I just took the trip of a lifetime, and I didn’t even know it was going to end up that way! I’ve been dying to go to Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona for about four years now, ever since an old friend went there and incredible pictures of it started popping up on travel accounts all over instagram. I love frolicking in the wild, I love rivers and lakes and water, and I could just see myself navigating a kayak through the curves of Horseshoe Bend. But then! I learned about the canyons. The hauntingly beautiful canyons that have been shaped for thousands of years by rushing water, beams of sunlight hitting the walls just so, giving off incredible colors and shapes. I knew I had to go.
So, I’m going to tell you EXACTLY what we did and with which companies. The town of Page is SUPER small, so you do want to pack your entire 3 day trip with activities because there isn’t much in the way of leisure or shopping. They have one grocery store, one movie theatre with one movie, and one Walmart which is on the other side of town about 10 minutes away from where I am telling you to go. There’s a bowling alley and some restaurants and a couple bars. Doesn’t get much more wild than that, and honestly, I loved it that simple.
We started out from Phoenix and wanted to make a pitstop at the Grand Canyon- I’d never been before but Lindsay is from Arizona and had been years before. So, she picked me up from the airport, we went to Trader Joe’s to stock up on healthy foods since we were about to embark on our healthy, active, outdoorsy adventure. The roasted red pepper eggplant dip and the cheese bites did not even make it through the drive, haha. Of course we ate the good stuff first and left the undeniably healthy stuff for the actual trip.
On the way, we just HAD to stop on the side of the freeway and frolic around the superbloom that has cropped up after a temperamental combination months of rain and an uptick in the temperature, with the bloom only showing up every few years. It stretches from central to southern California and jumps the desert over to Arizona, too, it seems.
I won’t tell you the location because I don’t want the chances of trampling to increase, so if you do find it, you’re on your own seeking it. out.
Disclaimer: NO WILDFLOWERS WERE TRAMPLED IN THE MAKING OF THIS PHOTO!!! We stepped carefully and right behind me is the freeway- I’m not actually inside the field of flowers at all. Just one little bush is in front of me. Definitely stabbed in the legs with stickers though from a tumbleweed I brushed past on the way back. Quick pic, jumped back in the car, andddd ONWARD toward the greatest natural creation in the US!
So, when you get to Grand Canyon National Park, you have to pay an entrance fee, $30 per car, but it does give you up to 7 days entrance to the park and others. We drove through and it was kind of crowded! I know, it was a Saturday, my own fault. This time I didn’t get to camp or hike, we just got on the hop on, hop off bus that drops you at each point along the rim and loops back around. It was mind blowing how large it is. The Grand Canyon runs 228 miles in length and is up to 18 miles WIDE!!! in some parts!
I’ve only flown over the Grand Canyon, and this was my first time seeing this World Wonder up close. Lindsay yelled at me for getting too close to the edge 😂 I should probably come with one of those kids backpack leashes shaped like a kangaroo or something.
But seriously, even as a kid, My dad would take me hiking and rock climbing, as far back as 2 years old. I’d be shirtless, in my little sneakers, navigating the craggy Old Rag trailhead in the Shenandoah Mountains, eventually reaching the top. We’d jump from boulder to boulder to get to the peak, and I remember him encouraging me “just jump!” as my 5, 6, 7, 8 year old self looked down between the cracks to a deep plunge down the mountain, took a deep breath, and leaped to where he waited for me on the other side.
From the Grand Canyon, we continued onward about 2 and half hours to get to Page, Arizona. We got into Page right when the sun was setting and it was the perfect combination of cotton candy and a fires across the skyline.
Lower Antelope Canyon
Hiking the lower Antelope Canyon in Navajo Nation was INCREDIBLE. It was eerily beautiful and I didn’t want it to end. Also, Lindsay’s arms look like shes been hanging with Jillian Michaels for a few weeks. 💪🏽 There are the lower canyons and the upper canyons. The lower canyons are referred to as lower because they are below ground. You have to descend into the earth to find them and are not really visible from the surface. The upper canyons are referred to as upper because the rocks rise above the ground and you are walking above ground either flat, or raised and they are visible.
Look through the rest of these and see the intricate patterns worn into the ancient sandstone from water coursing and surging along over thousands of years.
Our guide, Michaela, told us how as a child, she and her friends would play in the canyons and it just reminded me of that freedom of exploring I had as a kid, too. And that’s how I want to keep living; seeking out experiences that bring you right back to that wild of childhood, experiences that are uninterrupted by technology and loud bars. Where a crevice could hold treasure or something curious. Where beams of sun are streams of magic pouring into your hands.
The camera settings helped SO much so that we could see all the texture in the sandstone. All of this is made from thousands of years of rushing water- during the monsoons, rain fills the canyons up and they fill up the lower canyons FAST. If a storm comes along while you’re in the lower canyon, you have max 15 minutes to get out before it floods. Crazy!
Now, you can’t bring any bags or purses or backpacks on this tour. It’s best to just bring your keys in your pocket, your phone, and a bottle of water. They do provide bottled water at the end! The hike on Navajo Nation lands is only an hour and a half- you shouldn’t need anything else during that time. Also, go to the bathroom before starting- there are no facilities once it starts and NO PEEING ON ROCKS!!! I see some of you… I know my people. We will pee anywhere. lol Only downside is that these tours are pretty popular and they do not leave much space between groups. So even though Michaela was awesome, the tour guide in the group behind us was right up our backs and didn’t give us much space, but there was space in front of us and space behind that guy’s tour group. That was the only annoyance.
Oh! Make sure you leave your guides with a tip! Michaela went ABOVE AND BEYOND for us- she taught us what settings to put our iphone cameras on to catch the light and shadows properly, showed us the perfect spots and angles to capture the perfect formation, and took photos of us, sometimes crouching or standing on rocks to get it in for the ‘gram. She was patient and informed and wonderful. She one hundred percent deserved a bit extra.
We used Dixie Lower Antelope Canyon and we were paired up with Michaela. Here’s their site. https://antelopelowercanyon.com/
Kayaking Lake Powell
We got out of the lower canyon tour in the early afternoon, so after Lindsay made some work calls and I pretended to do important things like take a 25 minute nap, we were ready to
We rented kayaks for $30 each and loaded them on to the provided roof rack and went on down to the boat loading area. We dragged them into the water and spent hours under the shadows of the massive walls of red rocks and sandstone. We were so lucky to relatively be alone other than the occasional pair of kayakers coming back the opposite way. Lake Powell runs 186 miles- I would say I could stay on those waters for days without coming off of them. The shore waters are aquamarine (not pictured) like you’re in the Caribbean instead of landlocked in a desert and the deepest parts are a cobalt blue. You can’t see anything around you except water, sky, and stone walls, riveted by age and weather over thousands of years.
You start off on the main part of the Colorado River where you load your kayaks out of the car and larger speedboats and houseboats are allowed to go fast, then you can choose to keep going straight, or make a left where the river splits and it is a slow speed, no wake zone. We went left!
We only got a few hours in since we went after our lower canyon hike, but next time I am planning on doing a full day. It’s just too breath-taking not to.
We used Lake Powell Paddleboards and Kayaks and they were really cool. They also provide kayaking tours, although we opted to go alone. They load it all up for you on your car and even offered a super cheap extension price if we wanted to keep the kayaks an extra day. Great company, and literally a one minute drive down the street behind our hotel.
lakepowellpaddleboards.com (928) 645-4017
Upper Canyon Secret Slot Hike & Horseshoe Bend
The next day was what I’d been waiting for for a VERY long time. We had Brandon as our guide and he was SO great. If you get a chance to go with Brandon, definitely ask for him!
You pile into the back of this truck and it is open air seating so that you can see all around you while you off-road it a bit through the desert sands to get to the upper canyon secret slot location. They call it the secret slots because it is completely private and you are the ONLY group that is hiking through it at the time of your tour. So there’s no rushing and you get all the time you need to explore, wander on your own, and soak in the history and nature. You are allowed to bring backpacks/purses on this tour as its 2 1/2-3 hours long.
First, Brandon took us to the Upper Canyons into the secret slots. It was SO nice to be at our own pace and to check out bird nests and learn about how the little indentations way up high in the sandstone walls were where the Navajo would hide their treasures and belongings, like little storage containers. Brandon said he used to find bits of pottery and jewelry all over when he was growing up.
This is the point where you come out of the upper canyon and you can climb to the top to look down into where you were just walking. Brandon took this picture of me and Linds from below. SEE??! The guides up in Page are SO WORTH IT!!
We got to see this traditional house called a hogan and it was actually super cool inside, not a steam room like I thought it would be. The logs are packed with mud, and it’s very spacious inside. There’s a hole in the roof for a wood burning stove. We stopped here just for a little to drop off some of the people who didn’t order the double tour- that’s the secret right there! DONT just get the upper canyon slot tour- get the tour PLUS Horseshoe Bend or else you’re going to be SO DAMN SAD.
See that spec over there to the left? THATS ME! lol what you can’t see is the Cheshire-wide smile spread across my face. This moment right here I’ve been waiting on for FOUR YEARS!! The moment I got to see Horseshoe Bend FINALLY!!! You have no idea how many times I’ve saved photos of this place… and being there was unreal. I cannot wait to go back and to experience it from the bottom while I’m flailing around in a kayak with a sunburnt forehead. We got to go onto a Reservation to see this angle- and far off, up a bit further to that right curve, we could see people who drove up themselves to the designated park area not on tribal land, where the view isn’t quite the same.
This quite possibly made my entire year. Lindsay almost killed me for getting close to the edge again, but she warmed up and was able to get a little closer and grab her own shots by the bend.
We used Horseshoe Bend Tours with Brandon https://horseshoebendtours.com/slot-canyon-plus-overlook
Again, don’t forget to give a little tip to your guide! They really do go above and beyond.
We stayed at the Best Western Plus and it was everything we wanted- Page is already so small, so being centrally located in the tiny town was exactly the right move. They have huge rooms, huge beds, and a great complimentary breakfast setup each morning. The staff are all very kind and helpful. We even took a dip in the jacuzzi under the crescent moon, which I think looks like a nail clipping when it’s in this phase. haha The pool was closed because it was a little early in the season to open it up. We didn’t mind. The jacuzzi was sufficient.
Best Western Plus at Lake Powell https://www.bestwestern.com/en_US/book/hotels-in-page/best-western-plus-at-lake-powell/propertyCode.03117.html
I would 100% recommend Page, Arizona and Horseshoe Bend for a girls’ getaway as I did with Lindsay, a couples getaway, or even as a family trip. It is affordable, gorgeous, and full of outdoor adventures. And it is just now that people are starting to catch on- which means you should go ASAP. I can see it turning into the next Havasupai where it’s almost impossible to get access or a ticket into the area anymore which is now being restricted and tightly controlled due to the overcrowding of tourists. Go do Page, AZ NOW before it’s too late! If you want more posts about this trip, pop on over to my instagram page: http:www.instagram.com/msmonicafay and let me know you stopped by or if you took this trip!! (@msmonicafay)
I hate bowling. I hate wearing rental shoes. I have zero aim or depth perception when it comes to bowling. But Lindsay made me go. And we had a great time and lots of drinks. It wasn’t crowded, so we took our time and they put bumpers on our lanes. hahaha It’s not super advanced or gorgeous, but it was pretty fun. I also refused to wear shoes lol The place is called Bowl. You can’t miss it, its the only one.
We mostly ate breakfast provided with the hotel room, lunch from our Trader Joe’s excursion, and then went out for dinner each night. There aren’t many choices, but these two were my favorites.
State 48 dinner/drinks- the drinks are SO cheap here and bar staff is very friendly. First night we had the chicken asparagus, artichoke plate with sweet potato fries and it was so good! Don’t skip the sweet potato fries!! The next time we went, we had steak and it wasn’t exactly my fave. I like steak rare and it was way over done and kind of flavorless. Same sides came with the steak, so I was happy about that! Oh! If you sit out on the patio for dinner, you will catch an amazing sunset.
Big John’s Texas BBQ – Great bbq! I had the bbq brisket sandwich and Lindsay had the pulled chicken sandwich. Both of us got the cowboy beans it’s served with and potato salad. I wasn’t too much of a fan of the potato salad because it was very sweet and I prefer more savory. They only serve beer, but their local beer was great! We sat outdoors at the picnic table style seating, scooping peanuts from the center pail, and watching the country band playing on the stage. A few local kids were up there banging away on tambourines with them. Usually they have a line down the block for their bbq, which cooks on their gigantic outdoor smokers in the parking lot, but we caught them on a not as busy (but still busy) night. Finished everything off with peach cobbler and french vanilla ice cream.
Street Art on the way home:
We stopped again on the side of the freeway, mostly because my ADHD is constantly searching for any type of distraction possible, so seeing these gigantic displays of street art on the face of an abandoned motel and gas station of course I had to give Lindsay a heart attack by yelling out, MAKE A U-TURN WE NEED TO SEE THAT!
It turns out, these pieces were all commissioned for the #paintthedesert project and the meaning behind each was so much more deep than prettily painted abandoned buildings to spruce up the sprawling miles of sand and cactus and shrubbery.
The quote says: “Power is not brute force and money; power is in your spirit. Power is in your soul. It is what your ancestors, your old people gave you. Power is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.”- Winona LaDuke
I wish I had actually read about it before I spread eagled my arms in this picture, because the meaning behind it, a stance against for-profit prisons and the unequal, harsh punishments of convicted people of color, is very close to my heart.
Here’s a bit behind it:
Jesse Hazelip 2018 mural
“My recently finished mural for the #painteddesertproject on Diné land in #arizona. This piece started as a Ballpoint pen drawing titled CCA DOC. The vulture represents our judicial system and the private prison industry that preys and feeds on the poor and underrepresented people, mainly POC, to satiate it’s investors. The private prison industry, which CCA was the largest head of the beast, is corrupt beyond belief. They sign contracts with states to keep prisons open with the stipulation that the prison must be kept at 95% capacity. A prisons function shouldn’t be aimed at keeping cells filled, it should be focused on rehabilitation and programs to give prisoners a chance when they are released. That is only one example of many of the depth of the misguided direction associated with the private prison industry. Prisoners are basically slaves getting paid inhumane amounts ($1 a day to fight fires for example) and are used as a workforce for corporations that exploit their cheap labor. There is a 17 state wide prisoner protest that will pop off this month protesting the exploitative aspects in these work forces. Please vote to help change this corruption. We need civil district attorneys and prosecutors and judges. Fuck it, we need civil police. Use your votes to help change. Read The New Jim Crow by #michellealexander watch 13th on Netflix. Talk to your community. Activate your inner activist. #jessehazelip
Many thanks to @jetsonorama for bringing me out and including me in this amazing project. Massive respect to @danieljosley for helping me like a champ. And thanks to @starlatti for traveling and helping and keeping me company!” from Jesse Hazelip’s Instagram account. https://www.instagram.com/p/BmmQ2VWnejT/