My Desert Adventure

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.

The Arches

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

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

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.

 horseshoe bend

Lake Powell

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.

Coral Sands

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.

Destination Reached

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.

 DTLA
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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Breaking the Rules at The Grand Canyon

In 2008 my father and I hiked the entire Grand Canyon, South Rim down to Phantom Ranch and back, in ONE day. 

Which, for the record, you are not supposed to do.

 Grand Canyon Warning Sign

It really is not a very wise thing to do. I certainly do not recommend it for anyone who is not a serious hiker. Fortunately, I happen to be a crazy hiker and my Dad is still an avid cross country runner, so we were able to do it. We are certainly not the only ones to have done this, but it is firmly NOT recommended.

Of course, the original plan was not to do it all in one day. Hiking the Grand Canyon has always been on my Dad's bucket list. In 2008 he was in his late fifties and thought he should do it now before getting any older. Knowing that I was an fervent hiker, he thought I would be up for doing it with him. Which I was. Unfortunately, my Dad being my Dad, had this great idea and wanted to plan it for the near future. He had a business trip in Texas in a few months, so he figured he would then take a hopper over to Arizona and I could fly in from LA and meet him at the airport. We would rent a car and drive to the South Rim, spend the night on the rim, hike down to Phantom Ranch, spend the night at the ranch and then hike back out the next day.

As it turns out, Phantom Ranch, being small and the only option down at the bottom of the canyon, books up about a year out. Sooo....now we were going to hike the entire thing in one day.

Going down was actually very easy. Which was somewhat surprising because as any avid hiker will tell you, uphill is way better than downhill.

Honestly.

Uphill may be tiresome, but downhill is hell on your knees and ankles. Luckily, the South Rim path isn't particularly steep so the down hill section was pretty gentle on our joints. We made it down to the river and Phantom Ranch in 3 hours.

Down at the tiny little ranch, we ate lunch and relaxed for a bit. 

Phantom Ranch is unexciting.

Quaint. But unexciting.

 Phantom Ranch

Which is good because we wanted to get going back fairly soon since it was starting to get hot. There is a huge temperature difference between the rim and in the canyon. It gets way hotter further down. We set off fairly early in the morning so we were currently fine, but we knew if we lingered down at the Ranch, our hike back up would not be pleasant.

Going back up took double the time. 6 hours. Therefore, our total hiking time for the day was 9 hours.

Going up was rather exhausting. By midday there was no shade to be found. We were hiking uphill for 6 hours straight under the blazing sun. This is why your average visitor should not attempt the all-in-one-day trek. By the end we were spent.

Despite our intense desire to collapse as soon as we made it back to the rim, it was a fantastic experience that I loved getting to share with my Dad. We had a great time and felt a massive sense of accomplishment when we got back.

After showering, we made our way to one of the restaurants on the rim for dinner. Sitting on the wooden booth my Dad commented that he had never been this sore in his entire life. He looked dog-tired, as I'm sure I did too, but we both still had goofy grins on our faces. Pride in accomplishment.

To this day this one of my Dad's and my proudest achievements. We are so glad we did it.

I'd happily do it over, but my Dad says "Never again." He's in his 60's now so I suppose that's fair. Either way, we did it.

Conquered!

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Past Road Trip Part 3

After leaving Albuquerque, we continued on towards Sedona. Before reaching our next destination, however, we made a mid-road decision to follow signs to a meteor crater.  Because, come on, don't you want to see a giant meteor crater?

 I would like to point out that this picture was taken through the window of a moving a car.  I'm quite proud of myself for this one.

I would like to point out that this picture was taken through the window of a moving a car.  I'm quite proud of myself for this one.

First, I need to back up and talk about our stop off at a gas station.  Seriously.  It's important.

We stopped off at a gas station in the, you guessed it, middle of nowhere and filled up.  We ended up chatting with a guy who pulled in behind us.  What did we chat about? The massive number of dead bugs that were smashed on the front of our respective vehicles.  

In case you ever plan on doing a US road trip, you really should be aware of this reality of open road driving.  Many, many, many insects, both small and large, will meet their fate on your windshield and front bumper.  An insect of the decidedly large variety was smushed on the front of this dude's SUV.  And I am talking remarkably HUGE. Comically huge. Therefore, when Carmella and I stepped out of the car to stretch our legs and caught sight of this massive winged behemoth that was decorating his front grill, the laughter just rolled out of us. The awkward positioning of this poor creature's demise was just too much.  We'd been stuck in a car for several long hours so it really didn't take much at this point to crack us up and this would have been funny on an ordinary day. The owner of the adorned vehicle came out to see what was so hysterical and he caught sight of his new traveling companion and joined in on the laugher. Although, not quite as intensely, I must say. I guess he wasn't as delirious as we were. Anyway, the point is, we shared a laugh, a quick chat and introduced ourselves. His name is Matt. (or Mark...or Mike.  I'm 80% sure it was Matt.) Then we both went on our merry ways.  

It was after this gas station stop that we started seeing signs for a meteor crater.  Since road trips are not complete without at least one unplanned stop, we exited at one of the meteor exits. (I say "one of" because apparently there were two.)  The detour that led to the crater was a bit longer than expected and qualifies as being a road to nowhere.  That is, until you make the final turn and dip, and a single building reveals itself.  This single building is the meteor crater museum, built flush against the giant crater with paths leading around part of the crater's rim. 

When we parked in the museum parking lot we saw a familiar vehicle.  It was Matt's* bug-adorned SUV!

*His name may not be Matt.

We rejoiced at the funny kismet that had brought us together again. And this is where the second exit comes into play, because Matt definitely did not follow us to the crater. We separately decided "Meteor crater?! OOOoooOOOH! Let's see that!"

The three of us paid for a museum tour and saw the remaining crater fragment.  We got treated to a very informative walking tour of the museum, full of interesting facts, none of which I remember.

 The largest remaining remnant of the original meteor.

The largest remaining remnant of the original meteor.

After the tour, we walked out and took a bunch of pictures of the massive impact site. It is hard to get a feel for the scale, but this is a really large crater. I'm pretty sure the tour guide provided a measurement using football fields, but again, I did not retain that factoid. If you care, Google it. Google knows everything.

Meteor-Crater.JPG

And, YES, we did take a group picture with our new man friend.

Meteor-crater-group.jpg

After this adventure we said goodbye to Matt* for real and proceeded towards Sedona.

*(?)

Sedona is GORGEOUS.  Just stunning.  Even the air feels fresher than anywhere I can remember.  Here's a bunch of photos.

That little motel/hotel in the picture is where we stayed.  It was an awesome view to wake to in the morning.

We spent a lot of time in crystal shops and other hippie-licious stores full of good vibes. A quick rain poured while we were in one of the shops and a worker ran outside to dance in the rain for a few minutes.  That is Sedona.

We spent two nights in Sedona and just loved it. We nearly unpacked there.  The little town is adorable and charming. If you have any bit of gypsy in your soul, take a little trip to Sedona. You'll enjoy it.

After Sedona, we headed towards the City of Angels and returned Carmella's things to whence they came.

Thus concludes my epic three-part chronicle of my Austin to Los Angeles road trip.

ย 

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.