Vermillion Cliffs NM, Arizona, USA by Bernhard Michaelis

Picture Story

Bizarre sandstone whorls, buttes, fins and sandstone dunes make up the landscape in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. I found this area in the nineteen-eighties, at a time when there was no GPS and no Internet and social media to guide you. I had explored before what later would be named ‘the Wave’ for a while in the North Coyote Buttes area, and camped there up to a week at a time. Never met a soul. Looking across the landscape, and hiking towards the South Coyote Buttes, I was wondering if there was a way to get closer to this area and found a 4 wheel road to take me there.

Much has changed since then. Permits are mandatory now to enter the wilderness areas. Concern for damage of thin, delicate layers of sandstone is one of the reasons permits to North Coyote Buttes and South Coyote Buttes are so limited. What took millions of years to form can be damaged instantly with a single footstep. The area has been discovered and the Wave has become another item to be checked off on visitors’ bucket list.

Walking around with a camera this day, was like greeting old friends again, including my fireplace which I had reused often in pre-permit times. Of course someone had dismantled it over the years. In the afternoon I revisited the Half and Half Rock formation. The weather was perfect for an interesting shot: dramatic clouds in the skies and the light changed continuously across the landscape. Still full of gratefulness for this moment, I rushed back to the parking lot right away afterwards, making it out of the area just in time before a drenching thunderstorm arrived and made the jeep trail back to the main dirt road impassable.

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