Saturday, June 27, 2015

Utah to Arizona to Utah to Arizona to Utah

We left the hotel at 9am to visit the ATM, Whole Foods and Bed, Bath and Beyond for some cash and a few last minute items.  We are finally on the road to Page AZ by 10am. There was heavy traffic from Salt Lake City to Provo and a few construction zones on I15 south of Provo. With our turn onto Utah 20 (heading toward Bryce Canyon), the traffic and construction disappeared. We passed by Bryce Canyon because we had been there in the 90's and are setting our priorities to take in new sites. Still we are not deprived of the red rock pinnacled landscape.  US 89, the route to Page, passes by Grand Staircase Escalante National Park and Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Each, with their colorful red cliffs and impressive vistas, are well worth dedicated visits by Red Rock lovers (we're talking to you Steve Oliva) but we only paused for a few photo ops as we continued on to Page. 

The Red Cliffs of Grand Staircase Escalante
Along the way we experienced something totally remarkable in this day and age. There was no way to pay by CC at the gas pump and there was no need. We were indeed instructed to pump first and then go inside and pay. 

Page is home of the Glen Canyon Dam and the Lake Powell National Recreation Area. And Page is in Arizona (bordering on Utah). Hence, upon arriving at our accommodations we set our clocks back to MST. In the evening we enjoyed the sunset view over Lake Powell from the Wahweap Overlook north of the dam — a nice combination of color and shadows.

Sunset over Lake Powell
Sunset looking west from Lake Powell. Note stair-cased landscape.
Friday was a busy day. First we scheduled our tours. Then we drove a few miles to Horseshoe Bend Overlook. The views and photos were well worth the short walk even in the heat. 
Horseshoe Bend. Note: That water is roughy 900 feet down from the top of the cliffs.
Despite the increased popularity of the area, we had managed to schedule a tour of the Upper Antelope Valley Slot Canyon for noon, the best time to catch the sun's rays penetrating through the openings in the cliffs above. Note: Per Wikipedia, a slot canyon is a narrow canyon formed by the wear of water rushing through rock.It is significantly deeper than it is wide. Some slot canyons can be less than 3 feet across and more than 100 feet deep.

Our guide, Charles, was informative and good at helping folks get good photos, capturing the sun beams and the twists and turns of the rock formations
Upper Antelope Slot Canyon -- yes those are people at the base.
And that is a sun ray shining into the canyon.
The access to Upper Antelope Canyon is via a open-sided shuttle vehicle. All was fine on the route out but on the longer return route we were sandblasted by the loose sand thrown up by the vehicle.

We next toured Lower Antelope Canyon which is accessed via a walk and several ladders down from the surface. Interesting with more entrancing swirls in the rock walls, but it couldn't match the Upper Canyon with the great midday lighting. Our observation: you could likely just go to either but one is enough. In our case, we wish we had opted for kayaking in the Lake at the end of Antelope Canyon over touring the Lower Canyon. 

The top of Lower Antelope Canyon

Bill's research turned up the Blue Wine Bar as a great possibility.  However we were initially baffled in locating it. Google Maps showed us the Blue Shushi Bar but no Blue Wine Bar. We finally realized that they are indeed distinct places but share an address. The flat bread and meatballs hit the spot.  

While there, we got to talk to some locals. Specifically guy who had moved there in the 50's when his Dad came to help manage the construction of the Dam. He has certainly witnessed major changes in the area which was basically barren when they arrived. Nowadays when folks ask him "What is the lowest that you have ever seen the water?", he chuckles and reminds them he was there when is was just a river.

Saturday morning we left early (6:45) for the "Float" down the Colorado River to Horseshoe Bend. The views up the 900 feet cliffs and the petroglyphs were well worth the sacrifice of an hour of sleep. 
800ish year old petroglyphs
Upon our return we scheduled a tour of the Power Station and then walked along the bridge for views of the river, lake and dam. 

We enjoyed our lunch (a large Pizza at Strombolli's) and expect to enjoy more pizza tomorrow after our tour of Monument Valley. During lunch we chatted with a family reflecting three generations of residents (grandma age 73, dad, and daughter). Later we returned to the dam for our tour. 
Power Generators at Glen Canyon Dam
Sunday we were On the Road Again. This time to Monument Valley. We enjoyed our mid-afternoon lunch including the Navajo Fry Bread at Goulding's Lodge. (Navajo Fry Bread is made from white flour, baking powder, and warm water. The dough is deep fried to make a light and puffy bread. It is often served with stew or as a Navajo taco.) Pat had the bread straight with the green chile on the side (a recommended combo), Bill had it taco style, stuffed with ham, cheese and fixings. It was huge and apparently also good. He nearly cleaned up every crumb. After lunch we checked in and were pleased to find a very spacious room with a great view of Monument Valley.

Monument Valley is fully within the Navajo Indian Reservation. The main entrance is in Utah but the scenic loop road is mainly in Arizona. Hence we returned to Arizona again BUT this time there was no need to adjust our watches. The Navajo Reservation uses Daylight Savings Time (unlike Arizona).  

The 17 mile Valley Drive is open to anyone who pays for access to the reservation. The Deluxe Tour includes the scenic loop plus areas open only to those with Indian guides. We took the late afternoon deluxe tour. Our guide pointed out the "named" rock formations, took us to see more petroglyphs and pointed out good photo ops. Along the way we also saw Navajo homes, wild horses, and grazing cattle.

The Skyline of Monument Valley

Pat and the Left Mitten Mound
Pat's Cliche shot at John Grey Point
The Thumb of the Left Mitten looks like a guy in a top coat.
"Ear of the Wind" framed by dead tree
Women's Hogan (the Men's Hogan has a long narrow entry and a smaller round main area.)
We checked out the sunset from our room as we enjoyed our leftover Pizza from Stromboli’s in Page. We also got up early to see the sunrise...but we shouldn't have bothered. The sun rises behind the monuments so they are basically silhouetted at sunrise.
Sunset from our window.
Sunrise from our window.

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