Tuesday, February 09, 2016

72 Hours in Arizona: Day 2

Day 2 of our trip began before the crack of dawn. We were up and on the road by 6:15. We popped by McDonalds to load up on some caffeine and a road trip-style breakfast (hash browns eaten at sunrise are amazing). We made a beeline for Page, which was a hundred and sixty mile drive.
It was actually pretty easy to wake up early because of the time difference, which was lucky because we had a v. full day ahead.

We made great time, thanks to the lack of traffic (we saw maybe a dozen cars in two hours) and were welcomed by amazing weather and sunshine.
LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON
We booked our visit with Ken's Tours. You cannot visit either the upper or lower canyons without a tour guide. The two main reasons are that when (some) visitors were left to their own devices, there was too much vandalism (people really suck) and there is also the fact that if there is a smidgen of rain anywhere nearby, there's a risk of the canyons flooding (to a degree where people's lives are endangered).
We went with the lower canyon because I read that it was prettier and got more light in the winter. I'm sure the upper canyon is equally amazing; the upper actually requires a car ride (provided by the tour guides) to the canyon entrance but after that, it's an easy, level hike. The lower canyon, on the other hand, is accessible by foot but entering requires a descent via some stairs and ladders and it's much tighter. So, for anyone with a fear of heights and small spaces, I'd stay away. I have a moderate fear of heights and a mild case of claustrophobia so I had some anxiety issues. However, the view was so spectacular, my mind was distracted 95% of the time.
Anyway, in January, Ken's only charges $20 per person so I booked without hesitation; some tours were charging more than twice that. In addition to the tour fees, there is an $8 Navajo permit fee (since this is protected land). They accept cash only (which I'm pretty sure is how most of the nearby tours operate).

We followed our guide, Cornell, down a sandy path, around a bend, and across the top of the canyon. We could see the crack and a tour group in front of us starting to walk down the stairs into the cleft.
The steps are metal, so in the winter I recommend gloves because the railings get quite cold. Plus, it's a few degrees cooler in the canyon, so wearing layers is a good idea. The steps are well-made and installed into the rock so that they feel secure and structurally sound. I worried that the ladder-like steps would shake as I descended (because I basically vibrate with a fear of heights) but it was fine and stable.
It was so beautiful. I probably took a hundred photos in the course of the hour long tour and it's taking a lot of willpower not to share them all.

My only complaint was with a woman who decided to wear some weird green hi-low dress down into the canyon. She had her phone out the entire time and would ask others to move out of her shot only to photobomb everyone else as we were trying to capture our own memories. I also died a little of embarrassment because her outfit was hideous (seriously, kelly green polyester summer dress with a tan down coat?) and she kept on posing awkwardly all over the place. But obviously, it was not the tour guide's fault that some weirdo happened to be on our tour. Literally everyone was wearing leisure garb because we were climbing up and down ladders and stairs. Meanwhile, this chick had to tuck her dress up into her crotch to prevent from 1) stepping on her skirt and 2) flashing the tour group. D and I laughed about that for hours.
The canyon formed as a result of natural weathering and erosion (mostly via water). The Navajo name for the lower canyon actually means "where the water runs through the rocks." It was pretty interesting to see the flow of people walking the same path, although, since we started from the lowest point and made our way higher and higher, I think we were walking the reverse route that water takes. But anyway, it was so much fun and so beautiful.

It was also really awesome to see a dinosaur footprint when we emerged. And, since the sun had been out for a while, it was actually boiling hot when we got out of the cool canyon.
EL TAPATIO
After our little hike, we were feeling pretty hungry so we headed into town. I had bookmarked El Tapatio because of the good reviews so we headed over, no questions.

The restaurant was kind of kitschy, but in a fun way and the staff were incredibly friendly. The waiter tested my Spanish skills a little (I could tell he was impressed; sarcasm) and then brought us some chips and salsa.
For my main, I opted for two tacos, the asada (beef) and the adobada (pork). The tacos arrived on a sizzling hot plate. The plate was so hot, in fact, that I had to wait a solid five minutes before I could dig in but it was worth it. The adobada was definitely my favorite, as it was well spiced and tender.
D opted for the carnitas platter. Super tender shredded pork with rice and beans and melted cheese and grilled scallions and tomatoes and peppers; I don't think it gets much better than that.

HORSESHOE BEND
After lunch, we hopped in the car and took a ten minute drive to Horseshoe Bend. We left our car in the parking lot and walked over the hill and made the ten minute hike down to join the crowds. We met the cutest little puppy along the way.
There's a sign in the parking lot that warns visitors that there is no railing and to be careful. I guess that warning should have been a huge red flag, but I honestly had no idea how insane it is to try and look at the infamous bend in the Colorado River. You have to stand pretty close to the edge to see the whole thing and if you're a scaredy cat like me, then you might have a panic attack and freak out. My heart was beating pretty frantically and I was basically crawling out of my own skin watching braver visitors sitting on the edge and swinging their feet. But, we did manage to snap a few photos and sort of enjoyed ourselves. I mean, you can't not enjoy yourself with this kind of view.
D managed to capture some pretty good shots of me being really brave. I know it might not look like I'm being that adventurous but I was shaking like a leaf.
I never actually stood on the edge of the canyon; instead, I would sit down and then scooch my ass over inch by inch, only getting close enough to peek over. Then, I would scooch backwards and scramble away. Sometimes I laugh at my dog when he's nervous about jumping off of my bed because he thinks it's too high but now I sympathize.

GRAND CANYON
On our way back to Sedona, we stopped at the Grand Canyon. I say that like we did it so casually because we kind of did. We paid the $30 fee (which applies just to the car; humans can enter for free via shuttle or on foot) and drove through the park. We started from the east side, making stops at the Desertview Watchtower and various pull-off points. We also stopped at a few pull-off points on the west side of the park which is normally closed to tourist car traffic in the warmer months and limited to the shuttle buses. That totally makes sense because I can imagine that when the weather is nicer, this place gets super crowded. I think that if we'd visited in the summer, I would've wanted to take a shuttle bus in and not have to worry about finding parking.
It was really breathtaking (because of the view and because of the wind). The colors were unreal, the vastness was unbelievable, and the light dusting of snow on some of the cliffs made it look rather romantic and picturesque.
It was pretty National Lampoon's of us to really only spend two hours at the Grand Canyon; basically just staring at it and leaving, but to be frank, it was cold and windy and I don't think I could have done a hike, even if I wanted to. The temperature and the altitude made me incredibly short of breath and I kept having heart palpitations even on the short jaunts from the car to the viewpoint.
By the way, we totally got pulled over while we were driving here. We were going about 50mph (in an apparent 45mph zone; though, we did not see a speed limit sign for miles) and I pulled off into an overlook area. A white SUV pulled in behind me and just as we were about to get out of the car, the SUV turned on its police lights. Fortunately, all we received was a verbal warning but annoyingly, while we were pulled over, we watched several cars whizz by at much faster speed. One officer flanked each side of the car and they asked us whether we had alcohol in the car and also the last time we'd had marijuana. It was pretty entertaining.

I don't know if they were just in good, generous moods or whether my answer of, "Uhh, never..." was the key to leaving without a ticket. Whatever the case, thanks guys. Keep protecting our national parks from mildly speedy drivers.
I also found that I was incredibly burpy the entire trip. I don't know if it was the altitude change, the lack of humidity (though I don't really know how that would cause this affliction), or just a bodily reaction to the plane ride we'd taken the day before but seriously, I was burping every two minutes. I know; I am just so elegant.

ELOTE
Our drive back to Sedona was eventful and uneventful at the same time. As we were leaving the Grand Canyon and entering the Kaibab National Forest, the wind really started to pick up and it basically shook the car so badly, we feared for our lives. Okay, I'm being dramatic, but honestly, in the tiny Yaris, it was pretty scary.

Luckily, we made it back to Sedona in one piece and we headed to Elote for dinner. There was a 30 minute wait, but we were allowed to grab drinks and a little bowl of popcorn and wait on the heated porch, so it wasn't the worst way to test our patience.
As soon as our pager buzzed, we rushed inside. We started the meal with the restaurant's namesake: elote. Grilled corn mixed with spicy seasonings, mayo, and lots of cotija cheese, we gobbled that stuff up.
For my main, I got the cochinita (pork wrapped in banana leaf and roasted) with mango salsa. The pork was super tender and flavorful and I loved eating it with the rice and beans. It was a little too salty for my taste, but I also have low salt tolerance, so I can't fault the restaurant too much.
D got the pork cheeks, which was really good, though the portion size seemed a bit small, especially in comparison with my dish.
The staff at Elote were really friendly and accommodating and I really commended them for catering to a packed house. It was seriously a hundred degrees in there because of the sheer number of bodies, so it was impressive that the servers were running around taking care of so many tables without passing out.

After dinner, we were pretty tired - it was a really long day, after all - so we headed back to the hotel to tuck into bed. We had thought we could go stargazing again, but there was too much cloud cover that night. It was just as well, since I was looking for any excuse to just go to sleep.

xoxo.

2 comments:

  1. Enjoying your posts, you are giving me some new ideas for things to do. The canyon tour looks wonderful. We have been to the grand canyon but may return, we have a week tho 2 days will be spent in Scottsdale at baseball spring season games. Planning on the train ride through the valley near Sedona but can't remember the name right now. Thanks for all the fabulous pictures, I'm really getting excited for our trip!

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    Replies
    1. I highly recommend Antelope Canyon. It was the highlight of the trip (and one of the highlights of my life haha).

      Since you have a week, you'll probably be able to do many more cool things than we did. You'll have to let me know if there's anything I need to add to my future itinerary because I want to go back to AZ so badly.

      Thanks so much for reading!

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