Sometimes the desert just calls you.
The final third of my cross-country venture was planned as a desert adventure.
After leaving Colorado we drove to our Holiday Inn Express (what what! A Holiday Inn Express is relatively high-end by my typical budget-travel standards) in Page, AZ.
The agenda for this part of the trip included visiting The Arches, going into Antelope Canyon, viewing Horseshoe Bend, generally exploring Lake Powell and checking out Coral Sands.
As we made our way toward Page, we encountered The Arches National Park. Carmella and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, "Well, clearly we're stopping."
The park is huge. Once we crossed the line into the park and paid our entrance fee, we essentially had a map and a road to follow that led out into the expansive dessert. The horizon is massive in the dessert. Looking out there was one winding road heading out to the beyond. As we drove into the park we stopped at various locations with fascinating natural structures. Eventually, we made it to the Big Arch, but not before taking a moment to dance in the dessert.
It was brutally hot in the sun. Every time we stepped out of the car we were hit with a wave of heat. Luckily, when we made it to The Arch, there was a strong breeze and shade directly underneath. Besides, the views were worth the heat. We sat under the arch just taking in the sights for a long a while.
Antelope Canyon is on a Native American Reservation and requires permits to visit. The easiest and most common way of dealing with this is to pay for a guided tour that is run by local tribe members. The price of the tour includes all taxes and fees along with the necessary permits. As it turns out, getting to the entrance of Antelope Canyon involves a four mile off-road drive through incredibly deep sands that requires huge tires and supped up vehicles, so attempting to do it solo would have been problematic. Penny, my trusted Honda, would not have made it.
Once we arrived at the entrance to the canyon, we disembarked from our monster truck and proceeded into the underground world.
The canyon has been cut by water.
Page, AZ has a rainy season every July and August that can dump several feet of rain onto this dessert oasis. The result is flash flooding and over time water has cut through the sand and rock to create a beautiful canyon. It is absolutely forbidden to visit the canyon during the rainy season as it is incredibly dangerous. In fact, several years ago National Geographic got permission to mount cameras inside of the canyon in order to capture video of the water rushing through the caverns. The water came through at such intense velocity that the cameras were ripped from the walls and carried out, never to be recovered. The holes from where the cameras were mounted still remain, but they are being worn smooth with each passing flood.
And here are some shots proving that we were, in fact, inside of the canyon.
Horseshoe bend was recommended to us by our Antelope Canyon tour guide. It was a great recommendation.
Getting there required a bit of a hike, and again it was hot (being the dessert and whatnot), so luckily we were told by a fellow sight-seer to bring water. We hiked through sand and sharp pebbles towards The Bend and when we arrived we were blown away by Nature once again. Figuratively, for sure, but we were almost physically blown away as well, since there were massive winds down on the rim that whipped sharp sand against our skin as we stooped for cover and safety. It was all rather amusing, despite the genuine pain and element of danger. I kind of enjoy a small amount of peril in order to see Mother Earth's gems.
We discovered these sights simply by going for a drive and seeing what we could find. Carmella and I have similar travel styles with regard to a "Let's just explore and see what happens!" attitude, which is why we make good travel buddies. After Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe bend, we didn't have a specific plan until heading out toward Coral Sands in Utah the next day. So we decided to take a drive.
After we left Page and headed toward Los Angeles, the plan was to swing by Coral Sands in Utah. It was a little strange getting there as the roads are not clearly marked and I felt as if I was following a road to nowhere, but we did eventually end up at the visitor's center in Coral Sands National Park.
Once there, we had a photo shoot in the smooth (albeit HOT) pink/orange sand.
And then before I knew it, we were driving on the freeway into Los Angeles. I made it to Downtown LA after the sun went down, but not before catching a west coast sunset. By the time I reached my brother's downtown loft, it was a city night.