I've teamed up with two colleagues from school to explore Arizona as often as possible. Working at a boarding school doesn't allow for a lot of that, but we've managed to do a bit in the past month, most recently during our October Home Leave. Linda, our girls' dean, Jill (our health/PE teacher), and I took off on Thursday afternoon, October 18, for Marble Canyon, about an hour east of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Normally a 5 hour drive, it took us close to 7 1/2 hour because of the stops we made--for gas and for souvenirs at the Cameron Trading Post. This historic site is, according to its website, "more than an Indian lodge or Grand Canyon hotel. Established in 1916, the Cameron Indian Trading Post has become a showplace for fine Native American art and Southwest art. The unique central location of [its] Grand Canyon lodging is perfect for exploring the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and Native American Indian Country, but there is much to see right here. [The] Gallery, with its beautiful and unique Native American Indian decor, houses some of the finest Native American Indian art in the Southwest, both contemporary and antique Indian art including Navajo rugs, Hopi kachinas, and Pueblo pottery. [The] Gift Shop offers a wide selection of Southwest art, Native American art, and Southwestern decor." As you might imagine, we enjoyed this stop ;)
The Marble Canyon Lodge, our headquarters for the next three days and nights, was a charming place with affable people--both the workers and the visitors. We had interesting conversations with each over the time we spent there--including a surprising revelation that the people in the rooms next to ours knew one of our graduates from last year and his grandpa! One of the men had been a fighter pilot during WWII, on the Italian front. His girlfriend had been active as one of the early female pilots, barnstorming all over the country, flying in competitions and exhibitions! From this strategic point, we had great options in two directions: Lake Powell to our northeast and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to our southwest, and several interesting sites in between both destinations. We chose to go to Lake Powell on Friday, so after a leisurely breakfast and a quick visit to Lee's Ferry, we made our way to Page where we took a hair-raising trip to Antelope Canyon and closed out the day on a luxury houseboat on Lake Powell before dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The details:
Lee's Ferry, according to Wikipedia, is a site on the Colorado River about 7.5 miles southwest of the town of Page, Arizona and the Glen Canyon Dam, and about 9 miles south of the Utah-Arizona border. It is the former location of a ferry established by John D. Lee, a Mormon settler. Today, the site is used primarily for fishing and launching rafts. We got some nice photos there and then moved on to a Native American jewelry and pottery stand nearby. Most of the artists were at Tuba City for the last festival of the season, but there was enough goods there to interest us. I had an interesting conversation with one of the women, who told me a lot about Navajo culture.
Then we journeyed onward in Linda's trusty vintage VW camper, arriving in Page, after a brief stop at the Glen Canyon Dam, with enough time for a deli lunch before our tour of Antelope Canyon, one of several "slot" canyons in the area. Our guide was a native named Henry and for the first 30 minutes of our acquaintance with him, we thought he must be possessed as he gave as the craziest ride in an open truck from town to the canyon. Terrified doesn't quite describe my feelings, but that's close. And I wasn't alone. We had twelve out there in the back, all of us hanging on for dear life, often gasping as Henry careened around corners and swerved wildly once he got us off road. Once we arrived and scrambled off the truck, he herded us into the canyon and proceeded to amaze us with his knowledge of both the canyon and how to photograph it. He gave tip after tip for the best lighting and setting for capturing the insides of this canyon carved by raging torrents of water over the centuries. Turns out he was just trying to get us there ahead of others so we could get the best shots. Our feelings about him mellowed greatly once that realization sunk in. And our return trip to town was much calmer.
We got lucky at Lake Powell because we found that the boat rental place had several houseboats open for show, so even though it was by then near sunset, we took our time going through several houseboats ranging in size from 50 to 75 feet. They were amazing, with upper deck jacuzzis and grills as well as highly appointed kitchens and living spaces. We watched the sun set from there, then went back into town for supper at a charming Mexican restaurant that Linda knew before finding our way back to Marble Canyon.
The next day, Saturday, we drove out to the North Rim, stopping at Vermillion Cliffs and Jacob Lake on our way. Vermillion Cliffs are, well, very red! One of the roadside attractions there was a small house made out of giant rocks. It was, at the very least, quite ingenius, but I can't imagine it kept the sand and wind out very well! The drive up into the various mesas to get down into the North Rim was beautiful. We did see, at the last, evidence of two devastating forest fires which we later learned were at least 5 and 7 years ago.
We stopped for breakfast at Jacob Lake Inn, one of the oldest inns in the canyon--going back to 1923. It is famous for its pastries, and we found out why. The whole breakfast was delicious. Everywhere we went, the vintage VW camper caught people's attention. They would always stop and ask questions about it...and often, it seems, the questioners were bikers. Linda is a biker, too, so you can imagine the attention we drew (or should I say she drew)!
Then, it was on to the North Rim Lodge. Unfortunately, it was already closed for the season, although normally it wouldn't be just yet. But they were having some kind of meetings with "important people" so it had been closed to the public earlier than usual. Undaunted, the three of us sat outside on the patio and enjoyed the view and the sun for awhile. It was a bit smokey there because of another fire, this one prescribed, that was filling the canyon with smoke. It was still beautiful. We wandered around the lodge area for awhile and then drove out to Point Imperial. At 8,803 feet, Point Imperial is the highest of the North Rim overlooks, and the northernmost. We could see our Marble Canyon Lodge some 50 miles away if we looked hard enough at the horizon! We literally camped out there for a few hours, napping and reading in the brisk, cool air--so refreshing from the near-100 we had left in Scottsdale! It was rather windy up there, so Linda and Jill holed up in the camper, but I braved it out for awhile, wrapped in a blanket. We stayed there until just about sunset and then drove down out of the high elevation a few thousand feet to watch the sunset before going "home" to our lodge.
The next day we left after an early breakfast as we needed to get back to school for parent/teacher conferences by 4 p.m. We had good plans, but for us, those plans went awry about an hour into our journey home when the trusty VW ran out of gas! Happily, we were at the top of a hill with a native american jewelry post at the bottom, so we were able to coast most of the way there. Jill jumped out and pushed us the last bit. Also, happily, the post was on the owner's property and there was someone at home who could take Linda a few miles away to get gas. Meanwhile, Jill and I made it worth their while to help us out as we spent several pretty pennies there! The rest of the trip home was uneventful and we arrived back in Scottsdale with about 45 minutes to spake--time enough to clean up a bit before meeting with parents and students for the next three hours.
All in all...a pretty amazing trip to northern Arizona. One I hope to do again and again...