Monday, March 19, 2012

Grand Falls, Petrified Forest, Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon

Our trip to Canyon De Chelly included a number of very interesting stops on the way and way back. We left Sedona and headed east on I-40 to Winona and then towards the town of Leupp.

Grand Falls

From the main highway, we took a dirt road to find Grand Falls. There are no signs for this amazing site. You just have to know where it is. We had been there before so I knew it was about 9 miles down this scrubboard road, rte 70. This is a spot where the Little Colorado river flows over a series of falls before turning sharp right to make its way to the Colorado river and the Grand Canyon. There is an umarked track to the left at about mile 9 that leads to a dirt parking area and overview. I missed that turn. When I found my front wheels actually in the Little Colorado river, I knew it was time to back up and find the path. I've blogged about it before, but here are a couple more photos. There hasn't been much rain here so there wasn't much water. But, Flagstaff just got two feet of snow, so maybe there'll be some snow melt flowing through soon.

Over the falls.

Heading toward the Grand Canyon

Our next stop was Winslow for lunch

then to Holbrook and the south entrance of the Petrified Forest National Park.

Petrified Forest

It is a barren area where once huge trees grew. The trees were knocked down and covered over with water and silt. Over time, elements in the water penetrated the bark of the fallen trees and replaced the wood with elements that made up stone. The different elements have beautiful colors.

We also had spectacular views of the Painted Desert

You are not allowed to take any petrified wood from the forest. But, you can buy souvenirs at the gift shop at the exit or stop at a huge wharehouse store outside the park at the south entrance.

From there we headed to Chinle. We picked up an hour of daylight due to the fact that the reservation "sprung forward" while AZ did not. But, we barely had time to take a quick drive along the rim and then go out to dinner. They roll up the sidewalks up early in Chinle. See the previous post for my great day in Canyon De Chelly.

Monument Valley

After the great Jeep tour in Canyon De Chelly, we headed directly to Monument Valley. "Directly" is a loose term as we drove north, east, north again and south to get there. It took a few hours but we got to see the sun set over the valley from our balcony.

and the sunrise...

We took the self-guided 17 mile drive through the valley stopping at some of the key locations, like...

The 3 Sisters

John Ford's Point where many of his westerns were filmed

and the Mitten

We ate a later breakfast at the View before heading to our last destination. BTW, just about everything at the View has improved since our first visit a few years ago. All they needed was a little experience to improve everything from the front desk to the dining room. Of course, the View itself can't be beat.

Lower Antelope Canyon

Our last destination was Page and Antelope Canyon. There are 2 slot canyons in Page, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. We have been to Upper several times now. It has a wider top than the Lower canyon that let's in more light while the Lower has a narrow top that let's in less light but may let in more dramatic shafts of light when the sun is in the right position. As we were arriving in Page, it was about 12:15 and the sun was pretty high in the sky, so we decided to take the tour of the Lower Antelope Canyon and hope for some dramatic photos.

Just after walking into the canyon, you may be greeted with a beam of light.

If you are lucky you can get the whole beam from the top of the canyon to the sandy floor. Unfortunately, there are tons of people who want to take the same photo and the guides move you along fairly quickly. The guides are very helpful in pointing out good photo ops. Here's one of Judy that our guide pointed out
I never would have noticed this on my own.

This canyon is really fascinating, but you've got to catch the light when if is overhead. That takes place during the peak tourist season, so it can get very crowded. The Upper is less dramatic but has more varied terrain once you crawl into the slot and it is usually much less crowded.

We had burgers at Slackers in Page and headed south for our 3.5 hour drive back to Sedona with a pit stop at Cameron's Trading Post. We got home in time to order a few pizzas and watch a few March Madness brackets get busted. Not a bad couple of days.

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