The large spire in the center of the photo is of Spider Rock. Even though I was a ways away, the depth and spirit of the canyon is enough to knock you senseless. It feels like you’re taking in the enormity of our human history in a moment, punching with the weight and force of a million years.
On the way back I got distracted a few times at some of the other outlooks Canyon de Chelly had to offer, increasingly aware that the winter sun would be soon setting. I stopped to chat up a local selling his “art” on the low (a collection of loose rocks he’d found), gobbled up a soggy turkey wrap and washed it down with a flat soda from the airport, and attempted to photograph a shy alpaca. By the time I made it back to the service station, I realized I had an increasingly bad set of choices ahead of me: Forge ahead to Monument Valley or console myself with the visual grandeur of Spider Rock, return to Flagstaff and call it a day. Leaving for Monument Valley would mean I followed the morning’s plan, go the additional 2hrs up and get 45min to figure out the best shot in twilight and then go back another 3hrs. Not doing so seemed to be giving up, white flags. I had been circling the Chinle strip, making illegal, middle-of-the-road U-turns, my thoughts racing to come to a satisfying decision. After some consternation and a touch of shame about bumming a free pinch of wifi from the local Subway, I mapped a course, not to Monument Valley, not to Flagstaff, but to the Meteor Crater in Winslow, AZ.