Today is the big day (3/1/20) of our Grand Canyon road trip. It is Nancy’s birthday and we are doing a canyon fly over and river raft trip. Wake up time was 4:30 so we can be at Bright Angle lodge by 5:20. The tour includes breakfast and lunch so I was not happy when breakfast turned out to be a box with a little cup of OJ and a muffin.
Our group consisted of 13 people, 6 in on family, 2 couples and a gal plus her two daughters. We all had to check-in and give them our weight. That did not make some people happy! The plane was a twin otter and it can only hold so much.
Flying Over the Canyon
We all piled in, the plane warmed up and we were off. The canyon is incredible from the air at sunrise. The views where breathtaking. Also breathtaking was some of the bumps. It was a windy day so they said there might be a few bumps. Normally they don’t bother me but this was a small plane and we could see the pilots and out the front. We hit some big bumps with the plane heaving up. You could see the nose of the plane pointing up. I look down and we were over this very deep canyon with no visible place to land, only crash. This gave me and the others a few moments.
We landed a Page Arizona, which is not much. This is the base of the Glen Canyon dam and the beginning of Lake Powell. We all took pictures and waited in the ‘airport’ for a Navaho guide/driver to take us to Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon between two dry river beds. When it rains the water builds up on one side and comes roaring through the canyon to the other side. Flash floods are very dangerous but there were no clouds in the sky so we were safe.
The canyon is a photographer’s dream. In fact, it was discovered and made famous by a photographer in the 1980s. Our guide showed us where to take the best pictures and even asked for my phone and took some for me. They are the best ones but all are fantastic.
Next it was time for the river rafting. We were driven to the raft place and told to wait for about 45 minutes. That is one of the things I did not like about this tour. We waited for 45 minutes at the airport before the plane and now we waited another 45 minutes at the raft place with nothing to do but sit.
Raft on the Colorado River
The raft trip starts at the very base of the Glen Canyon Dam. As this is a security area and the TSA are in control just like in an airport. We did the metal detectors, no knifes, not even pocket knives! What could you possibly do too a massive dam with a pocket knife? The ‘security’ levels were just ridiculous. To me it seemed more like a jobs program.
We get on the tin and rubber motorized rafts at the base of the dam. The Dam is amazing. It is just a bit smaller that Hoover dam. Off we go down the Colorado river. It is very calm and flat in this area. The canyon walls around us are between 800 & 1,200 feet high. We eat our box lunch, which was not to bad. It was from Subway so that explains why it was good. Out guide was a personable young man. We stopped at a petroglyph site which was interesting. The water comes out of the base of the dam and so is about 40 degrees. The air temp was about 50 so no swimming today. Out guide said in the summer it is normally between 100 & 120 on the river. The 40-degree water would feel good on those days!
The raft trip lasted about four hours. We drifted at times and other times used the motor. The view of the canyon wall where most impressive. The river was so clear we could see the bottom fifteen to twenty feet down. We could see big rainbow trout. Because the dam releases cold water the river has become a great place for trout and trout fishing. We saw numerous fly fishermen along the way. Our raft trip ended at Lee’s Ferry where the raft trips through the Grand Canyon begin.
Bus Ride to Cameron Trading Post
We boarded a bus for our ride back to Grand Canyon Village. The bus was a full-size bus and there were only thirteen of us so we had plenty of room to spread out. Nancy and I picked the seats up front so we had a good view plus the driver was a very chatty gal who had lots of fun stories of the area. This was an unexpected bonus for our Grand Canyon road trip. The half way point was at Cameron Trading Post. The bus stopped there to give us a chance to stretch our legs and of course buy Indian stuff. The trading post was big and actually quite impressive.
Birthday Day Dinner
Dinner that night was Nancy’s birthday dinner at El Tovar. It was an excellent meal. Good service, good food and a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday and a great end to a day of incredible experiences. The final treat of the day was walking under a sky filled with stars with the moon light on the canyon walls.
Time to Go
Now it was time to hit the road and drive back to Santa Fe. We had a nice leisurely breakfast at El Tovar. This time of year, they are the only good place to eat at the rim. The one down side is that they too are doing work and the bathroom were unavailable. They did have port-a-poddies set up down some steps and outside.
We drove out of the park and into the town of Tusayan. On an impulse we stopped at the IMAX theater. The IMAX movie about John Wesley Powell’s boat ride through the Grand Canyon in 1876. Later in the film a powered ultralight flew around the canyon. Incredible views, you felt like you were in the boat and on the plane.
Next was a brief stop in Flagstaff, which seems like an interesting town, then drove on to the Petrified Forest. We had got a late start and it 4:00 so we looked around the gift shop then hit the road. Arrival in Gallup was just before sunset. Friends had told us we had to go to Jerry’s Café for the best southwest food in Gallup. It had been described kind of a dive and it was. At 4:45 it was packed so we knew the food would be good and it was. After a good meal we drove straight from Gallup to Santa Fe and home. Thus ended our Grand Canyon road trip. Now I’m back in Santa Fe and giving tours for Santa Fe Footprints.