Day 3 – The Grand Canyon / Lake Powell
This morning I woke up at 4:30 am to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. In the process of getting myself together, I woke up Christina, so she eventually made her way to the rim for the sunrise as well, but I walked over alone, enjoying the quiet and peaceful desert alone.
During my search for the best spot to witness the event, I ran into a guy about my age who asked if I could take his picture. He said he had just hiked to the bottom and back up in one go, and it took him 14 hours. His advice was to be a bit more prepared, as he only brought some extra clothes, and not even a light for the night. Some rangers at the bottom gave him a headlamp, advising him not to go back up once he got to the bottom. He didn’t listen, and luckily made it back, but later Sven was telling us about all the fatalities of people attempting to do the hike in one day.
There is even a book, Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon, about all the deaths that have happened here. I opened up to the first chapter, and it had a list of people who died by falling off the edge. It was a little depressing for my taste, but I know Dad (Yakima County Coroner, for those who don’t know) would be interested.
I also ran into some elk and baby deer while I was on my search, and it was amazing because they were extremely calm around people. I was only a few feet away from them while they were grazing in the lawn right outside one of the hotels, and they barely looked up.
After the sunrise, I head to the cafeteria for breakfast (this place totally feels like an adult version of Camp Dudley) before we embarked on our first excursion, the helicopter ride. We were so excited we could hardly stand it. We were told that, for security reasons (since 9/11), we were not allowed to bring anything besides our cameras. However, once we got inside, this didn’t seem to be the case. No one cared that Christina had her emergency medications or phone.
The company seemed a little unorganized. They even lead us out to the tarmac, only to lead us back inside at one point. But once we got in the helicopter and got up in the air, none of that mattered. I’ve never been in a helicopter. It feels similar to a fair ride, jostling back and forth, and turning and dipping at times, making your heart go up in your chest. But that feeling was nothing compared to how my heart felt when we flew over the drop of the canyon. Sven said there was no other way to see the canyon, and he was right. You can stand at a viewpoint and lose your breath, or you can fly above it and breath it all in. It was everything I experienced the day before times ten. Incredible.
Christina and I in the Helicopter
The Grand Canyon from Up Top
Minus the goofy Indiana Jones and Star Wars music they had playing in our earphones. I could just picture riding in this helicopter with Mom, Indiana Jones theme music coming on, and her jamming out in the seat behind the pilot. It made me smile to think about it. The Scottish couple next to me seemed pretty nervous, especially the wife. She didn’t look out the side windows once and she kept her fingers tightly wound around her husband’s hand. Too bad. It was an experience of a lifetime.
Once we landed and boarded the bus to head toward our last viewpoint of the Grand Canyon, I contemplated how I watched the sunrise and saw it from a helicopter all before 9:30 am. It was already one of the best days, ever. Our last stop was at Desert View, where we could climb up a Pueblo Tower to get another fabulous view (is there anything but?) from the top. Christina and I wandered around, spotted some lizards, admired the bare trees, and then climbed the tower. Inside were painted some petroglyphs and a narrow staircase that reminded me of when Mom and I climbed up the old windmill in Holland. Interesting how something across the world can spur a memory of something seemingly so different.
Inside, winding up you can see the imitation petroglyphs
As we drove off, Sven told us the interesting history of the Navajo Indians as we crossed onto the largest reservation in the world (the size of West Virginia!). As he described their early lifestyle, it amazed me that any civilization could survive out here at all. And why? Since the Natives could do it, the government thought they could as well. Thus happened the long walk of 1864, when the government destroyed their homes and crops and marched the Navajo to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. Of course, they failed to survive on the land, declared it a wasteland, and gave it back to the Navajo four years later.
What is interesting is there are no casinos on the reservation, and it is also illegal to sell any alcohol because “they are afraid of addiction,” as Sven stated. However, we also think that the fact that they are mostly Mormon may also have something to do with it. We later found out that the are building a casino on the New Mexico portion of the reservation, despite it being voted down twice.
We stopped by Marble Canyon, one of the places they filmed Maverick, which I know Mom will be jealous to hear. I’m thinking that it could be the place they filmed the scene with the runaway carriage and horses, where Mel (or rather his stunt double) stopped the carriage from going over the edge of the canyon.
Another surprise stop was made at the Glen Canyon Dam, the second largest dam in America (only 16 feet smaller than Hoover Dam). We were able to walk across the bridge to get some great photos, and also to see where we would be starting our float trip tomorrow.
Glen Canyon Dam
Rafts from Above
Once we got to Lake Powell Resort, we had a few minutes to rest and freshen up before taking a river cruise. We were both reluctant to go, wondering what could possibly be so different about the rock formations of Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon. It ended up being amazing. We learned that Lake Powell is the second largest man-made lake, about 186 miles long. If you line up all of its shoreline, it would be 1,960 miles—longer than the entire length of the West Coast. Holy. Moly. We were also told by our automated guide that this was the place where Britney Spears revealed to the world that she was “not a girl, not yet (pause) a woman.” That’s sure important to know.
Then we entered antelope canyon. How can rock be so different within a mile? It is believed that, before the tectonic plates moved to where they are now, the area was very close to the equator. The area would have been filled with sand dunes. As the plates shifted and the climate changed, the dunes calcified, and the wind and water molded the smooth, bulging rock into what it looks like now. As we slowly moved through the narrowing canyon, it was as if we were on a set in a movie or something. It just doesn’t look real. You want to reach out and touch it just to make sure (they discourage that). It was an amazing surprise, and would be such a serene place to kayak or canoe, where you could keep meandering through the rocks until it became too narrow to get through. At that point it is what they call a “slot” canyon, which we will be able to see tomorrow during our Antelope Canyon Slot Tour excursion.
Finally we had some free time before dinner where I could get a run in. Christina and I originally tried the fitness room, but her levels weren’t cooperating, so she had to sit this one out. I then decided that the fitness room was too constricting, so I got outside and started out on what looked like a nature trail. I was right! It took me right along the edge of the lake all the way to Utah (only a few miles from the resort, but it sure sounds impressive). I saw a handful of wild hares and baby bunnies, and some sunbathing lizards scurried out of my way. I got to watch the sun go down, the colors of Castle Rock turning from orange, to red, to purple; the many houseboats sitting quietly on the surface like matchboxes sitting on a glass table.
I didn’t mention the houseboats. Many people come here to rent houseboats and float on the lake for a few weeks at a time. However, they don’t look like the houseboats in Seattle, which look like actual houses sitting on a raft. These are like RVs on water, all with a water slide off the back. It would definitely be an experience.
House Boats on Lake Powell
Anyway, we had dinner reservations at 8:00 pm with a few of the other guests. We didn’t know WHAT we were in for. We sat with two very nice older British ladies that have known each other since they were 17 years old and now reside in Canada. They were fabulous to talk to. Then there was the most emotionless people we had ever met! They just sat there, stared, never smiled, talked extremely quietly, and looked like they hated life. Definitely soul mates. I’ve never met two people that were more alike… in a boring, lifeless, robotic sort of way. That was something else.
However, the meal was OK, concluded by some delicious cheesecake. I caught up with Matt a bit on the phone before heading to bed and getting ready for an early day of rafting down the Colorado River.