Sunday, October 25, 2015

Page, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend.It’s been months now since our summer vacation, but here is the lost continuation. Page was the next destination of our big southwest road trip after Grand Canyon National Park. Out of all our stops this was the only place where Alёna and I haven’t been to previously. And I can easily say that it was my favorite part of the whole trip. So many interesting things to see and do.

Our Best Western.By the time we arrived we were quite hungry. Before going to our hotel and checking in we made a mistake of stopping at a nice Mexican place and eating our lunch. The food was great. As a side note — TripAdvisor app is great for finding good places to eat. We use it extensively during vacations, including this one.

Glen Canyon Dam.Our mistake at eating first and going to the hotel later was in us not realizing how long the line and the wait at the hotel will be.

Bridge by the dam.It all started with the Best Western that we had a reservation in closed for a massive renovation. They sent us to another Best Western across the street to check-in into the one which had massive construction going on.

Turbine with Arosha on it.The one across a street had a long line of people waiting to check-in as well. When our turn arrived they told us that they decided to place us in the hotel where we were in, which was fine with us, but we had to wait a couple of hours for our room to get ready.

Our hotel's pool.We decided to spend this time by visiting a nearby Glen Canyon Dam. It was only 10 or so minutes away and it turned out to be pretty interesting. The dam blocked off Colorado River which ended up flooding the whole Glen Canyon itself and forming Lake Powell — second largest man made lake in the country. The largest one was Mead Lake which was formed by Hover Dam near Las Vegas on the same Colorado River.

On the edge by Horseshoe Bend.The dam had a nice visitor center with several official NPS stamps. It also led visitors to a great view of the dam, the lake and the river below. There was also a turbine on display which Arosha promptly climbed into. At one point he managed to actually slide down into the center of it and started asking to pull him out. The problem was that it was too far for us to reach to pull him out. Luckily he managed to climb back out by himself.

Under the rocks.After we checked out the dam we returned to our hotel where we were given a room with a view of the whole valley below — the hotel was on a hill — including a view of the dam and the lake. The hotel also had a great pool with a hot-tub also overlooking the same valley.

Anna riding Alёna.Another side note — all the places that we visited were filled with Europeans. A lot of French and German people. We also met people from Belgium, Netherlands and other countries. At first we weren’t sure if French speaking people were Canadian or not, and god forbid you ask them that — but people from Netherlands told us that they can tell the accents apart and everyone is definitely French.

BBQ.As far as our dinner and lunches went — we visited a nice BBQ place with huge steam-train looking grills, pizza places, burger places and even managed to go into a sushi place.

Sushi place. Dinner.Even though we weren’t quite sure about eating raw fish in a desert it went without incidents and Arosha was very happy — he loves sushi. All places were found via TripAdvisor app.

By Horseshoe Bend.On our first full day we went to see the Horseshoe Bend. It’s a 1.5 mile round trip hike over a top of a somewhat steep hill. Arosha did really well. When he saw a bunch of people near the edge he knew where he needs to walk and did it without complaining of any kind unlike our Grand Canyon hikes were.

Climbing as always.I’ve seen this place on multiple pictures all over the internet, but I did not expect how big it would be in the real life. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The view was breathtaking.

Waiting for our Antelope Canyon tour to start.I held Arosha firmly by hand and we stood on the edge in amazement. The river was far below us and we could see white specks which were tour boats cruising on the river.

Antelope Canyon.After a short while Arosha spotted some rocks and some mini-cave under them which Anna and him proceeded to occupy. While I was trying to do some photography they were climbing and playing around while Alёna watched over them. Alёna, by the way, carried Anna everywhere.

Yoga inside Antelope Canyon.In the evening we had another special thing planned. Our second reason (Horseshoe Bend was first) why we wanted to visit Page was to see the famous Antelope Canyon. We decided not to plan anything in advance and just wing it. I was honestly thinking that we’ll probably skip it altogether because of our laziness. But we asked at the front desk at our hotel and they booked a tour for us.

Antelope Canyon.Both of the canyons are located on Navajo lands and the only way to see those canyons is to book a tour. Most popular time is usually during the middle of the day, but we decided to go in the evening at around 5. Even though the sun wouldn’t shine beautifully into the canyon we wanted to avoid the crowds and the mid-day heat. Overall it worked out well, although it wasn’t cheap.

Another mega climb.We were told to arrive to a certain location 30 minutes before the tour start. But I think we ended up leaving 30 minutes after the designated time. And somehow we were given the very last car. I guess that might be because we had little kids with us and they didn’t have any car seats. So instead of taking a normal route via highway our guide drove through the desert over some crazy hills.

Us by Antelope Canyon's entrance.The guide was not much of a guide. He just kept grabbing cameras from everybody and switching settings around. I gave him my camera just out of curiosity of what he would do. He cranked up contrast and screwed up the white-balance to make everything appear more warm. Of course that has no effect on RAW images, but I guess that’s beyond his area of expertise. Anyhow, I set everything back to the way it was and kindly declined any further adjustments.

Our tour guide and ride.The canyon itself was quite cool and dark at 5 o’clock. But it was still a very beautiful and unusual sight to see. I did manage to take several good shots by pressing the camera against the wall for stability to take multiple-exposure bursts. We also managed to take a good number of nice shots with our iPhones. Overall we were very happy that we decided to pay the money and do the tour. It was definitely a worthy place to see.

Lake Powell.On our second day we drove out to the beach on Lake Powell itself. We didn’t spend a lot of time there but it was nice to take a swim in this famous lake. The beach was kind of small and not very sandy, but all of us enjoyed the experience.

Our Anna.And in the evening of the same day we decided to repeat our hike to Horseshoe Bend to see the sunset. We didn’t quite make it. Our timing was less than perfect and toward the end of our hike poor Aroshka miss-stepped of a stone and face planted into hard rock. I felt horrible. I think I might’ve been rushing a bit too much to take some pictures before the sun went down and I should’ve paid more attention to him.

In the lake.When he calmed down we took some pictures and decided to climb a nearby mountain that he really wanted to scale as a consolation prize. By the time we were done it was quite dark outside. Some starts started to appear. I have an app on my phone that identifies each star and it turned out that the brightest spots were Venus and Jupiter. We decided to head back to the car before it has gotten pitch black, so I still didn’t have a chance to actually show Arosha a night sky. He won’t believe how many stars there actually are.

Horseshoe Bend at sunset.And that’s how we spent our days in Page. After page we set course north, to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.
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Monday, September 14, 2015

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon.For the second part of our trip we drove out to Grand Canyon National Park. We were staying in Yavapai Lodge right inside the park. Alёna and I haven’t been to Grand Canyon since 2005 — 10 years. I was looking forward to seeing it again. When we finally did, even though it was still impressive I remembered well enough what to expect, so I wasn’t smitten as the first two times.

Rocks!And it’s really hard to figure out what Arosha is really feeling since he might look at a thing for 20 seconds and get distracted by some big rocks that he can jump around — which is what happened with us.

Yavapai Lodge.We had two full days at Grand Canyon and it seems that it was our least favorite part of the trip. The big lesson that we learned was that a hotel better has a pool. Otherwise there are large portions of the day when kids don’t have anything to do and they start whining from boredom.

Rim trail.We couldn’t do a lot of hiking either since it was very hot and there was very little shade around. So it was hard on the little ones.

Bright Angel trail down into the canyon.We did take a small portion of the trail down. And then we did a whole bunch of hiking around the rim. At some points Anna was driving us crazy with her stroller. She didn’t want to sit in it and she insisted on pushing it around herself. And she would bump into everything and we would practically be stuck at one place.

One of the many visitor centers.When we tried to put her into the stroller or one of us tried to just carry the stroller she would throw a massive feat. I was really close to throwing the damn stroller down the canyon on multiple occasions.

Love of the climbing.The lodge itself was nice and clean. But as I mentioned it had one downside — it didn’t have a pool.

One of visitors who doesn't seem to like his life much.It was surrounded by shallow woods — lots of spread out short trees. I was trying to do my exercise goals so I tried walking to the edge of the canyon through those woods. And even though it would probably take me about 15 minutes or so to get to the edge half way in all the directions started looking the same. So I decided to turn back while I still knew where “back” was.

Grand Canyon. Many many people.We ate our lunch and dinners at the lodges inside the park and at our local general store. And for breakfast we would buy something that didn’t need a lot of cooking — yogurts, cup noodles soups and stuff like that.

Evening hike.Overall it was nice, but we didn’t really get to experience the serenity that I was looking for and I remembered. I guess the main reason was the fact that we were visiting during the peak season as opposed to our previous trip in October and it was quite crowded everywhere.

Illusion of the edge.We did have nice quite hikes during the evenings when the crowds would subside.

Entering the park.And we also did get to see a new place on our way out to Page — Desert View Watchtower which was built at the begging of the last century. It was nice to climb up to the top, but all the windows had glass on them which typically ruins good pictures.

Desert View Tower.When we asked Arosha which place he liked the most from the vacation he starts listing everything and leaves out Grand Canyon, which is kind of funny.

View from the top of the tower.Anna though kept calling all further canyons that she saw “gan cayon”. We kept trying to convince her that we left Grand Canyon behind and she was looking at a different one, to which she would agree, but then would revert to “gan cayon” three minutes later.

The Rest


After Grand Canyon we traveled to a little town of Page with a lot of wonders and see. And later on we went to Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park and Las Vegas. But that part of the story is not ready yet.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sedona

Grand Canyon.Well, it’s been more than two months since our mega vacation trhough the southwestern canyons has started and we haven’t posted a thing yet beside our large photo stream that was going throughout our trip. Overall everything went well. It was a bit harder in the beginning, but our schedule settled in pretty quickly and we enjoyed exploring the southwest.

Road to Sedona. Saguaro forests.The hard parts pretty much consisted of Anna throwing up on the plane, Arosha had an accident in bed during the first night from being overtired — it really hasn’t happened to him in years now, Anna throwing up in the car — we think it was from motion sickness and Arosha throwing up during the night — we have no idea why, but he was fine in the morning. All that happened pretty much in the first 2 days, but everything went well afterwards.

Our hotel at Sedona.The flight went OK. Anna even took a nap. Having two large suite cases, two car seats and a stroller appeared to be challenging beforehand. But we basically had to just get it to a cab, from the cab to checked baggage and from there into our rental car. And vice versa on the way back. Not too bad at all. Costco seats are pretty crappy, but they are also very light. They served us just fine throughout the trip.

Arizona capitol building in Phoenix.As far as the car rentals go — it’s always a rip off and always ends up being much more expensive than you expect. To begin with our rental company Sixt didn’t have any cars that we reserved that would work for us. So they pawned us off to Payless which agreed to honor the same price. But then adding a different driver, adding an extra hour (our flight was leaving later in the day) and so on added up to a hefty sum.

Sedona from the top.Adding a second driver was not really needed. Alёna drove for all of 30 minutes or so during the trip. I thought that should would enjoy the open roads, but she was afraid to drive at 75MPH speed limit, and was a nervous wreak. Also our VW Passat seemed all kinds of wobbly. I was hoping for a Chrysler 300, but that wasn’t available either. VW was really bland and unexciting in every way possible but it did get us where we needed to go without any issues.

Looking up at Montezuma Castle.On our first day we started with a short stop at Arizona capitol complex at Phoenix. This time we actually managed to get inside for the first time ever — our 3rd trip there — and got ourselves an official capitol stamp. Otherwise it wasn’t anything special inside. And it was very very hot outside in the sun. Our kids expired very quickly and we decided to proceed.

To Sedona


Entering Sedona.Our main objective for the day was to reach Sedona. But since everyone was really hungry after the flight we decided to get a bite before heading out of Phoenix. We couldn’t really find any place to eat for some while. I guess the main highway runs through shady parts of town and nothing looked appealing. Kids were getting really tired by the time we ran upon some nice Greek place. Of course after we did eat every next exit had plenty of eateries.

Montezuma Castle.Also on our way to Sedona we made a stop by Montezuma Castle. The light was much better this time around for a better photograph and there was plenty of shade for a nice hike. What interested Arosha the most though was a lizard that he spotted. Lizards, you see, are much more exciting than some 900 year old building in a side of a cliff.

Sedona cliffs.Along the way we were driving through mountains covered by saguaro cacti. Very unusual landscape. By the time we started approaching Sedona landscape becomes even more unusual in a different way. Gray mountains turned into red cliffs of peculiar shapes. Sun was setting and everything looked very beautiful.

Arosha at one of the many souvenir shops in Sedona.We were all pretty tired by the time we arrived, but when the kids discovered a pool at our hotel they got second wind. We spent the rest of the evening swimming and chilling out in cool waters of the hotel pool on a hot day. Later in the evening Arosha and I picked up some Mexican food at a nearby place while Alёna put Anna to sleep. That was the end of our day.

View of Sedona from the local airport.In the morning we drove up to the local airport which is located above the mountains and has a spectacular view of the town down below. Sedona really is a beautiful place and if you’re going to be driving through from Phoenix to Grand Canyon it really is worth it to make a small detour to see it.
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