Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend

Trip Start Nov 01, 2009
Trip End Nov 30, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

ROAD TRIP DAY 3 - We woke up feeling exhausted by our restless night’s sleep in the tent and from trying to watch the sunrise but we were determined to see more of the valley. By 8.00am the tent was packed up and we were in our car ready for a driving tour around the monuments. Doog had managed to get a map from a guy at the information point, who was a little suspicious as to why we didn’t have one already as you normally got it when you pay to enter the park.

The route was 17 miles but as it was just a dirt/sand track and there were loads of photo opportunities, it took around 2 hours. Doog loved the off-road driving challenge especially when it got really sandy. We got to see loads more monuments than those we had seen from the lookout point and as it was a beautiful clear day, the orange monuments looked amazing set against the bright blue sky. At the end of the driving route there was a relatively steep hill that was proving to be a bit of a challenge for the cars ahead of us, which were arranged at various angles down the hill where they had got stuck in the sand. Doog showed them how it was done by switching the car from automatic to manual and steadily made his way up.

As we were leaving Monument Valley our hearts started beating a little faster as we had to drive past the ticket booths. Luckily for us we were not asked to stop and so we had escaped both the entrance and camping fee…although we felt slightly guilty about this the need to restore our already hugely dented budget won over.

We then retraced our route along U.S 163 and 160 to take highway 98 to Page, just south of the Utah border in Arizona, so that we could see Antelope Canyon - a canyon we had seen some incredible photos of. We found a tour company in Page that had space on a 3.30pm tour for $34 each. We decided to go for it even though it was only 1.30pm. For a drawn out lunch we went to the nearby Pizza Hut, which although is still ‘fast food’ it seemed better than the other burger options available. The Pizza Hut itself had seen better days, the salad bar was best avoided and you had collect your own pizzas from the counter, so service wasn’t exactly great either. We did however stock up on loads of sachets of Parmesan cheese from the self service bar…always useful for past dishes! After lunch we had a look around the various shops of Page, where I found some sunglasses to replace the ones Duke the dog had found very tasty in Houston.

At 3.30pm we were loaded onto the back of an open sided little lorry, which had two back to back benches down the middle, and were driven the short but bumpy way to the canyon. It was still very hot at that time of day and the whole group on the tour was extremely happy to enter the shade of the canyon, where we took our shoes off and walked along in the cool sand. The canyon is lined by twisting sandstone walls sculptured by the rain and water passing through the canyon during flash floods. Our guide was trying to be helpful by telling and directing everyone to where the best photo opportunities were, which meant that everyone was trying to crowd into the same spot. Around every corner I thought that there were countless photo opportunities and that maybe we didn’t need such precise advice.

All too quickly our time was up and we had to leave the canyon…which meant going back into the baking sun. After the bumpy ride back to Page we got back into our car and drove a few miles down U.S 89 to Horseshoe Bend, where the Colorado River makes a ‘U’ turn on itself. After a short 1 mile walk we reached the cliff face where you could look down onto the Horseshoe Bend. The view was stunning, however looking down from the cliff face made our legs go to jelly as we ventured just that little bit closer to the edge to get that all important photo. The sun was so bright however, that this was almost impossible.

By the time we got back to the car, it was 7pm and we still had a fairly long drive ahead of us. As we wanted to go to Zion National park in the morning, I had selected Springdale as a good place to stay from looking at the map and reading the Lonely Planet. We drove north on U.S 89 and reached a town called Kanab at around 8pm, where we drove past lots of motels and restaurants. However, I decided to stick with my original choice and so we ploughed on to reach Springdale…from my estimation it looked around 20 miles further. It turned out my estimation was slightly out and in fact we had about 40 miles to go. I got slightly anxious as it got dark, realising we had still quite a way to go, thinking it might be difficult to find somewhere to stay once we got there and feeling responsible for the situation we were in. Things got worse when we the road leading to Springdale actually went through the Zion National Park . The road became really bendy as we made our way up and down mountains with a sheer drop down one side (in the dark), which meant for the last 20 miles we had to drive really slowly. At one point we entered a never ending tunnel through the mountain rock and Doog and I burst out laughing - breaking the nervous silence that had fallen between us. Eventually, after driving through the whole length of Zion, we exited the park and entered Springdale…hurray!

We were relieved that Springdale wasn’t actually in the park as this would have meant very pricey accommodation, but even so all the motels still looked a little costly. The first one I tried cost $120/night and the second $100 - but with a strong carpet cleaner smell as the rooms had just been cleaned. When I said I just needed to check with my boyfriend, she said I needed to hurry as she finished her shift at 10.30pm…I was about to say it was only 9.30pm when I remembered the time difference; Utah was 1 hour ahead of Arizona. Our situation of finding accommodation now had become even more critical, with places beginning to close for the night. The third place I tried cost $79/night and had breakfast included and free WiFi so although over budget we took it, grateful that we had a bed for the night. By the time we had checked in and put all our stuff into the room, it was past 11pm and there was nothing open in the town at all, so we had to resort to Marmite (thanks Kirsteen!) on our leftover tortilla wraps for dinner. I felt a bit guilty so I let Doog have my share as he needs fattening up! After showers we went to bed exhausted.
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