Maybe we need to go all the way out to Cape Royal and then work our way back here later in the morning. . .
By the appearance of the parking lot at the end of the road, we’ll have the short walk and viewpoint at Cape Royal pretty much to ourselves.
The walk to Cape Royal takes us through a scrubby “forest” of juniper and pinyon pine. There are lots of interesting twisted trees and shrubs along the trail, along with a few grasses and herbacious plants. Most things look woody and tough. Despite the beauty of this morning, this is obviously a tough place for a plant to survive. Many of the trees and other plants bear labels, explaining what they are, describing their niche in the ecosystem, and providing examples of how humans and animals make use of them. Along with a shaggy Utah juniper, my favorite plant is a tall shrub with small white flowers that glitter in the morning sunshine – the cliffrose.
We are semi-sharing the path with pair of younger European men (German? Dutch?) who remain just ahead of us. They veer off on the trail that goes up over Angel’s Window, so we continue on to the overlook at Cape Royal.
At the trail’s end we find ourselves in an large open area with about a 270° view of the canyon. Stunning.
We have this amazing place ENTIRELY to ourselves.
My SLR is new enough that I really haven’t learned everything about it that I should have and this morning it is locking up on me. Finally I admit defeat, plop down in the sun on a large rock, and study the camera manual. (Conveniently tucked into my bag for just such an emergency.) The manual does not provide enlightenment. I give up and hit reset – the action of last resort. That doesn’t help either. I take the lenses on and off a few more times and give it another quick cleaning. Something in that sequence finally seems to help and I am back in action.
By now our European trailmates have caught us to us, so we gawk at the scenery a few moments more, photograph some very pre-occupied bees swarming a shrub’s fragrant blossoms, and then head back down the path toward Angel’s Window.
The path out to Angel’s Window goes directly over the window, so I can’t actually see the window itself. Instead I have a perfect perch for viewing the canyon. The view is amazing. Because it extends out into the canyon, there are views out on almost all sides. And the drop down is very, very steep. (The viewpoint is at the end of the flat plane above the window. The area is actually surrounded by a high fence.)
Lane doesn’t join me, but stays behind on a shady bench. I am not alone at the overlook for long though, as I am soon sharing it with a small group of retirees from Indiana. The overlook is large and they keep their distance – there is plenty of space for all of us. I listen absently as they talk and joke among themselves. This could be my parents on vacation with their friends. I photograph all of them together with the canyon in the background before they leave.
I linger after they have gone, soaking in the sun, the sense of peace, and the grandeur of the expansive scene before me.
He is still basically in the same spot, but sitting on the ground. At first I wonder what is wrong, but then I realize he has been engaged in his own photographic endeavors using a trio of lizards as his subjects.
Our next stop is the Walhalla Overlook. Again Lane leaves me on my own to head out to the nearby viewpoint. The views are stunning and there are no fences here – just solid rock ledges that jut out into the air far above the canyon. From the edge I can follow the path of a stream as it makes its way through a side canyon before disappearing into the distance.
Our last stop, Vista Encantada, is still washed-out by the sun, making the view back to Point Imperial seem unremarkable. Oh well. The morning is coming to an end and we have a full afternoon ahead of us.
Along the way back to the lodge we meet a few cars – by far the most we have seen all morning – just now heading out to see the sights. It’s hard to believe this is the peak tourist season. Where is everybody?