landscape photographers dream about stuff like this - and here I was, seeing it with my own eyes and capturing some small piece of the moment to remember in days to come and to share with others...

I decided to head up to the area of the highest point within the main section of THE FORMATION so I could catch the full measure of the glorious light until the sun went completely beneath the western horizon. On the way up I was able to reset quickly and grab this lovely sunburst over some of the "brain rock". It was a brief stop here - I knew I only had a few short minutes before the main part of the sunset would be over, and I wanted to catch as much of it as I could.

Somewhere along the way, as I ran from place to place to capture as much of that beautiful light as I could, I heard Melanie and Sarah calling out to me as I was up on top of the highpoint of the main part of THE FORMATION; after scanning around for them I found they were some distance away from me to the northwest. I waved to them and made sure they'd seen me before continuing to take pictures. This sunset was a glorious one and even after the sun itself had dipped beneath the horizon there were still other pictures I was able to take of the glowing clouds under more even lighting before the blue hour began.

Practically perfect in every way. While capturing this image I was out of breath, as I had pounded up the terrain around me, with some occasional light scrambling required - gear in one hand, using the other hand for balance and moving as rapidly as I could...To the upper left of this frame is the high point of the main area of THE FORMATION...when I saw the way the sun was striking across the "brain rock" here and how the clouds were in a nigh perfect place, lit up underneath and throughout, the shadows and contrasts, and that magical fire light of the late sunset as the sun slowly sank out of sight, I thought to myself how blessed I was. Now, the reality of my life being blessed would be the same whether I saw this sunset and experienced the golden hour preceding it or not, but the fact is that I did experience that golden hour, and I did capture that sunset. God's peace and power were so tangibly felt out there throughout the day - even while I was huffing and puffing and trying to capture this image...I'd long dreamt of capturing scenes from THE FORMATION under these conditions and you'd be hard pressed to be out there in any natural lighting and atmosphere more wonderful than those I experienced firsthand...I'm grateful to have had the carefully-practiced skill and equipment on hand to capture the images I did, but these are only the least reminders of what it was like actually being there and seeing the light dancing with the landscape. I'm most grateful, speaking of this experience, to be able to say that I am an eye-witness of these things. I hope people will continue to make the sacrifices necessary to preserve the world's wild places, like THE FORMATION, and to get out and see them firsthand; there's nothing quite like being there. :)

Some distant high cliffs caught the last of the fiery light of the sunset after the sun had dipped below the horizon from my vantage point. This was taken from the top of the highpoint within the main area of THE FORMATION, looking over the terrain you'd normally come across on the standard approach into the area.

On my way out I saw that some nice light was lingering in the clouds well after the main sunset had ended, so I set up and took this picture as well. :)

Once blue hour started I decided I'd take one last picture of the landscape under that nice cool light and then head back to camp.

"Brain rock" in the evening blue hour. I enjoyed the almost perfect square in the midst of all the more rounded structures around this area. :)

As I headed back to camp, only a short hike from the main parking area and our nearby campsite, I was surprised not to see anyone there. The tents were set-up, as we'd planned, and the beginnings of a small fire were arranged though not yet ignited. I heard someone moving in one of the tents and inquired who it was, finding out it was Brittany and that Sarah and Melanie had gone back out into THE FORMATION to bring me a jacket and watch the sunset. What followed after this won't be related in detail here but is written such that it fills multiple pages elsewhere; in brief, Melanie and Sarah became disoriented on their way back to camp and relatively narrowly avoided a dangerous situation as we were able to locate one another after extensive searching for them on my part and extensive wandering around in the deepening darkness on their part. The search lasted about an hour before any sign of Sarah or Melanie was had and with each failed search attempt across a wider and wider area my uneasiness grew because I knew the potentially dangerous situation they were in...Anyway, with some divine intervention and active efforts on all our parts we came together and I was able to lead them back to camp. Another warning to others who would visit this area - it is remote, and when it is dark the terrain becomes very ambiguous and it is very easy to get lost. Please have various forms of navigation aids with you and pay careful attention to the large landmarks around you. Sarah and Melanie both felt confident they could go out on their own and watch the sunset and still return to camp thereafter with what knowledge they had from an afternoon of wandering around but they were incorrect in their assumptions and, again, only narrowly avoided what could've developed into a dangerous situation without proper navigation ability and tools. Please be cautious.

We were all pretty tired after a full day of travel and the misadventure of that search that happened in the evening and nighttime, but we still had a great dinner together before turning in for the evening. Since we were effectively "car camping" despite sleeping in tents or (in my case) under the stars we had easy access to our vehicle and so were able to pack more varieties of food than usual on a multi-day outdoor trip where you have to carry everything with you from location to location. We all slept very well that night and, despite the promise of a potentially fine sunrise, we decided not to set our alarms and just wake up whenever our bodies were okay with us doing so.​

The swirling detail in the wall next to me reminded me of The Great Red Spot on the planet Jupiter. :)

The following morning was clear and lovely, even cloudless until nearly midday. After we had breakfast and consolidated our camp we explored out to various areas none of us had ventured out to before and enjoyed the various sights we found (again, keeping a little anonymity here just to keep some of these more distant areas off the map as long as possible). It was a good long trek through a lot of deep sand to get to the places we hiked to the second day, and by the time we made it back to camp we were ready for lunch.

Brittany re-enacting an iconic scene from a favorite movie. :)

I took a picture of this same formation (looking directly at it) the evening previous during the golden hour - here's another perspective of it from the side showing how it somewhat resembles a bowl standing up on its edge. So curious... :)

These sandstone layers are so fine - they could be broken off just by lightly pressing on them with your hand; it's so neat to see such artistry in stone up close and so abundant out here at THE FORMATION.

Very cool rock layering and banding observed during our wanderings at other places apart from THE FORMATION.

Brittany thought the central rock coloring on that cliff face resembled a standard electrical socket...I agree... :)

I really enjoyed this view. :)

This is just a pile of rock that fell off the main wall nearby - but it's so beautiful and interesting how it fell... :)

There were many blooming cactus around while we were out there; they have such gorgeous, vibrant blossoms. :)

Views from our wanderings away from THE FORMATION.

This shot really deserves some zoomed in viewing; the intricacy of that table-like structure on the upper-left and the fine ridge detail on the distant right alone are interesting enough to warrant a closer look, and there's plenty more to see if you're willing to look for it. Amazing stuff!

Cholla skeleton. :)

Wooden arch and smaller structure reminiscent of THE FORMATION.

I saw this red crescent and nearby stones and did a little was a happy sight indeed... :)

I realized, as we reached THE FORMATION again after our wanderings around elsewhere, that we hadn't taken a group picture together, so I identified this spot amidst the curviness of the "brain rock" and we staged out a group picture...only took about eight tries to get it right... :) Brittany is on the left, then Sarah, I, and Melanie. :)

Sweet old corral near one part of THE FORMATION that had been on my list of things to see while we were out here.

Detail from the old corral near THE FORMATION with lovely cliffs beyond. :)

Shortly after lunch we made sure we were all packed up and loaded into the car and made the journey back out all the sketchy roads, thankfully only having to pull off the road once to let another vehicle pass. The road is - at all points of the main dirt road - too narrow for two vehicles to pass each other without one pulling off the side. There are several points along the way (in and out) where meeting another vehicle along the way would be difficult because of terrain in combination with deep sand, but we had no substantial problems. I can tell you we never had to put our vehicle in 4WD Low, but we had it in 4WD High for almost all of the fifteen miles prior prior to?just after leaving THE FORMATION. The drive out there, assuming you're in a vehicle properly suited for it, is a great time, but - again - not to be taken lightly.

We had decided to leave the area in the mid-afternoon to head out and visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon, located about a couple of hours drive away. Melanie and I had, separately, been to the Grand Canyon previously (but when she was there the canyon was full of clouds and so she wasn't able to get the full impact of the view); Brittany and Sarah had never been before. We drove out to the canyon, through the lovely high meadows where we saw lots and lots of deer, arriving not too long before sunset out there on the rim of the canyon. We took the short hike to the Bright Angel Overlook which had about 10 or 15 other people there or around there and watched until the sunset. It was neat to experience the Grand Canyon, even if only standing on the edge, with people seeing it for the first time - especially since those people were family or very close friends who might as well be. For Brittany and Sarah this was essentially a "bucket-list" experience, and they had a great time just soaking things in while we were out there. :)

After the sunset had concluded we headed back up to the parking area and I drove us back to Page where we made the transition from the rental vehicle back into my car and then the long drive home. I drove until we got to a rest stop somewhere along the highway in Utah and then switched out and Melanie drove the rest of the way home. I fell asleep somewhere along the way and woke up again when we were nearly home.

As is usually the case with these adventures it was a great one, and to share the experience of introducing others to THE FORMATION and some to the Grand Canyon as well in the same weekend was a real treat. God is the Great Artist and we spent this trip among some of His finest craftsmanship in the geologic sphere. Soli Deo Gloria! :)

Beautiful meadows and some of the 50 - 100 deer we saw on the way in to the north rim.

I love these meadows on the approach to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. :)

It was neat to experience the Grand Canyon, even if only standing on the edge, with people seeing it for the first time - especially since those people were family or very close friends who might as well be. For Brittany and Sarah this was essentially a "bucket-list" experience, and they had a great time just soaking things in while we were out there. :)

Sunset from the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The views are largely familiar, but stunning all the same. It was a treat to see the sunset at another beautiful place for the second day in a row. That snowy mountain in the distance is the tallest peak in Arizona, Mount Humphreys, at 12,635 feet above sea level.

Sunset from the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The views are largely familiar, but stunning all the same. It was a treat to see the sunset at another beautiful place for the second day in a row.

Sunset from the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The views are largely familiar, but stunning all the same. It was a treat to see the sunset at another beautiful place for the second day in a row.

My favorite sunset shot from the north rim that evening. :)

Sunset from the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The views are largely familiar, but stunning all the same. It was a treat to see the sunset at another beautiful place for the second day in a row.

Here's a wider view of the scene as the sunset concluded. :)

There were other pictures we took as a group where the lighting was more balanced overall, but this was the only one where all our eyes were open and expressions good, etc., so it's the one that made the cut. Excellent people, all. It was a joy to share this trip with them. :)

After the sunset had concluded we headed back up to the parking area and I drove us back to Page where we made the transition from the rental vehicle back into my car and then the long drive home. I drove until we got to a rest stop somewhere along the highway in Utah and then switched out and Melanie drove the rest of the way home. I fell asleep somewhere along the way and woke up again when we were nearly home.

We had gotten everything loaded up around midnight from the rental car into my car and I realized we hadn't taken a picture of the car that facilitated so much of this adventure. Here it is - our green Dodge Durango; it was a great ride and handled the challenges of navigating to and from THE FORMATION like a pro - really, it was a joy to drive. You can see the shadow of the camera lens in the picture and part of my hand pushing the shutter button because I had to light the scene with my headlamp in order to get the picture. Worth it. :)

As is usually the case with these adventures it was a great one, and to share the experience of introducing others to THE FORMATION and some in our group to the Grand Canyon as well all in the same weekend was a real treat. God is the Great Artist and we spent this trip among some of His finest craftsmanship in the geologic sphere. Soli Deo Gloria! :)
Great pictures. They helped get me more excited for our second annual Moab Thanksgiving trip. It also makes me want to schedule a trip to hike around the Lake Powell area. We have only driven through as we were towing our broken down car back from Arizona a couple of years ago.
Great pictures. They helped get me more excited for our second annual Moab Thanksgiving trip. It also makes me want to schedule a trip to hike around the Lake Powell area. We have only driven through as we were towing our broken down car back from Arizona a couple of years ago.

Thanks! This was a photography-centric trip, and we had some fantastic conditions (as you can see). The general area around southern Utah is so much fun and there are so many places to explore - I'm excited to do more of that this winter season (which is when I generally head down that way the most), Also recommend exploring the Lake Powell area - I'm just getting started out there with that, but it's been fruitful so far and there's plenty more to see. Happy trails! :)
beautiful area, I have no idea where it is and that likely means lots of other people don't either, probably a good thing :)

thanks for the photos and story
It's a very well-known and popular area, especially among photographers.
I know - but nobody is going to learn more about it from what I post by searching for it. I'm not contributing to making it more popular among those not willing to get out and find it already. People used to find "The Wave" area out at North Coyote Buttes before social media, but far, far fewer people and there were no permits. By not mentioning it by name I make this post almost invisible to search engines and so I'm aiming not to do anything to overtly contribute to the popularity of this area - even though many thousands already know about it, many millions don't, and I hope it stays that way for a long, long time. That said, I'm glad you know about it and have been there, etc. I've been there multiple times and think it's the neatest sandstone area I've ever seen. :)
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