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Milky Way Photo Dream Workshop & Field Trip
Fully Guided Tour
This 4-day, 3-night Cody York Milky Way workshop at White Pocket and field trip to Toroweap is a bucket list trip for the serious desert photographer.
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What is included on your tours?
Daytours include pickup and dropoff from local hotels, off-road transportation, natural history narration, guided hiking, photo advice, snacks, water, and lunch on tours of 6 hours or more. Our multi-day tours include all of this plus camping equipment, camp management, three excellent meals, stargazing, sunsets and sunrises for the photographer, and lots more time outside.
How soon should we book?
This depends on several factors, but our best advice is to book as soon as you finalize your plans. We do fill up, and if you have a limited window of opportunity, you may miss out. The smaller your availability window and the tighter your schedule, the earlier you need to book in order to ensure availability. The larger your group, especially if it involves more than one of our trucks (>7 passengers), the earlier you need to book.
How do I reserve my date(s)?
You are able to book online or by contacting us. We do require a 50% deposit to reserve your daytour date(s) and a 1/3 deposit to reserve a multi-day tour. The remaining balance is due the day of your tour at departure. Your guide can take any method of payment.
Can I pay via cash, Paypal, credit card, check?
What is your weather policy? What is your cancellation/reschedule policy?
These policies are all found on our Policies Page. PLEASE NOTE: Because of the constantly changing weather, targets moving over the whole region (our trucks), unpredictability of weather forecasts, the complexities of different road surfaces in different areas, the variable nature of storms as far as coverage and volume in this area, and the fact that some of the best photography weather is often on days with a chance of rain, we do not reflexively cancel tours without solid information. However, as your safety is always paramount in situations where incontrovertible evidence leads us to believe that potentially dangerous situations are probable, we will cancel tours if necessary. We will assume tours will run until departure time. We do not cancel tours until departure time as the most relevant information is at hand. Also if we know of a particular area or time that will be a problem we will often consult with all parties on the tour as to how best to go about re-routing, postponement, or cancellation. Trying to manage this on the phone hours before the tour is nearly impossible. If a party decides to cancel prior to departure time for reasons of weather forecasts, the cancellation will be subject to the standard policy. Cancellations made by us at departure will be accompanied by a full refund if no other solution can be reached. Also the information we have at any given time is often incomplete. For example, we do not know if the Wave is covered in snow or if the route is hikeable, whether roads are impassable in a given location etc….as we do not have a webcam at these remote locations. We do try to network to get better information if we can. Sometimes incontrovertible evidence is only found once the tour has begun. Guessing, followed by reflexive cancellations, we have learned, produces more poor results for everyone involved, than the strategy we take. It is very, very complex making these decisions. We are always monitoring the weather and have many years of experience managing the logistics that are affected by weather in this area. Please trust us to act in both our best interests.
What kind of vehicles do we tour in? Do you offer ATV/Jeep Tours?
All of our tours are run in Chevrolet Suburbans or Crew Cab Silverados for comfort and safety. We do not offer ATV or Jeep Tours.
What do I need to bring on a daytour/overnight?
The biggest things you need to remember on a daytour are a small pack to carry your own water (essential especially on tours with more hiking), jacket for warmth and rain (essential), boots or high top sneakers (optional but optimal in sand), any essential medication, and camera. Other items include extra layers when cold, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, chapstick, and other typical daytime sundries. For scheduled overnights bring all the same except an extra layer or two. You do not need a change of clothes. For overnights in April or October bring a warm hat and gloves. For custom multi-day trips just add a change of clothes or two. On all tours we provide water and snacks. On daytours of more than 6 hours and multi-days more than 24 hours we provide lunch. On scheduled overnights of 24 hours we do not provide lunch so please eat before you come.
What is the weather like there at various times of year?
We want to do one of your overnight tours, but aren’t able to make any of your scheduled dates. What are our options?
Depending upon our schedule, we may be able to add or shift dates. Please contact us with which tour you are interested in and which dates you are considering. Custom multi-days can be arranged APR-OCT depending on availability.
About the Milky Way Photographer’s Dream Workshop & Field Trip
Does the idea of overnighting in a hard-to-reach, remote desert location with incredible photography potential and rugged yet thoughtful camp comforts excite you? Are you looking for stunningly dark skies, breathtaking desert foregrounds, and the chance to learn or perfect Milky Way photography techniques alongside professional photographer and accomplished instructor Cody York? Then this jam-packed 4-day, 3-night Milky Way Dream Workshop & Field Trip is for you.
The Milky Way Photo Dream Workshop & Field Trip combines the best overnight photography experiences that Dreamland has to offer with Cody York’s excellent instruction at White Pocket and in Kanab in a small group setting. It includes a 4-hour post-processing session and editing clinic to ensure that you have all the tools to not just capture amazing images but also get an opportunity to see them through to the stage where your images are ready for publication.
With this workshop & field trip, you’ll have a chance to capture sunset, astro, and sunrise photography at two different Southwest bucket list locations: White Pocket, where you’ll learn skills and perfect your technique under Cody York’s guidance, and Toroweap, where you’ll apply what you learned over the course of the prior days. For the duration of the workshop, you’ll have access to Cody’s personal guidance as he is there to help you accelerate your craft as an astro, and landscape, photographer – no matter if you’re at the beginning or far along the path of your photography journey.
We’ll start out with a night of camping at White Pocket for Cody York’s hands-on, small-group workshop of astro shooting techniques. After returning from White Pocket you’ll spend the next afternoon discussing the nuances of advanced editing techniques with Cody while processing your images from White Pocket, followed by a team dinner and comfortable lodging in Kanab.
The trip culminates with another camping experience for the third and final night, as we head out on a field trip to Toroweap where you’ll apply the techniques that you learned at White Pocket and in Kanab. We deliberately combine the photography workshop experience at White Pocket with a more self-directed field trip opportunity at Toroweap so that you get the best of both worlds: planning and shooting in a group at White Pocket as instructed by Cody, to optimize the possibility for learning and skill transfer, followed by self-directed planning of your compositions and shoot timing at Toroweap, so you have a chance to immediately apply the lessons from White Pocket in an independent manner while getting to shoot yet another world-class location and enjoying the comforts of Dreamland Safari Tours’ camp logistics.
In between White Pocket and Toroweap we spend the night in Kanab not only to ensure a comfortable environment for the workshop’s post-processing session: this town-based night also gives you the chance for a shower, a good night’s rest in a real bed, and to recharge prior to heading out for the Toroweap field trip section of this multi-day adventure.
About Cody York
Cody York is an accomplished, highly respected professional photographer whose commercial, editorial, advertisement, and action sports work has been featured in dozens of internationally recognized publications and ad campaigns. From ESPN to Red Bull and The New York Times – Cody has done it all. Cody’s focus on technical proficiency, creative lighting, and innovative concepts make him the ultimate instructor for a photography workshop at White Pocket. You can see more of Cody’s work at www.codyyorkphotography.com.
About Dreamland’s White Pocket & Toroweap Overnight Photography Adventure
You bring your camera gear, we take care of the logistics. Our Overnight Photography Adventures at White Pocket and Toroweap enable you to focus on getting the best shots while we take care of everything from transport to camp gear and delicious home-cooked meals. All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes to hike in, your clothes, and of course your camera. This is the ultimate Northern Arizona Photography Tour.
The Milky Way Photo Dream Workshop & Field Trip with Cody York includes:
- Cody’s personalized, hands-on instruction both in the field at White Pocket and for post processing
- Lots more time to enjoy not one but two world class landscape photography venues White Pocket (Vermilion Cliffs), and Toroweap (Remote North Rim, Grand Canyon)
- Optimal photographic timing to capture sunset, sunrise, and some of the best night skies in the continental United States
- Excellent home-cooked meals for dinner and breakfast while camping; please note that lunch is *not* included on the first or final day of the workshop
- Comfortable camp environment with toilet, tables, chairs, campfires when possible, tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags, and down comforters when cold
- Safe, comfortable 4×4 transportation on rough dirt roads
- Wilderness First Responder Guide and satellite messenger in case of emergency
- 4hr post-processing session in Kanab
- Kanab lodging at a Canyons Collection property, and team meals in between camping at White Pocket and camping at Toroweap (Night 2)
- If you are looking to extend your stay in Kanab before or after the workshop, we recommend the Canyons Boutique or Canyons Lodge for accommodations.
If you wish to book this tour click here to get started with online booking or give us a call at 435-644-5506.
Fully Guided Tour
11:00am – Meet & greet with Cody York at Dreamland Safari Tours. Guests may leave extra cars or bags here.
12:00pm – Begin transfer to White Pocket.
3pm – Arrival to White Pocket. Guide orients the group to the White Pocket area; Cody York leads a ~1-hour scouting tour to various points of photographic interest then returns to camp.
Afternoon: Guests discuss workshop goals & shooting plan with Cody York, have time to explore the area and enjoy free time until dark/dinner.
Dinner will be provided in accordance with sunset & Milky Way times to ensure maximum time for golden hour / blue hour / astro photography.
After dinner: Astro photography, or bedtime. Clean up, campfire (weather / fire conditions permitting), discussion, relaxation, astronomy.
Pre-sunrise – Wake up call, coffee, muffins, followed by sunrise photography.
8:00am – Full Cowboy Breakfast.
9:00am – Pack up, leave White Pocket.
1:00pm – Arrive back in Kanab, check into hotel, lunch.
3:00pm – 7:00pm – Editing clinic with Cody York.
8:00pm – Team dinner.
Sleep in, breakfast at leisure.
10:30am – Pack up, check out of hotel.
11:00am – Begin transfer to Toroweap, with side trip to Lava Tube. Picnic lunch at Lava Tube.
3pm – Arrival to Toroweap. Guide orients the group to the Toroweap area. Free time, exploration & independent shoot planning followed by dinner, sunset photography, and astro photography at your discretion. Please note that there will be no group photography instruction at Toroweap – this is your chance to apply what you’ve learned in a world-class location.
6:00am – Wake up Call, Coffee, Muffins.
6:30 – 7:30am – Sunrise Photography.
8:00am – Full Cowboy Breakfast.
9:00am – Guides pack up while guests have one more hour to shoot, explore or relax.
10:00am – Depart Toroweap.
1:00pm – Arrive in Kanab; adventure end.
Optional: Day 5
Spend another night in Kanab to take advantage of the multitude of excellent astro and landscape photography locales that the area has to offer.
We’ll happily make suggestions for astro locations that you can access without a guide or 4WD. Alternatively, consider an add-on guided excursion to sought-after locations such as the Great Chamber or the Wave.
Guest Experiences on the White Pocket Tour
Steve was an awesome guide and we had a great time hiking White Pocket (Vermillion Cliffs) with him. He customized our hike and planned a great route for us. Since we liked birds he stopped at the California Condor viewing area for us. We got to see 900 year old drawings and then amazing views of the white pocket are from different angles. Lunch was yummy with fresh veggies, fruit and meat. Fantastic Day, highly recommend.
DABEDB – May 20, 2019
Best tour ever. Such a beautiful natural wonder! The journey there and back was also amazing. Andrea was an excellent guide pointing out all kinds of interesting features of the landscape. Her driving was swift and safe in a well maintained all wheel drive vehicle. I would not want to attempt this trip on my own even with a adequate all wheel drive vehicle. White Pocket itself is simply stunning. I would recommend this tour to anyone who appreciates natural wonders.
I8990KDrobertr – May 16, 2019
Took a tour of White Pocket with Dreamland at the end of April with Andrea as our tour guide. It was a great experience. White pocket is very difficult to get to – both in terms of terrain and directions. Having a guide to get you there safely, as well as give some interesting history and facts on the area was great. Would definitely recommend!
Jamie U – May 12, 2019
Bailey did a great job for our small group. My wife and I enjoyed everyone’s company as well as the good lunch prepared for us. It takes a while to get out to White Pocket, but you will be glad you made the effort to see this fascinating area.
Departure68316626825 – May 10, 2019
Just completed a truly wonderful visit to White Pocket on a photo safari with Dreamland and AZ Highways Photo Tours. Dreamland’s outfitters were outstanding. Food was almost too good and plentiful. Their service and attention to detail is outstanding. Not sure when my next trip is with them but I’m already looking forward to it!
Terry G – May 7, 2019
About White Pocket
White Pocket has gained notoriety only recently as a photographer’s playground and world-class hiking destination. It is the perfect alternative to the Wave in North Coyote Buttes and White Pocket lies less than 6 miles away from that famous feature. The colorful stripes and otherworldly rock shapes provide infinite opportunity for photography, and the hiking is much easier than at the Wave. The White Pocket formation itself is 0.7 of a mile across, which doesn’t sound very big, but the gorgeous striations are quite condensed. And it is much bigger than the actual Wave, which is about 2 acres in size.
At White Pocket, the view changes constantly and curious hikers will want to peer around every corner and climb up onto each high point. Those who really appreciate natural beauty have spent a full day exploring White Pocket and felt like they barely scratched the surface. Our guides still uncover fascinating details after scores of trips there.
The Grand Staircase provides a vast and gorgeous backdrop for White Pocket’s intense swirls and white polygonal brain rock. Look out past White Pocket to the brilliant red sandstone of the Coyote Buttes, the Cockscomb, the landmark known as Molly’s Nipple, the Kaibab Plateau and the colorful layers of the Grand Staircase.
Getting to White Pocket
The Jurassic age sandstone formation is situated on the remote and rugged Paria Plateau in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona, less than three miles from the Utah border. Its remoteness ensures you won’t encounter crowds here. In fact, on most days there are only a handful of cars at the trailhead. It’s easy to find a secluded spot at White Pocket where you will hear and see no one.
Roads on the Paria Plateau are unmaintained and are comprised of deep sand with rocky sections scattered throughout. A four-wheel drive vehicle with good ground clearance and off road tires is a must. Some experience driving in deep sand can really come in handy, especially in summer when the sand is dry, soft and deep. We lower our tire pressure to power through the sections of deep sand. It takes at least 2.5 hours from Kanab or from Page to get to White Pocket. On our tours, we try to make a loop drive out of the trip when we can, depending on road conditions, weather and our pick up locations. On our preferred route, we take 89A out of Kanab heading through Jacob Lake and then we enter House Rock Valley from the south, where we stop at a California Condor release site to look for the endangered raptors. From there, we turn onto BLM 1017, often called Corral Valley Road, which heads up onto the Paria Plateau. This is where maintained roads end. When we reach Pine Tree Pocket, we veer north and traverse about 10 more miles of sandy roads to White Pocket.
On our way home, depending on weather, we may exit the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument through the north end of House Rock Valley where we catch the gorgeous Vermilion Cliffs and the brilliant East Kaibab Monocline (Cockscomb) in the soft, afternoon light.
It’s a long drive to White Pocket, there is no way around it, but the variety of scenery on the way is incredible and the feeling of remoteness in itself is a real thrill. These roads are remote, sandy and not clearly marked. We rarely bring guests to White Pocket who later say they would have been comfortable navigating the roads on their own.
White Pocket Geology
Rewind 190 million years and imagine a hot, dry desert with gigantic sand dunes stacking up in the brisk wind. White Pocket is comprised of Navajo sandstone that got its start as towering dunes back in the early Jurassic Period. Back then, the area was much closer to the equator than it is today. As the dunes were buried under more and more sand, they became saturated with groundwater. Slowly, groundwater minerals cemented the sand grains together, turning the dunes to stone. But that’s only part of the story. Something happened here, a major ground disturbance – perhaps an earthquake that triggered an underground landslide – that caused layers of sediment to separate, fold and become sheared while the sand was saturated with water and before it had turned to stone. Geologists call this soft sediment deformation. The result of the massive sand slide is wildly contorted and twisted rock. The specifics of how some of the formations came to be stump the most experienced geologists.
There are many shades of red, pink and yellow that are caused by the oxidation of iron-bearing minerals. Pink hues in the rock often indicate the presence of hematite, while limonite appears yellow or brown. The white coating over White Pocket is calcium carbonate.
There are several theories about how the polygonal cracks in the “brain rock” came to be, including thermal contraction, moisture cycles and drying processes of the sandy sediments and tensile forces. Similar cracks have been observed elsewhere on the Colorado Plateau and even on the moon. Guests sometimes say it feels like you’re walking on the back of a giant white dragon or strolling across the surface of the moon. Another “otherworldly” feature found at White Pocket is Moqui marbles. The marble-like concretion has a sandstone center encased in an iron oxide shell. Scientists say iron was dissolved into ground water 50 million years ago and collected to form sphere shaped iron concretions. In 2004, two Mars rovers landed on the Red Planet and sent back images of BB sized formations similar to Moqui marbles. NASA scientists call them Martian blueberries. NASA studied Moqui marbles on the Colorado Plateau to learn how they form, wondering if this could provide evidence of water on Mars. Results are inconclusive. The Martian blueberries may have been caused by meteorites. But walking around the bizarre landscape at White Pocket, it’s easy to imagine a connection between it and Mars. Rock gathering in the national monument is not allowed.
Humans have probably been visiting White Pocket since the ice age when nomadic hunters wandered the expansive landscape in search of large game. The Paria Plateau is also home Native American ruins dating back to the Pueblo Periods from about 750 A.D to 1250 A.D. Pottery fragments and arrowhead flakes can be found in the sand surrounding White Pocket. Ancient corn cobs and petroglyphs depicting desert bighorn sheep and deer are found in a cave within walking distance of the White Pocket formation. More recently, ranchers settled and grazing began somewhere around 1840. On the dry plateau, ranchers often drew water from underground springs using pumps powered by windmills. One such windmill, now out of commission, is seen along Corral Valley Road at Corral Valley Pockets. The word ‘pocket’ is a ranching term for a place that holds water. That’s how White Pocket got its name. Way before we sightseers showed up with our cameras, cattlemen were watering their stock in pockets of water on the formation. They even built two concrete dams in 1929 to increase the water capacity of the water pockets. Today, we enjoy these reflective pools for their incredible photographic potential and for their fascinating wildlife. Fairy shrimp, tadpoles and triops are often spotted in the pools.
While ranchers no longer live on the plateau and the land is in public hands, cowboys can still occasionally be spotted rounding up cattle on horseback. One family has ranched the plateau for four generations. Most of the roads on the Paria Plateau were created by ranchers who needed to mend fences and water their cattle. Other signs of ranching are evident: corrals, old abandoned trucks, broken windmills, and cowboy graffiti are signs of a different time. Richard Faye Hamblin (1908-1976) is one cowboy who signed his name on the plateau, on a sandstone wall near White Pocket.
When National Geographic published a special edition commemorating the 100th anniversary of Grand Canyon National Park, they chose a view of Toroweap for its cover. There really is no other Grand Canyon viewpoint like it. Sheer red cliffs drop 3,000 feet into the mighty Colorado River. Standing here feels like standing in the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon – no hiking required. It is less than one mile across the canyon to the Hualapai Indian Reservation on the South Rim, making this one of the narrowest and deepest segments of the inner canyon.
Those standing on the rim at Toroweap can actually hear the turbid river flowing through the giant gorge and rafters hooting and hollering after a thrill ride through Lava Falls. Extensive river views both up and downstream mark Toroweap. The colorful red-rock of the Hermit Shale and Supai sandstones to the east contrast with the black, basaltic lava flows to the west.
Toroweap is the Paiute word for dry or desolate valley. Tuweep came into use to describe the local white settlement and later the park area. The Paiute word Tuweep refers to the earth.
Getting to Toroweap
Our tours traverse Antelope Valley Road, 61 unpaved miles, to this remote Grand Canyon Viewpoint. We access this road from Highway 389 between Fredonia, Arizona and Pipe Spring National Monument. There is little to no phone reception on the road, flat tires are common, especially in vehicles with typical “street” tires, and other vehicles that could offer help are few and far between. Sections of slippery, sticky mud and deep ruts develop when the road is wet, and occasionally flash floods in washes make the road temporarily impassable. Once in the park, the Esplanade sandstone makes for rough road. The last few miles require good ground clearance, sturdy tires and four-wheel drive really comes in handy here.
Did you know you can visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in the winter? Toroweap is many miles from the more frequented viewpoints at the Grand Canyon National Park lodge at the North Rim and the road to Tuweep does not climb over the Kaibab Plateau. Therefore, we offer tours to Tuweep year-round. It does occasionally snow on the road to Toroweap, but it usually melts quickly, so there aren’t very many days in a given year that prevent us from making the trek. The elevation at Toroweap is only 4,600 feet, compared to 8,300 at the north rim lodge.
Human History at Tuweep
The first humans in the Tuweep region were ice-age hunters who lived a nomadic hunting-gathering existence in what was a milder climate. The Ancestral Puebloans, arriving about 2,000 years ago, farmed the area. They migrated eastward around A.D.1300. The most recent Native Americans living here were the Paiute. They now live to the north. There are 500 Paiutes living on 188 square-mile reservation. We pass through part of that reservation on the way to Toroweap, and sometimes we spot wild horses there. John Wesley Powell, led by a Paiute guide, visited Tuweep in 1870. He mapped and named many of the local features. More recently, European-Americans ranched, mined, and settled the Arizona Strip. While ranchers used this valley seasonally in the early 1900s, the first year-round homestead was the Lower Kent Ranch, which was built in 1927. A fascinating book recounts the tale of one family who homesteaded about 20 miles from Toroweap near Mt. Trumbull: “The Last Homesteaders of the Arizona Strip” by Jean Luttrell. She also penned “The Last Old Time Ranger,” which tells the story of John Riffey, who served as ranger of Toroweap from 1942-1980. Riffey is now buried at Toroweap, not far from the 1921 antique pull grader that rests beside the road. Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument was declared on Jan. 11, 2000. The 1,048,325-acre monument is larger than Rhode Island.
Toroweap Geology Explained
At the rim, the rock you are standing on is Esplanade Sandstone, which is 286-320 million years old. The valley’s volcanic history is apparent because of the towering cinder cones such as Vulcan’s Throne and obvious black lava flows that coat the walls of the canyon. Volcanic activity began along the Toroweap fault around 7 million years ago. Over time, lava issued from more than 60 vents. Beginning about 1.2 million years ago, lava flowed into Toroweap Valley, forming the flat-bottomed valley we drive through. Vulcan’s Throne, Mount Trumbull and the Uinkaret Mountains are all the result of volcanic activity.
The Colorado River was dammed by lava flows multiple times from 725,000 to 100,000 years ago. One lake was believed to be 2,000 feet deep. Geologists estimate it could have taken as long as 20 years to fill. Over the next several thousand years, flowing water undercut the softer river sediment beneath the lava dam. Waterfalls would have poured over the top of the dams. Today, there are only remnants of lava clinging to the canyon walls.
These lava remnants provide key information about its age. Lava flows 7.5-6 million years old found on both sides of the canyon show no evidence that a canyon existed at that time. And a date from a lava flow in the bottom of the canyon indicates that 1.2 million years ago the Grand Canyon was almost as deep as it is today. By about 5.5 million years ago, the Gulf of California was opened up by tectonic forces, and the lower Colorado River was formed and water cut the canyon in a very short time, geologically speaking.
One highlight of the Toroweap view is looking downstream over Lava Falls. This class 10 climax to multi-day rafting adventure is at river mile 179 from Lee’s Ferry. Even John Wesley Powell refused to attempt it on the first ever Grand Canyon river expedition in 1869. Lava Falls drops 30 feet in 13 seconds. The rapids appear much smaller than they are from Toroweap, but with a pair of binoculars, one can watch small rafts and kayaks disappear for a second as they are blocked behind the steep falls. If you hold still, you might even hear the rafters shouting when then make it through the rapids.
Along the way, we often spot gopher snakes or rattlesnakes, cottontail and jackrabbits and white striped antelope ground squirrels. There are also mule deer, coyote, bobcats, mountain lions and many small rodents and reptiles. A real treat is spotting an American pronghorn. The pronghorn is the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere and is often cited as the second fastest in the world behind a cheetah. They can run 35 mph for 4 miles and 55 mph for 0.5 mi. Pronghorns are built for speed, not for jumping. Their ranges are sometimes cut off by ranchers’ fences. The protection of habitat has allowed pronghorn numbers to recover to an estimated population between 500,000 and 1,000,000. Their range extends from Canada south through parts of Minnesota, coastal southern California and northern Mexico.