Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon
20.01.2011 - 20.01.2011 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.