Saturday, August 2, 2014

Southwest Wanderings: Vermilion Cliffs & Navajo Bridge

The Vermilion Cliffs in late morning light (looking west)
After 2 days on the Kaibab Plateau, we decided to get up early and take some extra time to head further east on Hwy 89A to see the famed Vermilion Cliffs and Marble Canyon. As we were ready to go, we discovered that the car wouldn't start, thanks to jumper cables, my personal MacGyver,  and a penny,  we got going again..... but more on that later.
As an artist I've heard this name for decades but had yet to see them for myself. They have been painted countless times by expert and famous artists. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is located in north central Arizona just below the Utah border. It is basically another plateau, which south west facing edge is made up of bright vermilion red cliffs that really glow in the sun. The northern part of the Kaibab Plateau is just west of the Vermilion Cliffs plateau. As we approached them from Kaibab with the sun in our eyes, they were fairly dull, then as we rounded the curve to where the sun hit them, they turned brilliant red and stretched for miles. It had just rained that night and all the little stream beds were muddy with moisture.  To the south of the cliffs lay countless miles of  sage filled desert We then continued on toward the famed  Marble Canyon and Navajo Bridge.
Vermilion Cliffs, center section
As we rounded the bend and turned north toward Marble Canyon and the Navajo Bridge at Lee's Ferry, the cliffs turned more gold  and copper than red. They were brilliant in the morning sunlight and the green sage was a pleasant contrast. This is an area full of pioneer history. The Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon is one of the only bridges that crosses the Colorado River, and is actually jointly part of Grand Canyon Park and the Navajo Nation. There are 2 bridges, the older one is now a walking bridge, and the newer one is the one you drive across. From the walking bridge you can look down into the gorge at the Colorado River, which was bright green in contrast to the surrounding rocks. Lees Ferry is just up stream from this bridge, and is the point where early explorers launched boats down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. It is also where modern day Grand Canyon rafting trips launch.
Cliffs above Lee's Ferry
Colorado River from Navajo Bridge
Navajo Bridge, newer
The Navajo Bridges
As I walked out on the bridge, it swayed and bounced with the many footsteps of the visitors. The ends of these suspension bridges are anchored into the canyon walls, so the bounce is a natural part of how they work.  
There are just no colors quite like those of the US South West. Originally an ocean person (and of course I'll always remain so), the desert has grown on me. The expanses of space, the bare bones of the land exposed for all to see, the sweeping views, the mountains like alpine islands in a dry sea, and the ever dramatic weather are stealing my heart, bit by bit. Time to dip my brushes again.....- Michele
To see more pictures from this part of the trip, check my flickr album. 

No comments:

Post a Comment