Arizona – Page & Lake Powell

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May 31st 2014
Published: May 31st 2014
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The drive to Page is pretty straight forward, though unfortunately the old Route 89 was struck by a very large landslide in Feb 2013 and 23 miles of the road is now shut, so we will need to go to the GC North Rim via Kanab. C drives to Cameron where we fill up with gas at an amazing $3.49 a gallon. P takes over till Copper Mine and M drives us into Page. The roads are pretty good most of the way and the landscape interesting in that after Cameron it’s low level greyish green mounds on both side of the road, nearer Page it’s more spectacular – red rock sculptured by the wind and rain. This is Navajo land – part of their Reservation.

We go to the Glen Canyon Dam where there is a Visitor centre (the one in town is closed as its Sunday). This is where the Colorado River enters/leaves Lake Powell which only 5 miles away – hence all the boats in storage yards when we drive into Page. Its 93 degrees and hot but windy which is cooling the place down a bit. We lunch in the RV and then go to the Navajo Tribal Park to check out the options for a trip to Upper Antelope Canyon, which is supposed to be really beautiful in the day light as the colours reflected in the slot canyons are particularly special. Check out the images of antelope canyon on google!

As it’s hot we spend the time in the RV being cool and playing with the internet – one way or the other. The dry heat reminds M of his days as a young boy in the pre Monsoon heat of the Indian plains. Dinner is cooked on the new camper grill and its happy families again doing the washing up etc.

Driving through Page the next day after a trip to Walmart & Safeway (stocking up for the next week’s food) M suddenly realises, as soon as we pass 4 churches in succession, that we were here for a one night stop when we passed through on our road trip of the area 10 years ago.

Antelope Canyon – Upper

One of the key attractions in Page is a morning trip to Antelope Canyon (mainly Upper AC as the Lower AC is more difficult to travel & hike) which is in the Navajo Tribal Park where there’s a $8 entry fee per person. The RV Park in Page – which we would recommend to visitors, helped a lot in trying to get us onto a trip and most of the important times for photographs (11 am the best they all say) are booked in town. But they book us directly through the Navajo park and we are reserved for 3 people at 11am. The normal walking trip with a guide through the canyon is $40 which lasts 1.5 hours and the Photography Tour where they suggest people come with Tripods are $80 and last for 2.5 hrs. The main reason for our choice is that all the groups do the same trip and there’s no guarantee that the more expensive one would get any clear pictures without the crowds in them. The guide tends to help folks focus on the light and angles of the pictures that one could take.

We get to the park & meet Brenda who organises the whole show for the Navajo Antelope Tours which leave from the car park – spaces for RVs as well as restrooms (though not the best kept).

We are allocated to various trucks. Delores is our guide & driver. The drive to the canyon takes about 10 mins as 11 of us in the open top (with a canopy) 4x4 truck bounces up and down over 3.5 miles of red sand to the entrance. We pass some amazingly large and red dunes. Fortunately we are the last of the groups to leave and this gives us a slight advantage for a while as the other 5 groups have largely moved on when we enter so we have more photography time on our hands which is great. The light shafts coming down the canyon make for amazing pictures and we snap away.

Most of the time things are controlled pretty well by Delores and the other guides (except for 1 prick in our group who wanted to push past & be first with his video camera, till M taps him on the shoulder and asks him (or tells him?) not be such an arse and let everyone have a go as we have all paid for the trip. He’s on his best behaviour after that. Good one!

The Slot Canyon is ¼ mile long, discovered by accident by a young girl in 1931 herding sheep in the area. The Canyon is 130 feet deep with shafts of light that light up the inside and make the sculptured layers look amazing. You see a palette of colours transmitted by the light filtering down from above and bouncing from wall to wall. The guides throw sand dust up to help with the effects which is good.

The crush inside gets a bit hectic towards the middle of the walk as other groups come back and retrace their steps and to add to the chaos (and this isn’t even high season), the guys running the photography sessions are ordering people about wanting their groups to get priority. They don’t seem to do anything different other than point out what areas are good for photography – not sure this warranted $80 per person. Some of the people on the tour didn’t seem to have a clue about what they were doing.

We fortunately, came away with loads of great pictures – thanks to Delores and the fact that we knew what we wanted to do and refused to be pushed around by some of the other tour guides. So the lesson is, be prepared to be assertive and take your time. Also look behind you as the risk is you are always looking at what’s next & you miss the beautiful shot behind.

The tour/walk lasts an hour and you retrace your steps but the light changes a bit in that time – so keep snapping away.

Lake Powell (LP)

Lake Powell is the second largest manmade lake in the US. It is 186 miles long with a coast line of 1.960 miles – much of this only accessible by boat. It has 96 major Canyons. The lake was created by building the dam across the Colorado in Glen Canyon and is a bright blue mass of water interspersed by white and red stone cliffs and rock formations which contrast with it to create an awesome sight. Part of the lake lies in Utah and the smaller part in Arizona. It took 17 years to fill to it’s planned level – 3.700 feet above sea level.

Given that it generates plenty of electricity and supplies 5 states it comes as some surprise to see that down the road on the Navajo reservation they have a coal fired Generating Station belching smoke through its 3 very tall chimneys.

We are booked into the Wahweap RV Park close by the shores of the lake $56 a night for hook ups and Wi-Fi but no showers or pay $2 for 15 mins – pretty ridiculous given their daily charges. So it’s showers in the RV again.

We try some Grand Canyon Amber ale as everyone seems to have run out of Budweiser. Not bad but the Fridge/Freezer is having trouble coping with the heat. The solar heating system for the hot water is doing pretty well unknown to us though. Its BBQ for dinner after an evening sitting outside the RV in our camping chairs (for the first time) and watching the sunset over LP.

One of the big draws here is the view of Rainbow Bridge. It’s pretty impressive in the pictures and has deep religious significance for the Navajo people called ‘Nonnezoshi’ or ‘the rainbow turned to stone’. Made of Navajo sandstone and is 290 feet high and the largest natural bridge on Earth and apart from being a National Monument is allegedly one of the 7 natural wonders of the world (not sure on who’s list) and we have never heard of it before!

The only way to get to see RB is to take a 6 to 7 hour return boat ride and do a 3 mile hike at the other end or go to a point on the Navajo Reservation and do a 2 or 3 day hike there and back. The latter is out and the former we decide isn’t worth the $125 per person they want to charge for the trip. So enjoy the views on google images……..

The history of the place refers to the Dominguez – Escalante party of 10 in 1776 led by 2 Spanish priests from Sante Fe who travelled most of the way up through here and are credited with naming most of the features of the Four Corners area including the Colorado River. Mormon settlers came in 1871 and started the first crossing ferry crossing. Gold was discovered from the mud of the Colorado and the San Juan rivers. Later the main mining in the 40s and 50s was uranium. Its reported that Butch Cassidy and the Wild bunch operated in the area nearby called Dirty Devil River.

Horseshoe Point

One popular site that is still accessible is Horseshoe Point which is 5 miles from Page on route 89. You turn right just where the route has been shut down due to the repairs needed.

As the view point requires a 1.5mile hike (round trip) over rocks and sand together with a outlook literally over a cliff, Pete decides to opt out and go to the Visitor’s centre for a guided tour of the Glen Canyon dam instead.

We make the hike and the view of the site is pretty awesome but not for the faint hearted if you don’t like heights. Unless you get right to the lip of the overlook (and there are no railings), you will not get a full view of the Colorado as it horseshoes its way around a central canyon. There are people taking boat rides in the river. The rock formations surrounding the area is fantastic, rocks carved out from the wind and rain.

Following the visit we go to Walmart as we need some more stocking up to do for the last 8 days of this leg of our trip. We then pick up Pete and set off.

Scenic Drive around Lake Powell

The NP guide suggests a scenic route drive (about 18 miles), with overlooks at key points that give great views of LP in all its glory. First we go down the road towards Page where the overlook is largely over the dam. The rock formations though are more interesting for M who takes a load of pictures of the colourful sculptured rocks & plants.

Next we go to a view point which is on the top of a hill and it does give great views of the Dam, the Navajo land Mesas, Buttes etc. and LP upstream in all its glory starting with Wahweap Marina. The blue of the lake contrasting with the red and white racks is pretty good. We then drive to a ‘Scenic View Point’ overlooking the lake and find that it’s closed so we drive on to a car park nearby with picnic facilities and have a cold beer – great in this heat. It’s now a cooler 84 F degrees (29 degrees C) and the wind is up which is nice as it cools the place down a bit.

We spend the afternoon on the net and chilling initially overlooking the Lake then back at the RV site when the wind gets up a bit too much even though its really sunny & hot in the sheltered areas. Its BBQ again for dinner and planning for the next leg, then sleep time.

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