Arrived Phoenix on January 5th at 10am. Got the gear and we headed North towards Page. Stopped off at Salsa Brava for lunch in Flagstaff and have to say, it is one of the best places I have ever been. Their salsa bar is just unreal! Honestly, if you have the time, it is on the way- go!
Page is close to the Utah border. It took us 4:30 minutes from the Phoenix airport. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Page-Lake Powell. It was super convenient. Ate that evening at RD’s Drive-In. Just good local feel good food. Nothing spectacular just really good!
Woke up the 6th and headed to Horseshoe Bend for the sunrise, place is just amazing. Don’t let the reviews on the hike fool you. If you are mildly in-shape it is a breeze. The view is spectacular. No cost, and I assume due to the fact it was early and time of year there was no one else there with us. We got to enjoy the solitude all to ourselves. We then headed over to the Antelope Canyon (Lower) to be exact. The Navajo guides who oversee the area due to the land being Navajo owned saw we had 35mm DSLR cameras and said if we wanted we could take a photo pass and tour the canyon at our leisure taking pictures. All I can say is WOW! The journey thru the canyon was just incredible. I had done the Fiery Furnace up in Arches a few years back and in many ways this rivals that! The canyon is tight in some spots, with very steep areas but you are rewarded with amazing views of wind and water swept stone. Again, there was no one in the canyon. It truly seemed we picked the best time of the year to go to avoid the crowds. I would suggest going between 11-1pm so the sun is high and you get max light for your picture taking.
From here we headed over to the Glen Canyon Dam, we opted not to do a tour as we had seen dam tours before. It’s engineering is pretty amazing. Lake Powell and the surrounding area are beautiful. Makes you want to rent a houseboat for sure! We finished Page with lunch in Fiesta Americana…delicious! If you are in Page and like authentic SouthWestern food this is the spot!
We had reservations to hike the Grand Canyon for the 7-9th. So we headed to GCNP from Page. Got to the park as the sun was falling and how majestic it looked from the top views with the sun hitting its peaks. We had booked reservations with the Bright Angel lodge/Phantom Ranch roughly 13 months ago. We stayed in the Bright Angel cabins the evening of the 6th. Had dinner at the Bright Angel Lodge, decent, but no overwhelming and fueled up for our first trip down the Canyon the next morning.
Woke up to crisp 15 degree air on January 7th. Took the shuttle to the South Kaibab trail at 9:20am with and admitted amount of nervousness and exhilaration to spend 2 nights down at Phantom Ranch. WOW! The hike down the 7.1 miles was just amazing. We literally only saw/passed 8 hikers all day. From the trailhead down to the 2nd switchback past the first set of bathrooms we had to use crampons (pullover the boot kind) due to the ice along the trail. We saw a couple of people in just boots and they were sliding all over. My recommendation would be to go out and get these, they are $25 bucks at REI and will give you piece of mind. We stopped often along the trek down to take amazing pictures. All the time noticing the changing types and colors of the stone and rock. It was just amazing. We got to Phantom Ranch in 4:30 minutes, we weren’t rushing but cruising at a decent pace while also taking pictures. All of our packs weighed between 20-30lbs. It was cool for most of the way until we got to the Colorado River Bridge and then it felt hot-roughly 65 degrees but with the descent you really worked up a sweat. South Kaibab doesn’t have water in the winters. We packed ours down. I honestly didn’t go thru my bladder in my bad nor need to hit my bottles. Always better to have more than less in the desert though, but that weight sure begins to weigh on you after you get to the ranch.
Was greeted at the Phantom Ranch by Debbie. She confirmed our meals and our dorms. Guys in one, girls in the other. Our dorm had 4 sets of bunk beds…8 beds in total. A separate shower, as well as urinal. It was clean, no frills, and very looked forward to after the long journey down the Canyon. It was still daylight so everyone showered and then headed to the canteen to get some of their famous lemonade and then sat outside by the raging river and watched guys pulling in brown and rainbow trout like they were going out of style. As it got closer to dusk the Mule Deer were all over eating off the vegetation. The first night we all had decided to do the Steak dinner. It was beyond satisfying along with a great salad, potato, and a huge chocolate cake to top it off! There are two dinner times and they were very orderly. You ate, left, and then the second shift would come in. After that the Cantina opens up to everyone from 8-10p. We got to meet some great people and share some amazing stories over beer and wine.
On the 8th we awoke and had a great breakfast at 7am. Then we set out and did some of the hikes at the base..we did the Clear Creek and Ribbon Falls hikes and as well spent time watching the Mule Deer who were no more than 2 feet from us. It was just an amazing experience spending a full 24 hours in the base of the Grand Canyon. One that you will cherish for life. That evening we had the stew…let me just say, this is the best stew any of us had ever eaten. It was unreal. The steak was good, the stew like others say is PHENOMENAL! We mailed some postcards from the ranch that evening (they are stamped with a delivered by mule from the Phantom Ranch on their backs) drank some spirits and were in bed by 11pm for the early morning trek.
We decided at the last minute not to do the Bright Angel Trail back up for multiple reasons. We were told by many that had come down it that it was incredibly icy for the first 3 miles at the top, and then the added length. We decided that would be best reserved for the next hike in. Although South Kaibab is much steeper it was just a decision we all made. The hike up was fun, but when you hit those switch backs midway thru, your legs are burning with RAGE! It took us 5 hours to get up, again we didn’t rush and stopped for 35 minutes to each lunch. We soaked in the sights the entire way.
My suggestion for those going down for 2 nights. Bring one pair of hiking pants, 2 capilene shirts, a vest, and a jacket. Maybe a pair of jeans for the night. You want to keep that weight to a minimum for sure and invest the weight in things like some trail bars and water/Gatorade. We met people who had brought down way too much and I bet are punished today still cursing themselves for that. We just completely lucked out with the perfect weather this past week along with virtually no people on the trail except for us. It was perfection.
Once we popped out of the trailhead we got a couple of shirts and took in some sights of the GC from above the rim, planning out our next adventure down! We headed out of GCNP around 3pm on the 9th ran into the Grand Canyon Imax Theater and took in the show. It was a great way to relax the sore muscles and see some amazing footage. I suggest it for anyone, the show is only 35 minutes and I know you will appreciate it! With just really a day left we had planned to head to Sedona. Arrived around 6:30 in Sedona and ended up making a reservation at the BEST WESTERN Inn of Sedona for $111 bucks a night. I typically stay in Westin and W hotels for work. This Best Western was just great! The views off the back deck of the red rocks were just breath taking. We had a fireplace in our room, the outside Jacuzzi to rest your legs was great and Emily the desk manager was beyond kind.
On the 10th we went out to take in the sights. We headed over to Cathedral Rock first, then did the Upper Red Rocks Loop . Went down to the Red Rocks Crossing and the Vortex. Cruised over to the Chapel of the Holy Cross area trying to get good photo’s and ended up weaving in and around these beautiful neighborhoods to get great shots with light on the rocks. Cruised down Red Rock Scenic Byway (SR 179) to Bell Rock. Wow! We now know we have to come back and mountain bike in this great park! Saw Snoopy Rock and the CoffeyPot. Then do the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road. Finished the afternoon in Uptown Sedona eating and then finalized the entire journey with a run up to the Mesa Airport to watch the sunset. Sedona is one of the true gems in this country. I am not into the crystals/psychic thing but it just gives off this amazing feeling seeing that beautiful Red Rock pictured seemingly everywhere in the background.
Headed to Phoenix last evening and got in today. What an adventure. It will go down as one of the all time greatest getaway’s for us and one we will certainly be returning to without a doubt in my mind! Oh have I told you I already booked for next year?! J Thanks for everyone’s help pre-planning (RedRox, Enzian, Southjerseygirl)
Unlearn what you have learned is my motto!