Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Other Side of the Grand Canyon...Page, Arizona

Somewhere in the northeastern corner of Arizona, lies the town of Page.  It's past the narrow beginning of the Grand Canyon and above the Cameron Trading Post.  At the moment, they've had a partial road collapse on route 89 and you even have to take a 45 minute detour to get there if you come from the south somewhere like Flagstaff.  Here's the thing.  You can go to the Grand Canyon's south rim and see all the beauty you can absorb.  There's dining, lodging, hiking, burro travel, tours to Phantom Ranch, and even a train.  It's amazing.  I admit that.  But, if you never go to the lands along the north rim, you'll be missing something amazing.

Page, Arizona is the home of Lake Powell.  Lake Powell was largely formed when the upper Colorado River was regulated by Glen Canyon Dam.  The sandstone that is the lake and it's edges make for a colorful landscape that also gives the feeling of being on an entirely different planet.  There are many who would argue that it's the most beautiful lake in the world.  It covers an enormous area stretching up into Utah, and is one of the best places in the world to go house boating.   There are several companies along the shores of Lake Powell that rent houseboats out by the day and week for the tourists, as well as wave runners, speed boats and fishing equipment.  It's one of the biggest water recreation areas in Arizona topped only by Lake Meade.  Along it's shores you will find many tributaries to investigate, and with a permit, you can visit the Rainbow Bridge, the worlds largest natural bridge.  Be careful to be respectful when visiting this monument.  It's on Navajo land and it is a sacred point to them.

Page is a wonderful little town, and it's directly on the Navajo Reservation.  There's a good portion of this town devoted to the tourists.  There's every imaginable hotel chain, there's a Walmart, and they have a McDonalds with the best view I've ever seen.  Most people, myself included, don't really bother to take pictures of the town, because there are so many beautiful things around to look at.  It just gets overshadowed by the art that God provides.  I can say that there are a ton of shops devoted to both the ridiculous souvenirs that we all love to buy and the native handicrafts that are purely works of art.  So the shopping here is amazing.  I don't normally mention that, but there it is.  There is also the Indian culture to absorb.  There is amazing food to be tried, those beautiful handicrafts I mentioned and then there's the dance.  In the summer, which is the height of tourist season here, a couple of nights a week, the locals will put on a dancing demonstration, and if you like, they will teach you to join in.  Page is a great place to use as a hub for your north rim area adventure.
While you're in the area, you need to take the road trip out to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  There's not as much to do out there as there is on the south rim, but the views are amazing.  Even the drive through the Kaibob Plateau on the way there is amazing.  The seasons  are more defined along the north rim.  It snows there in the winter...a lot.  You should check to see if the north rim is open if you plan a spring trip.  Sometimes the snow can block the roads well into May.

Once you arrive at the north rim, you will notice the difference between it and it's counterpart.  Here you can look back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt, when the national parks system was new.  The Grand Canyon Lodge was built in 1928 with all the grandeur of the day.  It's stone facade and rustic yet grand interior has made it a draw on the north rim even to this day.  There are rooms available in the lodge, excellent dining and cabins for rent on the property if you want to do it the old fashioned way.  But the best part to me was the view.  You can sit on the terrace of this amazing old lodge and look out over the Grand Canyon.  It's hands down the best view anywhere of this stunning natural wonder.
While you're out touring the nether regions of the Grand Canyon, you have to stop at both Lee's Ferry and the Cameron Trading Post.  If you like to stop along the way and find kitchy things to see, these are for you.  Lee's Ferry is an abandoned town, founded by the man who some credit with finding the Grand Canyon.  I'm sure lots of people knew it was there, but the story is good.  Down in Lee's Ferry there are more natural sights to see.  This is where you can hike amongst the red dunes.  They're a sandstone formation the looks like striped dunes.  They're fascinating and shouldn't be missed.  The Cameron Trading Post is a wonder perched along the edge of the river right at the bridge on the road headed for Page.  This place has great Navajo Tacos.  I had to throw that in.  It also has some amazing shopping.  The place is huge and has every handicraft and every stupid little souvenir you've ever seen.  They also have a complete clothing department, and groceries.  It's spectacular.
As you drive back to Page, you'll pass the Red Cliffs which glow in the sun, and you'll wonder what else could make your trip special.  This is where the adventure truly begins.

Antelope Canyon is one of the most unusual places I've ever been.  There are many slot canyons, as they're called throughout the Arizona/Utah area.  Antelope Canyon lies directly on Navajo land, is sacred, and is the most famous one in the world.  In order to go into the canyon, you must go with a native guide, so if someone who is not a native offers to take you there, don't go.  It's against the laws of the Navajo Nation.  Now, you can drive out to the desert and meet up with the tour, or you can just ride from Page.  The giant tired trucks that take you to the canyon are quite a fun ride.  They do bounce a bit, but it's all part of the adventure.
Antelope Canyon has an upper and a lower section.  The most popular is the upper section.  It's the easiest to get to and doesn't fill up with water very often.  The canyon is only about a quarter of a mile long, but it's amazing.  In the beginning, the red rocks glow in the sun, but as you get further into the canyon, the magic starts.
The walls grow higher, the pathway gets narrower, and the colors change almost continually as the sun moves across the sky.
Water carved these amazing slot canyons with their curves and twists, but the sunlight brings out the full beauty.

No two pictures are alike.  You feel like you've been transported somewhere when you're walking through the canyons.  It's an experience that you can't get from a picture.  You simply have to be there.

So, take a walk on the north side.  Come to Page and make it the hub for your north rim adventure.  Stay on a houseboat on Lake Powell, visit Glen Canyon Dam, see the Cameron Trading Post, Red Cliffs and Lee's Ferry.  Visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and enjoy the Navajo Culture in Page.  And, by all means, take the time to have the real adventure of a lifetime.  Visit the slot canyons--mainly Antelope Canyon, and have an experience that you'll never forget.
Things that you do have to remember for this trip.  Make sure that you go with a guide to Antelope Canyon.  Make sure that you have a permit to go to Rainbow Bridge.  Make sure you book your houseboat before the season begins.  Be prepared for detours on route 89.  Be aware that the seasons in the area are somewhat harsh at times.  Not all of Arizona is warm year round.  And by all means, have lunch at that McDonald's with a view.  Enjoy!

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