Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Vegas, and Joshua Tree!
I woke up in Page AZ and got ready to explore Antelope Canyon. The canyon is the source of some of the most famous photographs ever taken, and has a lower and upper portion. I booked tickets for the upper portion after I found out that the lower portion was prettier. I also had an early morning tour time of 7:45, so not a ton of light made it into the canyon for my tour group (11am-1pm is apparently prime time). Despite that, I still feel that I got some decent pictures and video in the canyon, and I had a good time meeting other tourists. Next time I visit page, I will definitely do the lower canyon, and then probably take a raft ride from Page to the Grand Canyon.
Speaking of the Grand Canyon, that was my next stop on my trip. It is about a 2.5 hour trip to the lower rim of the canyon. I can not describe in words how enormous the grand canyon is. When looking into it, at some distance the details of the canyon fade and the rock walls begin to look like a painting. I had two night booked at the Mather campground, so I felt no rush to see the entire canyon. On the way to the visitor center, I stopped at some scenic overlooks and took pictures.
When I finally got to the visitor center, I spoke to a ranger about possible hikes into the canyon the next day, and then watched the informational video about the canyon. However, during the video I became exhausted. I am not sure what happened, but I felt sapped of energy. I had eaten only a few hours prior, so I was a little concerned. I decided to go to the restaurant and get some food, and the feeling did not go away. I ended up at my campsite around 6, quickly set up my tent, and hoped that a nap would help. I ended up sleeping from 7 pm to 7 am and still felt incredibly tired the next day.
Instead of hiking to the bottom of the canyon that day, I decided to take the entire day off. I figured me rushing from one site to another for the last week may have been taking a toll on me, and I deserved the day off. The day was wonderful all in all. The grand canyon has a grocery store, so I bought some steak bits and made a stew on my Coleman stove. I also finished American Gods, a novel lent to me by a friend, that I had been trying to get through for the last few months. All in all, I needed the day off and I am glad I took it, even though I did not get to hike to the bottom of the canyon.
My next stop on my trip was Vegas, but before that I wanted to see the Hoover Dam which is on the Arizona/Nevada border. There was a bit of a line to get to the dam since all cars need to go through a security check, and they made me pull up the cover on my rooftop tent to show that there was only the tent inside. Once I got parked, I walked along the dam and took pictures and video. While the dam is big, and an incredibly feat of engineering, for some reason I thought it would be bigger. Yet, in the end it was still impressive and worth the hour detour and the $10 in parking.
I arrived in Vegas and made my way to my AirBnb which was a bedroom in an apartment. My host was a friendly guy named Tyler, but the apartment complex was not the best. I was incredibly excited for Vegas for two reasons. First, Howard and Jorie were going to be in Vegas at the same time. Second, Matt, my best friend during my time in Miami, was visiting Vegas with his family.
After I unpacked a bit, I walked 30 minutes to the strip and began to explore a bit. I'm not a gambler, so I decided to walk around the shops of the Venetician for a while. The Venetcian is decorated incredbly on the side, with a fake river that has gondolas going up and down the mall. While I was there, Howard and Jorie, along with Jorie's sister and her husband, joined me to explore. They ended up getting some food in the food court, and then we went outside for the evening. I was getting pretty tired, so I called the evening early and walked back to the AirBnb.
The next day I knew Matt and I would be hanging out in the afternoon, so I wanted to get a lot of solo things done early. One of the first things I did was go take pictures at the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign, and ended up begin there at almost the exact same time as Howard and Jorie so I got to take pictures with them. After that, I went to the pawn shop featured on Pawn Stars and browsed the shop. The store is actually a lot smaller than it looks on the show, and none of the show's personalities were in the store. I ended up not getting anything from the store, but they did have some paintings they claimed were from Rembrandts and Picassos that were cool to see. After that, I spent a couple of hours exploring old downtown Vegas and watched Sweden's women's soccer team defeat Canada at the car of the Four Queens casino.
Matt and I eventually met up and went to Tenaya Creek Brewing. They had a good selection of beers, and reasonably priced (compared to the $11 Blue Moon beers that casino's on the strip want to sell you). The last time I had seen Matt was a year prior when his family visited me in Iowa, so we had a good amount to catch up on. After a couple of beers at the brewery, we met up with his wife Deb and their two children, Ezra and Adeline, at a good but cheap noodle place. Matt treated to dinner, so I returned the favor and bought everyone shaved ice cream as a desert at a nearby shop. We eventually called it an evening, and parted ways. However, we knew we were headed in a similar direction, and discussed a possible hike together in Joshua Tree.
I woke early in the AirBnb the next morning because I wanted to get some more pictures at the Vegas sign before the crowds, but there were crowds already there at 7:30 am. Once I got my pictures, I was on my way to see Joshua Tree in southern California. The drive went through a lot of country roads and the Navajo recreation/reservation area and was pretty, but a bit desolate.
Joshua Tree has multiple entrances, but entered through at 29 palms and asked a ranger for advice on what to see during my time. One of the major views was closed due to bees, but the ranger mapped out a route for me to take to see a lot of the park. One of the highlights for me was the cactus garden. There were hundreds of cactus trees, about five feet tall, with flowering yellow parts at the top of the trees. The cacti seemed to go on for forever, and you could walk through fields of them and get lost. It was beautiful and peaceful all at once; truly something I will always remember.
That night I had dinner at the Joshua Tree saloon, and then went to my hipcamp which was on top of a hill near the park, and flew my drone around for a bit because the hill's overlook was phenomenal. The sunset that evening was incredibly and made me appreciate the desert climate a little bit more.
The next morning, I got some coffee and made plans with Matt to go hike in Joshua Tree. He drove about an hour to get to the park, and then I drove us throughout the park. First we did the hidden valley hike, where we climbed on some rocks, and then got a little bit lost until we saw a ranger on the trail and he guided us back. I then took him to the cactus garden to show him how cool it was, and he thought he may take his kids to the park sometime during the next few days. We parted in the early afternoon, after taking some photos, and he was off to rejoin his family. I however, was off to Riverside California where I had booked a motel, so that I could be a witness at my friends Brian and Stephanie's wedding the next morning... but that story is for the next blog post.