Well…that woman’s still tryin’ to kill me…but I’ll get to ‘dat in just a bit…let’s just say she’s continuing her campaign to suffocate me.
When last we left our heroes…we had finished our trip over to Mesa Verde National Park and were back in Blanding UT. We rested up on Tuesday and then early Wednesday morning got up, had breakfast, hitched, and were off on our 200 mile journey to Page AZ. We took the slightly scenic route and decided to go down US-163 through Monument Valley instead of the shorter route via 191 and 162 to 98 and 89 although we eventually hooked back up with 162. Turns out that Monument Valley is almost completely owned by the Indian nation and not only does it cost $26 a person to get into it but the road through it…the aptly named Monument Valley Drive…is not paved and most definitely not rig worthy…so we decided to pass on that part of the valley. Luckily…US-163 travels toll free through the very southeast corner of the valley and as it turns out you can see most of the most famous monuments without paying any money or going onto the dirt road…so that’s what we decided to do.
I gotta tell ya…Monument Valley is pretty cool and we got some decent photos as we passed through it.
Surely you recognize this angle…it’s probably the most famous photo taken in Monument Valley…literally everybody that comes here gets a shot pretty much like this one.
Ima sure ya seen that picture before…if you’re a bit confused here’s s hint about where you may have seen it before.
Recognize it now? There’s a spot on the map named Forrest Gump Point where you can get this picture. There’s a slightly more scenic shot available from right near milepost 13 on US-163…here’s what it looks like from there but there wasn’t any place to pull the rig over and as you can see the shoulder is sorta not there.
We spotted some wild horses on the way…right now a little town just south of Monument Valley in AZ named Cliff Dwellers.
More beautiful shots of Monument Valley including those out on the dirt/non-rig worthy road can be found here.
Arriving in Page…where it was 108 degrees…yeah, it was only 8% relative humidity but ya can just ferget about that “it’s a dry heat” crap…while it is dry and it’s definitely better than it would be at 108 degrees and 90% humidity…I can tellya that it’s damn hot nonetheless. It’s been that way the whole time we been here.
We pulled into our site A5 at the Wahweap Campground in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area run by the Park Service and amazingly enough we managed to snag a pretty primo site. Here’s a shot of our setup and another one looking out from our entry door…great view once it gets late enough in the day so that there’s no sun on the passenger side of the rig and we can open the shades…but our A/C units can barely keep up.
Neil spotted this jackrabbit just outside the rig a little later on.
We got set up, ran into town and ate at the Dam Bar and Grill and came home for bed…by the time we got back the inside temp was all the way down to 83 but with the essentially no humidity it was pretty comfy.
Thursday was our first planned Fun Stuff© day…a visit to the Lower Antelope Canyon. That’s not the really famous one…we’ll see that one next week but it’s longer and supposedly less crowded…although you couldn’t’ really have told it by us. Our tour was scheduled for 1400 but Neil had received a text from Ken’s Canyon Tours the night before saying that it was going to be hot again and that they had closed the canyon at 1400 on Wednesday…so we shifted our time to 0900 instead…but I can tell you it was still hot even at 0900. We arrived, checked in, and departed for the quarter mile or so walk down to the canyon entrance just about 15 minutes late. After almost an hour waiting in line…there’s a single set of stairs going down into the canyon and they are shared by 2 tour companies…there must have been 600 people at the top of the stairs at least when we arrived and by the time we got down into the canyon the line was at least twice as long as when we first got into it…besides the heat we were sure glad we got an earlier time. Our guide was a Navajo recently retired from the Army who gave a great tour and assisted our group with getting some really unique shots…well probably not really unique as I’m sure he does it for every group but he knew the best places to take shots and how to best capture your visit.
Our chief first impression was that the canyon isn’t nearly as big as the photos you see of it would lead you to believe…in most places it was just 4-8 feet wide with a few room maybe 20 feet wide and lots of places where it was 2-4 with overhanging rock ledges you had to duck under or around.
Here are a couple of shots as we arrived in the first large room in the canyon…the second one is actually a pano shot taken with Neil’s iPhone. Pretty cool huh?
Another iPhone photo…this one is called Hawaiin Sunset and the Little Rock that looks like a mountain in the front is about an inch wide…the phone is the only camera you can get close enough to the rock to get this shot.
Neil’s interpretation of the famous National Geographic cover shot which follows it…pretty decent if I say so myself given that he didn’t have the luxury of a no-tourist time frame, use of a tripod, and unlimited time to get the shot. The rock sticking in from the right is known as “The Eagle”. The only way to get those really deep orange colors is to use a tripod and HDR multiple shots at different exposures. You actually enter the canyon just out of sight to the right behind the eagle head…careful positioning and cropping keeps the stairs from showing up.
This one is known as “The Wave” and was used as a screensaver in Windows 97.
Dust in the sunbeams.
Connie catchin’ some rays.
They distinctly told us that there were no bathrooms in the canyon…and hence no pooping in the canyon…obviously the birds in the nest above didn’t get the memo.
We made it back to the car about 1330…and had just a few swallows left of the 2 liters of water we carried with us…we’ll make sure to take more for the Upper Antelope Canyon tour next week. We were originally going to also go and tour Cathedral Canyon…but it’s a longer/harder canyon to hike in and has a mile round trip hike from the parking lot to the beginning…given the heat and altitude we decided to cancel that one and just go with the two Antelope Canyon tours.
Thursday night we had leftovers for dinner…pasta with braised pork, bacon, and wine…yum. After a good night sleep we set off on our second and last Fun Stuff© for the week as we were planning on taking the weekend off for laundry and groceries.
So Friday we set off for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon…about 2.5 hours south of us. First stop was the Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River about 4 miles south of the Glen Canyon dam which forms Lake Powell…again it’s one of those places where everybody’s photos look pretty similar as there’s only one place to stand. Connie elected to stay in the truck for this one…while Neil hiked the 50 feet up and 150 feet down over a half mile or so to the overlook…which naturally resulted in 150 up and 50 down on the way back…really tough in the thin air here. You can walk right up to the rim of the canyon there…and it’s over 1,000 feet basically straight down to the river…which flows from right to left in the photos. Sorry about the shadow across the bottom…the shots are really better here later in the day when it’s in fuller sun or at sunset…but we weren’t there then so it is what it is.
Our next stop was at Marble Canyon…the Colorado River cuts a series of canyons as it makes it’s way southwestward toward the Pacific…Glen Canyon where we’re parked now and which was flooded to become Lake Powell, Marble Canyon south of here and then further south the Grand Canyon proper.
Before we reached Marble Canyon…we stopped and took this shot of what is known as the Vermillion Cliffs…that’s the Marble Canyon with the Colorado River you can see in the depression. They’re about 1500 feet high.
Arriving at Marble Canyon we…well, Neil anyway, Connie wasn’t going out on that open height pedestrian bridge…walked out and got a shot upstream and then downstream of Marble Canyon…it’s about 500 feet wide and 300 deep I guess.
As we drove away from Marble Canyon and headed south to the North Rim…we puzzled for quite awhile over this question. All three of these canyons…Glen, Marble, and Grand…were carved across the plateau at about the same time (the past 10 million years or so) by the Colorado River. Glen would be about 4-6 miles wide and 1500 feet deep if it wasn’t flooded, Marble is only about 500 feet wide and 300 deep, and the Grand Canyon is 8-11 miles wide and 5,000 feet deep. What puzzled us was why the 3 canyons weren’t about the same size since they were eroded by the same river over the same time period and are mostly the same Colorado Sandstone rock. We couldn’t come up with a good answer to that question…so Neil asked the ranger when we got to the North Rim…her answer was that the Grand Canyon got more rainfall and hence more water in the river and more erosion. This explanation was rejected by Neil with about 10 seconds of thought…because the other two canyons have a cross section that got eroded somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times that of Marble Canyon and while the Colorado did have greater flow in the past it was only about 10x what it has today. We eventually decided that we didn’t have a good answer to this question and sort of left it at that.
Another shot of the Vermillion Cliffs from closer up…this will become important later. After crossing the bridge at Marble Canyon we headed south along the foot of the Vermillion Cliffs to get to the Grand Canyon.
On the way into the park we got the obligatory park sign picture and then spotted some bison off to the side…Neil pulled out the bird lens to get these.
And that’s when the crazy woman tried to kill me again…she dragged me up to 8,850 feet…that’s for the friggin’ birds and planes…not bears. Our next stop was Bright Angel Point at the North Rim lodge and visitor center…it was really high but we hiked the up and down trail out to the end and got photos anyway. Most of these first shots are actually of Bright Angel Canyon which is a side canyon off of the Grand Canyon…you really can’t see much of the Grand itself from Bright Angel point.
Connie on the spine of the fin out to the point…it’s only a couple thousand feet down on either side of the path.
180 degree pano from Bright Angle Point overlook…the canyon closest to the camera is the end of Bright Angle Canyon and the distant wall is the south rim…well actually it’s the east rim at this point in the canyon but it’s on the side that becomes the south rim as the canyon curves to the west.
Out next stop was Point Imperial on the way out to Point Royal where our next hike was scheduled…you can actually see the Grand Canyon itself from here with the south rim being about 8 miles away at this point early in the canyon…although none of the views from the north rim really have the same scale as those from the south rim.
Continuing on southward to our last stop of the day at Point Royal…we headed off for a short hike to see the Angel’s Window…which is a hole in a fin that you can see the river through…in another million years or so it might be an arch like they have up at Arches National Park.
With that…our work here was done so we headed back for the car…on the way we discovered that at least one of the assholes from Arches had made it down here. Despite a large sign at the beginning of the Angel’s Window trail saying “No Dogs Allowed on Trail”…she had her dog with her. I guess since she was carrying the poodle/something mix she figured it wasn’t “on the trail” and hence the rules didn’t apply to her. Neil remarked to Connie that some idiots either can’t read or just think the rules don’t apply to them…she glared at us but kept right on walking down the trail with her dog…Neil wished for a ranger so we could bust her but alas there were none at the parking lot.
We headed back north to start on the way home…with only two stops on the way. First up was a little country store/diner/bar/bauble shop very similar in nature to those we saw up in Alaska to get some ice cream as we knew we would be eating dinner late. Neil doesn’t normally think much of soft serve but a cup of it with some caramel syrup on top tasted mighty darn good today and served as adequate sustenance until dinner. Our second stop was back at the Navajo Center at the Navajo Bridge over the Colorado at Marble Canyon.
As we drove northwards along the Vermillion Cliffs to our left towards Marble Canyon…the answer to our previous pondering came to us…well, at least a potential answer that was at least believable. What’s called Marble Canyon is actually just the little small canyon with the river in it…while what’s called Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon you’re up on the rim of them so the “canyon” is everything from rim to rim where as at Marble you’re down on the bottom of the overall canyon. When we were paralleling the Vermillion Cliffs on the way north…we noticed the long ridge off to our right that you climb back up to get up on the plateau to head towards Page…if you consider Marble Canyon as being rim to rim then it’s much more in the same scale as Grand and Glen canyons are…we have no idea if that is geologically correct but at least it seems to make sense. Neither Grand or Glen Canyons are really a single canyon…there’s the rim on both sides and a series of drops with some higher and lower spots as you go from north rim to south rim (the south rim is about 1,500 feet lower than the north)…with then a smaller canyon containing the river on the floor of Grand Canyon very similar in scale to what’s labeled as Marble Canyon today. So…at least a plausible explanation.
We are carefully watching and evaluating our next stop…we’re due to leave for Bryce Canyon UT on Wednesday for 10 days over the 4th of July and then over to Virgin UT near Zion NP for 5 days before heading north to Salt Lake City. There’s a slight wrinkle in our plans named the Brian Head Fire. This is a wildfire that’s currently at 32,000 acres and moving slowly east/southeast…and at this point it’s about 20 miles or so west of Bryce Canyon UT. The smoke we’ve been seeing here in Page is also up at Bryce Canyon…but none of the highways are closed or planned to be closed at this point.
In a perfect world…we would just find a reservation further north away from the fire…but it’s not a perfect world and finding another park for the 4th of July weekend at this late date is nigh on impossible. Our best evaluation at this point is that Bryce itself won’t be in the fire zone but there may be some days with smoky skies depending on the wind and what the fire does…the fire folks are projecting it to be 100% contained (but not out) by the 15th of July. Since we couldn’t find any other place to get a reservation…our plan at this point is to continue with our Wednesday trip up to Bryce…pending an evaluation of the fire’s progress on Tuesday. We’ve mapped out 2 ways to get to Bryce and two ways to get from there either to Virgin or north towards the Salt Lake…and if we have some smokey skies days we’ll just juggle our Bryce plans accordingly…we are scheduled to be there longer than we really need because we were staying put for the holiday weekend period. Zion NP over at Virgin should be fine in any event…the smoke is blowing east and although the fire is closer to Virgin than it is to Bryce Canyon…it’s moving away and the smoke is blowing away…not much chance of a wildfire in these parts moving westward. We’ll continue to monitor and if necessary will bail out of Bryce early…if we can get into Virgin early in that case we’ll just extend our stay there but if not we’ll consider cancelling Virgin and heading north towards Provo or Salt Lake and leaving Zion “until next year.”
Saturday and Sunday we pretty much stayed at home…laundry, Mass and groceries were the highlights of our day. We figured the weekend would be more crowded at all of the Fun Stuff© sites anyway.
Monday we toured Lower Antelope Canyon…it’s the one with the famous sunbeams. We were originally scheduled for Neil to do the longer photo tour at 1100 and Connie the normal tour at 1300 but there turned out to be an extra space on the 1100 regular tour that she took instead. Got lots of great photos…almost 800 frames between the two of them…but I ain’t got around to doing the photo/blog stuff yet so that will come next time.
Bad Ass of the week. This guy from Three Hills, Alberta who is mowing his lawn and just ignoring the tornado in the background.
Interesting things found on the net this week.
LeVar Burton wins the Selfie of the Year award.
Chief Vitamin Water surveying his domain.
Isn’t it obvious?