Sunday, June 14, 2009

Honeymooners (Day 5) The Canyon Tour

Thursday 6-5, Day 5 The Canyon Tour

Overview: Grand Canyon Airlines to Page for the Boat Trip, then drive back to the grand canyon

Part 1 - the flight over the canyon

The airplane was a small 2 prop engine, room for 15 passengers, high wing plane. We had a mid-plane seat and had partially blocked view by the engine and spars for the wings. So if you go make sure to ask " is this a good seat to take pictures from?" just FYI. My seat was still good fer gawkin' so I made the best of it and took a handful of pretty pictures anyway.

The flight was smooth and the headset audio tour was informative too. The canyon was kinda hazy from the managed burns (notice the nomenclature change from "controlled burn") going on in the area and it looked like a thick fog was filling it up. Neat. The sun was coming up and it was just gorgeous. After about 30 minutes of flight around the canyon we land in Page to hook up with the next step in the tour.

Part 2 - a cultural presentation

In Page we were also treated to an Indian dance in a convenience store parking lot. Settings aside it was pretty cool. Here is the ring dance being performed that is used to help with the treatment of ailments. The dancer would start with only one ring as a small brave, and then get more as he grows up. The dancer in the photo was a world champion ring dancer 3 times over. It was fascinating and he was extremely dexterous making multiple shapes during his dance with the rings. The single drum player sang and accompanied the dancer after an introduction and explanation of what we were about to see. He had the thickest east Texas accent we've heard in awhile.

Part 3 Antelope Canyons

After that we boarded 4x4's and headed for the desert. A short few minutes away we find ourselves on Navajo land in a dry riverbed of very soft dark orange sand. High on both sides the rocks rose and we would soon learn this riverbed was a drainage path for rain runoff. But we were safe at the moment, it wasn't July yet.

Our Navajo tour guide Blaine (I know, Blaine right?) told us many things about Navajo life and cultural aspects of it. He was very open and sincere even though you could tell he was a bit mischievous and knew he could say anything and we would eat it up.

The canyon we went through was sandstone, thin and tall, carved by water, wind and time. When it rains in the desert it tends to come all at once and this canyon is a pinch point along a dry riverbed. The water can get almost all the way up to the top washing anything it picks up through the canyon. As quickly as it comes it flows out and returns to the dry twisting hallway again.

Blaine had been riding in them since he was a child ( I would guess 25 some odd years ago maybe less), this was his backyard. It was not a surprise that as a kid he had no xbox, or playstation etc as these miles of desert were his playground and had no need for those influences growing up.

He told us of the brave named Kokopelli who wandered in the canyons alone with no family (there's many different perspectives on this and even a exists). He would play the flute and the women would be seduced by the swirling sounds coming from the canyons and walk wide eyed to him under his spell where it is told he would have sex with them. Darn, I knew I should have paid more attention in music class when I was a kid! Here's a shot of Blaine doing his best Kokopelli imitation (he was good too):

It was moving to say the least and if we go back I'd like to see what other tours they do specifically because it was a most entertaining and enlightening time. (I know it was all touristy but it was a super cool experience!)

Part 4 The slow water boat trip

After Antelope Tours dropped us off somewhere in Page, we caught a bus for a short drive down to the Dam. Our guides on the bus of course made typical Dam banter and had Dam jokes to tell. Some of it was damn funny. "And there's our only new car dealership here in Page, the Ford lot you see comin up on your left. I haven't purchased any trucks from there but it's been around awhile" Classic. Funny to me anyways.

Well we made the location of the Glen Canyon Dam (the one downstream from Hoover) with little or no problem and were briefed on the use of hard hats to walk from the bus to the catwalk where we would be entering the pontoon boat. The Colorado river laid before us and 3 pontoon boats waited patiently in this immediate crevasse where the water level drops 700 ft down to the outflow below.

Our guide was Brandace and as any tour guide was colorful and full of fun facts both true and some not so true. From a family of boaters Brandace steered us around on the river educating us in geology, history and a bit of story telling, actually mostly story telling. We discover Texas is not the only place with tall tales. As the guide said "Do you know how to tell if a river guide is lying?" and the answer was "when her mouth is open!" Awesome, a good time was prolly to follow.

It was not long before the question "Where's everyone from?" comes up. Our boat's roster includes residents from Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, Poland and England. Quite a spectrum.

Much of the trip was the banter of our guide and high red walls. We felt so small in the bottom of the canyon skimming along atop this sliver of icy cold water amongst these high walls that have seen many things pass by over the ages. And woof yes it was cold water, now because the outflow is from the bottom the water temperature is 45 degrees, that’s Fahrenheit you understand.

We had 2 stops, one of which had a wall with Petroglyphs that had been discovered to be over 3000 years old. It was pretty cool to stand there wondering what the message was coming to us from thousands of years in the past. "To Do list: Find Nuts, berries, watch out for the snake, take a right at the big tree to find many deers, stay away from the purple berries" all in pictures. Anyway here's a picture of a part of it and you can make your own decision:

There are several areas that are designated as campsites you can hike into and primitive camp. That would be excellent. We like that kind of thing. Except maybe for the tourist boats going by, and the 45 degree water it would be a good campsite. :P Course if you are a trout fisherman you will be in heaven so there you go!

Lots of good pictures here

Nice. We arrived at Lee's Ferry after which until the Navajo Bridge was the only place to cross the Colorado for a few hundred miles. This was our destination and we disembark to board a bus for the ride back to the airport we started out at.

Part 5 - Bus ride at the end. The driver's name was Ted and he was retired but drove a bus to get out of the house. Ted did keep us amused with stories of diabetic drivers he has wrestled control of buses from and other colorful descriptions of past experiences while being a bus driver for the park.

One of the fun facts we learned is that if you work at the park for 5 years or more you can be buried in their cemetery. Thanks Ted, that takes good planning, or at least a committed attitude I suppose.

On the bus back we also got to watch a movie about early rafters on the Colorado when a horse trough was an acceptable conveyance. It was quite good and had much history of the battle over the development of the Grand Canyon. Did you know there were almost 2 more dams on the Colorado? The Grand Canyon was to be dammed 2 other places making it all lakes instead of what it is now. The Sierra club is noteworthy for their contribution to gaining public support to save the Grand Canyon from becoming a huge lake system. I just read something on a website dedicated to the restoration of Glen Canyon calling for the draining of Lake Powell, awesome. Emily says to read Edward Abbey.

Part 6 - Dinner at the El Tovar

Later that evening after our tour, we ate at the historic El Tovar Restaurant. It was built a long time ago (I didn't look it up) and modeled after European Hunting lodges. The exposed beams and stuffed animal heads were everywhere and windows were on every outer wall providing very picturesque views. The dining room was elegant the way it had no doubt always been. Once again I had the opportunity to have a Buffalo steak and it was the leanest steak I've ever eaten. Em had a trout stuffed with crab which was awesome.

Well after a day like that it wasn't hard to sleep. We didn't have much to do the next day but drive to the next destination which was around the Gila Cliff Dwellings National monument.

See you in the morning!



  1. Awesome Trip!! Thanks for taking the time to share it with us online! You two packed in some amazing sights and experiences...we had a GREAT time in Tarpley too for your 'Big Day'! -Mike

  2. Hey Mike!
    Yah it was our whirlwind tour of holes and cracks in the ground so's nobody can say we don't know our asses from one. "yuh huh and we dun got sum pichures too" spits

    Great to see you guys at the wedding!
    Talk to you soon
    Jim of Jimily