Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Our Great Southwest Adventure: Day 4

Stories from Day 4 of vacation - 3/19/2014 - Hiking and touring places around Page, AZ

While planning our vacation, we decided it'd be good to just take a day off from "traveling" to stay in one place and enjoy the area. This being the halfway point in the week, it seemed right to stay in Page an extra day. Beforehand, I had searched for places to visit online, and found that this could be my chance to finally visit the beautiful slot canyons of Antelope Canyon. I researched tours (because guided tours are required there) and found them all to be extremely expensive…especially for only getting an hour long guided tour. But I found a tour that was relatively cheap, and though it wasn't during the "prime hours" of the day, I made reservations so that we could visit. I got several confirmation emails, and we were out the door and on our way to visit with plenty of time to spare.

We were told to get there 20 minutes early, and given an address and the name of our tour guide. We showed up and pulled in, only to discover the gate was closed for the parking lot. That's okay, we thought, we'll just wait. We drove around a bit, and ended up parked across the street, to not be in anyone's way. Several other cars showed up, all with people who made reservations and were waiting on the same tour.

20 minutes later, our tour was supposed to start, but there was no sign of our "guide" and the gates still locked. We started debating our options, until we saw a tour vehicle finally drive up. We of course were across the street, but others who were waiting got out of their vehicles and tried to get the attention of the group leader, who ignored them and simply opened the gate, drove through, then closed it. It wasn't until a man got in his face that he finally spoke to someone waiting. After watching this conversation go down, the other people waiting got in their cars and left.

Confused and disappointed, we decided that we didn't want to wait around or work with the Navajo's at all. Thankfully, we hadn't had to pay in advance, so we didn't loose money on this, only time. We decided to do things all on our own, and that turned out to be the best decision. Today ended up being a great adventure!

Moral of this story: We do NOT recommend visiting Antelope Canyon! Save your money and get to enjoy much more by doing what we did. Read on! :)

After giving up on Antelope, we went back to Horseshoe Bend. I though it'd be good to get some pictures without the sun being right behind it. 

Look at that blue water! It wasn't until we saw a tiny boat way down there that we realized how big this really was - really put things into perspective!

After that, we revisited Glenn Canyon Dam, and walked on a little trail leading to a scenic overlook.

The dam & bridge.

This picture just can't show how huge it really was!

From there, we drove North-West, back into Utah. Here's Lake Powell as we drove.

We had gotten a recommendation the day before at the ranger's station to visit Buckskin Gulch. It's another slot canyon - the deepest in the world. Curtis found a nice trail to get to it, and thought it'd be a nice hike - to just get to the canyons, and hike through as far as we wanted. 

The one warning we have is careful on the road getting there! The ruts made it pretty rough, but not the worst we'd seen.

Pro-tip: Driving on a gravel road when it's wet is not only unsafe for you, it also creates deep ruts that makes it a pain for everyone else. Don't do it! :p

Before beginning a hike, we drove a little further to the start of the Arizona Trail. This is in the Vermillion Cliffs and is just beautiful. We stopped for a letterbox.

There's the trail itself!

Finally, we went to the parking lot for Wire Pass Trail. The trail is mostly walking through a wash, and the rocks on either side become more and more like slot canyons. The trail is 1.75 miles long and runs right into Buckskin Gulch. It has no elevation gain, however, making it very easy and enjoyable!

The beginnings of a slot canyon...

Lizard in the above picture! Can you spot it?

About to start in the narrow canyons...

They grew taller and taller as we hiked through...

We were hiking through right around mid-day, which I think made it look cooler. It was warm outside, yet inside the canyon was a cool and comfortable hiking temperature.

Looking up

There are some drops throughout the canyon to look out for. Here's a 6 foot one that I needed some help on. Further on in the canyon, there's supposedly a 40 foot drop?! We didn't go that far and were obviously not prepared for that!

Just that log to help you back up…thankful for Curtis and Grant's help, because my legs are not very long and my balance is not very good :)

Another smaller drop!

Grant "climbing the walls" of the canyon, just like we used to do as kids in our parent's house :)

It got pretty narrow!

Looking up again…

As you can see, I have so many pictures, and we only ran into 2 other hiking groups. It also only cost $6/person, and we spent a good 3ish hours there. SO glad we came here instead of Antelope Canyon!!

All of the above pictures were just from Wire Pass Trail on the way to Buckskin Gulch - that's right, we're not even in the main canyon yet!

Here's where Buckskin Gulch begins:

Another thing to look out for when hiking are the puddles. After it rains, it takes a while for the water to evaporate from the canyon, so it's likely you'll have to get through standing water. There were rocks all throughout the puddles we had to walk through - pictured below - but I tend to get nervous because I don't have the best balance! Curtis helped me quite a bit, and Grant made sure I knew how silly I am. :)

Above pictures are looking up; below are some petroglyphs that we found.

Altogether we hiked about 6 miles to and from and inside the canyons. It ended up being one of the highlights of our trip!

After that, we made our way back through Vermillion Cliffs, and started the drive back to Page.

Curtis had heard about a short hike through Grand Staircase- Escalante National Park that led to some toadstools, and since we had plenty of time we decided to check it out.

Beautiful multi-colored rocks!

See how tiny Grant & Curtis are in the above picture? This place was amazing!

The above pic & next several are of the toadstools we found.

Altogether, that hike was just less than 2 miles. We stopped at a ranger's station for maps of the area & passport stamps before heading home to Page, using the scenic drive along Lake Powell.

Glenn Canyon Dam, from the other side!

After this, we went out for a letterbox and some authentic Page sushi, but were very disappointed by the food and service. Not wanting to end the day on that low note, we found dessert and more road trip snacks at Wal Mart before calling it a day.

Day 4 wrap up: Hiked 9.5 miles, found 2 letterboxes, visited Horseshoe Bend, Glenn Canyon Dam, Buckskin Gulch, Vermillion Cliffs, Escalante National Park, Lake Powell.
Halfway done :)

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