Southwest 2015 – Rock Piles and Night Trains

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Friday, December 4th, 2015

It was a great friday morning and we slept in just a bit too much. We were definitely feeling the exhaustion catching up with us so getting a couple of extra hours of sleep today was very much needed. Julia and I grabbed some greek yogurt with walnuts and honey for a quick breakfast and then got ready for the day. We didn’t have a particular destination locked in for today so we decided to visit Red Rock Crossing in Sedona again to see what else we could shoot since last time felt a bit rushed. Once our gear was loaded into the Starship, we plugged in the destination coordinates and it was blast off time!


Red Rock Crossing

GPS Coordinates: 34.8262° N, 111.8083° W

After being away at the Grand Canyon for the last two days, we finally returned to hunt down some new photo opportunities. Initially we ran out of time the during the first round in Sedona when we got caught up driving around town, but not this time. We had a few hours to run around the place and see what we could find. Julia was excited because she wanted to get some macro shots last time so now she could get as much as she wanted. I on the other hand was happy about the overcast so I could get softer shadows, not to mention the fact that I wanted to follow the trail that runs along Oak Creek.

“Cathedral Rock rises above an old wooden shack in the dry grass.”

“Julia started to break away for some macro shots of red berries in the trees.”

“We carried on after a short while to follow an overflow of Oak Creek which runs through the section of the woods.”

“The water was quite cold, but the sound as it made its way through was very relaxing.”

“Stepping out of the woods and over to the main flow of Oak Creek reveals a wondrous view.”

“Julia’s favorite past time, crossing streams. Don’t cross the streams Julia!”

“Further up the trail, she suddenly makes a curious discovery…”

“She’s found Rock Pile City!”

“Someone or many people were very busy here…lol”

“Such beautiful creations, yet I still do not understand their significance.”

“Julia catches me getting attempting candid shots of her.”

“I was in love with all the photo opportunities at Rock Pile City.”

“I even got involved and decided to finish someone’s rock pile they started on a tree.”

“Project complete!”

“And one last rock pile for the record.”

“I was definitely feeling like a little kid here…hehe.”

After getting our fill of shots at Red Rock Crossing, Julia and I were starting to feel a bit weak, so we decided it was about that time to go. I had been wanting to get some night shots of Downtown Williams where we were staying the night, so we stopped in Sedona first for some grub at the same place we went to the first time, “Yes, it was that good.” This would be the last time that we would be in Sedona so we wanted to get our fill of the Wildflower Bread Company before we left.

“A soup and a sandwich are always a welcome combination.”

Once we finished up at the Wildflower Bread Company, we started our one hour drive back to Williams for some excellent night time photography. I was prepared too, because it was extremely cold in Williams lately and so gloves, scarf, beanie, etc were getting used tonight. The temperatures were hitting around 15 Fº (-9.4 Cº) at night and Julia was not a happy camper…lol, but she stuck it out cause she awesome like that. =)

Grand Canyon Railway Hotel

GPS Coordinates: 35.2520° N, 112.1930° W

As we got back into town, we noticed that the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel was lit up with all sorts of holiday lighting and there were lots of people there. The trains were decorated and even the Polar Express was on site and operating. There were dozens of families dressed in night robes and the children were jumping around excited as ever because they were heading to the North Pole vide the Polar Express. I asked one of the attendants about the event and she said that the Polar Express departs 3 times a night on selected nights and just like the book, the passengers are served Hot Chocolate and sweets while the conductor tells the tale of the Polar Express. This has to be one of the greatest things I have ever seen!

“As we walked toward the loading platform to get a closer look, we saw Locomotive No. 539 done up in lights.”

Locomotive No. 539

This large locomotive arrived in Williams after being transported by rail from Battle Ground, Wash., aboard three flat cars. Locomotive No. 539 was built for the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1917. The locomotive ran on various lines, including the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway, for 40 years before being retired to a civic-monument in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park. The locomotive was then moved to Battle Ground before being recently displaced by a park project.

Grand Canyon Railway completed the acquisition in early April, which involved swapping two of the Railway’s smaller locomotives – No. 18 and No. 20, which are 2-8-0 type locomotives – for the big No. 539, which is a 2-8-2 type locomotive. The two smaller locomotives were transported to the Mt. Hood Railway in Washington for service on that line. Locomotive No. 539 is currently the largest steam locomotive in the Grand Canyon Railway Fleet. (source: About Travel)

“A closer look at the blue lit ironsides of the Locomotive No. 539.”

After a breif moment, I heard the distant blare of the train horn approaching. I knew this had to be the Polar Express, so I rushed with Julia to get to the opposite end of the loading platform. I wanted to setup and capture a long exposure of of the Polar Express as it slowly pulls into the station.

“I captured the next Polar Express to arrive with a long exposure.”

“Here she is, parked and ready for the next round of passengers to the North Pole.”

“There were about 22 of these fancy passenger cars, almost twice as many as the Grand Canyon Train.”

“As the passengers got on board, we made our way back to the front of the train to catch a long exposure take off.”

Once the Polar Express had departed with all it’s North Pole bound passengers, Julia and I began to take a stroll through the downtown area of Williams. The entire town was done up in holiday cheer, it was the perfect time to visit a place like this. I love the Holidays and getting the opportunity to celebrate it like this was simply amazing. I know that Julia was loving it too even with the bone chilling temperatures. We started our way from one end of town and I promised her a slice of pie at the Pine Country Restaurant for being such a trooper. (Sweet bribes always go a long way with her…lol)

“The Route 66 is already a neon wonder so the addition of xmas lights made it even better!”

“In the center of town, there was a gigantic xmas tree lit all the way to the top.”

“Station 66 Italian Bistro had a nice heater for Julia to warm her hands on.”

“It was time to get to having some pie!”

Pine Country Restaurant

Once inside the Pine Country Restaurant, we were blown away at the shear number of pie options that they had available and so many that I had never hear of either. The place is definitely a popular spot with both the locals and visitors alike and I could see why. Julia and I drooled for about 10 minutes over the options we say on the menu, so we made up our minds and got to ordering right away. Julia had asked about a German Chocolate type of pie, but they didn’t have anymore as it was a popular selection, so she went with a classic instead, a slice of Coconut Cream Pie. I ordered a slice of Blueberry Apple Peach Pie, a combination I had never heard of before.

“Julia’s yummy slice of Coconut Cream Pie looked heavenly!”

“My slice of Blueberry Apple Peach Pie was probably the best damn pie of any kind I’ve ever had!”

Boy!, what a way to end another fantastic day on this most epic of road trips! Julia was a very happy little kitten and the only thing that would make her the happiest would be to get over to our room with the ultra badass heater so she could warm her paws and so we could both get a great night’s rest. We talked about tomorrow and we decided that we were going to check out the place that we had been seeing signs for, Bearizona!

Until the next travel blog, remember to get out there and “Shoot the Planet!”



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