Page, AZ

April 14-21, 2015

Page, Arizona is a very small town with lots of natural beauty surrounding it. We were drawn here by one of the world’s most photographed sites, Antelope Canyon. This canyon has been on our must do list for quite some time so we decided it was time!

Upon our arrival in Page, we drove over to one of the other famous spots in this small town, the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. Yes, this is another dam on the mighty Colorado River. The construction of the dam is what actually created this town, however the native Navajo tribe has resided here for much, much longer. The dam is actually very impressive if you enjoy concrete as far as the eye can see. The dam provides lots of hydroelectric power to the region and also creates the second largest artificial lake in the USA. However, when I gaze at such a large human feat, I can’t help but to ponder what was destroyed in the making of this mighty piece of engineering. As I will describe later, a whole canyon ecosystem and a lot of history was drowned. But anytime you see an enormous lake in the middle of the high plateau desert it is still strikingly beautiful.

Our next adventure was to explore Upper Antelope Canyon! This amazing canyon and its sister Lower Antelope Canyon lay on the Navajo Nation’s land and thus must be explored with a native guide. No worries though, there are about 4 native tour companies in Page that can arrange a spot for you. However, you will be on a ‘jeep’ tour with 70 other people and only in the canyon for 60 minutes. Yes, this place is popular! Every 30 minutes another 50-70 people enter the narrow slot canyon. This slot canyon is quite frequently on the top 100 places to see before you die lists, thus its popularity. In addition, timing is very important for your tour. In order to see the light shining into the canyon you must take a tour between 10:30 am and 12:30 pm. We were lucky enough to snag the prime tour time of 11:30 am. However, if you do not care about the light beaming into the canyon, then the early morning and late afternoon tours will be much more private providing inner reflection.

Our tour started on an open back ‘jeep’ tour from downtown Page. Our first disappointment was the very large Coal Plant right next to the sacred canyons. It is quite the eye sore, but apparently the Navajo Nation makes quite a bit of money from their lands resources. That is another topic all together, so back to the tour. In order to reach Upper Antelope Canyon you drive through a dry riverbed until you reach the entrance to this slot canyon. The drive was beautiful (after the coal plant vanished from sight). Upon arrival, our group eagerly waited for our turn to enter the canyon. Around the first bend is one of the most famously photographed areas in the canyon and it did not disappoint. What did disappoint was that there was a photography tour just in front of us and they hogged the time when the light beam was entering the canyon, which only lasts minutes. In fact they did this the whole tour, bummer. So when it was our turn the light was about to leave. Luckily we were at the head of the tour and captured this magical sight. To summarize our time in this wonderful slot canyon, it was a very cool and beautiful, but it was more of a photography tour and not a natural encounter. Again there were hundreds of people in a canyon 10 feet wide at its most and several feet wide in a lot of areas. We are glad we did it, but had high expectations that were not fulfilled. We were told that Lower Antelope Canyon was more of a hikers and natures lover paradise as it is not as popular, but we did not explore it ourselves as it cost more money. I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

We are fans of the mighty Colorado River, so our next adventure was to see the native river at Horseshoe Bend. This protected area is amazing! As the name implies this is an area of river that winds and bends creating a horseshoe. We hiked the short distance to the river overlook and sat admiring the natural beauty for hours.

Because we are huge National Park and Monuments fans we had to visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument. The only way to see this natural bridge is by boating several hours on Lake Powell, so we eagerly hopped on board. It was a very chilly day but Wade and I braved the cold temperatures on top of the boat for the best views of Lake Powell and the surrounding area. This is where we learned of the devastation the dam created. So many canyons flooded, so many habitats lost, some many historical camps and Native American paths buried under hundreds of feet of water. Luckily, the river was thoroughly navigated and charted prior to the flood, so the history is still available for those who search for it. After a couple hours boating we pulled in to a beautiful red cliff canyon and made our way to the trail to Rainbow Bridge. It is about a one-mile hike to the bridge from the boat dock. And by golly it is so worth it! This is another sacred Native American area, as many tribes believe it is a portal. It’s beauty is awe inspiring and just sitting in this slot canyon makes you feel so humble, so small, but part of something so much bigger.

We have always wanted to visit the sacred Hopi Mesas and we were as close as we had ever been, so the next day we drove south to do just that. Upon arrival we stopped at the Hopi Cultural Center and learned that a sacred ceremony was happening that day at one of the villages! Visitors are allowed to witness these ceremonies but are not allowed to photograph them or discuss what happened. So we were stoked! Ceremonies are only performed in certain seasons of the year and we were honored to be present on the day of one. Prior to the ceremony we thoroughly explored each of the mesas and all the small villages and shops. We even met a very nice woman from the Spider Clan on top of the First Mesa. We also had the chance to enter a home of a different “grandmother” in Old Oraibi, the oldest continually habituated villages in the US. As for the ceremony, it was all we hoped for and we truly felt privileged to witness it. However, that is all I can say. Now it is time for you to explore the sacred Mesas for yourself!

Our last adventure in this area was to visit Lee’s Ferry and then drive around the Vermilion Cliffs. Lee’s ferry is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area and is the sight where one of the first ferry crossings was on the Colorado River. It also has a historical homes and orchards from some of the first ‘white’ inhabitants in the area. After exploring Lee’s ferry we decided to do a loop drive around the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. These cliffs are home to the reintroduced California Condors! We were not privileged enough to see these majestic flying birds but we did thoroughly enjoy the natural beauty and techno-colors of the cliffs!

That sums up are stay in the Page area of Arizona. Now is time to continue our exploration of the Colorado River and head north!