Kat Carney ignores a toe blister and puts in some serious miles around Arizona and Utah.

DURING THE SUMMER OF 2008, I worked at the Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and explored the Southwest in my free time. The memory of the first time I saw the red rock landscape while hanging out of my best friend’s sun roof is still etched in my mind today. It’s a place that I will return to time and again to get a fix of the vast wilderness that is the Great American Southwest.


Upper Navajo Canyon

An advantage of working on the lake was free boat rentals for employees. The best time to be on Lake Powell is early in the morning or after 5pm, when many boaters head home for the day. A few us woke up around 5am one morning and rented a boat so we could spend the day wakeboarding. This particular morning we were the only boat in sight as we cut through water like glass in Upper Navajo Canyon.



Once the 710ft Glen Canyon Dam was built in 1966, much of Glen Canyon disappeared under hundreds of feet of water. The calm, blueish-green waters of the lake conceal subsurface hazards: rock spires that once towered above the floor of the canyon, one of which we once hit while towing a wakeboarder. It's a good thing the boat was a rental!


Horseshoe Bend

Just a few miles outside Page, AZ and about a 15-minute drive from Wahweap Bay, Horseshoe Bend has a bird's-eye view of what geologists call an “entrenched meander.”  My first visit to this spot in 2008 had one of my friends on all fours begging me to step away from the ledge as I took a photo. This time, my friend Amy looked out at the 700ft drop with me as I captured this scene.



Another perk of working at Lake Powell was free tours (just tip the guides well) at Upper Antelope Canyon. Henry, my favorite guide, is a retired Navajo man who has lived in the area his entire life.


Double flute

Some guides play instruments like this one during their tour. In July and August the canyon is almost too crowded to move, but I managed to get lucky and strayed from the group to get this shot. It looks like I had the canyon to myself when in fact it was extremely crowded.


Sun ray

The best time for tours in Upper Antelope Canyon is around noon, when sun rays are visible throughout most of the time spent in the canyon.



This sandfall was there the first two times I visited the canyon, but when I returned in 2011 a flash flood had washed the canyon floor 10 feet deeper and it was gone.


End of the canyon

Aside from the incredible sun rays, the intense colors of the light reflecting on the walls makes for great photos.


Observation point, Zion National Park

This spot has one of the best views in Zion National Park, and after a steep 4-mile climb it was an awesome sight to see. The trail provided little shade, and with 105-degree heat, our nap in the shade of a Utah Juniper tree at the top was well deserved. On the descent, one of my hiking partners and I decided to hike East Rim Trail out of the park. We descended the nearly 2,500ft climb we'd just done and then headed back up another 2,200 feet and 10 more miles. We didn't see another soul on the East Rim Trail that day. After nearly 20 miles and 4,700 vertical feet, we felt we'd experienced as much of the park’s beauty as our limited time would allow.


Humphrey's Peak

Three friends and I left Lake Powell around 4:30 one morning and made the 3-hour drive to the trailhead of Humphrey’s Peak. Located north of Flagstaff, Humphrey’s is Arizona's highest point, reaching 12,637 feet at its summit with 3,333 feet of elevation gain when taking the Arizona Snow Bowl-Humphreys Peak route. We reached the summit around 11am, right before storm clouds pushed their way up the side of the mountain and spilled over the other with us still standing on the summit.


The Milky Way as seen from our South Kaibab National Forest campsite

The only open campsites as we arrived to hike in the Grand Canyon were at South Kaibab National Forest. We got in at night and set up camp. A slight chill woke us up around 3:45am, so we packed up and caught the first shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead to start hiking at around 5. After walking about 100 feet, the canyon opened up and was lit by moonlight and stars.


Grand Canyon

The sun rising in the Grand Canyon was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. This was taken on the South Kaibab Trail as the sun peeked around the corner, shining its first rays throughout the entire canyon.



We took the South Kaibab to the Bright Angel Trail and made it down to the Colorado by 8am. At the bottom of the canyon near the end of July, the temperature reached nearly 115 degrees. After resting for a bit and eating, we started up Bright Angel Trail. The way up was much more strenuous and most of it was in direct sunlight. I felt pressure and pain on the ball of my foot every time we stopped and then started hiking again, but I wasn't about to take my shoe off for fear I wouldn't want to put it back on. I didn't take my boots off until we got back to our car and I found this blister.


Transparent leaf

I found this see-through leaf en-route to Chaol Falls, 4 miles from water level in Upper Navajo Canyon. You need a boat to access this area, and toward the end of the canyon we had to strategically bat driftwood away from the propeller before finally shutting off our motor to row to the beach. The waterfalls are 4 miles past the beach. Along the way we passed waterstains stretching hundreds of feet across massive cross-bedding features, 2000-year-old Anasazi petroglyphs, and long-deserted Anasazi dwellings perched in the cliffs.  We turned a corner and were so captivated by the flight and screech of a red-tailed hawk that we almost walked up on a small herd of horses.