From the Petrified Forest we went to Page, AZ to see Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and camp at Lake Powell. Antelope Canyon might have been the most surreal landscape I've ever experienced- and to think we almost MISSED OUR TOUR! Swimming in Lake Powell was the first time I had been swimming all summer!
From there we drove to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon! Last summer I went to the North Rim with my dad so I was excited to see a different part of the park with Allie. The first stop in the park was the Desert View Watchtower/ VC. AHHH!! Both of us freaked out at the vast expanse of canyon!!! Once we settled down, I noticed this red pair of sunglasses lying under a bush: PRIME TRASH FIND!
We entered the watchtower and talked to a ranger to get advice on what hikes to do for the rest of the day. She basically said the only option was to do the Rim Trail that follows along the rim and has all these beautiful lookout points, but also a lot of people... SWARMS AND SWARMS OF THEM. We tried our best to dodge the extended family reunions and found TONS of trash on the way. Back to the ranger though! We got talking and found out that Ranger Chelsey had just come from Hot Springs NP in Arkansas where Ranger Brian at GUMO had come from!!! What a cool small world thing! Allie got a photo of us together to send to Brian. It felt really cool to be a somewhat insider with the amazing, knowledgable, and dedicated rangers!
After that we went to set up our tent at the Mather Campground. It felt nice to set up so early in the day and not be rushed by the setting sun. As we were setting up a middle aged woman ran by and came over to talk to us. She was training to complete her personal goal of running rim to rim to rim in one day (!!!) and asked if she could use a corner of our campsite to camp on. It was actually kinda nice having a neighbor around, especially one that was so badass.
After settling in we ventured out to do part of the rim trail. By the end of our hike we were both getting a little snippy/ hangry. We decided it was necessary to sit down and paint! IMMEDIATELY the tension melted away. I just laughed thinking, "this is LITERALLY what I try to promote and sure enough I'M the one who hasn't taken enough time to sit and reflect!!" Allie worked on a watercolor closer to the edge and I decided to paint on the sunglasses I had found earlier! We probably sat for around an hour and a half.
From there, we caught the shuttle to Mohave Point to watch the sunset. It was OBVIOUSLY STUNNING! I was able to paint another little altoids painting as the sun descended below the horizon. Once the sun set we caught the shuttle back to the village. It was scary how quickly it got so dark. When we made it back to the village we were super disoriented but thankfully were able to find food and find our campsite. Immediately, we passed out because the next day was gonna be a big one!
Unfortunately, both of us barely slept a wink because there were FLIPPING coyotes howling RIGHT OUTSIDE our tent. YIKES! We were still able to rise at 4AM to get to the Bright Angel Trailhead!! I was so excited! As we started walking down into the canyon, the sun was just beginning to rise. I cannot even describe the intense warm color that lit the faces of the canyon. And to make this whole experience even MORE beautiful, there was a high school kid playing his trumpet, almost to salute the sun like the roosters! Pretty surreal.
Our goal for the day was to go out to the Plateau Point lookout! Along the way we met up with a friendly man named Tyler who ended up being our hiking buddy for the day! What an unbelievable experience to get to walk straight down into the canyon and experience the vastness of it all. I was so fascinated by how striking the perspective shift was- it appeared to be a whole different landscape from below! And we weren't even at the very bottom! When we reached the end of the Plateau Point we snacked on some prickly pear and tried to take it all in. In the meantime, Allie got her cheez-its stolen by a resourceful squirrel! Before too much time passed we turned it around because we knew the way back would be a challenge, not only because of the constant switch-backs but because now the sun was high and strong. JEESH it was a rough go! We had to take some serious snack and water breaks to recover, which I'm not particularly fond of/ used to! But man, were they necessary! To help our moral, Tyler started high fiving people as we passed them. Sounds pretty simple but it actually helped a lot! Finally we made it back to the top of the canyon and parted ways with our new friend Tyler. Allie and I immediately b-lined it to the lodge for a well deserved lunch of burgers and beer in the Arizona room.
We showered off the coral dust that had caked itself to our bodies and napped beneath the trees. For dinner we made some beautiful nachos underneath a double rainbow. COULD U ASK FOR A MORE PERFECT DAY!?
The next morning we got up to watch our final sunrise over the canyon and then headed out and off to see the Pacific Ocean!! That day was probably the longest day on the road. It was a rough stretch of desert and we even got stuck in traffic for close to an hour in the middle of nowhere! I was worried Berta might breakdown but she held up valiantly!! I remember specifically pulling over for our last gas stop in Ventura county and SMELLING the salt ocean. I hadn't really been craving the ocean before today- I think driving through the desolate 110 degree desert really helped with that transition. The most amazing thing in my mind was that we were able to park along Butterfly Beach in Santa Barbara and see the sun set over the Pacific Ocean on the same day we saw it rise over the Grand Freaking Canyon! How cool is that?!?! PLUS we casually ran into my new roommate, Sarah, and her parents at the beach too! Small world, beautiful sights, amazing/ supportive company. We were back.