We awoke to another light-flooded morning sky in the little town of Kanab. Our drive for the day was fairly short—just 1.5 hours to Page, AZ to hike through Lower Antelope Canyon. Before leaving town, we stopped at Kanab Creek Bakery (a “can’t miss” according to my mother who was there last year) for some pastries and coffee. I glanced at the menu for a few seconds and ordered an array of croissants, crepes, and Madeline cookies. The girl at the register said that I “put in my order like I had eaten breakfast there 100 times”. I don’t know why, but there is no bigger compliment to me than somebody thinking I’m from the place I’m traveling to.
Today was slated to be the most “outdoorsy” day of the trip. It was 99 degrees out and we were prepared to sweat. En route to Page is a short hike to the “Toadstool Hoodoos”, a toadstool-shaped rock formation at the end of a sand-covered desert trail. The turnout for the hike is small and unassuming. If you don’t keep a close eye on the road, you’ll miss it as you wiz down open pavement.
We parked, grabbed a wine-bottle sized jug of water, and began down the trail. We had shade for the first half of the walk and found the heat to be manageable, but the second the sun reared its scorching head, we melted where we stood. It was hard to appreciate the comforting solitude of our little hike as we chugged down our final drops of water and trekked through sand. The rolling rock hills and piercing blue sky was beautiful though.
After pausing to sit in the SUV’s air conditioning for 5 glorious minutes, and a quick stop at the Glen Canyon Dam for a picture, we arrived at the entrance to Lower Antelope to find Dixie Ellis Tours. The hike takes you down into pink-colored canyons where you weave through narrow passageways as light trickles in from the cracks in the earth above. I was excited about it, but the heat was debilitating even in the shade. We took more than one wine-bottle sized water this time. Be prepared—there is only a porta potty in the waiting area and it felt much like stepping inside a plastic toaster. Good thing I am a low-maintenance girl.
Our guide led us on a 10-minute walk to the canyon opening across open rock and sand. A steep collection of stairways awaited us and led straight into the ground. In no time, our sneakers hit the canyon floor where there was finally some relief from the sun. The pathway weaved in between super-narrow rock walls and orange-pink colored formations that jutted out in all directions. It was a unique site to see. Blue sky peaked through the skinny rock crevice above us and beams of light revealed a prism of warm colors. Our guide was more soft-spoken than I would have hoped, so much of the canyon’s history was muffled among the chatter of tour-goers. Even still, it was worth the trip.
The heat resurfaced the moment we began our climb back up the ladders and away from the cool escape of our canyon. You could feel it warm with every step. We emerged from a nearly invisible crack and were greeted at the waiting area with ice cold bottles of water (aka angels from heaven).
We arrived in Page, AZ and crumbled into a pile of mush inside the motel room. I was overheated, exhausted, and covered in fine-grained, orange sand. The only other place we wanted to see that day was Horseshoe Bend, a cool rock formation surrounded by bright blue water a short drive from Page. I felt like I might evaporate into space if I even tried walking to the car, but I mustered hulk-like strength, chugged half a coconut water, and shook it off vigorously. The walk wasn’t far, but I was pretty much “over” the sun by then. The final viewpoint was striking though, if not dampened by the panic I felt watching tourists stand WAY too close to the cliff’s edge.
Back in the room, I stood in an ice-cold shower for 20 minutes, washing away my pain. Then, and only then, I started feeling like a person again. That moment of clarity allowed me to appreciate the beautiful places we’d seen.
Page was a considerably quieter town than Kanab, but we found a place for dinner and took a walk once the crispness of evening emerged. “Into the Grand” is a dinner-and-show experience run by a friendly man who greets you with a handshake and a “License to Chill” card. We dug into plates of juicy pork carnitas and Navajo tacos with hot fry bread on the bottom. Everything was delicious. The Navajo show included traditional dances by adults and kids, and a charismatic host to talk us through their history.
I earned my (very strong) martini that day. And I really earned my second one.