Lower Antelope Canyon, Utah

The Seahorse

Carved by centuries of flash floods and wind-blown sand Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon has become a photographer’s wonderland. Each rift is accessible by guided tour only with a series of stair steps required to get into the lower canyon. The stark beauty and smooth rock contrasts create a serene meditational environment that belies the violence that created the results.

Once you are inside the cavernous walls become an ever changing color composition. The contoured walls create form, texture and color designs which appear differently from any exposure angle. Photos taken with the camera sitting on the wall and looking up are as facinating as those taken from a more tradition view of the forms and sky.

With this much inspiration your imagination will take over. You see faces and heads and floating designs in the sky. It is hard to believe these features may have been here for thousands of years and could be gone following a flood tomorrow.

Then you take another step and see another corridor and encounter a new color combination to capture. Look up or down, backward or forward and all you see is a fantasy to behold. But in the back of your mind is an ominous knowledge that a rain shower miles and miles away could create a massive flash flood to sweep you away forever. It is a strange and wonderful moment to bring you in touch with emotions rarely admitted. You are forced to feel the awe, the spirituality, the calm threat of nature.

Monument Valley, Utah

The big sky and recent snow highlight these magnificent monsters of rock. Ancient volcanic formations worn by wind and rain can be seen for miles before arrival. They strike a pose from any angle and mesmerize you as the light changes.

The heart of the monument is in a Navaho Reservation and is focused on the formations known as the Mittens. The massive bulk of the rocks can truly be appreciated by a circular trail around the base. And that is really only the beginning of your education.

As the sun sets the stone changes color and the sky becomes an enhancing backdrop for your pleasure. And after dark the moonlit giants become a distraction from the millions of stars available for viewing in the otherwise jet black sky.

Any stay here is too short, There aren’t enough hours in the day or pictures in your cloud based camera to capture all the impressions offered up. But driving out is as impressive as driving in is as impressive as driving around. The views continue and the only regret are the hikes you did not have time to take.

In the surrounding area you can spend an hour or a month and find wonderful stops along the way. On the way to Arches National Monument you get teaser views and pass the Monitor and Merrimack monoliths to remind you where you came from. Steller.

 

Kohala Coast, Hawaii

Hapuna Beach Sunset

All parts of this island paradise provide an iconic experience full of indelible memories. Over the years we have become frequent supporters of this stretch of the Big Island of Hawaii. It is within reach of surfing, snorkeling, hiking and a taste of old Hawaii. The warm waters put you into close proximity to unlimited brightly colored tropical fish, local turtles and migrating whales.

A short drive to the north will bring you into the Hawi area where old meets new Hawaii and the arid heat gives way to more common clouds, mists and lovely rainbows.

As the sun goes down you are almost required to attend one of the many Luaus available in the area. This becomes a combination of mystical views of a sunset followed by a visual history of the islands including all the color and fantasy associated with the immigration of peoples from across the Pacific.

Regardless of the time of year we are overcome by the healthy physical, visual and spiritual experience we receive. You make talk about rock fever and recoil from the added expense of being on an island. But in total the memories are hard pressed to be matched by any other location we have experienced. Mahalo Havaii, Aloha.

Central Oregon Autumn

Broken Top above Sparks Lake

The Fall colors are subtle compared to the deciduous forest of the East but can be just as striking if you add an 11,000 foot mountain and a little water that moves. You can stand in a meadow that would have over 30 feet of snow in the winter and look at a bare mountain that will shine a glowing white on a clear day in February. As you look closer to find the pockets you will see hundreds of colors and shades blended nicely into a reflection or splash.

Volcanic beauty is one made up of contrast and highlight. You may not be overwhelmed by massive color but you may well be struck by a vibrancy splashed against an elegant rock wall or a black reminder of the nature’s power.

In another form the quiet reflections on smooth water may lull you into thinking that this is a gentle land. It is a fools’ errand to think you can put a boat into this picture and disappear into an endless dream or color and rest.

That calm and lovely reflective pond is truly a strong willed river and this dream is bracketed by wild water that will punish the traveler not respecting the conflict of water and rock.

For the greatest color in this ecosystem you may look for the vine maple reds or dogwood reds and orange along a waterway. But among the most elegant trees are the Aspens. So many shades of yellow and pale greens blending into a collage of dazzle. And the special bonus they add is that whispery wind blowing through the leaves as it creates a color cloud of falling leaves.

Autumn is my favorite season in so many environments. Few are as subtly inspirational as this. Pleasant hiking temperatures and snatches of color contrast to capture the imagination.

 

Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, England

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Dating from the late 11th century this manor house is regarded as the finest survivor of the medieval period in England. A license was granted to build a wall around the house but stipulated that it would be no more than 12 feet high and not crenellated. Therefore it could not be used as a fortress which probably allowed it to survive. The outside design harkens back to an age and has made the Hall the focus of a variety of film and literature projects.

As part of the home a Norman Chapel was built which includes fabulous remaining frescoes that were once beautifully colored but still maintain the essence of the medieval artform.

The remainder of the home is a wonderful testament to a bygone age. The Long Hall was an elegant meeting room and the original surrounding wall has been absorbed into the structure during later additions. The wall carvings, passage ways and leaded glass windows each add to the ageless elegance of the manor.

Various rooms include painted ceilings and priceless pieces of art seem almost mundane within the setting of the structure itself.

We visited in late summer during a long dry year so the gardens were strained but clearly showed how robust they are. The rambling grounds include wonderful water features and vistas to suit any fantasy.

And always there are the flowers.

Chatsworth House

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The Cavandish family have lived here in Derbyshire since 1549. The property has been open to the public and been part of a variety of films but 100 of the 126 rooms are still privately occupied by the family. The public areas contain a vast assortment of great art, sculptures and historic documents. The building itself is a grand architectural display.

A variety of gardens surround the complex and includes fountains, trails and several lawn sculptures.

As you enter the residence you may recognize several rooms from films including Pride and Prejudice and The Crown. The walls, ceilings, furniture and design compliment the hung art.

Add to this the table settings, porcelains and furniture and you have a magnificent collection of period interiors.

It could be a challenge to appreciate the hung art which includes Rembrandt among others. But fine art is everywhere you look.

The statuary is striking in its variety as well as quantity. One of the most impressive pieces I’ve ever seen is a veiled Vestal Virgin in the Grotto. The delicate presentation of the veil is translucent which makes it hard to believe it is solid marble.

Other statuary include Napoleon and Napoleon’s mother. The examples of wonderful pieces are so numerous it is challenging to give you a fair impression here

Peak District, England

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Northwest of London and close to Manchester is the Peak District National Park, the first National Park in the United Kingdom. The area is a combination of craggy heights and sprawling moorlands and offered our first introduction to the great British passion for walks. We have hiked in many countries but with classic Brit aplomb these rambling paths through pastures including ageless stone walls and modern fences remind you of strolling rather than heavy exercise.

One more-defined path is to the top of Mam Tor with its commanding view of the Edale Valley. The path is paved with stones representing its occupation since prehistoric times. From the heights you can see walkers far and near approaching across pastures in the surrounding area.

Nearby is Padley Gorge which stands out for its craggy rock formations atop lush green slopes that are heavily populated by local sheep. It is not a true long range walk but the sites are striking enough to motivate parking the car and walking up through the valley.

As you drive through the area the terrain varies little but the variety of treasures to discover is surprising. We made our own attempt to do a wandering walk across the land with entertaining results. Our trail was on a map and we got directions several times but still couldn’t quite interpret the route of these meandering paths through pastures and over fences. Luckily we were befriended by a local couple who we met during their walk. We were lost three times and on the third meeting they walked us to the point of connecting to a defined trail. This “defined trail” crossed several pastures including cattle and sheep to follow a stream and go round a reservoir. A great trip if you knew what you were doing.