Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Page, AZ as our base

So here we are in Page, AZ. On the shores of Lake Powell. It's a man-made lake created when they dammed up the Colorado river at Glen Canyon. I had no expectations of this place. I had no idea the scenery here was so spectacular! The lake is vast and generally fairly inaccessible (unless of course you have a boat - Houseboating is enormously popular here - I want to come back one day and do that it looks such fun!). We have stayed at a great campsite in Page, bargain price and it's been so hot so we've indulged in some non-stop aircon action which has been very appreciated when we get back from long days out on the bike.

We went on a tour of Antelope Canyon - a very popular slot canyon. It's amazing and although we're pretty happy with our photos they don't do it justice. I must be honest I don't really understand quite how slot canyons are formed (wind & water obviously!) but they are just something else. The walls are smooth, almost polished and wave-like in shape and in many places you can touch both walls as they tower up above and in Antelope Canyon it was just a floor of perfect, pristine pale sands. Tours are popular and busy but we still got chance to savour the place and take plenty of photos!!

We've been getting up early the last couple of mornings. There's a really 'famous' desirable hike in the area. Very exclusive and preserved area they only issue permits to hike to 20 people a day. 1/2 are reservable in advance but the other 10 are offered to people in a lottery system. It didn't bode well. I was the person who had a standing order national lottery ticket and won NOTHING for a year!! In high season 80 people turn up to try to get lucky for the 10 permits. Oh dear me!! You have to be in to win as they say and we went yesterday at 9am and didn't get lucky :-( Second chance this morning and this time they give you 2 balls in the bucket - we got drawn 3rd and got our permits for tomorrow! - Hurrah!!

Back to yesterday though. Who'd have thought we'd be re-visting the Grand Canyon. Certainly not us. We visited in Spetember 2006 and hiked to the bottom and back and spent several days based at the South Rim. This time we were much closer to the North Rim and we couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit. This is the 'exclusive' side!! Apparently only about 10% of all park visitors come this side. It doesn't open till 15th May and closes again by mid-October (due to snow - it's at a higher elevation than the south rim). Visitor facilites are much smaller here but that added to it's appeal. Even on a busy day in high season the place was quite lovely - not at all teeming with people. And at 8800 feet we managed a midday hike (wouldn't contemplate that back at Page where we're staying!) Walked out to Cape Final - just a lovely view! Such a great day out we had to drag outselves away around 5pm. We had a long ride home to Page. ABout 3 hours. But the scenery on the ride was hardly an eyesore. Past the Vermillion Cliffs, over the Colorado river where the condors hang out (we didn't see any!) and a full moon to guide us home the last 30 miles to Page.

Today we visited another slot canyon. This time we didn't need a guide and it wasn't quite as popular as Antelope. We had to ride a nightmarish 8.5 miles on a horrid dirt track (we've got to do this again tomorrow to get to the trailhead for our 'special' hike). From the trailhead we walked 1.5 miles in a sandy wash then entered Buckskin Gulch. This goes on for miles and miles. We only walked about 2.5 miles before we turned around but it was a fab hike for the time of day. The walls were so high and narrow - in one place we had to walk sideways to get through! It meant the sun didn't get in much so it stayed beautifully cool and shaded almost the whole way.

On the way back to Page we visited the Glen Canyon Dam - the cause of Lake Powell. Watched the video of how/why it was built and took it the spectacular views.

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