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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.