In August each year Cisco holds it’s world wide sales conference in Las Vegas. This year I went out a day early and did a power trip to see Bryce Canyon in Utah.
Up at 5am EDT and to the airport (thank you Joan), and off to Las Vegas, arriving at 10:30am PDT (1:30 EDT). Get a car and off to Bryce Canyon, about a 4 hour drive. Here are photos from the Car heading to Bryce.
Utah is on Mountain time, so the 4 hours took 5, and arrived at 3:30 MDT (5:30pm EDT). Now time to hike. Started with the Navajo trail then over to the Peek-a-boo Trail, and up to Bryce point for sunset. Not sure of the exact measurements, but the Canyon is about 700ft deep and the the trails were not at all flat, as a matter of fact on one part of the Peek-a-boo trail, I though, well, it looks like the top is only a 5 story building, I am close to the top, only to go back to the bottom.
Navajo Trail begins at Sunset Point and travels down into the main amphitheater. (1.3 mi / 2.2 km round trip) “The Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail begins at Bryce Point and drops quickly to the canyon floor. This hike is listed as a strenuous hike due to the rapid elevation change and the length.” (5.5 mi/8.8 km round trip)
The end of the Peek-a-boo took me to Bryce Point where I was told the best sunset photos are taken. This at 8pm MDT (10pm EDT). Here are my photos from the amphitheater and the sunset. For a Man of my age, this was quite a hike, and with 26lbs of camera gear too (I weighed it).
Now post sunset (dark), it is time to walk Rim Trail from Bryce Point to Inspiration Point at which point the total darkness, 700′ cliffs on one side and up to 50′ drop on the other, was too much even with a headlamp, so off to a paved multi-use path, that lead to the car.
The bed & breakfast was another hour from Bryce Canyon. The inn keeper left the key out, and I hit the sack for a quick nap at 11pm MDT (1am EDT, or 20 hours after my day started). These photos were taken the next day. Nice little Inn.
Moon set was at 1:30am, and I got up at 3am after 4 hours of sleep to wander up a dirt road to get some night photos. This was one of those times, when it could not have gone any better, in the end, but had moments of ‘what am I doing’.
Quietly I sneak out of the Inn, with my Camera Gear and headlamp, up a 1/4 mile to a spot. Astro-photography needs dark, and Bryce Canyon is one of the darkest spots in the United States, with limited to no light pollution. I worked with google maps before I left, I knew the road was there, and I assumed that 1/4 mile would move me away from the Inn’s light. It did, it moved me close the cabin’s porch light.
With all things now a days, there is an app for that, and in this case the APP was ‘photopills‘. It does many things, but what I needed was the augmented reality to find the Milky Way. You hold the camera up to the sky and it shows you what you can not see with your eyes. I did find the Milky Way, that evening and the next evening too, more on that in a bit. The Galaxy was opposite of, what I felt at this moment, the WORST light in the world.
I begin to set up, but, what, I forgot the tripod. This is critical to taking Astro-photography as the exposures are 2-5 seconds. Back to the Inn to get the tripod. Then back up the road.
NOW I start to set up, but, wait, where is the remote? The Remote is needed because even the vibration of you touching the camera to press and release the shutter is detrimental to the photo. I could have used a 5 or 10 second shutter pause, but, back to the Inn. and back up the road.
Third time is a charm, and I am now 1/4 mile from the Inn, a small 60 watt bulb so far off it looks like a bright star, and I set up.
With all of this back and forth, you could probably guess that the 20 hour day of travel, hiking, lugging and 4 hours of sleep was not good on my thought pattern. It was 109F in Las Vegas, 82F in the Canyon, and now it is 50F in the middle of the night, in the complete dark, with a light breeze, and my camera is not working!!!!
I set a 5 second exposure, and then try to take the next shot, and there is NO 5 SEC EXPOSURE anymore on the camera….. ah, ok, try this try that, turn the headlamp on, pull the camera apart, remove the battery grip, the battery in it, the battery in the camera, then rebuild, still sometimes there is 5 seconds, sometimes there not.
Well, I have come 2,000 miles, and I have to get the photos before sun rise, then it is back to Las Vegas for work…. Turn off the headlamp and work with what I got. Time waits for no man.
Then it happened………………… the unthinkable, something brushed up against my leg! What do I do? I think hard, wetting myself would not be the right move, so hold that back.
THINK, I researched, there are Mountain Lions and Fox that are them main predators. This was above the ankle, below the knee. Too small for the Mountain Loin, so a FOX? Do I turn on the light or….. there it is rubbing up against my other leg!!!
Think Kevin, Think…….. WAIT, when I walked in to the Inn, what did I see, think, think, did I see a house cat? I am 1/4 mile away, but, turn on the light. the last picture below is of the CAT that spent the night with me watching me take my photos.
As it turns out, I needed the rush of adrenaline. The Camera was in BRACKETING mode, which meant that it would try to take a photo with the right exposure, then two under and two over exposed photos. VERY useful at sunset in Bryce Canyon, I forgot to turn it off. Fixing this, I grab a few shots of the Milky Way, and then thought, well, cabin light or not let me take one in the other direction.
The interesting thing about astro-photography or any night photography is that with a long exposure (2 seconds verse 1/250’s of a second in the day). You need things still, and any BRIGHT light will have odd effects. The Cabin light, bleed onto the Canyon Wall and produced the beautiful photos below. Also you will see a couple of a car that was probably heading to work, that lite up the mountain below the milky way.
I also included the CAT!
After a couple of hours of fun in the cool dark night, back to the Inn for another couple of hours napping, before breakfast and hit the road to Las Vegas, via Zion Canyon. The Grand Stair Case is made up a few Canyons, including Bryce, Zion and the GRAND canyon. Zion is about half way back to Las Vegas, and stops along the road permitted a good view of the canyon, and some wild life.
Then about 29 hours after I first landed in Las Vegas I was back, and ready to register in the Hotel, and for the Conference.
To top this power weekend off, there was one last thing needed. My favorite book The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy has a drink mentioned in it called a ” pan galactic gargle blaster “. Through a very odd email exchange with a college, I thought, where else in the world could you get a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster than in Las Vegas. Off to google, and sure enough you could, and you could at the hotel I was at the The Cosmopolitan . I packed the shirt (yes I have a shirt with this on it) and wanted a selfy with the drink.
After registering for the conference, I went to the Chandelier bar to order my Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. I walk up to the BAR with great pride, and the bar tender did walk up to great me. I stated with all the might of a hitchhiker, while pointing to my shirt, “I will have a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster”. This was met with an odd expression. He looked and spoke “I was going to ask YOU what a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster was?”
Oh no, how could this be going so wrong! He stated he did not know of such a concoction, he brought in reinforcements, a fellow bartender who, worked all the bars in the Cosmopolitan. She Confirmed there was NO SUCH drink.
I then said, ‘but wait, it is on the internet!’, and we all know if it is on the internet, it MUST be TRUE! She read my phone, and all confusion was cleared up. The drink could only be obtained at the concession stand inside the show Opium. She suggested that I try to see if I could get one there.
Off to Opium theater. Realizing that hotels in Las Vegas cover multiple zip codes as they are that big, I finally found the box office. I once again proudly walked up, chest held out, with my wonderful shirt, and told the clerk, “I wish to buy a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster” that you sell in the concession stand, may I enter to purchase one?”. The clerk might as well have been a VOGON. Responding, you need to buy a ticket for the SHOW, to enter to where the Concession stand is. Oh, I replied. Well, how much is a TICKET then!, To which he replied 91. For clarity, I confirm this was not 91 cents, but actually 91 dollars, which I thought was too much of a cover charge for my drink. “May I speak to you manager” was my next step.
The Manager, a very stern man, arrived in a blink of an eye. I once again, puffed my chest, pointed to my T-Shirt and stated “Fine Man, I would like to buy a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster”. To which he replied, “You can not go through those doors with out a ticket”. I immediately obtained clarity, that the concession stand was in fact through those doors, and there were no other doors as an option for me to go through to get to the concession stand.
Though I was not an individual who usually travels around the galaxy by hitchhiking, on interstellar ships, I did wear a cool t-shirt! Not to be defeated, I played my last card, as stated, “Fine sir, I wore this T-Shirt, of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, to take a selfie, and will post it on Instagram for the world to see, this will be great advertisement for your show”. I knew I was on the road to success, as he asked “How Many Followers do you have?”. I confessed that “at this point I wish it was thousands, but I would need to check”. The manager was a obvious master of Instagram, navigating me to the follower count, and discovering I had 156 followers. Well this was enough, and into Opium I went, with the manager escort. Up to the Bar where the Manager asked Leo the Bartender to get me a ‘Pan Galactic’ and it was to be comp’d (aka FREE!! a $24 savings)
Obtaining the drink of my child hood book (made up of Toki Japanese Whiskey, Aperol, Passionfruit, Oloroso Sherry, Bitter Amaro) , and The Milky Way (that which I saw less than 24 hours before in real life), I was off to my room, to see if it was truly like having your head split open with a slice of lemon, wrapped around a gold brick.
Thank you for reading.