We're making our way home. We've really been for a month, but it's hit us now that the southwest desert is familiar and we're an easy day drive away--when we were in Texas, home still seemed a long plane flight away.

We're sitting in the van right now on Christmas morning enjoying each other's company and the inch of snow that fluffed the ground in Utah. We exchanged Christmas hugs and kisses and are on our 2nd pot of coffee (plus a Pepsi). Today's agenda: maybe climb, maybe not, hang out, and cook steaks on the campfire by a full moon tonight.

Rewind a couple weeks (it's really been that long, from a new moon in Big Bend to a full moon on Christmas!). We drove straight through New Mexico after a snow storm and 25-degree highs thwarted our attempt to climb at Enchanted Towers. Arizona greeted us with great weather but the 5 mile hike into Homestead climbing wasn't entirely motivating. So, off we continued to hit a few more parks in the 4 corners.

I really wanted a photo with an Organ Pipe cactus that line the south-facing hillsides through Arizona. I had no idea that they grew so big! After our Nth attempt at nabbing a pullout within close proximity to a large cactus, we found a national forest dirt road leading to a monster!

Organ Pipe Cactus Arizona
Organ Pipe Cactus Arizona

Horseshoe Canyon Bend, AZ

Not a bad place to work if you have to work at all! Sunset is right over the canyon. I need a wider lens or full frame camera...

Horseshoe Canyon Bend AZ
Horseshoe Canyon Bend AZ
Horseshoe Canyon Bend AZ

Antelope Canyon

The park's on reservation land, but you can tour either the upper or lower canyon through a number of agencies. We chose the less-traveled, narrower lower canyon as opposed to the wider upper canyon, which has the traditional photos of sandy light shafts. It's really mind-boggling how features formed like this. Every which way you turn there's something to catch your eye.

The slot of lower canyon runs about 1/4 mile:

Antelope Canyon AZ
Antelope Canyon AZ

To my delight, my camera metered the white balance off on this one:

Antelope Canyon AZ
Antelope Canyon AZ
Antelope Canyon AZ

Faces:

Antelope Canyon AZ Shark face
Antelope Canyon AZ woman face

Toadstool Hike

Then we landed on Tattooine...or Dune, where Jeremy, the lone traveler, roams the plains:

Toadstool Hike AZ


Hoodoos, which are formed by erosion and frost-thaw cycles in the desert:

Toadstool Hike AZ


Waiting for a star ship to fly out of the cave:

Toadstool Hike AZ
Toadstool Hike AZ

This is really the Toadstool hike, a ~1.5-2mile round trip about 30min from Antelope Canyon on the way to Bryce Canyon. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 37.101013, -111.873522.