Now that 2012 is underway, it’s time to take a look back at a few favorite photos from 2011. The highlights of my year included two trips with my husband, one to the Southwestern US and one to Puerto Rico. Both were new experiences for us, and both left us wanting more. My favorite photos from the Southwest are by far those from Antelope Canyon. While not the most serene to actually visit thanks to the many tourists and photographers, the photos from that visit amaze me every time I look at them. The expanse of the Grand Canyon was breathtaking, and I was really surprised by all of the trees and the surrounding forest. I’d always imagined the surrounding area to be desolate.
While the Grand Canyon was on my bucket list, I must say that I fell in love with Bryce Canyon. The intense colors of the hoodoos against the blue sky was simply beautiful, but the most memorable was the quiet serenity of our day there. We’ll be back for sure with much more time to explore. On a completely different note, Puerto Rico was a fantastic getaway, and surprisingly easy to get to. The ability to be in 2500 feet of crystal clear water in only a 20-minute boat ride was amazing! My favorite spots were the rain forest at El Yunque and streets of Old San Juan with the beautiful architecture and brilliant colors.
As usual, it was hard to narrow my favorite photos down to only ten this year. There isn’t really any rhyme or reason for why these photos are my favorites, but there is something about each one that I love. Enjoy the photos and have a wonderful 2012!
Like many other national parks in the Southwest, Kolob Canyon was formed over thousands of years thanks to several types of erosion. A combination of uplift along several fault lines and downcutting from nearby streams and creeks helped form the main finger canyons in Kolob Canyon and shaped the landscape. This photo shows what is known as a hanging valley, formed when uplifting of the rocks along the canyon wall created a gap that water naturally runs through after it rains. After heavy rains waterfalls can appear, but they are usually gone within a few minutes. The dark streaks along the rocks are iron and manganese deposits and are an easy way to identify these sometimes waterfalls and hanging valleys.
As I mentioned earlier this week, Kolob Canyon at Zion National Park was a nice surprise on our trip through southern Utah last month. After traveling along a 5-mile scenic drive while also climbing 1000 ft, were were rewarded with this stunning view from Timber Creek Overlook. The photo I shared earlier was from the same location, but looking towards the north and this perspective is looking towards the northeast. Here you will see the two peaks of Timber Top Mountain to the left and Shuntavi Butte to the far right. While Shuntavi Butte may look small in comparison to its surroundings, the elevation is a respectable 6995 feet.
Kolob Canyon is one of the little known sections of Zion National Park. While the park enjoys roughly 3 million visitors per year, only ten percent of those visitors ever see Kolob Canyon. The one hour drive from the main Zion National Park visitors center is likely the reason for fewer visitors, but those that do visit are in for a treat.
After absolutely falling in love with Bryce Canyon, my husband and I were headed south on Interstate 15 back towards Las Vegas, where we were flying out the next day to head home. I had seen on several maps that Kolob Canyon was on our way, so we decided to stop and were so glad we did. From the highway, there is no way to know the beauty that is waiting just around the bend known as Kolob Canyon. With steep red-rock cliffs and stunning views that go on for miles, I was delighted for the surprise views and it was an unexpected highlight. This view is one of many from the Timber Creek Overlook.
As I’ve previously mentioned, Upper Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon created by water eroding the walls of the sandstone. From the ground above, the canyon looks like a large crack, or slot in the earth and things can easily fall down into the canyon. Throughout our tour we saw various tree limbs and tumbleweeds seemingly stuck between the walls of the canyon. This tumbleweed wedged between the canyon walls got my attention because of the contrast between it and the smooth canyon walls holding it in place.
Slot canyons are formed by erosion from rain water over many years. During the monsoon season especially, flash floods can be created with less than an inch of rain and can quickly turn into feet of water rushing through the sandstone walls of the canyon. This process has eroded away the sandstone and smoothed the walls over hundreds of years to create the beautiful slot canyons we see today. In this photo of Upper Antelope Canyon you can see the layers of sandstone reaching from floor to ceiling smoothed by the water into beautiful curves.
As I mentioned previously, the intense light shafts that shine through the open slots into Upper Antelope Canyon are a major draw in the summer. As incredible it was to see the light shafts for those fleeting moments, I really enjoyed my time in the slot canyon after the sun angle changed a bit and they were gone. With a lower sun angle, the light was more even and started to reflect off of the walls revealing truly beautiful colors. This shot is from one of my favorite locations in Upper Antelope Canyon, very close to the entrance. The reflected light really shows off the curves and lines of the walls as well as the colors and patterns of the sandstone.