Trip Report: Autumn in Grand Canyon Country – October 2021

The Grandest of them all. Grand Canyon National Park. By far, my all-time favorite of all 65 national parks. A UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the seven natural wonders of the world. The others are the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, the Great Barrier Reef, the Northern Lights, Paricutin Volcano, Victoria Falls, and Mount Everest. 

I’ve been hiking extensively in Grand Canyon since 2004. It is the main reason I chose to move to Flagstaff 17 years ago and the main reason I choose to stay. Only 75 miles separate Flagstaff from the Grand Canyon. It is in our backyard. I’ve walked thousands of miles below the rim and lived vicariously through over 1,000 guests, primarily on backpacking trips. It is my reset button, a crucible of sorts, filled with juxtaposed dichotomies. 

Strange as it seems, in the nearly four years I’ve been passionate about photography, I have yet to capture even a single image with a high-quality camera. Something about not being pulled from the present moment to look through my lens. Too lazy to backpack or hike with heavy lenses. Excuses? Hmmm … it does puzzle me. Disappointing, sure. Inspiring, absolutely.   

My level of excitement is through the roof. And to be shooting with Grant Ordelheide, there’s not much more I could ask for. To top it off, the group of photographers we are about to embark on this Autumn in Grand Canyon Country Backcountry Journeys’ trip is top-notch. Tickled pink. 

This trip’s itinerary has been modified to one night Grand Canyon South Rim, two nights Page, two nights Grand Canyon North Rim. This is due to Monument Valley having been closed since the outbreak of COVID-19. Typically we do not go to the South Rim, and to our blessing, many of the best shots of the entire trip came from the three locations we shot from at the South Rim.  Divine Time. The image below is taken from Lipan Point, one of the easternmost viewpoints at the South Rim. Stunning. 

Michael Wichman

Grant took us to an off-the-beaten-path location west of Desert View Watchtower for our next setup. 

Michael Wichman

The light could not have been better. Many guests exclaimed their pleasure and awe.   

Michael Wichman

As the light fades away, most guests pack up their cameras and gear. Grant and I notice a storm brewing off to the west and are not quite ready to call it yet. Boom! Clap! Thunder and lightning. Whoo-hoo! A photographer’s delight. With a long exposure, I was fortunate to capture the following image. 

Michael Wichman

What an amazing day! Sure going to be hard to top that one. 

Grant Ordelheide

The next day we’re off to Page, AZ. It would be amiss if we didn’t shoot Horseshoe Bend, not once, but twice. The vibe is different at sunset than sunrise, so we capture both times of the day.   

Horseshoe Bend formed 5-7 million years ago as the Colorado Plateau was uplifted and the Colorado River down cut the plateau, eventually forming what we see today. 

The next day we head over to Canyon X in Antelope Canyon. This was a highlight of the trip for me. As beautiful as Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon, but with far less of a crowd. Our Diné guide was informative, professional, and laid back. He took us to admire different corridors and openings in the 1st of 2 slot canyons. The second slot canyon is a short walk and has an opening to the sky in the shape of an ‘X’, which is the namesake of this canyon system.  

Grant Ordelheide

And we’re off to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon! The drive from Page to the North Rim is stunning, to say the least. Rising up through the Kaibab monocline and onto the Kaibab Plateau is thrilling. After checking in to our cabins we head out behind the lodge for our sunset shoot. Stunning. 

Point Imperial and Cape Royal are on tap today. With names as stately as they are, we’re surely in for a treat. And boy did the Canyon deliver. In between our sunrise and sunset shots, we head out just past Widforss Point to capture a beautiful aspen grove in fall colors.    

Michael Wichman

 However, my favorite shot of today is of Mount Hayden from Cape Royal during sunset.   

Michael Wichman

Purple mountains majesty. Mmmm-hmmm. Mount Hayden is named for Charles T. Hayden, an Arizona pioneer influential in the development of the Arizona Territory. He was known as the “Father of Tempe” and established Arizona State University. 

Grant Ordelheide

Our final morning brings us to Vista Encantada. What a glorious sunrise! Each morning we have been blessed with jaw-dropping sunrises. One after the other. 

Everyone will go home with plenty of pictures to process and many frame-worthy shots were taken each and every day during this amazing trip. I am thankful to Grant and each of the guests on this trip for making it an unforgettable and influential photography tour. See y’all next year!

Michael Wichman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Wichman is a photography and wilderness guide based out of Flagstaff, AZ.  His first trip below the rim in Grand Canyon was in October 2004 and he hasn’t looked back since. He’s passionate about all wild and scenic places, with a love of capturing images, hiking, and climbing. With nearly 10 years of professional guiding and trip leading, Michael continues to be dedicated to lifelong learning, and an avid reader of all things associated with Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Katmai, and many wilderness areas in the Western US.  In addition to wildlife and landscape photography, his favorite topics are geology, Native American culture, and Pioneer-era history. Michael also loves meeting new people — of all backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities. He finds shared group experiences extremely enriching, especially when that experience is in nature. Michael earned a B.A. in psychology from UCLA, where he worked with children with autism. He also studied at Northern Arizona University, focusing on Environmental Science & Policy in the Southwest. Michael looks forward to the opportunity to provide quality photography instruction while sharing adventures with you.

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