The skies are dark… The wind is howling… Gotta get outa here…
…to Page for breakfast with the local Navajos at McDonald’s and a grocery shopping stop.
Horseshoe Bend is on Highway 89, the road that’s closed after the first few miles. It’s freezing and drizzling but there are busloads of tourists already here. From the parking lot, we hike up a hill and then down a ways to the rim of the canyon, but when we get up to the gazebo on the hill, I realize I’m too cold to continue and have to run back to Sprockets to get our fleece stuff. And here I was, thinking that kind of weather was over after the Extreme Weather Trip in the winter.
There is no real path – just thick red sand and it’s difficult to walk, much less run in it when it’s wet. But when I finally get back with the fleece jackets and make it to the edge of the canyon, wow, oh, wow, is it worth it or what!
Down below is a big bend in the teal colored Colorado. A big, bulbous rock formation rises out of the bend on the other side. The river, looking greener in this weather, bends almost 360 degrees around the huge rock. Straining your eyes, you can see people camped on the sandy river bank below.
It’s all layers of red sandstone here, creating beautiful marbled shapes and textures and colors. Antelope Canyon – that famous canyon with the gorgeous strata – must be extra cool but in addition to a fee (which includes payment to a guide) there is a damn lottery now to get in. Oh well. Better that they limit access than have the place destroyed with these mobs of tourists.
The wind keeps howling as we head south, then east, then southwest, towards the Grand Canyon. We’re not sure where we’ll stay tonight but we’re on Navajo Land, so it won’t be before we enter Kaibab Forest, on the edge of Grand Canyon National Park.
There are lots of places that seem made for the vendors but the Navajo vendors are staying home today. No one wants to get out of their vehicles anyway.
Just beyond Little Colorado River Gorge is a viewpoint where we park and have lunch. The rain seems to have let up so we go out to walk to the edge of the canyon but it is bitterly cold. So cold, I get brain freeze. It’s no longer raining. It’s now snowing! Drifts of snow swirl in front of us as we approach the Grand Canyon.
At the entrance to the National Park, we ask about camping. Is it full? We have reservations from Sunday but it’s Saturday now. The ranger at the entrance looks and sounds pissed off about something.
“Ask at the campground,” he snarls.
“Bad Employee! Unfriendly Employee!” I want to admonish him. This is YOUR entrance, for christ’s sake.
First stop: Desert View, with a big stone watchtower built by Mary Colter using native aesthetics. Inside, the rough plaster walls are painted with different native images. Quite a unique and interesting structure!
The view is probably spectacular any other time, but we can’t see much through the drizzle, nor do we want to stay outside in the freezing wind. Plus, we don’t want to lose a campsite if there were only a few left. It is Saturday, after all, so we zip on to the campground.
The campground turns out to be not full at all. Maybe it’s still too early in the season, what with the snow and all. The guy who checks us in is just as unfriendly as the guy at the entrance! What’s the deal here? How can you be so pissy working in this amazing place? Maybe you should find a job in suburbia!
It’s too frigging freezing to want to do much exploring outside, especially this late in the day, so we stay inside and have an early dinner of ham and canned green beans, garbanzo bean soup with bread.
The outdoor faucets have not been turned on yet so the only running water here is in the heated bathroom structures. I hate washing dishes in bathroom sinks but that seems to be the only option here. Once again, oh well.