Week 4, Part 1: Arizona -Trendy Bends and Bygone Towns

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All of Week 4’s blog posts will be covering my road trip from Rio Rico, AZ to Newberg, OR. I am going to cover each state as a part, and the parts will vary in length due to me spending more or less time on my journey in each state. Week 5’s blog post will be about my first week in Oregon, and both the joys and difficulties following my trip. Week 6 will be a brief overview of my week counselling, a description of what counselling is, and why it has been so important to me. I will also cover the potential changes to my project and the new direction I am taking. Week 7 will be about experiencing spring break in Oregon, which was pretty much just a crazy rollercoaster ride of adventure and issues. Stay tuned for some exciting posts coming up!




My drive to Oregon began in (SURPRISE!) Arizona, not to be confused with the more serious location of Surprise, Arizona. It was around 6 or 7 in the morning after a hearty three hours of sleep, and my mom and I were ready to leave. The night before we had packed my car with an excessive amount of clothing, camera gear, and other necessities.


I was the first driver, and I made up my mind that I would drive as much as possible. I think I ended up driving the entire trip to our final destination in Page, Arizona, which was by far the most I’ve ever driven. The next few days my mom drove more, but I was pretty happy with myself.


Anyways, after leaving my house in Rio Rico (doesn’t help starting an hour south of Tucson), we sped through the valley, up I-10, reaching Phoenix, and then we left it behind. We took a more scenic route, something we would do a lot of on our trip up to Oregon.

My home in Rio Rico during moonrise

Just past the Salt River is a beautiful road that snakes through hills covered in wildflowers before making its way to a mountain pass, which actually managed to surprise me quite a bit with how remarkable it was. The road enters the mountains and bends around a cliff face before revealing an astonishing view of the valley hidden by the hills, and the road goes straight through. I was nervous as the incline increased and the road quickly became more dangerous, but it was still a beautiful moment. Unfortunately for you, the reader, I do not photo and drive, so I wasn’t able to capture this. My least favorite thing about driving had to have been the fact I couldn’t photograph anything. My most favorite thing about driving was that I could pull off to take pictures wherever was safe, and whenever I felt it was right. I did this sporadically during my trip, but not that often in Arizona.

After making it out of the Superstition Mountains and some other less superstitious mountains, I headed for Winslow Arizona. Before getting there, we got gas in one of my favorite places, Payson, and I took some terrible phone photos out of my car while my mom took her turn driving.

Forest near Payson, AZ

The next stop after Payson was Winslow. Past the Mogollon rim the beautiful pine trees quickly petered out and gave way to large swaths of basically nothing. There was however a really interesting small slot-canyon-esque type area that cuts a super deep and narrow path through the flat landscape called Jack’s canyon. It crosses over the middle of AZ-87 on the way to Winslow. The main portion of Jack’s canyon is much larger and more expansive than the one you get to see from the car. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of it, but it’s the one interesting thing you’ll see in this area if you ever happen to make Winslow a destination.

The splattered bugs on my windshield were more varied than this landscape, but I liked it

Once I made it out of the nothingness, just a few blocks past the state prison, I was greeted by the classic regional airport sign that lets you know what city you’re arriving in before you’re actually in the city.

I really do apologize for the inordinate amount of smashed bugs

In the past I have made trips with my family there to visit the La Posada Hotel (http://www.laposada.org/hotel_history.html), a historic hotel left over from the golden age of train travel. Inside of the restaurant is a beautiful restaurant called the Turquoise room that serves excellent southwestern dishes, with a few unique ones as well. One of my favorites is the blue corn piki bread, which can only be made with a specific strain of blue corn grown by the natives in the area. If you do not use that corn, the delicate bread falls apart. This time I had some piki bread, excellent shrimp pasta, and one of the best deserts I’ve had. The desert was pecan pie balls, which was quite odd but even more delicious than it was strange.

A forced smile after a long day of driving – but it wasn’t forced once the food came!

Winslow really is a forgotten town. The La Posada hotel had to be rescued from preservationists, and Route 66, impossible to rescue now, still has bits and pieces of it running throughout the town. With stores shuttered up and not many people in sight after sundown, I wandered around the town center with my mom.

Yellow streetlights light up the Route 66 emblem and bank building on a dead night

Next to the huge Route 66 emblem embedded in the roadway is the honorary “corner” of Winslow, Arizona that was made famous by the Eagles song Take it Easy. It ever comes complete with a flatbed Ford and the songwriter himself!

Not many people standing on this corner
All smiles in Winslow!

The original plan after Winslow was to drive north to Page, AZ through parts of the Hopi reservation, but because it was dark we scrapped that idea. It’s kind of pointless visiting anything in the dark unless it’s a cave or space, because in those places it doesn’t matter when the sun is out. It was late, much like myself and most everything done on this trip, so we just made a beeline for Page.

After having arrived in Page after some uneventful driving, we got accustomed to our surprisingly nice Sleep Inn room for the night, and went to bed. The next morning we were greeted by a seemingly alien world of orange sandstone.

Several image panorama of a rock formation in the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook

Just less than half a mile down the road to our hotel was a turnout for a scenic viewing area, the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook. I quickly derailed any plan to get to my next destination (Salt Lake City) on time as I burned through hours photographing the amazing landscape and everything else in it. And by everything else, I just mean one particular Plateau Side-blotched Lizard. I quickly made friends with the little guy in an effort to practice extreme wide angle close-up photography.

View of Glen Canyon Dam from the Overlook


Below are some photos from my time in the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook!


Plateau Side-blotched Lizard

This was one of the photos of the Plateau Side-blotched Lizard that I followed around that I didn’t take with my 15mm lens. I used my 60-250mm lens at 250mm to get the ideal detail shot of this lizard’s stunning colors. I had to follow the little guy around for awhile before it posed this nicely. Side-blotched lizards are pretty common if not the most common lizard in every area they are found, but I think they are still relatively underappreciated and more beautiful than you would think up close.

Plateau Side-blotched Lizard

This was my first successful attempt at capturing an in-focus shot of the lizard with my 15mm lens at minimum focusing distance. I basically set the lens at minimum focusing distance on manual focus and stealthily creeped my camera towards the lizard until it was in focus, quickly capturing the shot once it was.

Photographing the Plateau Side-blotched Lizard! Compare this to the photo above- in this photo I was taking the photo above. Photoception!

The above photo taken by my mom is actually what I looked like while taking the photo I previously talked about. Note that the lizard (the lizard looking glob a few inches in front of my lens) is very close to my camera. With such a wide angle of view, the camera needs to be as close as possible for small subjects like this to be prominently featured in the photo. It took a lot of patience to photograph this guy, as I basically chased him around the rocks for an hour, losing him and finding him several times over. It was frustrating, but I eventually made friends with this particular individual, and the photography became a lot easier.

Plateau Side-blotched Lizard
Plateau Side-Blotched Lizard

This wasn’t my favorite shot with regards to the lizard, but I love all of the interesting shapes and things featured from this perspective.

Plateau Side-blotched Lizard running away!

This is a very aesthetically pleasing example of how frustrating photographing animals can be. Would have been the perfect shot had the lizard not scrammed at the last second!


Glen Canyon Dam Overlook

In addition to photographing lizards, I had a lot of fun photographing the surrounding rock formations. I also decided to take a more creative approach with some of the edits. Not all of these edits are super successful, but I think they’re cool. Definitely good enough stuff to pair with a shot of the lizard!


Love the way my shadow works with the abstracted lines of the sandstone in this one!

Shortly after this photography excursion I left for one of the most famous places for photography in Arizona, Horseshoe Bend. Unfortunately, I was pressed for time and wasn’t looking to photograph the area seriously during a poor time of day with a crowd of people there. I much prefer to photograph the less visited or seen (but still cool) parts of an area. Nonetheless, I just had to see the bend in person, and my mom wanted to see it really bad, so we drove over and hiked to the bend’s edge.

Once we got to the lookout my lack of excitement for seeing such an over-photographed place was quickly wiped away. It is more breathtaking in person, and it’s massive. Reading about how the sandstone layers were formed was pretty cool too, and it’s fun people watching as well.

Here’s a mediocre cell phone photo of something not so mediocre! (Horseshoe Bend)

I absolutely loved seeing all of the green in the bottom of the canyon. It doesn’t show up well, but all throughout the shadows were plants growing on the cliffs, especially towards the bottom. It was quite the sight!

I even found a little time for some interesting abstract photography of the surrounding sandstone!

I’m curious as to how these were formed

After our visit to Horseshoe bend, our time in Arizona quickly came to an end as we drove past Lake Powell. Kanab, Utah would be our next stop, eventually making our way to Salt Lake City, even if it was just I-80 at night for half of the time.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you did…

Stay tuned for some exciting landscape photographs from Utah and a few more cool stories! Parts 2, 3 (the best one), and 4 of Week 4 should all be coming out this week!

Thank you so much for your patience and your interest in my project!


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2 thoughts on “Week 4, Part 1: Arizona -Trendy Bends and Bygone Towns

  1. Great stuff! I love the plateau lizard photos, especially paired with the rock formations. The black and white rock formation (next to the rainbow edit) might be a great photograph for your quality portfolio.


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