Part 15: Life in the Arid Zone

Having sampled the earthly delights of the Grand Canyon, we were taking a cheeky wee 200 mile detour to check out some of the visual goodies that the humble town of Page, Arizona, had to offer. The problem was, it was dark, we were low on fuel, there was no cell coverage ANYWHERE (thanks a lot AT&T), and we had no place to stay. Still, this was nothing new, and we were, after all, driving around in a bedroom. So we weren’t phased.

Luckily, halfway up the road we saw a shining beacon of light – a gas station! And a cheap one at that  – $2.45 a gallon (3.79 litres to a gallon – do the math, people). So, after filling up both our empty gas tank and our empty stomachs, we happily hit the road once more and were in Page in no time. Upon arrival, we saw yet another shining beacon – a Walmart! – so we hunkered down there for the night with our RV brethren.

Next morning, in hopes of finding wifi (STILL no cell service, even in the middle of a city!) or at least someone who knew what the dealio in town was, we mosied on up to the local visitor centre for a yarn. The elderly gentleman, who we interrupted from having his mid-morning snack of an entire cheese platter (which purportedly had been left in the fridge and so the crackers were less than crispy), was more than happy to help, dishing out instructionals and drawing on maps like there was no tomorrow. Between him and the other lovely lady in the centre, they had us booked in for the Upper Antelope Canyon tour the next day and were even able to make a glowing recommendation for a pleasant spot to camp for the night.

Page and all its surroundings are smack bang in the middle of the Navajo Nation Reservation, a country-sized Native American reserve straddling 3 states, so we strolled around town for a while and observed some of the native artwork and trinkets on display. Next, we took a drive south of town to the famous Horseshoe Bend. Completing the short but dusty stroll over to the viewpoint, we were met with a very impressive vista indeed:

Horseshoe Bend Horseshoe Bend Horseshoe Bend Horseshoe Bend

Who's that crazy kid about to run over the edge??

Who’s that crazy kid about to run over the edge??

The pictures say it all, really. But since this is a blog and I’m expected to provide a running commentary, I suppose I should say something anyway. Ah…it was a long way down? There were lots of people? People die there on regular basis as they get too close to the edge whilst trying to get that great selfie that no-one else has (I would certainly never do such a thing…)? We saw a nice rabbit chilling above and enjoying the view? You get the idea – short walk, cool view, risk of death. Other things to note were all the boats cruising around down there, which made it look even cooler, and the fact that people seemed to camping on the bend far below – now that would be a cool kayak+camping trip!

Suitably bedazzled and more than a little parched, we crackled back to the RV and drove on to Lake Powell, which had been recommended by the cheese-ingesting gentleman at the visitor centre. Lake Powell is yet another large water feature in the desert-riddled southwest that really shouldn’t be there. But, due to yet another “ha ha haaa we humans are better than nature” there is now a big ol dam in the Colorado River just upstream of Page, thereby creating a rather pleasant lake. So, driving north from Page, we once again found ourselves heading back into the state of Utah and the welcoming arms of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Having every intention of staying the night camped beside the lake (for a very reasonable $10/night), the ranger at the entrance gate rubbed us up the wrong way so I gave his smarmy jogging-sunglassed face the evils and we decided that we’d spend another night in the Walmart instead, just to spite him.

Annoying rangers aside, I was once again able to look past the anthropogenic blight of the dam and enjoy the liquid delights of Lake Powell, which were more than welcome after a number of very hot and dusty days without showering. We were amazed by the sheer number of RV’s parked up along the beach – there must have been well over 300, stretching over a mile down the beach in either direction. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who appreciated a bit of a cool dip on a hot day.

lake powell

After swimming and unwindulaxing on the beach for a few hours, we traipsed on back to our charming overnight location for round two of wallydocking. The next day, we had some time to kill before our 4pm appointment at Upper Antelope Canyon, so we just mucked around in the parking lot like a pair of hobos, Liivi working on her writing and myself piddling round with the ongoing list of RV fixits and getting a snazzy haircut from the very classy hairdresser inside the Walmart (who actually did a pretty reasonable job, if I do say so myself). Our tour appointment drawing near, we drove up Highway 98 to Mile Marker 302 (we had received very specific instructions from our friend at the visitor centre) and our rendezvous with Adventurous Antelope Canyon tours.

Things seemed a trifle chaotic as we trudged up to the small trailer that apparently served as the tour office. People were milling around looking confused and anxious, and the lady at the desk ignored us for quite some time as she pored over the rather alarming list of reservations in front of her. As we soon found out after she was shouted at by her boss, one of the tour trucks had recently carked it and so all the upcoming tours were thrown off. Luckily, we were one of the first tour reservations for the time slot, and we didn’t have to wait around too long before we were called up to take our place for the next tour.

In addition to the chaos created by the dead tour bus, a large storm was approaching, blowing sand into peoples’ eyes and pelting the odd rain drop in a disconcerting fashion. That’s right – rain in Arizona. Right when we didn’t want it to rain, on account of the fact that we were about to walk through a very narrow slot canyon prone to flash flooding. In any case, we had driven a long way and waited some time to do this tour (and paid close to $100 US to reserve it), so it was now or never. We were united with our tour guide and the rest of our 7 person party, and away we went.

The drive to the canyon was entertainment in itself, with our tour guide (and about 5 other tour trucks) absolutely flooring it down the dirt “road”, which is essentially a series of deep muddy ruts in the bottom of a dried up river bed. Needless to say, the speed+bumps made for a very fun ride indeed, but probably not so much for the poor tour truck. Arriving safely but dazedly at the canyon entrance, we were read the usual safety disclaimer then shoved through the crowds to begin our tour.

Now, you’ve probably noticed over the course of this blog that I’ve written here and there about the photogenics of this or that tourist attraction. Forget all that. Upper Antelope Canyon essentially defecates all over those would-be eye-candies, and even has the tenacity to place a cherry on top of the poo pile. Behold, the canyon!

Upper Antelope Canyon 2 Upper Antelope Canyon 1 FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_1 FullSizeRender_2Upper Antelope Canyon Upper Antelope Canyon Upper Antelope Canyon Upper Antelope Canyon Upper Antelope Canyon Upper Antelope Canyon Upper Antelope Canyon Upper Antelope Canyon

Just to give you an idea of how freakin packed it was when we were trying to leave the canyon

Just to give you an idea of how freakin packed it was when we were trying to leave the canyon

Sorry about all the photos, but I couldn’t help it. And those are only the ones from my iPhone – there are three other cameras worth of photos, so I was actually quite conservative with my uploads! Anyway, you get the idea – it’s pretty awesome. I’m fairly sure that nowhere else in the world would you get such surreal shapes carved by wind and water into golden Navajo sandstone and suffused with the soft light stealing into the slot canyon. The experience was, to be fair, slightly detracted by the fact that hundreds of people were in the canyon with us (there being multiple tour groups permitted to take people into the canyon at the same time), but the beauty of the canyon more than made up for that. We DID, however, wonder how the heck they would get all those people out of there in a hurry if an impending flash flood was on it’s merry way into the canyon. Luckily, however, we didn’t get the chance to find out.

Our tour guide was also surprisingly good, patiently walking us through all the different forms that could be seen within the canyon, and even showing some of the photo-noobs how to go about taking excellent photos in the difficult lighting. This made a big improvement to the experience.

So, our eyes thoroughly spoiled, we jumped into the RV and headed back down south towards Flagstaff. We had once again been boondocking for a few nights in a row, and we were sorely in need of a shower and the RV was sorely in need of an electrical supply to charge its depleted batteries. Thus after a long drive across some rough roads and back up into the mountains (once again taking us to over 7000 feet, much to the RV’s dismay), we arrived at the Flagstaff KOA and the luxury of showers and partial hookups.

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