Timing is Everything
The secret to a gorgeous photograph of Cathedral Rock is timing, patience, and reading ALL the words in the photography guide paragraph. We viewed Cathedral Rock the evening before from the slickrock location. The slickrock took some doing to find. Maybe that was because it was a secret. No, really. The path to get to this view place was called Secret Slickrock Trail*. By the time we found it, there was perhaps 20 minutes of daylight left. It always seems as though at this particular time of day, the Sun races towards the horizon to be done with his workday. This day was no exception. After finding the trail and following the trail, the large, flat (slip)rock area opened before us providing a spectacular view of Cathedral Rock. The sky by this time was still clouded over from rain and darkening up by the second. The Secret Slickrock Trail was not long but was more trail-ISH rather than a full-on trail. These two area newbs could be in for an unanticipated camping adventure if we stayed any longer.
Sunset Light on Cathedral Rock
To Cairn or Not To Cairn
Trip planner Bill had set aside only one day for Cathedral Rock and this was that day, so there would be no Cathedral Rock shot in his portfolio if we kept to the plan. The following day rain dominated most of the day but late in the afternoon, the clouds began to drift away. Do we now attempt the known or forge ahead with the plan to a new site? We decided–known. And at least this time we could cairn the trail a little and uncairn on our way out. (Apparently, the powers that be don’t like random cairners. Not a problem, now that we know the rules.) We beat the racing Sun out to Secret Slickrock Trail and were rewarded as it lit the Rock fantastic with an explosion of Red. The previous rain puddled the flat rock plain affording Bill a coveted reflection shot. It would have been money if the pond was absolutely still, but we’re not complaining. The difference between the “back of Bill’s head” photos below is a four-minute time difference.
*From the very excellent Photographing the Southwest – Volume 2 by Laurent Martrès:
Near Crescent Moon, there is an interesting spot from late afternoon till sunset, where crowds won’t be in your way. Coming from Upper Red Rock Loop, continue straight on Chavez Ranch Road for another 0.6 miles instead of turning right toward the park. Park at the junction on top of the hill and take the signed** Secret Slickrock Trail, which brings you in 0.3 miles to a flat area of slickrock about 200 feet above Red Rock Crossing. The well-lit monoliths of Cathedral Rock are in full view and are especially photogenic when recent rains have filled the potholes, providing nice reflection shots with a wide angle lens.
**We somehow missed this word in the paragraph when trying to find the Secret Slickrock Trail this first time.