Adjusting future stops and extending our stay here in Kanab was a good decision, as it was a place where we wanted to (and still want to) spend more time. The weather was perfect, and fortunately J&J RV Park was able to accommodate our request to extend. Continue reading
When we first camped in Page, Arizona in Spring 2016, we had a great time and vowed to return. That visit was filled with outdoor activities, but several hidden wonderlands remained unexplored in this photogenic playground. I published two posts on our first visit; Exploring by Land and Water and Banded Hills. Page was briefly our home base again last summer when we caught the wave on the slopes of Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.
We were happy to spend another week here at the beginning of our northward migration. We never tire of looking at the beautiful colors and contours of the Colorado River and Lake Powell, which constantly beseech me to grab my camera. So, my adventurous readers, be prepared for a photographic journey!
Throughout the day, the gorgeous formations change colors as shadows slip in and out of the canyons. It’s a natural beauty that creates amazing and ever-changing swirls and patterns. Can you tell we just love it here? 🙂
So what did we do on our third time through? Lots!
Hiking the Rimview Trail
The 10-mile Page Rimview Loop Trail winds around Manson Mesa, on which the city of Page was built. It offers a panorama of water, rock formations, and mountains. As we walked along the rim we feasted our eyes on sweeping views of the City of Page, the Vermillion Cliffs, Lake Powell, the Kaparowitz Plateau, Navajo Mountain and the surrounding high desert.
Glen Canyon Dam Tour
Steve signs up for dam tours whenever we get near one. Not available last time due to construction, so we got on the first tour of the day this time. Dams are always controversial, as human needs must be balanced against environmental issues. Such was the case here when this dam was planned in the 50’s, and those concerns remain today.
After the dam tour, we explored the vibrant desert and ancient sand dunes along the east end of the dam. Climbing and walking around these less-visited areas gave us a chance to admire the diverse colors and patterns of the sandstone there.
Water Holes Canyon
One of the allures of the Page area are the slot canyons. The super-popular (and pricey) ones are the two Antelope Canyon tours, which had already astounded us on our previous visit (click here for photos). This time we opted for the lesser-known Water Holes Canyon, where a less expensive $12 per person permit from the Navajo Parks office was required. It allowed us to hike on our own without a guide, which may not be the case much longer because word is getting out about this fantastic place.
And what better way to enhance a canyon hike than to do it with friends? Since Dave and Faye and Al and Ingrid were also camped in Page, we were all set for an expedition of bloggers/photographers. Several hours of goofing off and laughter ensued, and oh yeah, we actually got in a decent hike too!
If you’re ever in the area and physically up for it, TAKE THIS HIKE! We all started early and had the beautiful canyon to ourselves for much of the hike. I have to say the beauty of this trek is comparable to the rushed and crowded Antelope Canyon Tours but at a much more reasonable price.
With each other’s help and some canyoneering skills, we were able to meet the challenges of multiple ladders and tight scrambling spots throughout the canyon. What a blast we had!
This trail was like a journey to a magical place, with its twisting passageways leading off into natural narrows. As always, the light changed during our hike to create new displays of color, light and shadow. It was a wow!
Details, details…ancient sand frozen in time…
And the happy faces say it all!
Next up: And the adventures in Page continue…
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has a special place in Steve’s heart. This is where his parents used to boondock in their RV every winter for years, and he visited them several times during their stays. Our last visit here was a decade ago when we flew down to spread his parent’s ashes in the desert that had been their beloved winter home. Now we were excited to return with an RV of our own.
This state park is the largest in California. Located about 80 miles northeast of San Diego, it encompasses more than 600,000 acres of mostly desert wilderness and is framed by many rugged and beautiful mountain ranges. It takes its name from 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, the Spanish word for bighorn sheep.
This wondrous and wild place with its sweeping vistas offers lots of surprises that beg to be explored, and because it’s so huge our two week stay wasn’t enough to cover it all.
The borregos did not disappoint, as they were there watching and waiting for us to pass so they could cross for their drink of the clear water:
To get off the beaten path and experienced the desert in its most primal state requires a high clearance vehicle. So weren’t we lucky that our friends (and Jeep owners) Dave and Sue of Belugas Excellent Adventures were also in the area and offered to share with us what they had already seen and experienced. Our first drive was to the Wind Caves through Split Mountain. The drive itself was a journey through a geological wonder, and we made several stops to gaze and ponder how time, weather and geology have created so many interesting formations here.
At the Wind Caves, the wildly eroded pockets were such a lure to be explored that Steve and I instantly became kids and started scrambling in and out wherever we could. After lunch we all spent a few more minutes listening to the stillness of the desert and just enjoying the peaceful scenery.
One of the best places to get a look at the Badlands’ surreal scenery was from Font’s Point, at the end of a 4-mile sandy primitive wash. The point has a commanding view of the Borrego Valley and Borrego Badlands below.
We should mention that Jeep owners Dave and Sue, John and Pam, Joe and Gay and Bob and Dee Dee are very kind to us CRV folks. Not only have we enjoyed seeing places we otherwise wouldn’t, but we’ve loved hanging out with all of them as well. A Jeep might be in our future, but what’s the hurry when we have such great folks to take us to these spectacular places?
Two weeks was just too short to thoroughly explore this amazing place. We’ve seen quite a bit, but plenty remains for a return visit. Who knows, we may have a Jeep of our own when we return 🙂
Finally, while driving around we caught glimpses of prehistoric creatures casting a shadow on the desert. Some, like the one pictured below, will be featured in my next post:
Next up: Sky Art in the desert
While writing about yet another week of exploring yet another amazing place, it dawned on me that we’ve been in southern Utah for over eight weeks! We continue to immerse ourselves in the natural and majestic surroundings, and this post spotlights some of the fascinating features of south-central Utah – mostly the area along Scenic Byway 12.
Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest
Traveling east on Scenic 12, the first panorama that grabbed our attention was Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest. The unique vermillion-colored rock contrasted with green pines and we knew we’d have to investigate further. Although this place is lesser-known than its more popular and crowded neighbor, Bryce Canyon, it certainly has its own unique geologic treasures.
Kodachrome Basin State Park
Seven miles off Scenic Byway 12 is picture-perfect Kodachrome Basin State Park. In 1949 the National Geographic Society – with the consent of the Kodak Film Corporation – named the park Kodachrome. We were curious why it was named as such, and we figured it out while hiking all of its 14 miles of trails.
It turns out the setting of red-tinged sedimentary spires (or chimneys), multi-colored rocks of yellow, pink, white and brown contrasting against a blue sky and green trees prompted the appropriate name.
On this sunny day with clouds developing overhead my camera was in overdrive!
The park holds around 70 phallic-type formations, which are actually monolithic spires protruding from the sandstone rocks or jutting up from the valley floor. Some stand as sentinels at the park’s entrance.
Steve was walking along and jumped a foot in the air when he almost stepped on a small rattlesnake. He’d been exposed to many of them while growing up in California, but was excited to have me see one in the wild. I saw another snake up the trail a few minutes later, but it wasn’t poisonous so Steve didn’t care about that one 🙂
What do you think? Did the National Geographic Society name this place appropriately?
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM)
This year GSENM celebrates its 20th birthday. In 1996 President Clinton designated this vast unspoiled and untamed 1.9 million acres of sandstone canyons, cliffs and plateaus as a national monument. It’s named for the Escalante River Canyons and for the Grand Staircase which is explained below:
One of the most well-known and unique features in this monument is the 130′ high Lower Calf Creek Falls. It was named for its use as a natural pen for calves back in the late 1800’s, and it provided a nice 3-mile hike to the falls on this beautiful day.
After our hike, we stopped for lunch at Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, right along Hwy 12. It’s known for its organic food offerings grown onsite. I had the Spicy Cowgirl Meatloaf while Steve enjoyed his Backbone BLT, Yum.
Next we drove the Burr Trail Road, which led us deep into the monument. We drove up to the junction of Upper Muley Twist, about 33 miles from Boulder. It was one of the many striking backroads that we have driven recently.
In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps spent five years building Lower Boulder Road, now part of Highway 12.
We were happy to meet up with our friends Dave and Faye of The Wandering Camels at the Cannonville KOA (Steve’s campground review here). We hadn’t seen them since last December in Arizona. Faye suggested we hike the Lick Wash Trail, a fairly remote spot in Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument.
We all took their big truck down the fairly rough Skutumpah Road to begin our hike on a beautiful morning.
The first 1.5 miles of this hike was beautiful, and then Steve suggested we head back to take on the Bull Valley Gorge, a slot canyon hike we had passed on our way here. He’d read about a 1954 pickup truck that had slipped into the canyon, killing three men. Their bodies had been removed, but the truck remained wedged in the canyon with large rocks and trees sitting over it.
On our way into the canyon we met a woman leaving who asked if we were experienced canyoneers, and she seemed concerned when we said, “What’s that?”. It got our attention, and we weren’t sure if we’d be able to complete this hike. But since Dave is in great shape, we figured he could toss us up or down any troublesome obstacles, and on we went.
After about a half mile of navigating several drops and obstacles we came to a difficult rope that went down about 10′. The girls said “No thanks”, but the guys said, “Heck yes!”
Steve and Dave continued on while Faye and I stayed behind. About a half hour later they came back like a couple of boys who had just enjoyed a great adventure. They had walked all the way to where the truck was lodged in the canyon, and they’d taken a bunch of pictures showing the beauty along their route.
After this journey we were all thrilled to consider ourselves canyoneers!
A glimpse of Bryce Canyon
The following day’s forecast was for rain and snow at higher elevations. Our plan to hike the backdoor to Bryce Canyon via the town of Tropic was redirected to driving the scenic road through Bryce Canyon National Park. We stopped at every overlook, and the rain started just as we were wrapping up the last one – perfect! For Steve and I, this was our first glimpse of Bryce Canyon and we were totally blown away. But we’ll save that story for the next post…
Next up: Unparalleled Uniqueness…
We were excited to arrive at Lake Powell for a change of pace after many miles of hiking in and around Zion National Park. The 186-mile long lake lies mostly in Utah and straddles the Utah/Arizona border. We stayed for a week at Wahweap RV Park (Steve’s review here), which is technically in Arizona but right on the state line with Utah, and we entered Utah momentarily on a daily basis whenever we left the park.
Living on these state lines caused some scheduling complexities. Is the time at our campsite the same as at our destination that day? Well, the campground at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area follows Arizona time, which is Mountain Standard Time, year-round. Arizona is the only state that doesn’t switch to Daylight Savings Time. We learned that Navajo reservations within Arizona do switch to Daylight Savings Time, so there can even be an hour of time difference within the state.
Since Utah does switch to Daylight Savings Time, we had to be careful when booking reservations for tours. When we booked the Antelope Canyon Boat tour, it departed on Arizona time – easy-peasy. But when we booked the Antelope Canyon Slot Tour we had to use Navajo Time because it’s located within the Navajo Nation. It can be a real “gotcha” for people new to the area.
It ended up being another busy week, once we discovered the many available land and water options. We loved our regular crossings of spectacular Glen Canyon Bridge as we headed into town or our activities. Not long after our arrival we checked out the visitor center at the dam and walked both directions across the bridge, while keeping the camera busy at all times. Steve wanted to take a tour of the dam, but it was closed due to construction – bummer!
We learned that Glen Canyon Dam is not quite as high as Hoover Dam (only 16′ shorter), but it is wider by over 300′. It’s the second-largest concrete arch dam in the United States (behind Hoover, of course). It doesn’t generate as much power as Hoover, but it’s a powerhouse that supplies electricity to 1.5 million people.
Construction was completed in 1964 after 8 years of work, and the controversy about it’s affect on the environment and loss of the canyons behind it continues to this day.
The Glen Canyon Bridge is also an impressive structure. Completed in 1959, it’s 1271′ across and 700′ high. Views of the dam and river canyon were stunning from up there, and we were reminded of views from the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge at Hoover Dam. These bridges are awesome, and it’s so nice that folks can walk out onto them and take in the wonderful engineering and views of the area.
Horseshoe Bend Overlook
Just a few miles from the bridge on Hwy 89 was this 1.5-mile roundtrip walk out to the Horseshoe Bend overlook. I had seen pictures of this tremendous curve of the Colorado River, and we were excited to check it out.
The path leading to it involved walking up and over a sandy hill:
The overlook is a great place to see the Colorado River making a wide sweep around a sandstone escarpment, creating a 270-degree horseshoe-shaped bend in the canyon:
While we were being amazed peering into the canyon, these two little guys showed some curiosity in us:
Further down Hwy 89 we stopped at another overlook to take in a spectacular view of the dam, bridge and the Colorado River:
Antelope Canyon Boat Tour
Taking a boat tour on Lake Powell is pretty much a required activity while here. In fact, when we made our reservations over the phone for the RV park they asked when we would like to take a boat tour! We took ours from Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas, which was close enough to our campground that we actually walked there for the departure.
This was a relaxing narrated boat tour that took us around the lake near the dam, and then down into Antelope Canyon where things got a bit tighter as the boat cruised deep into the canyon. We enjoyed the ride in great weather as we listened to the narration that described the history and geology of the high-walled Navajo Sandstone.
Lower Antelope Canyon guided walk
Our good friend Mike had given us information about Antelope Canyon walking tours way back when we started our adventure, and we didn’t forget it. So when we arrived in Page we had a choice between an upper or lower Antelope Canyon Tour, and after some research we chose the lower canyon. We didn’t realize how extremely popular these tours are until we arrived – the waiting crowd was large, despite the partially overcast day.
The canyon is on Navajo Nation land, and a Navajo-licensed guide must accompany each tour. Guided tours start every twenty minutes for groups of approximately 15 people at $28 per person, and they last for just over an hour. We went down several flights of metal stairs to descend into the canyon, and used short ladders and more stairs to exit at the other end.
I thought our guide gave us enough time to take pictures, as we gushed over these beautiful natural sculptures. At one point he even helped many of us with the correct camera settings to use and where to shoot for the best results.
The Navajo name for Lower Antelope Canyon is Hasdeztwazi, or “Spiral Rock Arches.” It’s a half mile long and 120′ deep. Created over many thousands of years by the relentless forces of water and wind, the carving and sculpting of the sandstone resulted in incredible forms, textures, and shapes. There are no words to express what we experienced, so I’ll let the photos give at least a taste of this wondrous place.
Looking around, up, ahead, behind or down – an absolutely amazing place!
We were awestruck by what nature has sculpted, but of course on a crowded tour any sense of tranquility or reflection could not be enjoyed.
If you’re interested in what the upper Antelope Canyon has to offer and want to see absolutely stunning photos of it, check out Hector and Brenda’s experience on Island Girl’s recent post. Taking one of these tours is a must when you’re in the area.
This busy week was full of diverse activities in a unique place. The city of Page was small but had everything we needed, and we looked for every opportunity to drive around the area and enjoy the scenery. Isn’t that what this travel thing is all about?
Next Up: Banded Hills, Toadstools and Canyons – Kane County, UT