The Valley of Rocks: Monument Valley

Just a couple of hours’ drive from Page, Arizona (the location of HorseShoe Bend and Antelope Canyons) lies the valley of rocks – the Monument Valley! It has a cluster of large Sandstone buttes (an isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top).

Though the tour of the valley was not in our original plan for Arizona/Utah, we decided on a quick trip from Page as we had one afternoon open. The drive itself is through the vast barren landscapes, but as one approaches the Valley at the border of the 2 states, the tourists begin to be seen.road to the monument valley utahThere is a general admission fees of $20 per vehicle and then you can just drive on the 14-mile graded dirt road that takes you through the major monuments – The Mittens, Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Totem Pole, Yel-Bichel, Ear of the Wind.

Here’s the John Ford’s Point, followed by the Three Sisters:john ford's point utahthree sisters monument valleyThere are many monuments there, difficult to capture in just a few hours. One can stop at the designated points though and enjoy the stunning views.snow in desertwhat to see in arizona utahIt had snowed a bit there earlier (who can imagine that in the so-called desert!), but it made our outing all the more exciting. This one is my personal favorite from the day (the colors are all natural):beautiful photography monument valleyThe below shot has Yel-Bicehl on the left and Totem Pole on the right, which has gone through extensive erosion over time!best of usa travelIt was about time for dusk, and that’s when I get super-active. The reason – most of my best shots have come either at dawn or when the sun was about to bid good-bye for the day!snow in arizona utahThe last shot of the day was that of the Mittens (left and middle one) and of the Merrick Butte (right foreground) – looks magical, isn’t it?night shots at monument valleyAfter about 4 hours, we left another of nature’s wonder, but not before collecting a souvenir from a large shop at the entrance.

The thunderous experince of Niagara Falls

We went to Niagara Falls on the US side about 5 years. Though the views are spectacular (and I posted a few pics on my Instagram account earlier), but the beauty on the Canadian side is overwhelming. So, after moving to Canada, the first trip we took was spending a Sunday afternoon there…it is just about an hour-and-a-half drive from our place!

Niagara Falls is a common name of 3 falls – Horseshoe Falls (the largest), Ameircan Falls, and Bridalveil Falls (the smallest).

We arrived there around 3.30pm and parked our car at the Falls Parking Lot (there are many other options around too, you can check on the internet beforehand). At $22 for the day, it is a great option as it is just opposite the Horseshoe Falls.best view of niagara fallshorseshoe falls canadaniagara canada.jpgthe mesmerizing waterfallsThe beauty of the place is eye-catching as there are many hotels close by and the landscapes provide for an added charm. There is enough to spend even a day there as one can just stroll around along the falls for a couple of kilometers!hotels near niagara falls.jpgstrolling along the niagaraJust a few steps aways from the Horseshoe are the American Falls (the long ones on the left below) and Bridalveil Falls (the small one on the right) – both lie entirely on the US side.american and bridalveil fallsThe boats you see in the shots run from both the US and Canadian side – they are referred to as Maid of the Mist experience. We took the one from the US side when we visited earlier – it is an amazing experince as you would hear the craching waves by being as close to them as possibe, and soak up drops of powerful spray (be ready to get wet though you would be given a protective sheet for the body). We hope to take it again from this side someday. I also have to shot the night views of the falls since they illumite in different colors through high-intensity beams!

Being a major attraction in both countries, there are other ways to indule too…take the carriage ride for instance!carriage ride at niagaraIf you feel tired or hungry, there is no dearth of outlets to enjoy the meal you prefer, or just shop for some souvenirs.

Btw, Canada is celerating its 150th year and all national parks across the nation have free entry this year…something we hope to leverage soon!canada 150th day celebrationWe started back around 10 in the night, after witnessing the amazing fireworks over the falls. For more details for your trip, I suggest checking their site.

Following the multi-cultural dream!

We have moved to Canada!

I would have hit H1B limit in the US end of this month and I declined Green Card request from my company 2 years back…and I have no regrets whatsoever!

More often than not, my decision to move on was met with shock to extreme disbelief with whoever I’ve shared the news. I was asked why on earth I don’t want to settle down in the US. Even otherwise, I could have applied for and taken the Green Card (GC) and then left. Well, I was never intent on doing so…and I don’t do anything unless I am comfortable with it!

I can imagine why people behaved the way they did. Let’s take the Indians in the US as an example – most of them dislike India after they’ve spent some time in the US, so much so that some even start ‘hating’ the place they come from! An India-born lady I recently met in the US said, ‘I am happy Trump is adding restrictions on immigrants. Indians are trash and should be sent back!’ As much as I was sorry to hear that and had to bow down my head in shame, I couldn’t believe she can hardly speak a sentence in proper English, in spite of being in the US for over 15 years. If you ask me, she should be the first one to be sent packing!

For me, my love for my motherland never changed. It is natural to ask then, why did I spend 6 years in the US? A simple answer – to fulfill my financial obligations.

As much as I would like to head back to India, I still want to make myself financially stable and gain multi-cultural experiences. I tried very hard to find my next assignment in Europe for multiple reasons. And, for many months last year, Belfast in Ireland was looking like a good possibility. But things didn’t work out eventually and my current client never wanted me to leave either. All in all, Mississauga (close to Toronto) in Canada is where the discussions finally settled down on – not exactly the outcome I had hoped for, but such is life! So, here I am, publishing this post from Canada. The dream of going back to India someday is still there, though.

Btw, I had promised myself to visit Niagara Falls on the Canadian side the first weekend I am here – and I fulfilled that ambition. Here’a video of the world-famous HorseShoe Falls visible only from this side of the border.

More on my Niagara outing would come up across platforms in due course, but there is a lot to look forward to as we start exploring Canada now 🙂

Before I end, a request to my readers  – We all understand the craze to move to the West to pursue our ambitions is something hard to pass over. There is nothing wrong in settling down here too. But, don’t badmouth your own country. If for some reason you are ‘kicked-out’ of the US, it will only be your home country that will still be willing to welcome you with open arms!

Drive to the top of Mount Washington

Even though I’ve been to the highest peak of North-Eastern United States a couple of times, I can’t put down my feelings in words. Just the thrill of driving through the curvy and (mostly) narrow roads is enough, and imagine adding nature’s beauty alongside it! Well, such was our experience this time, primarily because we were there during the peak of color change.

After buying the tickets at the base, we were on our way to drive about 8 miles to the summit through the Mt Washington Auto Road. There are designated stops every once in a while where one can park the car (stopping is recommended though as it lets the engine cool off) and just get lost in the beauty!

I hardly miss the changes in scenery; else, I wouldn’t have enjoyed these stunning landscapes!alpine beauty in mountainsbest nature colorsThe place is famous for skiing during the winter time, and one can see those paths in the distance from the top. Well, October is actually the time when snowfall starts for the season, so make sure the road is open before you even head to the area. It is better to check their website for daily updates during or around the winter time.best views in new hampshireThe summit is nothing short of being at the top of the world literally – the entire White Mountains area of New Hampshire is visible right below us. There are trails too at the peak…actually, one can hike also all the way to the top from the base – yes, some are that crazy!

There are a couple of structures at the top proving history of the place, and also on early visitors. There is a shop too where you can buy souvenirs. We always purchase at least one at the places we visit. If we were to put all the magnets we have on the fridge, I guess we would run out of space already 🙂

Enjoy yourself to the fresh air of ever gorgeous landscapes. If you feel tired, there is a cafe shop too, with enough to fill the stomach (paid, of course – not pricey though!).mount washingtonAs mentioned in the previous post, you can plan to take cog railway also to the top (instead of your car). It can be taken one or both ways, though we never experienced it. Here’s how it looks though – a toy train from the far off!cog railway nhnew hampshire trainYou would need a couple of hours at least to spend a decent time there and explore the summit. We must have spent about 3 hours before starting the downward journey. Needless to say, I stopped at many places, again! There was not much traffic on the roads, giving me enough time for my clicks and experiments.beautiful fall drivesfall color photographyThere is nothing compared to the beauty of the fall, it is as if the entire world around us has been painted in different shades of magnificent colors!

Photo shoot at the base of Mount Washington

Mount Washington (highest peak in the Northeastern United States) enthralled me the first time we were there a couple of years back. So, I always wanted to go back and enjoy its unparalleled beauty once again…and autumn provides for a perfect time to witness the stunning landscapes the region offers.

But before I write about our 2nd excursion to its summit, let me give a glimpse of how gorgeous the base looked. We were on our way from the hotel in North Conway to the base of the peak.new hampshire fall colorsI must specifically mention I have never seen such a picture-perfect scenery anywhere else (yet). The multi-colored trees, white and blue skies, mist atop the mountains playing hide-and-seek, the river stream below – all take our breath away!

We just parked our car (free parking) in a large open lot and enjoyed for about an hour before buying our tickets to head up to the summit.base of mount washingtonmount washington nhfall in new england regionHere’s the entrance to the summit just a few feet away. The road to the summit is formally called Mount Washington Auto Road.best of new hampshireYou might feel like you have seen the best nature has to offer by just being there, but imagine seeing all this from the elevation – I will cover that in my next post on New Hampshire.

Notes:

  • We had to pay $29 for the car and myself and $9 for the wife as fees ($7 for kids of 5-12 yrs of age) to drive to the summit.
  • If you are traveling in winters, chances are the road might be closed because of weather. I suggest visiting their site for current information.
  • One can also take the Cog Train to have a different experience. Though we didn’t take it, I will show how the train looks in my next post. Details on the same can be found here.

Wahweap Overlook and the Horseshoe Bend

One of the iconic attractions in Arizona is the Horseshoe Bend. It is a natural horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River. A part of the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, it is a few miles downstream to the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell.

We had chosen to stay in Page after covering the Grand Canyon since Antelope Canyons (Lower and Upper) and Horseshoe bend lie within the city limits.

Being an early riser, I chose to start my morning by driving to the Wahweap Overlook, a vantage point to see the sunrise over Lake Powell. I must mention some mornings provide for a gorgeous view there…and smoke billowing from the factory far off added to the beauty that day!wahweap overlooksunrise at waheap pageI must have spent a quiet hour or so before heading to the Horseshoe, which was just about a 10-minute drive (on the other side of the hotel).

The bend itself is about 1.5 miles round trip from the car parking. There is no other way than to walk, though it is not strenuous!sunrise at horseshoe bendI went to the bend a couple of times and once with Saru during our 2-day stay in Page. The first time I saw the bend, I could only wonder how the force of nature created the bend over millions of years…the same force of the Colorado river that created the majestic Grand Canyon too!

Here’s the best what I could capture across days. The 2nd day provided for much better shots, even the Sunrise-view was spectacular – see the golden stream in the distance in 2nd image below.horse shoebend arizonawhat to see in usaLuckily, a lady gave me a nice click early morning…she had her arms up and looked as if thanking God! Btw, I used this shot for a paid promotion by an International Client on my Instagram account 🙂beauty of horseshow page az

*There is no fees for either the Overlook or the Horseshoe bend!

The Lakes Region of New Hampshire, once again!

We have been to the Lakes Region in New Hampshire a couple of years back. I was so amazed at the natural beauty there that I always wanted to go back in the fall. So, right after I came back from the Echo Lake in North Conway (see the last post on travel), I and Saru headed to the largest lake in the state – Lake Winnipesaukee!

Our first stop was Meredith Marina, about one-and-a-half hours away from the hotel. We have fond memories of the Marina, as it is one of the cutest places we’ve been to. In fact, I am feeling nostalgic as I am writing about it. Look closely at the sight below and see why it could be anybody’s favorite place!

The Bay Point hotel in the view provides unparalleled lake views, and one can witness sunrises and sunsets from most rooms. I captured the reflection of the structure in the lake both times (check the link above for similar shot from the previous trip) and it provided for a postcard-type setting.meredith marinaThere are many towns around the lake and we explored quite a few of them that day. However, we were not speechless this time around…maybe we had high expectations because last time we had a bit of mist in some of the views.

In the afternoon, we came across this spot a bit off the road. Though there were some trails there which few of tourists were enjoying, I just got satisfied with the reflections 🙂lake winnipesaukeeAnother highlight of the day was this shot from Ellacoya State Park. If you compare it to the similar shot from the earlier post, you would realize both were taken from exactly the same spot…just that the mist over the mountains was missing this time.rv park in new hampshireIt was a relaxing day for us (and intentionally so) as we sat beside the lake in many small towns…each had its own beauty though.new hampshire vacationWe were back at the hotel well before dusk and looked forward to an adventurous day up ahead.

*There was no fees at any of the places…one might have to pay negligible parking fees though.

The early morning Nature’s Charisma…

Our first day in New Hampshire (NH) last fall started with me visiting Echo Lake in the wee hours. A small water body in the Echo Lake State Park in North Conway, the lake is situated at the foot of the Cathedral Ledge, which is known for rock climbing in the White Mountains area.

As I drove up the elevation to reach one of the rock ledges (the other being While Horse Ledge) with scenic views, I was feeling lonely as it was too dark. But, soon, there was a car to accompany me, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Once at the top, I realized I was in the company of young lady photographer. It hadn’t been too long and a few more people joined us to witness sunrise over the mountains in the distance. I could also see the Echo Lake on my right.

cathedral ledge new hampshire

As the Sun started showing up, the scenery was enchanting. And the falls colors added to the magnificent beauty!

echo lake state parkcathedral heights new hampshire

Just after Sunrise, I drove down to the lake, which is flanked by hills. I have been lucky in the past with some lakes giving me the time of a lifetime, so I don’t miss any opportunity now!

 

Guess what? This time I had another unique experience. I saw mist taking off of water and creating a spectacular view – it was a first for me! I was in the company of another photographer, this time a male who said he spent the entire night there stargazing. Being a small lake, I could cover it from one end to another in just about 5 minutes. I simply can’t express my feelings in words, so would let a couple of shots do the talking…

morning at echo lakeecho lake new hampshire

I spent a couple of hours in total and about 8 am I was on my way back to the hotel 15 minutes away, and another journey awaited us – to the Lakes Regions of NH, where we had been 2 years back also!

Another day at the majestic Grand Canyon…

I must have dreamt about it innumerable times. But the dream of witnessing a Sunrise at the Grand Canyon became real the very next day I saw a spectacular Sunset there.

Since we were staying very close to the entrance of the South rim, it just took me about 15 minutes to drive through the curvy roads of the Grand Canyon (GC) and park at the Maricopa point in the week hours. The point is on a projection just off the main road of the GC.maricopa point grand canyonsunrise at grand canyonAs the Sun started peeking through the canyon mountains, I could hear a few voices in the distance. The tourists at the other viewpoints were in joy as we all welcomed another beautiful day!best views of grand canyonphotography at grand canyon.jpgI must have spent not more than an hour as it was quite chilly that time of the day, but I was amazed to see another wonder of nature. It is not often that I get to be at the best of attractions!

After going back to the hotel, I picked up Saru, checked-out, and we were again at the Visitor center to cover the Desert View scenic drive of GC – about a 25-mile (40-kilometer) stretch towards the east of GC that culminates in the Desert View Watchtower (see below map taken from official site of GC).desert-view-map-grand canyon

I would highly recommend the drive as there are many amazing spots that give you unique views of the GC – Moran point, Lipan, and Navajo being the prominent ones.desert view watchtower

However, the most important structure on the east end of the drive is the Desert View Watchtower. It is a 4-story and 70-foot-high stone structure that was designed by American architect Mary Colter and was completed in 1932. It is now a historic landmark.

There is an enclosed observation level at the upper level, which provides majestic views of the canyon on all the sides through large glass windows. The highlight of the tower though is the bold murals by Fed Kabotie, and other petroglyph-style decorations by Fred Greer – which may be the only surviving representations of the now-destroyed rock art paintings in Abe, New Mexico.watchtower murals grand canyonbest of grand canyonIt was about 4 pm by the time we were done seeing everything and I was keen on seeing another Sunset the GC, but we finally decided to call it a day and head to Page in Arizona, which was about 2 hours from the watchtower and the place of out next attraction – The Antelope Canyons!

The Grandeur of The Grand Canyon

This post was chosen as a Tangy Tuesday pick by BlogAdda

The only wonder of the world that I have covered (yet) – the majestic Grand Canyon! I was completely in awe of the force of nature that carved out the canyon millions of years ago. It still sends shivers down my body when I think about standing there and wondering how on earth these would have formed!the majestic grand canyonJust a day after landing in Las Vegas, we were on our way to the South rim of the Grand Canyon (we were to come back to LV and stay there for 3 days ending on Christmas eve, to enjoy the celebrations in the city).

Though many tourists specifically go to the West rim to do the Skywalk, we left it out intentionally since it is too expensive at $80.94 per person for the Legacy Gold Package. Moreover, if you are not so sacrosanct about doing the ‘walk on the glass bridge,’ you get pretty much similar views of the canyon from the south rim too.

We stayed right outside the entrance to the South rim, at ‘The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon.’ The stay was amazing (it is the only 3-diamond hotel around the canyon) though the internet connectivity was terrible – reception told me it’s the same with any hotel there. I must mention, we normally book our stays very close to the main attraction since it becomes easy for me to cover the Sunrise and/or Sunset there. Even otherwise, I would rather spend a bit more to experience the place than drive an hour!

After refreshing ourselves up in the hotel, we headed straight to the Visitor Center. There are numerous benefits of asking the experts at the visitor center, even though we do enough research beforehand – at the very least, we stay current with the (mis)information we found online. Since we have the Annual Pass to all the National Parks in the United States (bought for $80 last year, applicable per vehicle), we didn’t have to pay additionally to enter the Canyon area.

For the curious, check out the short video that plays every few minutes at the visitor center that tells you how the canyons were formed. Once you are ready to experience the grandness of the canyon, start from the Mather Point, which is right behind the visitor center and is a must-see. You can walk right along the canyon using the ‘rim trail;’ but if you have limited time, either drive around or use their shuttles (for free).grand-canyon-south-rim-detail-mapThe other one not to be missed is the Yavapai Point and Geology Museum. The museum tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the canyon – how they formed, the rock-layers, visual artifacts, samples of rocks, and a long glass providing a magnificent view of the canyon right in front of you. You can even see the Colorado river (that formed the canyon) about a mile away.

We drove around and stopped at many viewpoints that are shown in the map above (taken from Grand Canyon official website). You never know which one can give you a great view depending on the time of the day. mather pointyavapai pointWe were lucky to see some Elks and Deers too!wildlife-at-grand-canyonwildlife at grand canyonIf you go by the public opinion, other spots to definitely cover are Maricopa point, Powell point, and Hopi point. In fact, Hopi point is rated as the best for Sunset views, and I absolutely agree with it. I stood there in the chill of late-December to experience this sight!sunset-at-grand-canyonWe spent around 4 hours before heading to the hotel and enjoying the luxuries of that too. For me, another Sunrise awaited in the majestic lap of nature!