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  3. Intro to Astro: Bryce Canyon to White Pocket

Ready to learn the fundamentals of astro photography? Join us for an instructional four-day deep dive into some of Southern Utah’s and Northern Arizona’s finest landscapes. 

What do Bryce Canyon, Peekaboo Slot Canyon and White Pocket have in common?  Not only are they each an incredible landscape in their own right, they are also located smack in the middle of some of the darkest skies to be found in the Lower 48.  That’s why this  Intro-to-Astro extravaganza is an incredible option to dive into the fundamentals of astro photography while enjoying a variety of world-class photography destinations without having to worry about a thing. From lodging to meals to 4×4 transport and an extraordinary camping experience at White Pocket – we take care of everything, so all that you need to bring is your camera, a toothbrush, and a jacket to stay comfortable while photographing the night skies. 

Price

$2690

Tour prices are subject to sales tax & BLM fees.

Private Tour Upgrade Available?

No

Tour Length

74

Departure Times

12pm

Difficulty (1-10)

3

Recommended abilities

The walking is mostly easy at Bryce Canyon, Peekaboo Slot Canyon and Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Uneven footing and optional mild scrambling are the difficulties at White Pocket. Hiking Distance is at guest discretion but the area is very close to camp. There is lots of time to explore the spectacular landscape here.
No special permit is required for this tour.

Location

Kanab, UT

Attractions

Coral Pink Sand Dunes, North Rim Grand Canyon, Slot Canyon, White Pocket

Special Interests

Geology, Rock Art, Photography, Sunset
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?
If you are interested in paying by cash or check please contact us directly. You are able to book online with your credit card or you may contact us by phone to place an order. Because people have abused our policies and we have no recourse, we no longer accept PayPal.
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?

You can find average monthly temperatures and precipitation for Kanab HERE and also read our BLOG POST on the topic.

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.

White Pocket Photo

 

About the Intro to Astro Workshop

This workshop is perfect for amateur and serious photographers who are new to astro photography, or for those who would like an opportunity to practice their craft in four spectacular desert locations while having all logistics taken care of.

The workshop starts and finishes in Kanab, Utah, where you will meet your photography guide and fellow workshop participants.  You can park your vehicle at Dreamland Safari Tours; for the next four days, all transport is included in your workshop fee.  Now the real adventure starts!

First, your photography guide will take you to Bryce Canyon National Park where you and your camera can enjoy sunset from the rim prior to diving into the fundamentals of astro photography with an instructor-led astro photography session below the rim. A team dinner at the Bryce Canyon Lodge is included in your workshop fee, as is double occupancy lodging (contact us to discuss single upgrades).  Since the Bryce Canyon Lodge is only steps from some of Bryce Canyon’s best viewpoints, you have the chance of getting a good night’s rest despite staying up until long after dark to photograph the Milky Way.  If you are ambitious, you also have the opportunity to catch sunrise the next morning.

After a hearty breakfast on Day 2 your photography guide will lead you back towards Kanab, and there’s a special treat waiting for you along the way: a lunchtime photo walk and picnic at Peekaboo Slot Canyon. Peekaboo is a beautiful red rock canyon with colors that rival Antelope Canyon; accessible only with a capable 4-WD high clearance vehicle and the requisite experience driving in deep sand, Peekaboo is a lot less crowded than Antelope.  You will have ample time to explore and photograph this beautiful slot canyon (and tripods are welcome!).

After lunch, it is time to continue to Kanab where your rooms at the Canyons Boutique Hotel will be waiting for you.  You’ll have time to check in, relax, or take a shower, before rejoining your team for an early dinner at Kanab’s award-winning Sego Restaurant followed by another sunset and astro photography session at Coral Pink Sand Dunes.  Expect to return to your hotel sometime near midnight.

The next morning is a leisurely interlude to allow time for rest and an editing session before the highlight of this multi-day workshop: the overnight camping trip to White Pocket that will take you truly to a different world and the ultimate photography paradise.  No matter if you are a first-time or seasoned camper, we take care of all camp logistics – gear, setup, meals, and more – so that you can walk away from this fully-catered overnight with a sense of awe and groundedness that only comes from being deeply immersed in nature.

The Intro to Astro Workshop at Bryce Canyon & White Pocket includes: 

  • Guided photography excursions in four world class landscape photography venues: Bryce Canyon, Peekaboo Slot Canyon, Coral Pink Sand Dunes & White Pocket
  • One night of lodging each at the Bryce Canyon Lodge and the Canyons Boutique Hotel (double occupancy, contact us for single upgrades)
  • 3 breakfasts, 3 dinners, and 2 lunches
  • One night of fully catered camping at White Pocket
  • Personalized, hands-on instruction in the field and for an instructional 2-hour editing session in Kanab
  • All transport to photography destinations, starting and finishing in Kanab
  • Safe, comfortable 4×4 transportation on rough dirt roads
  • Satellite messenger in case of emergency
  • Expert Photography Guide with first aid training and
  • Optimal photographic timing to capture sunset, sunrise, and some of the best night skies in the continental United States
  • While camping:
    • Excellent home-cooked meals for dinner and breakfast while camping at White Pocket (though 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

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.

2024 Dates

August 8-11 with Kevin Floerke

About Your Instructor

Kevin Floerke

Kevin Floerke is an adventure photographer, filmmaker, and artist based in Sedona, Arizona. He specializes in long exposure astrophotography, light painting, and aerial photography and video. His work has been published in BBC Travel, The Guardian, The Outdoor Journal, and the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum for the American Indian. Originally trained as an archaeologist, Kevin’s work has taken him all over the world to capture wild and beautiful locations, including a monthslong expedition mapping and photographing the Inca Road System along the spine of the Andes Mountains. He uses his experience leading remote expeditions to guide and teach photography across the desert southwest and around the world. Kevin pours his passion for adventure and capturing the awe-inspiring beauty of the natural world and the night sky into every workshop, and hopes each student leaves inspired to create.

Fully Guided Tour

Photography Paradise!

Interesting Geology!

Itinerary

DAY 1

Noon – Meet & greet at Dreamland Safari Tours in Kanab, followed by transfer to Bryce Canyon

2pm – Bryce Canyon 17 Mile Drive, guest orientation & scouting for evening photography session

4pm – Hotel check-in at Bryce Canyon Lodge

5pm – Technique Review: Fundamentals of Astro Photography

6pm – Team dinner at Lodge

8pm – Sunset photography from rim, followed by astro photography session below the rim (Thor’s Hammer, Wall Street)

 

DAY 2

6:30am – Optional sunrise shoot on the rim, walking distance from the lodge

7:30am – Breakfast at leisure, followed by check-out & departure for Kanab

Noon – Peekaboo Slot Canyon photo walk & picnic lunch

3pm – Kanab Hotel check-in & rest

5:30pm – Early dinner in Kanab

6:30pm Transfer to Coral Pink Sand Dunes for sunset & astro photography

Return to hotel around midnight

DAY 3

Sleep in, breakfast at leisure

10am – Pack up, check out of room, followed by editing session (lunch provided)

1pm – Transfer to White Pocket

3:30pm – Arrival & orientation hike at White Pocket; guides set up camp

6:30pm – Al fresco dinner

8pm – Sunset and astro photography

 

DAY 4

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 or explore

10:00am – Depart White Pocket

1:00pm – Arrive in Kanab, adventure ends

 

OPTIONAL: DAY 5

Spend another night in Kanab to take advantage of the multitude of excellent 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 Enchanted Hoodoo Forest 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
TripAdvisor

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
TripAdvisor

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
TripAdvisor

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
TripAdvisor

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
TripAdvisor

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.

Human History

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.

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