This was part of an amazing road trip around some of the canyons in the USA in March 2014 setting off from San Diego and finishing in Las Vegas.
Sedona via Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon
Today was a much shorter drive, though very different from yesterday as we were driving through the snow that had fallen overnight. After a lovely breakfast and snapping a few shots of Steller Jays and Dark Eyed Juncos who were breakfasting outside on monkey nuts we were on our way to the Grand Canyon. Would it live up to the hype I wondered? Or would the reality fall flat.
(please click on an image to enlarge)
Black Eyed Junco
We continued along 89A through Oak Creek Canyon weaving its way up and around the mountains. At the top we pulled into a viewing place to take a few photos of the canyon and the road on which we had just driven. I am so glad that they clear the roads in this part of the world!
By noon we’d arrived at Tusayan the town just before the south entrance to the park and we stopped to visit the IMAX theatre to watch a film about the Canyon which is well worth doing if you haven’t been there before. Though I must be the only person on earth who suffers travel sickness whilst watching these films! I have to close my eyes to stop myself from feeling dizzy.
The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison – beyond description, absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. Let this great wonder of nature remain as it is now. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s’ children and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see. Don’t let them skin this wonderful country – as they will try to do” ~ Theodore Roosevelt, May 6, 1903
Now we were in the park and following the one-way system to our hotel – El Tovar – where we had booked for the night. It is a National Historic Landmark and is right on the South Rim with views of the canyon from rooms on the northern wing.
The hotel is made from native stone and Oregon pine and the design is based on European hunting lodges and has a world-renowned restaurant along with canyon views.
Becky’s September square photo challenge Day 26! She would like us to share photos which embrace ‘pink’ – there could be pink in the photo, the subject or photographer could be ‘tickled pink’*, or indeed looking ‘in the pink’*. A photo that manages to do all three things is the ultimate offering.
tickled pink to frame this reddish-pink balanced rock in Marble Canyon
*‘in the pink’ means in perfect condition, or in good health, and ‘tickled pink’ means delighted.
Paula’s (Lost in Translation) challenge this week is slightly different than usual in that she has provided a list of words from which to pick one to illustrate.
I am going for decrepit: adjective meaning – worn out or ruined because of age or neglect; dilapidated; rickety; run-down; broken-down; ramshackle; worn-out; derelict; falling to pieces; on its last legs
I like photographing old and decrepit things and on a trip around the Canyons a few years ago we came across this abandoned ‘village’ near Marble Canyon, AZ. During the Great Depression, a few white settlers built a small town of wooden structures with shingle roofs that still cling to gigantic boulders in a moon-like setting at the foot of Vermilion Cliffs. They were known as the Cliff Dwellers.
How anyone survived in this desolate landscape I have no idea.
Please pop over to see Paula if you would like to join in.
On Monday we left Page to drive to Bryce Canyon and our next stop. First we had a look at the Glen Canyon Dam which was the reason for the town of Page as it originated from housing the workers of the dam when construction started in 1957.
Then we stopped at Lake Powell which is the largest lake in Arizona/Utah and famed for its water sports, fishing, hiking and boat trips to Rainbow Bridge (the world’s largest natural stone bridge).
Lake Powell is arguably the most scenic lake in America, situated in some of Southern Utah’s finest red-rock desert country.
Above: The Hydroelectric Project (Glen Canyon) and the Navajo Generating Station. Why are two power stations so close? The reason is the river. The availability of water at lake Powell, the proximity of a source of coal and a worker base in the city of Page determined the location.
Sparkling clear, blue water laps against towering, sheer, red-rock canyon walls and sandy beaches. Lake Powell has more coastline than the entire west coast and you need a water craft to access the majority of the canyons as access is limited because there are few roads.
Moving on we crossed the border into Utah which is only about ten miles from Page. Utah’s southwest corner is often called “Colour Country” and has a dry, hot climate and Highway 89 is a Heritage Highway because of the wealth of history along its route.
Driving past Paria Canyon and the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness you then pass Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Backway with rugged peaks called the Cockscomb. Next is an area called Telegraph Flat named in 1876 when Western Telegraph opened an office here. It is now a ghost town.
The biggest town along the route is Kanab, famous for the Western Legends Roundup and Western Film Festival an annual event that is a tribute to the area’s rich movie history. Nearby is the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park (covered in snow as we passed ) where the rare plant, Welsh’s Milkweed, grows.
The United Order experiment was instituted in 1874 for a communal lifestyle at the direction of Brigham Young. Eighty families moved here from Mount Carmel where the co-operative had failed.
It existed until the 1880s when it started to fall apart, though it had grown to more than 700. The families lived in apartments which were identical, they all ate in a common dining hall and wore uniforms. Private property did not exist.
The next town is Mount Carmel Junction where Highway 9 to Zion National Park intersects with the 89 (and which we would be taking tomorrow as we retraced the next stage of our trip), a few miles on we drove through the unusually named Orderville.
Mount Carmel Junction was first settled by Dr Priddy Meeks in 1864 as part of Brigham Young’s plan to settle all of Utah’s territory. It was later named after a mountain in Israel.
John Wesley Powell first visited in 1872; he was the first white man to descend the East Fork of the Virgin River and who named the canyon “Parunuweap” from the Paiute word meaning roaring water canyon.
Just before Panguitch (another town with an interesting tale, which I will tell you about in my next post) you take a turn to the right on State Route 12, another of the All American Roads, which winds 124 miles through some of the most unique geology on earth. Almost immediately you hit Red Canyon, a section of the Dixie National Forest, with red hillsides dotted with ponderosa pines and hoodoos.
(Click an image to enlarge and for further information)
Ponderosa Pines cling to Cap Rock
After 14 miles we took another right turn and headed back south on Highway 63 to Bryce Canyon National Park, so named after Ebenezer Bryce a Mormon pioneer. We were staying in the Best Western Ruby’s Inn which is a short distance from the park entrance.
“Before there were any Indians the Legend people, To-When-an-ung-wa, lived in that place. There were so many of them. They were of many kinds – birds, animals, lizards and such things – but they looked like people…
For some reason the Legend People in that place were bad. Because they were bad Coyote turned them into rocks; some standing in rows, some sitting down, some holding onto others. You can see their faces with paint on them just as they were before they became rocks…”
~ a Paiute Indian Legend
After checking in and dropping our luggage in the Lakeview Lodge we headed off into the park to have a look at the incredible hoodoos that are concentrated in a horse-shoe shaped amphitheatres that provide amazing spots to watch the sun rise and set.
A perfect spot for star-gazing as there is no light pollution.
The 3 feet of snow that had fallen over the weekend meant that several of the pathways were under snow and walking was quite treacherous. It didn’t seem to put off some people though as we saw them climbing over fences to approach the end of a lookout point – oblivious to the fact that you couldn’t see the edge. I even saw two lads carrying a mate in a wheelchair to the edge of one viewpoint.
From Sunset Point this trail takes you down onto the floor of the canyon and amongst the hoodoos. Not to be ventured on except by people in stout boots with walking poles, or idiots in fashion boots complete with high heels!!
We ate at Ruby’s that night, there isn’t really a lot of choice, but the food was reasonable – I can’t say that we’ve eaten any remarkable meals during this trip so far. It had been a long day with lots of interesting scenery along the way. There was a lot of snow all around and it was very cold, but thank goodness the roads were cleared and driving was a breeze. Tomorrow should be another interesting day.
Sunday dawned cold and grey. But the photo trip was still on and we spent a couple of hours in the company of Charley from Overland Canyon Tours in the Antelope Canyon which is a few miles outside of Page where the slot canyons are majestic narrow passages with just enough space for a small group to walk the sandy floor – and for the occasional shafts of sunlight to shine down from above. 
The best time to visit is when the sun is overhead so you get those super shots of sunlight on the sand particles shimmering in the oranges, reds and yellows of the naturally carved sandstone. Unfortunately for us there was no sun, but that did not spoil our enjoyment of this incredible place. Even light flares added an interesting purple hue to the rocks. For those of you who are fitter than us you might like to visit the Lower Antelope Canyon which is reached by a series of ladders. All I can say that climbing the steps up into the cab of the Ute was hard enough!
In the afternoon we took a drive back down to Bitter Springs and turned right on to the 89A across the Navajo Bridge to visit Lees Ferry where you can get down to the edge of the Colorado and watch groups preparing to raft down the river. 
(click on an image to enlarge)
Preparing for rafting
At Lees Ferry
Rafts in waiting
Over the ten miles or so south of the Navajo bridge, the Colorado has several fascinating narrow tributary canyons including Seven-mile Draw, Soap Canyon, Jackass Creek and Badger Canyon. The layers of sandstone and shale that form the vermilion cliffs once extended five miles to connect to the same layers in the Echo cliffs. The Colorado River cut a canyon through the Navajo sandstone.
Navajo Bridges (old and new)
Navajo Bridge across the Colorado
We stopped to marvel at the balanced rocks on the way back to Marble Canyon. Thousands of years ago a huge boulder of conglomerate broke from the cliff above and rolled to a stop here. Since then at least 6 feet of this slope has eroded away.
Ultimately the softer rock, now protected by the umbrella of harder conglomerate will erode, and the boulder will topple to the ground again.
Several fallen boulders at the foot of the desolate Vermilion Cliffs on the Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon.
At the 89a junction we turned right and drove to the Cliff Dwellers Lodge about nine miles further east to have an early dinner at the diner there.
During the Great Depression, a few white settlers built a small town of wooden structures with shingle roofs that still cling to gigantic boulders in a moon-like setting at the foot of Vermilion Cliffs.
Returning to Page after a very interesting day we managed to catch the sun setting on Echo Cliffs on the land of the Navajo Nation.
 When we did this trip it was OK to have any type of camera but now you need to have a SLR – point and shoot, IPads and IPhones are not accepted, if you have one of these you may find yourself on a normal tour. We had bridge cameras.
 There was a landslip in 2013 which meant that this route was not accessible for quite some time. It is advisable to check routes in this region before setting out.