It was 1 deg in the camper in the morning. Jamaliah crawled out of bed, removed the items in front of the intake and exhaust of the heater and switched it on. It worked and the temperature started to rise. One of Rudy’s croc slippers was in front of the hot air outlet. As a result, it shrunk at least 2 sizes, which we only discovered in the evening.
Hwy 98 cross-country road to Page is scenic. You climb up to a plateau of around 2000m and stay more or less up there. Close to Page, you see advertisements for the Antelope slot canyon. Rudy wanted to take a tour of the canyon but the $50 per person is far too expensive to our taste. However a bit further down the road they were even asking $100 per person (this did include group transport into the canyon). Page is the location of the Glen Canyon dam in the Colorado river. As a result of the dam, behind it is the large Lake Powell. This body of water in the otherwise dry landscape is a major tourist attraction. The large campsite at the harbour has many pleasure boats moored up. We had to make a repair to our sink in the bathroom again (now it is the water hose that broke off the water tap) so we decided to camp in town at Wal-Mart.
The following day we first had a shower at the NP campsite on Lake Powell and then drove to Zion NP. We arrived at 14:00 hrs at the park campsite. The Camp host had no available spaces but advised us to come back at 17:00 hrs. We did and he offered us the last free camp spot! The drive through the park to the west entrance is memorable. You drive through a river gorge with very large sandstone dunes left and right next to you. At one point you go through a narrow, two lanes, tunnel. The traffic through the tunnel is regulated so you wait for some 20 min. Despite it being a normal Tuesday in October it was very busy. I can imagine that at the height of the season it is jam packed.
You are not allowed to drive your own transport into the canyon proper, so at the visitor centre you board a shuttle bus which brings you all the way up to the start of the river gorge. It is a very relaxing and scenic half an hour drive to the last stop. Along the way you see many people on rented (electric) bicycles pedalling up the ever narrowing flat valley. At the end of the road, we walked along the river till the point where you have to wade in the water to go further up into the (slot) canyon. Again we found the charge of $50 pp for wet gear too much. Maybe we are a bit spoiled with all we have seen on this trip for “free”.
We drove to Zion on Hwy 89 and then took the old Hwy 89A going back east. The tourist office in Page had given us a map with interesting sites along the route. In this way we stopped at many places to take more photo’s of rock formations then what we had actually planned. At Jacob Lake there is a turnoff towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The park is closed for the winter (snow had already fallen in the park and all amenities are closed for the season) but the road leading to the park (some 70 km) was open. We took the chance and drove in. The road goes through a forest of large Ponderosa pine with in-between wide grass fields where there are Bison’s (though we did not see them). The park gate was open and when we reached the Canyon rim we saw many other cars who took the opportunity to visit the canyon before the road closes. The North rim is apparently much more interesting then the South rim which we had visited in 1991. I will have to check the pictures to confirm this. Anyway we had the time of our life. The sun was shining and there was no serious wind. We took all the walking paths out of the Visitors centre to the various overlook points. Before leaving, the ranger on duty advised us to drive out to Cape Royal, a viewpoint some 25 km further along the rim. We, however, missed the turnoff and had to backtrack some 10 km. But it was all worth it. The views of the canyon with, at the bottom, the Colorado river are breathtaking. We did however run out of daylight. Already on the winding road back from the cliff we saw the sun setting on us. We still had 70 km drive out to the Hwy 89A. Jamaliah had found several camping spots along the way outside the National park but at each one of them there were some issues: Muddy snow, a deep water pool, open hill. We took our last chance at the end of the road. Turning in to a wide muddy road we hoped to spot the campsite in the forest. It was however far too dark. Further on the road narrowed and was hilly and muddy. How to turn back. First driving backwards but that was too difficult on the narrow slippery road with ditches on either side. Then a multipoint turn and avoid getting one of the wheel in the ditch. This worked (although it would have been easier if our 4 wheel drive still worked. We found the campsite under the trees at the beginning of the side road and decided to stop here. Needless to say we were pretty tired and edgy.
The following day all hardship was forgotten. The sun was shining (again) and we continued our route. This time there were 3 stops worth mentioning. The first was the House of Rock (cliff dwellers) where in the past some farmers had built their house under large boulders. The second stop was at Lee’s Ferry. In the 19th century this was the only place to cross the Colorado river. The Mormons supported a family here to provide a ferry service. This service stopped when the bridge was built in 1929. At one point an entrepreneur attempted to mine gold in the area. The rusted equipment of this failed project are still lying around. There is also a very picturesque homestead in the valley next to the ferry. Several generations of farmers had farmed here with various degrees of success. They all struggled to get enough water from the muddy Paria river to irrigate the fields. You see remnants of different attempts (Steel pipes, glass fibre pipes, open ditches) to divert the water. As mentioned, in 1929 a bridge (Navajo bridge) over the river was built. That was the last scenic stop. From here we followed the road further south to Flagstaff where we managed to find a forest camp spot just before sunset. The daylights are getting shorter and shorter. We have to start adapting to that.
PS Lee’s Ferry is the entry point for different type of rafting trips through the Grand Canyon. Rudy joined one of these trips when we were living in New Orleans back in 1998.