Nimham Mountain Fire Tower and Bear Mountain

I’ve been trying to find some places to explore closer to home (alas, vacation days for another long trip are sparse right now) so I’ve been using The Outbound to squirrel away local hikes. The Nimham Mountain Fire Tower post caught my eye — how gorgeous are those sunrise photos?? — as it was less than 2 hours away, and was more of a short uphill walk than a hike.

Nimham Mountain Fire Tower

I’d recently joined the Northeast Collective’s facebook community and decided I may as well see if I could interest any other local photographers in my plans. Lucky for me, Meg responded! We decided that aiming for a 5:50am sunrise, an hour and forty-five minutes away from where we live would be pushing it juuust a bit, and decided to meet at Nimham Mountain at 6:30 instead.

That being said, it was still a very early start for a Sunday morning. I left my apartment around 5, watching as the sky went from dark, to pink, to beautifully sunny.

Nimham Mountain Fire Tower

Have I mentioned I have a fear of heights that doesn’t really impact my life in any way until I’m climbing up an open metal structure in the middle of the woods? No? Thank goodness for Meg, my stomach was in my throat and I nearly stopped halfway up the Nimham Mountain Fire Tower, but she encouraged me up to the top! Definitely worth it for the view — it’s rare in New Jersey to find a high enough spot for such a viewpoint, and I always forget just how close New York’s Hudson Valley is for experiences like these.

Nimham Mountain Fire Tower

Nimham Mountain Fire Tower

Nimham Mountain Fire Tower

When it came to finding spots to pose Meg was much more adventurous than I was. I just can’t ever shake the irrational fear that I’ll accidentally shift my weight the wrong way and plunge to my death, but she was game for it!

Nimham Mountain Fire Tower

Nimham Mountain Fire Tower

(Some of the graffiti up there was hysterical — my personal favorite is “Dante your father’s lasagna was too salty”.)

Nimham Mountain Fire Tower

We did encounter a bit of a weird situation at this spot — a troop of French-speaking boy scouts (or I guess..,the French-Canadian (?) equivalent of boy scouts) standing in a circle, doing calisthenics at the base of the fire tower. By the time we got down, they’d taken off their shirts and gone for a group jog in their khakis. It was like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, and not really something you expect to encounter that early in the middle of the woods.

Since it wasn’t even 7:30 in the morning by the time we were done at the tower, we decided to make a detour at Bear Mountain on the way back to NJ.

Bear Mountain New York

Bear Mountain has a scenic road to the top, so it was a quick and easy stop over. I’d like to go back sometime and check out the lake that’s at the base, and possibly take a stroll along the Hudson.

Bear Mountain New York

Bear Mountain New York

Bear Mountain New York

Bear Mountain New York

I have to admit, I’m not really a morning person — although I aspire to be one, lol. As much as I struggle to get up in the mornings, I do love the feeling of being up and having so much of the day ahead of me. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you wake up at the asscrack of dawn. You can scale a fire tower almost two hours away from home, drive up a mountain overlooking the Hudson, and get your groceries done all before noon!

I’ve got quite a few more spots I’d like to check off my list on The Outbound, so stay tuned for more exploring!

Utah Trip: Monument Valley Sunrise, Arches National Park

We’ve finally arrived at the last day of the trip! I woke up for sunrise in Monument Valley, and ended the day outside of Arches National Park in Moab.

This was the easiest sunrise I’ve ever woken up for. Alarm was set to 7:30am, and all I had to do was get out of bed and walk over to the sliding glass doors.

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

(Ok, I did also throw on some shoes and run down the hall to get to the hotel’s viewing deck for some of these. Still the chillest sunrise shoot ever.)

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Doesn’t get much better than that, eh?

I had a relaxed morning, since my next (and last stop) was Arches National Park in Moab — only a few hours away! I took advantage of the hotel’s breakfast buffet and face-timed my dad to show him the awesome view.

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

After packing up and checking out, I took my final few glances of Monument Valley from the public viewing deck. Don’t those off-roaders look like they’re having the best time? Definitely not something I could attempt in my little Nissan (actually, I had to sign something at the rental place explicitly stating I wouldn’t, lol.)

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

You know that scene in Forrest Gump where he decides to stop running? That’s the road out of Monument Valley, on the way to Moab! With the number of times people have quoted Forrest Gump to me in my life (oh the joys of sharing a name with a character) of course I had to stop and take a picture.

Utah Trip Monument Valley Forrest Gump Road

The drive to Moab went surprisingly fast. I arrived well before my hotel’s check-in time, so I decided to just head straight to Arches National Park.

I gotta be honest. By this day of the trip I was pretty exhausted, and didn’t get to take advantage of Arches as much as I would’ve liked. While I did make a whole bunch of stops at a whole bunch of arches, I didn’t do much hiking. One of the most popular hikes is to Delicate Arch, but I chose to take the shorter route up to the view point. If you’re going to be there though, I’d recommend skipping the view point and just doing the full hike. Delicate Arch was so far in the distance that it was almost comical.

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Delicate Arch

See what I mean?

Still, Arches is awesome. Before heading out on this trip I had a lot of people tell me that their favorite place in Utah is Moab, and I can see why. There’s SO much to do!

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Park Avenue

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Balanced Rock

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Sand Dune Arch
Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Sand Dune Arch

One of my favorite arches was Sand Dune Arch (above). It’s a little bit hidden, and it’s just a cool experience to walk through the sand to get to it. The picture below is the rock formations it’s hidden within.

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Sand Dune Arch

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Sand Dune Arch

I also stopped at Skyline arch. When I parked I could see some people standing right up in there, but when I followed the trail I couldn’t see how they’d done it. I decided it was definitely not best to try to find out!

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Skyline Arch

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Delicate Arch

Hands down, my favorite arch was Double Arch. It was also the last stop I made in the park, and I am SO glad I did. The scale of it is just incredible.

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Double Arch

It was also one of the most popular arches I stopped at (I edited a billion people out of that photo.)

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Double Arch

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Double Arch

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Double Arch

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Double Arch

After that, I made my way back into Moab, checked into my hotel, and grabbed a very unglamorous dinner from Pizza Hut. The next day I drove back to Salt Lake City for my flight home! (Someone please remind me why I keep thinking red eye flights are a good idea?)

So that’s it for road trip number 3! I promise I don’t intentionally drag out these vacation recaps — juggling a full-time job, a part-time job, hobbies and a blog is not always the easiest task.

Previously:
Park City, and the Most Beautiful Wedding
The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon
A Day in Zion National Park
Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend, AZ
Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley by Night

 
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Utah Trip: Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley by Night

After sunrise at Horseshoe Bend, I still had four hours to go before the first of my Antelope Canyon tours. I was taking two tours, a group tour of Upper Antelope Canyon through Navajo Tours, and a photographer’s tour of Lower Antelope Canyon with Ken’s Tours. Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are pretty close to each other in Page, AZ, so luckily I would be able to relax for a while and not have to be on the move.

had been planning on hanging out at the Starbucks I had seen on highway signs, but it turned out to be a Starbucks inside a grocery store, with 2 tables, crap wifi, and no outlets. Not ideal. I ended up hanging out at River’s End Cafe, which was oddly enough inside an outfitter and rafting adventure shop. It was a good find though, I was able to edit photos for a few hours, use their wifi, and eat a delicious breakfast sandwich.

I also got talking to two college-age guys from California who were roadtripping the southwest on their spring break. This is when I discovered how important it was that I had booked both my tours weeks in advance — they were calling around trying to get on one, and they were all full up. We also found out that I had been able to get on one of the last photography tours of the season for Lower Antelope Canyon, so that was super lucky!

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

I went with an early afternoon tour of Upper Antelope Canyon, because I had read it was the best time of day to possibly catch the light rays streaming in. Still wasn’t a guarantee though, as the rays are mostly seen in the summer when the sun is high in the sky. After hopping aboard a truck with my group, we drove through sand about 10 minutes to the entrance to the canyon. Upper Antelope canyon is named such because you’re able to walk right into the slot canyon. And I could not have timed my tour better — when we arrived at the entrance there was a bit of a back log of groups trying to get in because, as we soon discovered, a light ray was shining into one of the first sections. By the time we looped back, the beam was gone. I feel so lucky to have witnessed it!

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

I’ll admit, it was really hard to narrow down these photos. Everywhere you look, it’s stunning. The canyon is orange sandstone, but the way the light hits make the shadows appear purple. It’s otherworldly. Our guide told us that the canyon had been discovered by a young Navajo girl in the 1930s, while she was shepherding sheep.

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon is an out-and-back tour, so groups walk through the canyon, exit into the desert again, then loop back through the canyon again to get back to the vehicles.

After this tour, all I had to do was drive across the street to my tour of Lower Antelope Canyon. As I mentioned earlier, I was doing a special photography tour of this canyon. This means I was in a much smaller group (just me, two other women, and our guide Justin) and we were required to bring tripods. It was well worth it, as it allowed me to get much sharper images than I was able to in the upper canyon.

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

There was so much to photograph! Things felt a little hectic — as much as we wanted to stay in one spot and take it all in, we had to keep moving from chamber to chamber if we wanted to hit all of them within the time allotted for the tour.

Lower Antelope Canyon has an entrance and exit, unlike the upper canyon, and our tour started from the exit so we’d be able to shoot without clogging up the other tours too much.

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Did you see the woman’s face, blowing out wind?

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Our guide, Justin, helped us set up a few of the more famous shots. (The above picture is one of them — do you see the fiery waves?)

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Do you see the guy on the stairs in the distance? Really gives a sense of the scale of this place, both canyons were much taller than I’d been anticipating!

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

There’s the ladder that took us back up top. The picture below is what the area looks like from above — so unassuming! You’d never guess that magical labyrinth was just a few steps away.

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Because of the unexpected Utah-to-Arizona time difference, I didn’t time this last tour correctly to be back to my hotel in Monument Valley for sunset. However I did manage to do some shopping for gifts and souvenirs at the hotel’s trading post! I also tried my hand at astrophotography for the first time, from the comfort of my hotel room. I think it could’ve turned out better (there was some light pollution from the rooms and the moon was out) but it’s still pretty neat! I’d love to try again sometime, although I think I’d have to get pretty far from home in NJ to find a place without too much light pollution!

Utah Trip Monument Valley Astrophotography

Utah Trip Monument Valley Astrophotography

Next Up:
Arches National Park

Previously:
Park City, and the Most Beautiful Wedding
The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon
A Day in Zion National Park
Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend, AZ

 

Utah Trip: Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend, AZ

On this day my only goal was to get to my hotel in Monument Valley for sunset, so I actually had a pretty chill morning. Gotta take advantage of that hotel waffle maker when you can, you know?

Luckily the drive to Monument Valley put me back through the east end of Zion National Park. You may remember I drove that section in the dark on the way in, so it was nice to be able to see it in the daylight on my way out!

Utah Trip Zion National Park

So here’s a fun fact I discovered the night before while checking my Monument Valley hotel confirmation — did you know that Arizona doesn’t participate in Daylight Savings? And what do you know, Daylight Savings had just happened THAT WEEKEND. Let me tell you, I was all sorts of confused for a while. I knew I’d be driving through Arizona that day (and back to it the next…keep reading for that story) and was pretty confused about how that would impact my timing.

Now normally I’m a great planner, so I’m not totally sure what happened with this part of the trip. The only thing I can think of is that the hotel in Monument Valley had a 2-night minimum stay, which must have been why I didn’t stay in Page, AZ this night. You see, Page is two hours away from Monument Valley, which is fine except I was planning on catching sunrise at Horseshoe Bend the following morning…back in Page. Let me tell you, it wasn’t super fun driving those two hours to my hotel after hitting Page, knowing I’d be backtracking that the next morning. And then heading back to Monument Valley again. This is definitely one instance where I would’ve done things differently, so take note!

That being said, my hotel in Monument Valley was absolutely worth the drive. The View Hotel is the only hotel in Monument Valley, on Navajo Nation tribal land. It was built with great respect for the landscape, painted a similar color to the surrounding rocks. Plus, every room has a view of Monument Valley.

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel

I mean, LOOK at that! That was the view from my room! I did in fact arrive in time for sunset, which was positively stunning.

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel

The hotel faces east, so the sun sets over the parking lot behind, casting golden shadows on the rocks. After the sun was down I made my way to the hotel restaurant for dinner, which also faces the valley. I was struck by how the last remnants of daylight cast a pink hue over everything.

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel
Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel
Yeah so that inconvenience earlier? Worth it.

That being said, I was still very confused about what time I needed to wake up and leave in order to catch sunrise back in Arizona. Which may sound stupid to you, but I conferred with several people and we were all pretty perplexed. In the end it worked out in my favor — I could wake up an hour later than I originally thought!

The drive back to Page was a little nerve-wracking. There’s a good hour and a half of driving between Monument Valley and Page where there are just absolutely no services whatsoever. If I hit a deer or got a flat tire it would’ve been a disaster…because there was also no cell service! Luckily the ride went smooth as could be, and I arrived at Horseshoe Bend exactly when I had planned.

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Light was just beginning to break across the desert, and the moon was still high in the sky. The walk from the parking area to the canyon itself is so unassuming. You can’t even really see it until you’re right at the edge.

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

And then BAM! This stunner looms before you. I realize it’s incredibly hard to tell scale here, but it is just massive. The drop from the edge to the river below is 1,000 ft. For some perspective, look at the base of the center of the canyon — you’ll see tiny lines and a little white square. Those lines are roads for service vehicles and that white square is a building!

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Horseshoe Bend has become a pretty popular spot these days, so I was there with probably 15 or so people (until the tour busses arrived…) The sun was rising to our backs, hitting the cliffs in the distance first. We all waited, patiently snapping away, as the glow slowly crept closer. (That guy in the green hoodie nearly gave me a heart attack, look at how his tripod is perched! That’s a 1,000 ft drop my dude.)

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

It was around this time two tour busses unloaded and interrupted the calm. I’m glad I got there so early and had the opportunity to enjoy that peaceful sunrise for a bit. I’m also pretty proud of myself — I don’t have a great track record of waking up for sunrise, and not only did I wake up, I drove 2 hours to get there!

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

(I’m at my tallest and therefore most powerful just after sunrise, so I should really do this more often.)

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Utah Trip Horseshoe Bend Arizona

While this day isn’t over, I’m going to end the post here. Coming up next I have approximately 4 million pictures of my tours of Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, which happened later this same day, and they deserve their own post.

Coming Up:
Antelope Canyon

Previously:
Park City, and the Most Beautiful Wedding
The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon
A Day in Zion National Park

Utah Trip: A Day in Zion National Park

I had to go back to my calendar and check how many days I spent in Zion National Park, because I can’t believe I managed to pack so much into only one day there.

During the low season visitors are able to drive their cars through the main part of Zion, however I was visiting in the very early weeks of their regular season which meant park shuttles were the only means of transportation through the main road. Because of this, I decided to start my morning out with the one hike on my list that I’d be able to drive to, the Canyon Overlook trail.

Utah Trip Zion National Park Canyon Overlook Trail

It’s indisputable that the best views in Zion National Park are on the world-famous Angel’s Landing trail. However at 3+ hours and with a few somewhat treacherous sections, I wasn’t comfortable doing that one on my own. A great backup option is the Canyon Overlook trail. It’s just one mile roundtrip and still provides a breathtaking view at the end.

Utah Trip Zion National Park Canyon Overlook Trail

Utah Trip Zion National Park Canyon Overlook Trail

That little bridge was the scariest part! I never trust that those things will hold me. Hiking for me is a constant battle between my fear of heights, and my strong desire to see things from higher vantage points. The struggle is real.

Utah Trip Zion National Park Canyon Overlook Trail

After the Canyon Overlook hike, I drove back into town for a bit of lunch, making a couple photo stops along the way. I wanted to avoid the hottest time of day before hopping onto the shuttle for a bit more exploration (unfortunately the light for photographs ended up being harsh well into the afternoon, whatcha gonna do.) It might have been blizzarding at home, but it was in the 80s in Zion, which I welcomed greatly.

Here’s my rental car for scale — no pictures could have prepared me for how astounding Zion truly is in person. Also, I love that my rental car had Pennsylvania plates. I come all the way out west, but had a part of the east coast with me the whole time.

Utah Trip Zion National Park

The shuttle system in Zion is really quite convenient, although I imagine it gets crowded in the summer season. Not only is there a park shuttle that makes stops at every hiking opportunity, but there’s a town shuttle in Springdale that makes several stops in town before dropping you off at the park entrance.

Utah Trip Zion National Park Cactus

My first order of business was to take the shuttle all the way to the last stop. This way I could enjoy the scenery along the way, and make some decisions about where I wanted to stop on the trip back. This didn’t work out completely as planned…I’m embarrassed to admit that the combination of the earlier hike, lunch, and the warm sun lulled me to sleep. I woke up at the last stop having missed much of the 45 minute trip there! No matter though, a little nap was just what I needed to rejuvenate myself for the rest of the afternoon.

The last shuttle stop is at the Temple of Sinwava, which includes a flat riverside trail that eventually leads to the famous Narrows trail. The Narrows was closed when I was there due to snow melt, not that I had planned on doing it this trip!

Utah Trip Zion National Park Temple of Sinawava

Utah Trip Zion National Park Temple of Sinawava

Utah Trip Zion National Park Temple of Sinawava

Utah Trip Zion National Park Temple of Sinawava

After this little hike, I hopped back on the shuttle and decided to hike the Emerald Pools trails at The Grotto stop. If memory serves, the lower trail was closed (they were rebuilding the path after a ) but that was fine by me, as I wanted to get a bit higher up. Just like the last trail, this one was quite heavily trafficked. Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating running into so many people, but honestly I don’t mind it when I’m alone. It makes me feel a bit safer knowing there’s lots of people around, although it does put a damper on enjoying nature when a group of college students walk by blasting rap out of a portable speaker…

Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools

Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools

Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools
Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools

Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools

Still, I really enjoyed this one! Not hard at all (I saw many children along the way) and great views from the top! Well, from the middle. I had only planned on hiking to the middle falls, which is exactly what I did. I know I didn’t do any particularly crazy hikes this day, but between those and driving 6+ hours the day before, I was feeling pretty beat.

I really hope I can make it back to Zion National Park again someday. It is absolutely stunning, and I know I only scratched the surface! Next time, Angel’s Landing for sure.

Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools

Next Up:
Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon

Previously:
Park City, and the Most Beautiful Wedding
The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon