Day 2: Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon

Besides having a comfortable bed, the best part of waking up at a hotel is the free breakfast. The Page Quality Inn was really cheap, had a great room and king bed, and has a big hot breakfast spread. There were the usual eggs and breakfast meat, and everyone’s favorite: the waffle maker. We opted for the potatoes with hot sauce and I attempted the “blue mush,” which was described as a Native American version of grits. It was not good. The potatoes and OJ were a filling meal and the view was fantastic!

After some brief research we headed just down the road to the famous Horseshoe Bend. The trailhead was full of cars from all over the US, and people flooded up the short, steep embankment leading to the overlook. The trail was only about a half mile on a wide path so it was hardly a hike, and the edge was crowded with so many people that they were the most challenging obstacle to get around. Once at the edge the view is breathtaking. The river seems to whip around this massive tower of rock in an inexplicable curve. The scope of what you’re looking at is hard to comprehend until you see a tiny structure on the bank below and then everything feels ten times larger. To escape the crowd (and just to see if I could do it) I climbed out on a small rock outcropping and stood there for quite a while as Becca and lots of other tourists took my photo hanging above the thousand-foot drop. After getting all the photos I scrambled back onto solid ground and we made our way back to the parking lot.

Most people have seen photos of Antelope Canyon even if they don’t know that’s what it was. The picturesque slot canyon with sinuous red walls and shafts of light beaming in through the sand in the air is one of the most photographed places in southern Utah, and it has been featured in countless magazines, default backgrounds, and wonderful WordPress travel blogs. The popularity of this place has always kept me from visiting. You have to book a tour with a large group and pay an entrance fee. Even though National Parks charge fees to get in, I feel like those fees go toward park improvements and places like this are more for-profit. My thinking could be flawed, but nevertheless we decided to give it a try!

First off, there’s a waiting room. We only had to wait about 45 minutes from the time we arrived to start our tour, but the whole commercial aspect was amusing. Once our tour guide, Rihanna, introduced herself we took the short walk to the corral above the canyon entrance where about a hundred people from different tour groups were in queue. Here we waited for the better part of a half hour as people slowly filed down a narrow stairway to get into the canyon. Our guide pleasantly chatted with us about other hikes in the area and where we came from which helped pass the time. As we descended the stairs, guides from below yelled up at people taking photos down into the canyon. It was explained to us that they have had incidents of people dropping cell phones and water bottles from above so they have instituted a “no photos on the stairs” policy. This is a phrase we would hear repeatedly throughout the tour. The long climb down the stairs ended on the sandy wash floor of Antelope Canyon and we got our first views of the slots.

Someone in an online review described this tour as “waiting in line at Magic Mountain” and that description was perfect. The hordes of tourists snaked through the narrow corridors slowly, which ended up being great for getting the shots I wanted. Avoiding the people meant I had to shoot aiming upward most of the time, but that’s where the best views seem to be anyway. A few times I was able to wait out the people in front of us to get a clear shot of the full, open canyon. Our guide actually held me back and told me to shoot with the photography tour and then catch up to them when I’m done. The canyon felt longer than I expected, and I came out the other side with a smile on my face, lots of good photos, and a new, less-jaded opinion of Antelope Canyon tours. It was well-worth the money, and the guides really made the experience better among the flocks of people and their children bumping into one another. I highly recommend checking it out and using Ken’s Tours!

We felt good about our day in Page so we hit the road to Flagstaff, where we attempted to find a park or overlook for sunset. We ended up wandering at the Observatory, but found out it closes early on Sunday so we couldn’t explore too much. We settled on a little pull-off above town where the late-day sun washed over it as the shadow of the mountain behind us overtook the rest. Then we were ready for a beer. Dark Sky Brewing is right down the road from the observatory, and it’s a cute little space with string lights and Brewing tanks in full view. We got a flight of beers that included a great IPA, a rye sour, an amazing coffee vanilla pale ale, and a coconut coffee stout that may as well have been a candy bar. We had a really nice time there looking at photos from the day and talking about our big Grand Canyon hike for tomorrow.

We found a local pizza shop, Pizza Patio, that makes vegan pies and got one for the drive to our hotel. We got vegan buffalo cheese and sausage, which turned out to be wonderful. The man running the shop was super friendly and interested in my thoughts about vegan options so he could expand his menu. The drive to our hotel was short and the $33/night room was just perfect! Another great day on the books.

dm.rt

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