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I just finished my first week here in San Antonio, and I really am just starting to get settled in. I am working nights again, and I’m back to working an irregular schedule, so adventures and trips are probably going to happen less often than they did on my last assignment. I am loving being back in a city, and I am looking forward to exploring the area and meeting new people here.
This week I did get to do some exploring dowtown at a FoodK. The FoodK was sort of like a 5K in that you got a racebib and map, but it was mostly just about trying new foods. 10 participating restaurants had free samples of different dishes for FoodK “racers.” It was a really neat way to get to try a lot of different restaurants and get to explore the riverwalk area. All of the food was really delicious, and I was so full after I finished. The riverwalk was really neat, and I think I will probably go back again to explore more.
I’m still figuring out what all I want to do in the area, and how I’m going to fit my adventures into my schedule. Hopefully, as I get more settled into a new routine with work, I will be able to plan out some bigger adventures.
This week was my week off between assignments, so no exciting adventures this week, just a lot of driving and getting things taken care of. I realized that I never actually said where I was going next, because I didn’t want to jinx it before I got here. I am happy to announce now though, that for the next 3 months I will be calling San Antonio, Texas home.
I’m excited for what this new adventure will bring. Travels may be a little more scattered this time because I am working a less regular schedule, and I will be working nights. I also am very excited that I got to bring my cat along to San Antonio, but having him here does mean that I will be a little more limited in how long I can be away for. I’m hoping to be able to explore the city and area more, and I am looking forward to the adventures to come.
This week I said goodbye to the Navajo Nation. It was a great last week on the rez full of memories I won’t soon forget.
This week was the Navajo Nation fair, and one of the employee activities for the fair was a Tsii Yeel, or hair bun, competition. One of my good friends signed us up to compete, and we won first place! It was also traditional dress day, and her mom lent me a full traditional outfit for the day and the competition. It was really neat getting to participate in the competition and dress up in the traditional wear.
My last evening in Fort Defiance was Friday, and I went to the fair with a few friends. The fair was a wonderful farewell to the Navajo Nation for me. We went to the rodeo, a concert, and a western dance all as part of the fair. I loved getting to go to all of the events, but mostly I just enjoyed spending time with friends before I had to leave.
Saturday morning, I packed up and left Fort. The people and memories I left behind have definitely made Fort a place that will always have a piece of my heart.
It feels like time has flown since last Monday. During the week, I went to a high school volleyball game, played some sports with friends, and prepared for my last weekend of exploring here in Arizona. I saved Phoenix for my last weekend of adventures hoping it might be a little cooler which definitely didn’t happen. I had forgotten about it being Labor Day weekend until a few weeks ago, and several things about waiting until this weekend worked out really well, even if it was still ridiculously hot. I also decided that since I had been keeping a pretty full schedule every other weekend that I wanted to have a bit more of a relaxed weekend (it may not seem like I really relaxed, but I promise there was plenty of downtime spent watching college football this weekend).
I got to Phoenix on Friday evening and started sightseeing pretty much immediately. Since it was the first Friday of the month, the Heard Museum offered free admission from 6-10pm. I still had to pay for the special exhibit, but paying just $7 instead of $25 to see the museum and special exhibit was a bargain I couldn’t pass up. The special exhibit was Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. The collection included pieces from both artists as well as photos of them and clothing from Frida. Bits of history and narrative were also included between paintings as you walk through the exhibit. It was really neat getting to see so many paintings and photos up close and in real life that I learned so much about during school. It was humbling to be so close to these masterpieces that people from all over the world study and see in textbooks every day.
The heard museum also had several really neat exhibits as part of their permanent collections. There were lots of pieces from native artists, and each tribe represented had its own feel in the art represented. There were also several powerful pieces about the native perception of the missions and efforts to erase their culture. I think my favorite exhibit though was the Indian Boarding Schools exhibit. It was a chilling exhibit to go through and to read different quotes and see such a dark part of our history. The cruelty of the boarding schools is overwhelmingly a part of the history of so many. Throughout the exhibit, there were also many examples of resilience and beauty continuing to thrive. Overall, the exhibit was heavy and somber, but I really learned a lot. I am glad that the history wasn’t glossed over or ignored because it really allowed me to think about how we have treated people in the past and how we need to keep striving to be better in the future.
Saturday morning, I went to the Arizona Science Center (sidenote: when planning what I wanted to do in Phoenix, I once again remembered how awesome having free museums in St. Louis is. Everywhere is so expensive in Phoenix!). I found a groupon, so it only cost me $13 to get into the science center and special exhibit instead of $26. The science center was pretty neat and very interactive. There were exhibits on construction, energy, the body, weather, and more. The special exhibit was called Get Animated and was all about the animation. I was pretty excited because while a lot of the other exhibits are similar to most other science centers, this was something I hadn’t seen before. The exhibit had information on the history of animation all the way back to the early 1900s as well as parts about creation and production. It was really neat to see some of the groundbreaking characters throughout animation history from Gertie the Dinosaur to Mickey Mouse to Gumby. There were lots of sketches and clay models from various films and tv shows. Gumby was a much bigger part of the exhibit than I expected, but there was a really neat web showing the influence Gumby and his creator Art Clokey had on other animators (Pixar, Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, Dinosaur, and many more all have ties to Gumby). I was a little disappointed that there was more on Pixar since they were such a game changer for computer animation, but overall it was still a pretty cool exhibit.
After the Science Museum, I took it pretty easy until the evening. I went to the Torch Theatre for some improv Saturday evening. The theater is pretty small, and the sign to find it is overshadowed by the huge sign for the massage shop upstairs, but the people were so friendly and the shows were great. The first show was an open jam, so I actually ended up playing, and the coaches and atmosphere were so positive and welcoming that it didn’t even feel like I was an out of towner. The second show was a longform show, and it was enjoyable and funny throughout. I have really enjoyed getting to see shows in different places and see how wonderful the communities and theaters are in different places.
Since Labor Day brought with it a 3-day weekend, on Sunday, I ventured down to Saguaro National Park. I didn’t think I would have time on a 2-day weekend since it is about an hour and a half from Phoenix and I didn’t want to spend my whole time visiting Phoenix not it Phoenix, but with the extra day I made the trip. Saguaro National Park is split into 2 parks separated by the city of Tucson. I started out at the East or Rincon part of the park. The East is the larger of the 2 areas and has a ton of trails throughout it. There is an 8 mile paved loop drive through the park with overlooks and trailheads along the way. I did part of the Mica Trail, and the Ecology Trail. The Mica trail is the starting trail from the Mica overlook and connects with a bunch of other trails. It provided a nice opportunity to look at some of the Saguaros, but most of the larger Saguaros were still pretty far off the trail. I didn’t walk very far along the trail because it was hot, and it wasn’t super close to a ton of cacti. The Ecology trail was neat because it showed a ton of diversity in the plant life of the park. I hadn’t really thought of the park as having so many different kinds of cacti and other plants, and it was amazing to see all of the different plants that were thriving in the desert.
After visiting the East park, I drove through Tucson and stopped at the Desert Museum a few miles before the West park on a recommendation from one of the rangers. The museum is much more of a zoo and botanical garden than a museum, but it was really neat. The museum celebrates the plants and animals found in the Sonoran Desert which spans across parts of Mexico and the Southwestern United States. It was $23 for admission to the museum and to stingray touch. The museum is huge and is mostly outside. I wanted to make sure I still had time to explore at the West Saguaro Park, so I looked at the map and tried to decide what I most wanted to see. Since I had paid for the Stingray Touch, I decided to start there. The Stingray Touch was a pool with 21 stingrays that you could stick your hands in and touch. The stingrays are in the desert museum since the Sonoran Desert surrounds the Gulf of California, and the gulf’s plants and animals are important to the desert too. There weren’t too many people at the touch pool, and it was pretty calm and relaxed. It was really neat getting to touch the stingrays and just watch them swimming around. After the stingrays, I saw a few other animals along the way to Cat Canyon. The cats’ area was built into a canyon area, and you could peer in through the top to try and look at the cats. There was also a large section below with big windows into the different canyon enclosures. Some of the den like areas in the rock also had windows in to them, and I did get to see an ocelot napping in his den which was pretty cool. I walked along a few more of the trails and visited the cave section and the reptile house before heading out. The desert museum was definitely a neat look at life in the Sonoran Desert.
After the desert museum, I made my way to the West part of Saguaro National Park. The West park is smaller and maybe a little harder to navigated, but I also found it to have better views and have trails that were closer to more cacti. The park has a 7 mile unpaved loop trail, as well as another unpaved road that turns off of the loop and cuts through the park that we will get to later. There is a short, paved Desert Discovery walking trail just before the loop. The trail runs right next to tons of Saguaro and other cacti (I think my favorite were actually the cacti with the orange flowers on top). It offered more spectacular views of the cacti than I had gotten anywhere in the East park, and I had high hopes for the rest of the park. The dirt loop road through the park was much closer to the cacti than the East loop had been, and every stop had amazing views.
I had planned on going to the Signal Hill trail to see some petroglyphs in the park as I went along the park loop, but I took a wrong turn and the weekend ended a little differently than I had planned. Remember that unpaved road I mentioned that turned off of the loop trail? I accidently turned onto that road instead of continuing on the loop. It took me a few miles before I realized I had made a wrong turn, and by the time I realized the road wasn’t really wide enough to turn around. I looked for a spot to turn around and I finally found one. On the way back towards the loop, my ball joint and axle on my car snapped and I was stranded. Luckily, I had cell phone service and was able to call the rangers station to make sure someone knew I was out there. I called for a tow after I called the rangers station, and after about 2 hours I was headed back to Phoenix in the tow truck. The rangers, people who drove by while I was stranded, and the tow truck drivers were all very nice. I looked up a few shops when I got back to Phoenix, but I really wasn’t having much luck finding anything out, so I went to bed and decided to figure it out in the morning.
Monday morning, I spent a few hours trying to find a shop that was open on Labor Day to get my car fixed with no luck. The repairs would have to wait until Tuesday, so I made an appointment for Tuesday morning, bought a bus pass, and decided to try and still enjoy the day. I decided to go to the zoo. Zoo admission was discounted because the zoo is under construction so it only cost $20 to get in. The zoo is pretty big, but when it’s ridiculously hot big isn’t necessarily enjoyable. There were a few areas that I thought were really neat. The Forest of Uco section really focused on where several South American animals live, and how we can help conservation efforts for these species and their habitats. I also really enjoyed monkey village. Monkey village is an exhibit where you go into the enclosure with squirrel monkeys, and get to see them without barriers between you. It was neat to get to hang out in the space with the monkeys. The monkeys don’t really interact or react to people being in the exhibit, but it was still really neat to get to see them up close. The construction in the zoo cut off part of the circle through the Africa trail. This meant that you had to walk ¾ of the way around the loop and then return the same way since the loop no longer connected on the other side. Since it was so hot, I decided to skip the African animals and finish my zoo trip.
Right next to the zoo was another attraction that had been on my list, Hole in the Rock. Hole in the Rock is a natural formation where there is a hole that you can walk through, and there is a nice overlook of the area as well. The trail up to hole in the rock was pretty short and easy with rock steps along a lot of it. The hole in the rock looked so different from the below than it did from the top which was really cool as well. From below the hole looks huge because there is all this space that is open in front of the hole. At the top, the hole looks much smaller, and it becomes obvious that the area in front is more of a landing or shelter area. Seeing both perspectives was really cool. It was also neat to see the view of the city from the hole in the rock. I had thought that seeing the hole in the rock would be the only spectacular view, but stepping through and seeing the city below and the mountains in the distance was just as rewarding.
Monday afternoon, I just wanted to relax and cool off. I decided to go to a movie to stay cool and relax. I saw Cars 3, and I really enjoyed it (way better than Cars 2). I got back from the movie, had dinner, and went to bed early so I could wake up early to deal with my car.
Tuesday morning, I went to the auto shop bright and early to get the repairs underway. First, I had to get the car to the auto shop, and the tow took about an hour. Once the shop had the car, it took about an hour or so before they had an estimate for when it would be done. They told me probably close to 2-3 that afternoon, and I decided to walk around for a little bit instead of just hanging out at the shop. I tried to go to the children’s museum since it was in the top 5 attractions for the area, but a child is required for admission so I couldn’t. I went to a coffee shop and got a cold drink, and I looked for things to do in the area. There wasn’t really anything super close that I was interested in, so I decided to head back to the shop. It was almost lunchtime, so I stopped for food on the way back, and then I headed back to wait. Once they got the axle fixed and the car at least moving, they realized there was another much smaller problem with the bearing. They fixed that problem as well, and I finally had my car back around 5pm.
Travel doesn’t always go as planned, and I’ve learned that being flexible and adaptable are 2 of the most important parts of having a successful travel experience. Just because things don’t go as you wanted, doesn’t mean they can’t still turn out great.
Just Keep Swimming,
This week started out with the eclipse. We did not get totality here, but I did not go out and see the partial that we did get. While the science nerd in me is sad to have missed it, the culture and people loving part of me is thrilled that I got to spend it on the Navajo Nation learning about the customs here. Many native cultures have beliefs about eclipses, and the Navajo are no exception. For many here the day of the eclipse was a day of reverence and reflection. I really enjoyed getting to learn about the culture and beliefs about eclipses here, and I also enjoyed the opportunity to reflect and have a mindful day. I don’t want to misrepresent the beliefs here, so if you are interested in learning more about the Navajo and other native beliefs, I have linked an article that I enjoyed. http://blog.nmai.si.edu/main/2017/08/indian-beliefs-eclipse.html
Over the weekend, I explored the flagstaff area. There are 3 National Monuments that are in the Flagstaff area, as well as 2 others that are a little further away. 2 of the 3 Flagstaff National Monuments are located on the same loop road, and that is where I started out on Saturday morning. I drove to the farther of the 2 entrances onto the loop road and started exploring at Wupatki National Monument. The loop drive was definitely convenient, but also had some disadvantages when it came to exploring the park. Because I didn’t want to waste the time driving to the visitor’s center and then back out to the overlooks and then back past the visitor’s center, I decided to stop at the overlooks on the way to the visitor’s center. The trails and overlooks were pretty self-explanatory, but there were a few spots where a map or trail guide would have been useful. The main ruins at Wupatki were located just out the back of the visitor’s center, so I was able to use the trail guide at the main ruins. The ruins were pretty large, and in a lot of ways were similar to many of the other ruins I have been to in the area. However, the Wupatki ruins are sinagua ruins as opposed to ancestral pueblo ruins like many of the sites I had been to so far. There were definite differences in room sizes and uses compared to ancestral pueblo areas. It was neat to get to see how lots of the building materials and techniques were very similar, but the functions and arrangements were different to accommodate the different needs of the sinagua people.
The second monument along the loop road is Sunset Crater National Monument. With the way I drove around the loop, the visitor’s center for Sunset Crater did come after the trails and overlooks. Sunset crater is the newest volcanic cones in the San Francisco volcanic field having erupted only about 1000 years ago. The first overlook in the park provides a great view of not only Sunset Crater, but of several other cones in the area. In total, there are about 600 volcanoes in the San Francisco field. The volcanoes themselves are all considered to be extinct, but the magma chamber below the field is still considered active and another eruption (likely east of the current field) is expected at some point. The lava flow trail was really neat, and there were several lava features that I had not previously seen. The trail also has lots of informational plaques along the way that point out interesting features or bring up interesting thinking points. Sunset crater used to be open for hiking to the summit, but hiking had to be closed in 1973 due to erosion. Even though it has been 30 years and efforts have been made to preserve and restore the area, scars still cut across the side of the crater where trails used to be. Because of how recent the eruption was, scientists are also looking at sunset crater to try and learn more about how heat and major changes in climate shape ecosystems and affect regrowth
After Sunset Crater, I went to Walnut Canyon National Monument. Walnut Canyon is about 25 miles away from the loop the other 2 are on, but it is definitely worth the trip out. All three monuments can easily be done and enjoyed in one day. Walnut Canyon is a beautiful canyon that has sinagua cliff dwellings all along the walls of the canyon. There are 2 trails at Walnut Canyon: the rim trail and the island trail. The rim trail walks along (really not close at all) the rim of the Canyon for a short distance and has a few overlooks to see dwellings on the opposite wall. The island trail has 793 steps to climb along it and follows along a dense collection of dwellings on a feature in the canyon that appears to be an island. I did not want to kill my legs for day 2 of exploring, so I chose to just do the rim trail and museum. The rim trail has a few ruins along it, and provides beautiful views of the canyon. It was neat to get to see so many dwellings along the walls even if I did not explore them close up. The museum and video inside the visitor’s center really helped me to get an idea of what life would have been like for these people.
When I finished Walnut Canyon, I still had a few hours left to explore. I decided to go for a walk in historic downtown Flagstaff. The architecture was really neat to look at, and there were murals and other art throughout the area that were really cool as well. Heritage Square is an open plaza in the city that was really neat to stop at. When I was there, they were setting up for a movie on the square and it was really neat to see the community feel. I wandered in to an art gallery and really just enjoyed getting to see the beauty and diversity of food and businesses in the city. I am really glad that I took the time to just walk the city and explore.
On Saturday evening, I went back to Sunset Crater. They were having their monthly star party with a native storyteller speaking. The storyteller told us several stories about different animals and the stars. Storytelling in several native cultures is generally reserved for winter time because it is believed that telling stories of these animals in summer when they are more active and listening will cause you to come across them soon after the story is told. Because it wasn’t generally a storytelling season, it was really cool that the storyteller did still tell us several stories. She told us her people’s story of creation; she told us the story of how rattlesnake got his fangs; she told us the story of why coyote howls, and of how he got his tail. The stories were all cute and creative, and I really enjoyed getting to listen and learn. All of the Flagstaff national monuments (and Flagstaff itself) are considered to be dark sky locations, and so after the storytelling portion of the evening, there was an opportunity to look at the stars. For star parties, one of the local astronomy groups comes to the park and sets up telescopes for viewing. I got to see Saturn, an exploded star, and several different star types. It was really neat to get to see the planets, stars and constellations. The astronomers were also very helpful in interpreting what I was looking at through the telescope. It was really neat to learn so much and to get to see the sky so full of stars.
On Sunday morning, I went to another Park Service program at Tuzigoot National Monument. The program was about scarlet macaws, and the group running it even brought a scarlet macaw along for the presentation. The macaw was a 7 year old named Sedona, and she was beautiful. Even though macaws aren’t native to the area, they do have a pretty extensive history in the area and remains of macaws have been found at many of the ruins sites in the area. It is still unclear if the macaws were used solely for trade, if they were used in sacrifices, or if their role was something else entirely. The presenter also talked about different conservation efforts with macaws going on today, and it was really neat to learn so much about the macaw’s history all the way through to today.
After the presentation, I went out and explored the Tuzigoot ruins. The ruins were a medium size community, with a tall central room that almost served as a tower. The view from the top of the whole community was beautiful, and the general landscape and view of the mountains around was also breathtaking. The trail around the ruins is only about 1/3 of a mile, so it didn’t take long to get through. The Tuzigoot ruins are sinagua ruins like the others from this weekend, but they did not have the same large storage rooms that the other sites had. Large pottery and storage vessels were still on display in the visitor’s center, so the people were still storing large quantities. Every room in the ruins also showed evidence of cooking, so it is thought that all rooms in the Tuzigoot ruins were multipurpose instead of having some dedicated for storage and some dedicated for living like some of the other ruins. Getting to Tuzigoot National Monument was also more challenging than expected. The roads were all fine getting there, but there weren’t any signs for the monument until like a mile before you get there. Most monuments it is easiest just to follow the road signs from the highway for the fastest route, but this is not possible for Tuzigoot. It was still easy enough to find with GPS, but the lack of signs did make GPS the only way to find it.
I had been planning on going to the Montezuma sites and then exploring a little bit around Sedona, but there are a lot of things to do around Sedona and I wasn’t sure what all I wanted to do or what all I could fit in one afternoon. I asked one of the rangers at Tuzigoot, and he actually suggested Jerome State Park which was maybe 5 miles from Tuzigoot (still about 20 miles from Sedona). I decided to follow his suggestion that it was a cool place to check out, and I headed to Jerome.
Jerome State Park is a sort of mansion that has been converted into a museum about the history of Jerome. Jerome was a major mining town until the 1930s-1940s, so a lot of the history is related to different aspects of mining. The Jerome mines were also a site in the union and labor fights, and it was really cool to see some of that history and the wage fights that went on. There were exhibits on the different minerals and stones that were found in the mines, and there was also displays on the history of the fire department in town. One of the rooms also had medical equipment and a small display on medical care during Jerome’s heyday in the 1920s-1930s. All of the exhibits and history were really neat, but I think my favorite part of the museum was the 3D maps of the mines. It was crazy to see how deep and how extensive the mines were below the city. Just outside of the state park, there is one of the old entry shafts into the mines. The access was covered by a clear platform so you could still see some of the depth of the shaft. The shaft was 1900 feet deep which was crazy to think about. Overall the Jerome park was fascinating, and I learned a lot about mining at the museum.
On the way to Jerome, I had passed the Copper Art Museum which looked like an interesting place to stop. The museum is in the old high school building that was abandoned in the 1940s when the mines closed. It was really neat to see not just the copper, but also the old high school building. The classrooms were all labeled with the subject that used to be taught in the room and the current exhibit n that room. Everything in the museum had to do with copper, but a lot of it was really interesting to learn about. The first room had some history of copper in mythology and legend. I learned that copper is associated with Venus and females, while iron is associated with Mars and males. The second room had memorabilia from copper in military life from pirate canons to WWI and WWII. There was a room entirely dedicated to copper’s role in art, architecture and religion. There was also a display about the 4 different finishes that copper can have with examples of each of their applications. There were rooms about cooking and drinking, as well as a display on copper in electricity. One of the last rooms I went in had a bunch of glass in the middle which seemed very out of place in the copper museum, but each of the colors of colored glass is made using a different metal. Light blue is formed by using copper, and not just for glass making but for anything colored light blue. From printer ink to textile to glass, everything that has a light blue color originally came from copper. The museum also had a small display of memorabilia from when it used to be a high school which was really neat to see that they were preserving that bit of history as well.
After the art museum, I made my way to the Montezuma sites. I started at the Montezuma well. The well is a mysterious continually filled natural well with dwellings along the sides. Vents along the bottom let water in to the well. Researchers have tried to send instruments into the vents to locate the original source of the water, but all of the instruments have been sent back out of the vents. The dwellings along the sides looked a lot like the dwellings at Walnut Canyon, but the overlook at the well was a lot closer to the dwellings than Walnut Canyon. There is also a short trail at the well that went right along the edge of the dwellings which was really cool.
The second Montezuma site is the Montezuma Castle. The castle was really a large living community cliff dwelling. The trail to see the castle made the view even more impressive. There are trees along the path until right before the castle, so the first view of the castle is of all of it at the same time. The castle was also built in a really good location to be sheltered from the elements and erosion, so 95% of the walls are original. It was definitely one of the more impressive ruins that I have seen. The trail to see the castle was maybe ¼ mile long, and then there was a continuation that was another ¼ mile to see some of the other ruins in the canyon and the river.
After Montezuma, I still wanted to explore some of Sedona. The drive in to Sedona was beautiful. I stopped a few times along the way to take pictures and look at the scenery. I also stopped at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The gate to the chapel was closed by the time I got there, but even from just outside the gate, looking up at the chapel was gorgeous. As I was getting in to Sedona, the sky was starting to get cloudy, and there was a beautiful rainbow. I stopped and took a picture of the rainbow, but then it started pouring.
I had been planning on exploring Sedona a little bit more, but because it was raining, I decided to just call it a day. Even without fully exploring Sedona, this weekend was full of sightseeing and adventure.
Adventure is out there,
This week’s adventures started right away on Monday. In 1982, Ronald Reagan declared August 14th to be National Navajo Code Talkers Day, and it has been celebrated every year since then. I was working during the celebrations for Code Talkers Day, but just getting to learn more about the code talkers and hear stories of how much the code talkers mean to people even today was pretty amazing. I didn’t get out to the tribal park and veteran’s memorial until Tuesday, but it was definitely worth the trip. The park is a gorgeous tribute to fallen Navajo soldiers. There is also a large code talker statue in the park with a plaque describing what the code talkers were all about. The park itself sits right under the window rock. It is also right next to the tribal government buildings, so flags and seals of the Navajo nation are abundant. It is a small park, but full of so much rich history. I am still amazed by how much I am learning about the Navajo people and culture.
This weekend’s adventures were a little more spontaneous than most of my other trips. In some ways this was really neat because I going several places that I wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise, and in some ways I wish I would have planned things out a little more to maximize what I was able to see and do at the places I went. This weekend was supposed to be mostly visiting Page and doing things in and around Page. I was going to go with a friend from work who has family in the area and knows what all to do, so I didn’t do much research of my own. My friend ended up not being able to go, and so I went solo for the weekend. The first thing to know about Page is that it was pretty much built so there would be housing for the men who were working on the Glen Canyon Dam, so there really isn’t a lot to do in the city itself. The second thing to know about Page is that it is expensive. Since it is pretty much the only town for visiting Lake Powell, a hotel that costs $70 elsewhere will cost close to $200 in Page. Many of the things to do near Page also cost a decent amount of money, and generally require advance booking.
The plan had been to drive in from Flagstaff on Saturday morning and spend the weekend in Page, visiting the different attractions in the area. When I got to Page however, I quickly realized my plans weren’t going to work out. Antelope Canyon was one of the suggested attractions, but it was a 6+ hour wait to go on a tour of the canyon. The boat tour that looked most interesting to me (to Rainbow Bridge National Monument) had already left for the day. And I’m not a huge water person so the idea of just sitting around at Lake Powell didn’t sound like too much fun. I thought my day was going to end up being a bust. I reserved a spot to tour Antelope Canyon on Sunday, and I decided the boat tour wasn’t worth the time. I looked at the map of the area, and I decided to salvage the afternoon by going to Zion National Park. Zion was not on my list of places to go while I was out here mostly because it is a 6 hour drive from where I am at, and I tried to plan my trips (with the exception of business related trips) to stay closer and hit more attractions per weekend. Since it wasn’t on my list at any time, I had done no research ahead of time and had no expectations.
As I was leaving Page, I stopped at the Glen Canyon Dam museum and overlook. It was a neat first look at the dam, and the museum had a ton of information about all kinds of factors of the dam. There was information on construction, why the site was chosen, power generation, and comparisons of different dam types. It was a really neat quick stop before heading up to Zion.
I got to Zion at about 2pm. The drive in through the Mt Carmel Tunnel was really neat, and gave a great first impression of the park. I parked at the visitor’s center, and took the shuttle bus into the park. I followed mostly the same strategy that I have at other parks of going as far out as possible and working my way back. The shuttle bus did have nice audio descriptions of stops and things to look for, and I tried to decided what I wanted to do based on these descriptions. The farthest stop from the visitor’s center is the temple of sinawava stop. I walked the 1 mile riverside trail (and 1 mile back) from the shuttle stop towards an area called the narrows. The narrows sounded like a really interesting area to explore, but when I got to the end of the riverside trail, the “trail” into the narrows was basically just walking upstream in the river so I decided not to go. It was very crowded along the trail and in the river. Along the way back, I walked for parts along more of the bank of the river instead of the trail, and I was able to find some spaces where there weren’t people everywhere. If I had planned ahead for hiking into the narrows, I think it would have been really cool. However, the riverside trail is probably one that I could have skipped since I did not do the narrows.
The next shuttle stop I got off at was weeping rock. I didn’t do any trails at weeping rock (although if I had more time to plan, I probably would have done weeping rock instead of the riverside trail). The stop did provide some nice views of the canyon and area, but I didn’t want to stray too far from the shuttle stop and end up waiting for another bus.
After weeping rock, I stopped at the Zion Lodge stop. The Zion Lodge area looks kind of like a college lawn in a movie. Lots of people hanging out talking or playing games on the green area in front of the lodge. Across the street from the lodge is the start of the emerald pools trail. There is a pretty good view of the river as you get close to the trail that has far fewer people that the temple of sinawava area. I only hiked to the first of the emerald pools which was about a 1.2 mile round trip. The pool was neat, and there was a sort of misty waterfall aver part of the trail. Doing some after research, this is a trail I wish I had gone further on. The trail continues for a mile or so more than I went, and has 2 more pool areas along it.
After the Zion Lodge area, I stopped at the museum. There was a ranger talk going on when I got there, and I decided to attend. The talk was on different animals found in the park, and compared them to Olympic athletes. It was really neat getting to learn a little more about the wildlife in the park. I did get to see several different animals while in the park. There were lots of squirrels that were very unafraid of people, but I also saw some turkeys, a doe and her fawn, and several bighorn sheep. After the talk, I stopped at a few overlooks on the way out of the park (including a few stops to look at sheep) and made my way back to Page.
Sunday morning, I started my Page adventures at Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon and has basically 3 access points. There is the Lower Canyon, Upper Canyon, and water access. I’m not sure about how the water access or how much it costs, but both the upper and lower canyon are part of the Navajo Nation and require a permit and a guide to enter. The upper canyon is known for its light beams coming down to the canyon floor, and cost to enter is around double the cost of the lower canyon. The upper canyon tours also don’t allow any backpacks, purses, etc., while the lower canyon does. 2 groups run tours for lower canyon, and I chose to go with Ken’s Tours. It cost $33 (including the Navajo permit) to go on the tour, and was 100% worth it. I went on the 8am tour, and there were a decent number of people, but it was not too crowded. The guide was also great about pointing out different features and making sure everyone got good pictures. The guide also knew which settings would pick up the canyon lighting the best given different outdoor lighting. At several stops along the way the guide took individual pictures for everyone in the group, and took pictures of some of the neat features of the canyon where it looks like sunsets on the walls. It was really awesome to not just have selfie shots as a solo traveller. The canyon itself was breathtaking and beautiful. Some people have said that it can feel claustrophobic and crowded, but it wasn’t too bad. I did go at an early time, so there weren’t as many people in the canyon. All the tours in the lower canyon are moving one way, and even though there were a decent number of people in the canyon it wasn’t too crammed. Most of the time, there is open sky above as well, which does help it feel less cramped.
After Antelope Canyon, I went to Horseshoe Bend. The trail to get to Horseshoe Bend is a mostly sandy .75 mile trail out and back over a small hill that is pretty much by itself just outside of Page. There is a small parking lot off the highway to get to the trail access. The edge near the bend was pretty crowded, and there weren’t a ton of good look out points. It seems like a lot of the photos with the full horseshoe in them must have been taken from drones or planes, because the height required to get the full horseshoe did not seem possible from the rim. It was still pretty neat to see the bend though, and there were people and boats down on the river which was also pretty neat to think about. The trail pretty much just serves as an access for the rim overlook, so once I had seen the bend I headed back. By the time I had finished the trail, it was still only about 10:30am. Besides Lake Powell, I had pretty much finished seeing Page.
Even though I’m not a huge lake and water person, I did decide to at least spend a little time at Lake Powell. I knew I wasn’t going to go on a boat tour, so I did not go to any of the marinas. There is a dirt access road to hiking trails and Lake Powell just before crossing the bridge, and I decided this would be my best bet. The parking lot was actually pretty close to the lake, and it was a short walk down to the edge of the water. There were several families swimming and hanging out in the area, but it wasn’t overly crowded at all. The water sort of just comes up to the rocky area at the edge of the canyon, which was different for me. The walk down was nice, and the rock formations were definitely neat to see. The lake itself was beautiful and the colors were amazing. The area was sort of smaller, and because of the way the rocks were, I couldn’t see too far out into the lake. Since the area I was at was so close to the dam, several boats passed by which was a nice reminder that it was attached to a larger lake. I did put my feet in the water even though I didn’t go swimming, and I really enjoyed getting to see the lake.
When I went up to Zion on Saturday, I had noticed signs for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. I didn’t have time to stop Saturday, but I decided to check it out on Sunday. The map showed 4 visitor’s centers for the monument, with the closest one in Big Water only 7 miles from Page. Signs for the visitor’s center are not super obvious, and mostly just advertise a dinosaur exhibit. The Big Water visitor’s center was pretty small, but did have some pretty cool dinosaur fossils. I asked the guide at the visitor’s center what could be done at the monument in an hour or two, and he gave me a map and sent me on my way to the toadstools trail. The toadstools trail is pretty much the only part of the park that is close to the Big Water visitor’s center. Many of the attractions of the park seem to be centered more near the other visitor’s centers. The toadstools trailhead is 11 miles from the visitor’s center, and the hike itself is about 1.5 miles to complete. The trail weaves through some of the beautiful landscape in the area, and finishes up near the toadstools formations. The formations are natural, but definitely look out of place. The trail was a little more difficult than I was expecting, but the views were definitely worth it.
After the toadstools, I started to head back to Fort Defiance, and I thought my weekend adventures were over. About an hour into my drive back, I saw signs for the Navajo National Monument. It wasn’t too late or too far out of the way, so I decided to stop. I got there 15 minutes before the visitor’s center closed, and got some information on the park. I looked around the museum, and I didn’t think I wanted to go on the Sandal Trail since I had walked so much already. After looking around the museum and seeing the dioramas, I decided I did want to go on the trail. The Sandal Trail is a 1.3 mile total trip to the overlook of the Betatakin cliff dwellings. The trail was completely paved, and very nice. It was by far the easiest walking of the trails I did this week. The overlook was very nice, and there were binoculars to really get a good look at the individual houses in the settlement. It was definitely a very nice view for the ease of the trail. On the way leaving the park, I stopped at the Tsegi Overlook which provided a great view of the area. It was a short trip at the park, but the views were great, and I’m glad that I made the decision to stop and check it out.
Also on the way back, I stopped to take pictures of a cool mural on the side of a water tank. I had seen the water tank before after visiting monument valley, but it was raining when I had passed it then. It’s neat to see the creative expression in different murals, and a lot of the murals (and graffiti) here do seem to be making statements that have larger meanings as well.
Even though not all of this week’s adventures were super planned out, they were all still a lot of fun. There are definitely things that I would have done differently if I had done some more planning, but I still really enjoyed my time and everything that I got to see and do this week. It’s hard to believe I fit that many things in to one weekend, and I don’t think I would have done it had I stuck to a more planned weekend.
Try something unexpected,