Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wed 13 April - Page, AZ. The greatest hits

Another big photos day. 4 big attractions in and around Page, AZ can only be that way. The attractions were in order as we did them:
1. Organized tour of Lower Antelope Canyon (the only way to see them)
2. Horseshoe Bend (with short hike)
3. Hanging Gardens (with another short hike)
4. Toadstools (with yet another short hike)

Over to Lower Antelope Canyon. Plenty of rules and regulations before you even start...

We were booked on the 8.10am tour to see the Lower Antelope Canyon but ended up leaving at 7am thinking that the tour may start 7.10am. 

Why? Well, a woman in the reception confused us as she insisted that the Canyon is on Navajo Tribal land and that they were on a different time zone. Same as Utah. Where the time is 8.10am when the time is only 7.10am in Arizona.

Of course, the tour's start time was 8.10am Arizona time so we turned back to Page and had a more leisurely 2nd part of our breakfast. 

At 8am we checked in with Dixie Ellis's tours. Loved the name. 

We set off behind the building above and 300 meters of walking later arrived at the top of a steep metal staircase that descended into the canyon below. In this photo you can see the bottom of the staircase. 

The canyon rock is amazing and beautiful. It is also very narrow so you don't get a lot of light but the combination makes it even more spectacular. Lower Antilope Canyon is unsurprisingly on many a photographer's bucket list! 

More stairs to climb once in the canyon. 

The rock walls are all very smooth at this canyon fills with water from time to time during the monsoon season (from May to Oct). People have died here being swept away by flash floods. We weren't worried as no rain has fallen for a while and nothing was predicted until Friday. 

It's hard to choose just a few photos from the 100 or so photos that we took through Lower Antelope Canyon.

Quite a lot of rock features have names, like this Eagle. 

Great place for Hide and Seek. 

The colours really come out with a particular IPhone 6 camera filter that Gene, the guide told us about.

This rock feature is known as Sunset over the Rockies. 

Gene, our guide, played his native pipe to "keep the chieftain company". Lower Antelope Canyon is a sacred place for the Navajo and he undertook a special ceremony to protect him whilst in the canyon. 

Gene then demonstrated how the rock formations nearby were created and also the slot canyon. First, a sand "volcano", water on top, removing all the loose sand around it, breaking the sand cylinder very gently. Imagining the sun literally baking it hard. Viola! A canyon. 

A very effective yet simple demo. 

As we emerged you look back and can clearly see the crack and how it deepened with each monsoon rain. The canyon only became accessible 20 years ago and you can see how easily it could be missed. 

So far 5/5 rating. 

Now onto the next natural attraction...Horseshoe Bend. 

This requires a little stroll, just under 1km up and down to the edge of the canyon, overlooking a bend of the Colarado River. Hard to tell from this photo but at the end of the trail it drops more than 1,000 feet (300-400m). 

This is what we see when we arrive overlooking Horseshoe Bend. The Colorado River bends 270 degrees at this point. It's stunning. 

It's a long way dooowwnnn....but Hans feels secure... What could possibly go wrong?

Di is a bit more cautious. 

Fantastic view - another 5/5. 

One funny occurrence happened here that stuck with us and still makes us giggle. A middle aged Chinese lady approached the good viewing angle we had and looked down. In excitement, she then suddenly screamed back to the rest of her group. In a very high pitched falsetto voice. Loud. Very loud.

Not even Hans telling her that "we are all awake now" stopped her. She looked at Hans momentarily before... You guessed it. There was more to come. 

It was so stereotypical that we started laughing as did a nearby couple. 

Onto our next "sight" - the Hanging Garden. When we got to the trailhead we were delighted to find no other cars. Our kind of trail, where we have it all to ourselves. 

Someone had started a vortex but Di thought it was a bit dull and mixed it up with a few round river rocks on top. Much better!

On the way we passed lovely desert flowers. They get plenty of rain here but the sand makes it hard for anything to grow - just small hardy bushes. 

We rounded a corner and spotted the overhang for the Hanging Garden. On our own, with some lizards and birds - very cool and peaceful. 

And the best view from our vantage point. 

Fifteen minutes later other people arrived so we left and went further uphill. The view looking back to the garden. 

Hans felt like the King of the World. Big Arizona Sky. No people or vehicles or buildings.  Perfect. 

Another 5/5. And onto our next sight - the Toadstools - which are back in Utah. 

There was another funny moment on the drive back to Utah. 

We were joking about the Dunny Man as we came across this truck loaded with portaloos. Suddenly, toilet paper started flying off the back. We had to take a photo although Di was not quick enough to capture the toilet paper in flight. Hopefully the toilet paper was all clean...

We parked at The Toadstools Trailhead for this short hike. The scenery is like something you would imagine on the moon or Mars. The rock strata layers are really clear but nothing much grows here. 

We found it fascinating. Then rounded a corner and found this lonely toadstool. How cute. 

Then a few toadstools in a bunch together. It really does look like someone just lifted up a rock and stuck it on top. 

Hans thought this one needed some TLC...

We enjoyed the Toadstools. Another 5/5. A top exploring day. 

Time now was about 2.30pm and we opted for a late light lunch. 

So we drove back to the Lake Powell vista point and found the perfect spot for our crackers and canned tuna (or sardines for Hans). Lovely views down to hearth the man-made lake. When the Glen Canyon Dam was built in the late 1950's, Lake Powell was created of the dammed up Colorado River. Just like Lake Mead and Hoover Dam in Nevada. 

It was 3pm by the time we got back to our hotel in Page. A small side note. Page is the same age as Hans. Both were born in 1957. 

Quite a full day of exploring but not a huge amount of hiking.  Time now to rest and relax before dinner. 

Dinner was at Big Johns Texas BBQ. It's a converted petrol station surrounded by kettle BBQs smoking brisket, pork and ribs for hours. You sit outside on communal tables and listen to the country and western band. 

We had a brilliant night sitting next to a couple from Berlin, Robbie and Yvonne. Lots of stories, laughs and beer and we gave them our email details to keep in contact. 

The BBQ ribs at Big Johns Texas BBQ were outstanding. Soft, smokey and you add your own desired level of homemade BBQ sauce. Hans had some brisket sand wurst as well. Lotsa lotsa food.
Hans works his way through his full meal, with a few extra ribs from Di in exchange for some sausage. 

We came home, very full but happy, with the lingering smoke in our hair and clothes. All worth it for a great day of food and beer and great company and lots of laughs.

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