A Travellerspoint blog

February 2011

Southwest Trip 2011 Day 4

Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon

sunny 45 °F

Our last day on our SW adventure dawned clear and cold. It was in the 30s when we headed for the BF room. Good selection: hot & cold cereal, fresh fruit, yogurt, toast, rolls, hot/cold beverages. After BF we loaded up the car and off we go to Monument Valley (MV). We stopped to pay the $5/person fee to enter the Navaho Tribal Park. We walked into the Tribal HQ building looking for the bathrooms. Information booth, gift shop, police, administrative offices plus bathrooms are in one large building. After talking to several people, we decide to take our car on the 17 mile (29km) loop through MV. Even though the Mercedes does not have much clearance, we made it w/o problems. The ground was hard and they had graded the road not too long ago. Check with the info people and those in the gift shop for present road conditions. They will tell you if your car can make it w/o damage. We just went slow in the difficult sections. Tours are around $45/person at Goulding's, $65 if you use the Navaho guides there at the park. They do take you to a few places in MV that are off-limits to those doing it on their own.

We took about an hour to drive the self guided tour, stopping frequently to take photos. We were lucky that there was snow on the ground in the shade. Made for better photos. Most visitors will tour MV during the warmer months, but winter is a great time to visit. Very few tourists there, no dust kicked up by each passing car and you really feel like you have the place to yourself. I think we saw 3 cars in our hour driving the loop. MV has been used as a backdrop for many films over the years. Director John Ford used it for many of his westerns back in the 1930s & 40s. Best known were 'The Searchers & 'Stagecoach', both starring John Wayne. More recent films include 'Forrest Gump' and 'Back to the Future III'. Some of the mesas and buttes are over 1,000ft (300 meters) tall and make for spectacular backdrops for TV commercials and film.

After leaving MV, we decided to head home. Both Chris and I want to see Antelope Canyon, just outside of Page AZ. Back on to US163, we turned off onto US160, through Kayenta, onto 98 heading for Page. You will see a long flume that links up with a railroad. This is coal being mined and transported for use at the Navaho Generating Station (NGS). Once you get closer to Page, you will see the NGS. Opened in 1975, the NGS produces 2280 megawatts of power for AZ, NV & Calif. The trains from Kayenta arrive every other day with coal to keep it running. At least that is what our Navaho guide told us.

You will see small signs offering tours to Antelope Canyon (AC) just after passing the NGS. We turned off at the first sign but nobody was around. Less that a mile on we see another tour sign. There are a few cars here so that looks more promising. We talked to the Navaho guy standing by his vehicle. He is offering tours to Upper AC (UAC. But after a few minute discussion, he tells us that we are better off taking a tour of Lower AC (LAC). In the winter, sunlight cannot get into UAC. Almost all photographers have seen the iconic sunlight shaft photo from UAC. Not possible in Jan. We drive across 98 to another tour operator. This will be on the right side of 98 as you are heading into Page. You can book & pay for tours w/o going into Page. Most visitors will hit Page first, but if you are coming in from MV, you can just take your tour like we did. It was almost noon, but we were the only ones ready to go. We chat with the young Navaho guys that will lead the tours. They tell us 5 Japanese tourists are coming from Page in 10 minutes and then we can start our tour. This is the advantage of going to AC in off season. Not many tourists, but we still had sunny blue skies. It was cold enough for jackets, but a still a very pleasant day. We paid our $26 fee and waited. Once the Japanese arrived from Page, off we go.

It is an easy walk down to the wash that is the start of our tour. There is a marker before you enter LAC that tells you about a tragic accident in 1997. 11 people were killed in a flash flood that roared through LAC w/o warning. It rained many miles away, but AC is the drainage area for water flowing to the Colorado River. Millions of years of water erosion created the slot canyon we see today. Our guide told us that all groups must now have a Navaho guide to avoid another tragedy. Years ago you could explore LAC on your own. Not today. There are also a series of nets located on the top that can be thrown into LAC to help stop people caught in a flash flood.

We climb down a long ladder to enter LAC. This is not easy for those with mobility issues. I am not so flexible now, but made it OK. Now we are in the slot canyon so many have seen in photos. We let the Japanese go ahead of us so we can have photos w/o anyone in them. This may not be possible during peak tourist season. Our guide tells us groups go every 10 minutes during summer season. It would be very difficult to enjoy LAC with that many people trudging through the canyon. Go off season if possible. Chris and I took as many photos as we could while navigating the slot canyon. It gets very narrow in places, but I made it so you can as well. There are quite a few steps up the ladders to get out of LAC. Again, if you have mobility issues, tour UAC instead. That is an easy walk on flat ground, no ladders.

After our tour, we head for Vegas. In Kanab we got petrol and asked about the road into Zion NP. Good thing we did. They charge $25/car to enter Zion. I don't think that is fair. We were not going into the park, just using route 9 to get to Hurricane UT and link up with I-15. We decide to go through Fredonia, up into UT via Colorado City. Americans will know Colorado City as the home to Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). An offshoot of the Mormon Church that still believe in plural marriage. Even though the Mormon Church has banned polygamy for many years, the FLDS group in Colorado City still practice plural marriage. We do see several girls in the granny dresses that reach the floor, but do not stop. On to St. George UT for petrol, food and we arrive in Vegas about 8pm. Our 4 day adventure through the SW is over.

Posted by vegasmike6 23:05 Archived in USA Tagged canyons Comments (0)

Southwest Trip 2011 Day 3

Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde & Four Corners

sunny 40 °F

We get up at 7am and head for the BF room. The Super 8 really puts out a good spread. Waffles, hot & cold cereal, fruit, toast, bagels, donuts, hot & cold beverages. I choose waffles, fruit, hot choc. We take a few bananas for lunch and off we go. Bernalillo is north of Albuquerque and perfect if you are heading for Chaco Canyon (CC). A hour or so up 550 and you turn onto a dirt road at the CC sign. We get to CC by 10am, pay the $8 fee then hit the bathroom. Very basic facilities at CC. They are using a trailer because they are building a new visitors center. We were the first ones to arrive according to the ranger. Chris has been here before but not in the winter. It is cool & windy, but at least it is sunny and not really a bad day. CC is basically a loop and we head out. The best place to stop IMO is the Pueblo Bonito/Chetro Ketl lot. We grab our cameras and walk the entire loop. Some of CC is in decent condition, but most of the buildings are in pretty sad shape. You can see where the buildings were, but most are now just low walls. All the ceilings fall in over time. After over an hour of walking, my knee hurts and we have enough photos of CC. & the petroglyphs. We retrace our way onto the dirt road heading for 550.

After leaving Chaco Canyon, we head north on US 550 to Durango. We gas up in Durango and head west on 160 for Mesa Verde National Park (MVNP). As the road climbs, we start to get light snow. MVNP is open all year, but not many attractions are open during the winter. We hit the entrance fee booth, pay our $8 and talk to the ranger. They are offering ranger led tours of Spruce Tree House at 3:00pm he tells us. If we push hard we could make it. Did not happen. It is 21 miles at 35mph to Spruce Tree House. There is road repair going on and we wait for 15 minutes while they hold up traffic. We look at the map and decide to do the Chapin Mesa loop before the Museum. It is snowing hard now, cold and windy. Really unpleasant to get out of the car. We do snap a few photos of cliff dwellings across the valley from the observation pull outs. That will have to do it for us this time as it is getting dark by the time we leave MVNP. I visited MVNP many years ago during the summer and will visit it again when it is warmer. MVNP is worth a day of your time IMO.

After leaving MVNP, we head west on 160 for Cortez. Before we get to Cortez, the snow has stopped and it is OK again. We both want to visit Four Corners (FC). This is the only place in the US that 4 states have a common border. Utah, Colorado, New Mexico & Arizona all meet at FC. In all my years traveling around the west, I have never stopped to visit FC. We get there at 5:15pm and are in for a rude shock. The gates are closed and 'No Trespassing' signs are everywhere. It seems the Navaho Nation have taken control over FC. Years ago a friend of mine slept with his head in AZ and his body in NM. Not anymore. The Navaho control access to FC and now charge an entrance fee of $5. Chris and I try to find a motel not too far from FC so we can come back in the morning. No luck. The closest place is Cortez and that is the wrong way for us. We decide to motor on to Kayenta AZ. Smack dab inside the Navaho Nation, Kayenta is the only town around with any size at all. We gas up and start looking for a room. It won't take long as there are only 3 places to stay in Kayenta. We price each one and it is going to be the most expensive room of the trip. The Wetherill Inn gets our business as it is $76 for 2, taxes included. It includes WiFi and BF. Both others are closer to $100 when taxes are included. Chris and I book a room and head out for something to eat. Kayenta has a few selections, but we vote for Subway. A $5 foot long and that will do for tonight. We go back to our room, shower, some photo editing, TV, and bed by 10pm.

Posted by vegasmike6 12:34 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes Comments (0)

Southwest Trip 2011 Day 2

Day Two; Carlsbad Caverns

sunny 45 °F

We are up at 7am and head for the office. With a cheap room you get a cheap breakfast (BF). Cold cereal, fruit, juice, hot chocolate/coffee. I have cereal and grab some bananas for a snack before we head for Carlsbad Caverns (CCs). We take 380 to Roswell, home of a famous UFO sighting. Or alleged sighting. Most Americans know the story of Roswell, but perhaps our foreign TP members do not. We are not interested in the UFO stuff and head south on 285. After hitting the city of Carlsbad, we take 62/180 south to CCs.

Nice new Visitors Center at CCs, $6 to enter the caverns. Chris has been to CCs many years ago and says it is better to walk down to the Big Room. OK, off we go. It is all paved and in great condition, but pretty difficult if you have mobility issues. It is about 1 mile(1.6km) to the Big Room, dropping 750 feet(235 meters). My knee holds up, but I am starting to limp by the time we make the Big Room loop. There is a short-cut to the elevators about half way along the loop and we vote to leave the cavern. We have enough photos of all the cave features. After a elevator ride to the top, we leave CCs. There are plenty of yuccas at this elevation and we stop for a few photos. Chris decides to go back to Albuquerque via El Paso. Not the best choice as it the longer route. Once we make it to Albuquerque we hit another Denny's for dinner. They have a decent menu at decent prices, no surprises when you dine at Denny's. We drive north of the city to look for a room and choose Bernalillo. It is right at the junction at I-25 & 550, the road to Chaco Canyon. We price several motels and tell the desk clerk at the Super 8 that we can stay at Motel 6 for $50 including tax. She plays with the computer and offers us an AARP rate of $53 including taxes, includes BF. Since I see they have a waffle maker, so we vote to stay at the Super 8. We unpack, shower, a bit of photo editing, TV, bed at 10pm. That ends day 2 of our SW trip.

Posted by vegasmike6 10:11 Archived in USA Tagged cave Comments (0)

Southwest Trip 2011 Day 1

Day One: Bridge, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest

sunny 40 °F

One of my friends is back from Thailand and suggests a 4-5 day trip around the SW to hit Indian areas and National Parks. Since it is his idea, we use Chris's Mercedes SLS. It only seats 2 and has a small trunk, but I would rather put 2K miles (3.2K km) on his car than mine. I will pack light and get used to a small car. We pick Jan 17 as our start day.


I drive to Chris's house at 6:30am, leave my car in his garage and off we go. We stop at the new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge for some photos. The official name is: The Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. I was lucky enough to walk over the bridge on Oct. 16th, the only day pedestrians will ever be allowed to walk in the travel lanes of the new bridge. I have plenty of dam and bridge pictures, but Chris did not. After about an hour walking to the bridge and stopping on the AZ side for photos, we headed off on US93 for Kingman. Onto I-40 and head for Flagstaff. We stop for petrol and a snack and off we go to tour Meteor Crater (MC). It was only $9 to enter because the restrooms were out of order. Normally it is $15. They had a hard freeze a few days before and the toilets were still not working. I am a bit ambivalent about MC. It is just a huge hole in the ground and worth perhaps a half hour. Will never go again, but maybe if you are in the area and want to see a big hole in the ground, it might be worth your time/money. We tour the exhibits, get our photos and back on the road.


Next up is Holbrook AZ. It is on historic Route 66 and worth a quick look. I took a few photos of an old motel and we turn off onto highway 180. There are plenty of petrified wood (PW) shops along the way to the Petrified Forest National Park (PFNP). We pick the largest store, buy a piece of PW, photos and enter the PFNP. Free admission today because it is MLK Day. We stop at the Visitor Center (VC) and chat with the ladies at the desk. If you are pressed for time, this is the one stop to make. There are plenty of PW behind the VC and it is very accessible. There is still snow on the ground 2 weeks after the last storm. We get our photos and head towards the north entrance & I-40. I think we should of taken the hike to Long Logs, but after 30 shots of PW, we had enough. Back onto I-40 and now we are just trying to get as close to Carlsbad Caverns National Park (CCNP) as we can today.

We decide to stop in Socorro NM. We fill up with gas and decide to eat at Denny's. I have eggs/pancakes, Chris goes for a burger. Across the street is a Rodeway Inn Motel. We saw some signs on our drive through Socorro for $33 rooms. I tell the guy at the desk this and we start negotiating. They are far from full and it is 9:30pm. Good time to bargain. All motels add about $10 for second person then add the taxes. We agree that $45 with all taxes included plus breakfast is fair. Pay cash and head for the room. Chris has a laptop and starts editing his photos. I get a shower, some TV, read, time for bed. Day one of our swing through the SW is over.

Posted by vegasmike6 16:46 Archived in USA Tagged road trip Comments (0)

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