We had left Flagstaff fairly late and it wasn’t until pitch dark that we drove into the grounds of a free overnight spot just before the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. We were still travelling together with Thomas and Sima.
We experienced our coldest night yet. The weather forecast told us that we would reach temperatures of -12. Since we have full confidence in our sleeping bags, we were not worried about being able to sleep. Eddy programmed the heater at 06:00 the next morning. That way the heating had an extra hour to make our coffee time comfortable, which worked out well.
As mentioned earlier, the Grand Canyon was not initially on the program, but then when we practically drove by it, it was a must-do. Both of us had seen the canyon separately before and were curious to see if it would still generate that “wow feeling” in us.
At the visitor center, we made a plan for the day. We would drive to the farthest point with the park-provided free transit buses and then would hike back. On the way to Hermits Rest we got our first views of that huge hole in the earth’s crust. At the terminus we got off and had to let this impressive sight sink in for a moment. The “wow feeling” returned. For minutes we stared into the canyon and took one picture after another. The different layers of rocks are easily distinguishable from each other due to the variety of colors.
Along the way we even saw two wapiti grazing among the trees and at Grand Canyon Village we counted a total of six bighorn sheep who cared little for the 1,000-meter deep precipice. Standing in the sun on top of the Rim we looked down and saw the brown Colorado River making its way through the Canyon.
At Desert View Point we watched as the sun disappeared behind the Rim, making it an even more beautiful spectacle of color that it already was.
After another cold night just past the national park border, we woke up to bright sunshine. Eddy wasn’t feeling too well; he had a sore throat and a cough. It was one of the less good nights; neither of us had slept much. The sun diligently thawed our car, even so quickly that we had to place a bowl in the camper to catch the water. After that we continued north.
The drive took just under 2 hours and led through relatively barren land across the Navajo Reservation. Left and right of the way we saw again and again the dwellings of the indigenous people, everything looked quite run down and poor. In this landscape you can neither grow anything nor keep animals, and we did not see any other work opportunities. Everywhere there were small stalls for Indian jewelry and other art of the Native Americans. There was nothing going on, most of the stalls were deserted.
20 kilometers before Page we turned left and drove towards the Grand Canyon North Rim. The rocky landscapes along the road became more and more magical, everything shone in shades of red and gray. It was beautiful to look at. Near the town of Marble Canyon is the Navajo Bridge, the first bridge over the Colorado River, which was built in 1929. Before it was built, there was no way to cross this river until 900 kilometers away.
The water glowed green and we saw some people with big telescope lenses and film cameras on the bridge. It turned out that these people were watching a Condor- female and her chick. Shortly after, we saw mama condor gliding along the rocks, looking for the right updraft. There are about 120 condors in this area. After this species was already considered extinct in North America in the early 1920s, some specimens were later reintroduced and the population is visibly recovering. They are slightly smaller than their conspecifics in the Andes.
The filmmakers told us that they were watching the nest and waiting for the young condor’s maiden flight, which had to happen anytime. They had already been standing on this bridge for 10 days waiting for this event. We would have liked to wait, but unfortunately we didn’t have that much time. We looked at some more cave dwellings of the Navajo and drove towards Page.
Just before Page is another scenic highlight of Arizona, Horseshoe Bend. Here the Colorado River makes a perfect 270-degree-bend, giving the Glen Canyon a horseshoe shape. At the viewpoint it was so crowded with tourists that it was almost impossible to take a photo. It is one of the most photographed natural wonders in the American Southwest and there are now 2 million visitors per year.
In Page we visited the Glen Canyon Dam. It is one of the largest dams in North America and a structural masterpiece. The dam impounds the Colorado River and with its construction in the 1950s and 60s Lake Powell was formed, the second largest reservoir in the USA. The dam provides sufficient water for the otherwise arid states of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and California. It also generates electricity for about 2 million homes a year.
After learning about the construction of the dam and the nature in this environment at the visitor center, we drove along the lake for a bit. We marveled at the meandering river, the beautiful rocky landscapes on the shore, the contrast between the blue of the water and the brown and ochre tones of the landscape. In the distance, Mount Navajo rose into the sky and we saw some other curious rock formations, like Tower Butte. Just before sunset, we headed back to Walmart. Here we stayed another night before continuing on to Utah.
On the way to Zion National Park we spontaneously stopped at the visitor center of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. In the visitor center there was a small dinosaur exhibition with real footprints and imitated skulls of dinosaurs. On the map of the huge park we found an interesting hike that started right off the highway.
About 10 kilometers down the road, we parked at the trailhead of the Toadstools Trail. This 2.5 kilometer trail again led through a bizarre rock and tuff landscape. The colors changed from white to gray to brown. After a while we saw the first hoodoos, like mushrooms they shot out of the ground. These hoodoos are formed when the hard rock from the upper layer breaks off and falls onto the soft tuff. This place is then protected from erosion by water and wind and then remains as a column with a lid longer than the rock around it. It was again wonderful to look at and we just can’t get enough of all these fairytale sceneries. And there was much more waiting for us in this special state of Utah.