June 28, 2017
From Monument Valley our next stop was Page in Arizona. Page is conveniently located next to Lake Powell and close to two icons of the south west; horseshoe bend and antilope canyon. Especially the later is one of the most surreal natural sights we have encountered on our travels so far. When visiting the slot canyon we booked the so-called “photography” tour which promised smaller groups and a less rushed tour through the canyon. It turned out to be one of the most awkward tours we have ever had, instead of it being just a less rushed tour every time I wanted to make a picture all other tourists got pushed out of the area I was in and had to wait for me to finish. More often than not there were dozens of other tourists being held back while I was fiddling with my camera settings. The last time I had so many people look so angry at me was when, out of pure nervousness, I started telling jokes during a funeral. Apparently that is frowned upon. Where I was feeling mostly awkward the other photographer in our group adjusted very well to his new status and even though he didn’t speak a word English within minutes he started whistling, shooing and screaming at people who accidentally walked past his camera. This of course added even more to my uneasiness.
After visiting the national parks surrounding Moab we now were back in Utah to discover the parks on the west side of the state. We started off by visiting Cedar Breaks National Monument. When we arrived there and were enjoying the scenic views Annemarie noticed a build up of smoke close by and got worried about it being a wildfire. Me being a cool and knowledgeable about all matters fire dismissed this and concluded it must be dust from a nearby construction that got into the air. Long story short, it turned out to be the largest wildfire in years in the area, the park got evacuated and our car and cloths smelled like we participated in a 24 hour BBQ marathon. This was later even made worse when we got to our AirBnB and managed to set fire to our skillet, after which Annemarie thought it was smart to try to extinguish an oil fire with water. We got an inch to burning down our apartment. I am not sure exactly how AirBnB reviews work, but I am pretty sure that burning down your host their apartment doesn’t look great on your profile. An unexpected advantage of the wildfire however was that it resulted in a surreal sunset when we were visiting Bryce Canyon. The sky turned a vivid purple, illuminating the rock formations in a beautiful way.
After the stress of the multiple fires from the previous day we embarked for an visit to Zion the next day. As we heard horror stories from locals about the amount of people visiting Zion during the weekends recently, causing hour long lines for shuttle, we got up early and were in the park before 07:00 AM. A good decision as Zion turned out to be our favourite park thus far. Where in the large majority of parks we had visited before you always are standing on high ground while looking down on the canyons, in Zion you are actually in the canyon look up to the steep cliffs. One particular part of the park “The Narrows” is particularly scenic, as while wading through the river you are surrounded by steep colourful cliffs.
To finish of our time in Utah and to tick off another item from our buck we visited a Rodeo. Although after three hours we still had no idea what the rules were or what we were looking at in general, it was quite fun to watch. Especially the bulls didn’t seem too fond of having someone on their back and they typically managed to remove the annoying cowboy from their back within 2 seconds.
From people we have met during our trip we often heard that while the south rim of Grand Canyon is the main tourist attraction, the north rim is where you should really go to. After visiting both north and south we concluded that either we went to the wrong north rim or we were part of the biggest and best orchestrated practical joke ever. The north rim can’t hold a candle to the south rim. Yes there are a lot more tourist at the south rim which can make it a tad crowded, but the reason for that is blatantly obvious; it’s a factor 10 more impressive.
The best one can say about the north rim is the fact that it houses the best restaurant we have encountered so far within the various national parks. In general food in the national parks is unimaginative, bland and 2 weeks from fresh. The North Rim Lodge restaurant was a lovely exception to this.
At the south rim, apart from the magnificent views, we were pleasantly surprised when we walked right into music video shoot. Sitting down on the edge of the rim, seeing the sun set, while enjoying live music was quite the experience.