Its fair to say that when mother nature was dishing out tourist attractions the small town of Page in Arizona did pretty well. Even though Lake Powell is technically man made, the natural attractions of Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon are enough to keep all but the most demanding photographer happy.
Horseshoe Bend (day 28 cont….)
We headed up to a very packed car park just after 5pm to make sure that we got a space in plenty of time (we suspected that sunset would be hugely popular and it was). We then made the short 10 minute walk up and over the hill and down towards the masses lined up along the cliff edge peering into the canyon below.
I have seen lots of pictures of Horseshoe Bend but I still wasn’t prepared for my first sight of the huge U-turn in the Colorado River with massive red cliffs either side. I think sometimes you think that iconic images you've seen are so processed the real thing can’t look as good so you don’t expect them to be as amazing as they are (make sense!) Horseshoe Bend broke that rule, with the sun slowly dropping the light was perfect. It brought out all of the detail with the clouds reflected in the deep blue/green river - no photoshop required here!
I found myself a little ledge on the cliff edge and set up the tripod ready for the sunset, George in the background - “thats far enough” and “don’t get any closer”. Her knees were wobbling 2 metres from the edge! There’s no safety railing of any kind, just common sense to not get too close to the massive drop. Unfortunately not all people possess a great deal of common sense so it was pretty nerve wracking watching the ‘very, very close to the edge’ photoshoots going on and people jostling for the best position as the sun set.
After dark we drove down to a Walmart to get out heads down for the night - our third night sleeping in the car!
Antelope Canyon - Day 29
Antelope Canyon, split into Upper and Lower respectively is one of over 200 slot canyons in the region. The canyons are all on Navajo Indian land so only a few are accessible to the public and only via an official guided tour - something that we hate.
This was just unmissable in my eyes though so after persuading George that it would be worth the money we booked with ‘Kens Tours’ to see the lower canyon ($25 each plus $8 Navajo area fee).
We spent the morning browsing Walmart’s sweet aisle (a new hobby) and I caught up on some blog posts and photo editing before making the short drive to meet Ken! We were booked in for 1.20pm (the best time we could get at late notice) and wanted try and get on an earlier tour. No chance! Not only did we not make it onto an earlier tour, we were advised that the tours were running almost 2 hours late. Very annoying considering it was almost 40 degrees.
We sat sweating in the desert, eventually being called for our tour at 3pm. We made the short walk down to the far end of the canyon (to wait some more!) before descending the metal steps 120 feet to the canyon floor.
Even after waiting forever and paying $66 for the tour we were both left amazed by the canyon and spent most of the hour walking with our mouths open. Slot canyons are formed by water travelling at high speed through the soft sandstone rock, creating spectacular narrow canyons of all shapes and sizes. It was a bright, sunny day and the colours underground were amazing.
Unfortunately, this is really just a big money making scheme (our guide said they get about 5000 visitors per day - at $33 each!) The crowds queuing are huge and you’re herded through in groups so you don’t get enough time to truly appreciate the spectacle. Despite that, we both thought Antelope Canyon was amazing and would have liked to have seen the upper canyon too (from there you see the light beams that shine down through the narrower top) but at an extra $50 for the upper tour I think you’d have to be a real canyon geek to do both! The price to see Antelope Canyon just shows you what a bargain the annual National Park Pass is at $80 for as many parks as you can visit in 12 months.
Given the late running tour, we didn’t have any time left to check out Lake Powell so stopped only at a viewpoint for the grand overview! We camped at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) area that I’d researched just outside the entrance to Zion National Park. BLM land is widespread and can be used for free camping similar to the National Forest land. Its basic with no facilities but its free so you can’t really complain! We pitched our tent just off the main highway raised up on a small hill with far views of Utah’s dramatic landscape which was pretty cool.