Note to travelers: AT&T LTE data speed is atrocious—a fast data rate out is ~30K/sec and fast download is ~400K/sec. It seems that it is LTE to the tower, but then runs over some extremely slow link to get out of northwestern Arizona / southeastern Utah. There is also a great deal of packet loss. It doesn’t matter what the signal strength is; I tried it 200 meters from a cell tower!
I’m up in the Kolob Canyons area of Zion National Park, as far as I could make it last night—just ran out of juice and had to call it quits and no one there so I slept (in my van) in the deserted parking lot (national parks are generally “no sleeping in vehicle” but I was too tired to go on). It was a very nice night and no one bothered me. Today is a dull gray overcast that keeps threatening rain.
I’ve made little progress (mileage) in the past few days for several reasons. The dust storm just before Zion, then I wanted to see Zion National Park, but also because each day I do something 3-4 hours, I get an overwhelming need to sleep as per my April concussion recovery log (TBD as soon as I can push it to my server, very poor bandwidth in this area).
Today I felt that need (and yesterday and the day before). A nap planned to be brief turned into a 3 hour slumber just as with the past 2 or 3 days. I don’t know if this is a sleep disturbance or just my brain still demanding/needing extra rest, or whether a 3 hour effort is just too demanding.
Yesterday I did a 3 hour morning stint of “real” photography, then that 3-hour nap, then 3+ hours again in the evening... and I was toast by 8 PM. I felt good while shooting/hiking, but it seems that ~3 hours is about the limit before shutdown time.
With my days unpredictable (sleep/stamina) and a great desire to avoid going through Las Vegas and then Bakersfield and then up I5 (very boring, few places to stay), I am taking a northerly route on smaller roads. I need to be able to pull over and rest without traffic noise, so larger roads are a big problem.
The day before yesterday, I explored the east side of the park and then the west/main side, by bicycle. The issue is that bikes are not allowed through the mile-long tunnel which separates the two (and there is a sit-and-wait thing for vehicles) and that vehicles are not allowed in the main canyon. So I first explored Zion by bicycle, since my 30-year-old memory of it had little detail.
That eastern area of Zion is jaw-droppingly spectacular, and offers an endless variety of off-pavement hikes and photographic opportunities, which only a tiny fraction of visitors undertake, fortunately. I highly recommend photography in that area, as there are many pullouts for cars, free to all, with an infinite variety of short and long hikes. It is analogous to the high country of Yosemite (much less crowded and more beautiful) versus Yosemite Valley (crowded and spectacular but more beautiful and all trails trodden to thick dust). The main valley in Zion is cycling paradise due to very low traffic, but shuttle times suck for photographers—no early or late.
I strongly recommend super grippy shoes like the Five Ten Camp Four, which allow ascending and descending very steep slopes without risk of slipping (but beware crumby edges and such). If inexperienced, stay in the open and within 1/4 mile of the road—there are lots of ways to get hurt in the canyons and/or steeper slopes.
I’m thoroughly impressed by the garbage image quality of the iPhone 7 Plus under many conditions, but also by how easy-as-pie it is to make high quality panoramas if all the conditions are right. But too much of the time, the iPhone smears away large tracts of detail. Bright outdoor scenes are pretty good; shadows are fugly and there is no subtlety and it can be extremely difficult to persuade the iPhone not to blow out highlights.