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Thursday, August 19, 2010 : From Losee Canyon to Grand Canyon

 

Today, we get up very early, 5:45am ! Our hosts, out of pure courtesy, got our breakfast ready at 6:30. We are expected at 8am at Ruby's Inn, at the entrance of Bryce Canyon, for a horseback ride that is supposed to last all morning.

 

It rained a lot during the night, the sky is not yet clear, temperature is cool ... nothing too exciting. Wisely, we put on jeans and took raincoats with us. Fortunately, the weather will soon improve.

 

Breakfast is a gourmet's heaven, both plentiful and tasty. Then, after warmly thanking our hosts for getting up much earlier than usual, we leave for Bryce Canyon. After a short wait, we are taken by minibus to a corral a few miles away, at the lower end of Losee Canyon. There, we meet our horses. Mine is called Navajo, an almost appropriate name in this region.

 

Losee Canyon, the corral

The corral, away from all paved roads

 

Well, these are really quiet animals, and we soon realize that we are absolutely safe with them. We also meet our 3 guides, with whom I will swap a few words during the morning.

 

Then the group sets off, in single line.

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Losee Canyon

Losee Canyon under the morning sun

 

We cross an almost dry creek, which surprises me slightly, given the strength of the storm last night. I discuss that with one of the guides, and she confirms me that, although we are inside a narrow valley, we will not be washed away by a flashflood.

 

The weather has already turned a lot better, and our first pictures in Losee Canyon genuinely show the orange color of the rocks under the morning sun. It's now really beautiful, though still a bit cool.

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Losee Canyon, Navajo and Christian

Navajo, a really quiet horse for a really rookie rider

 

After little over an hour, we make a stop, to let our horses (and their riders !) have a rest. I chat with one of the guides, who explains me she ain't been to a city for months, since she prefers life in the open air. She's got to like it, here !

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Losee Canyon, way back to the corral

Losee Canyon, on our way back to the corral

 

Then we ride the trail the other way, back to the corral. We snap a few more pictures. Our weather concerns seem wildly unfounded. But it's only a matter of patience.

 

The minibus brings us back to Ruby's Inn, where we picnic before leaving.

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US-89, between Kanab and Page, under the storm

US-89 under the storm

 

We drive on US-89, towards Page, Arizona. But between Kanab and Page, we cross a dreadful thunderstorm. Although it is not precisely in my habit, I slow down considerably at the height of the storm. At times, I must be driving no faster that 40 m.p.h. We only cross a few cars. Fortunately, this is not going to last very long.

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Between Kanab and Page, the Vermilion Cliffs

The Vermilion cliffs, a bit pale

 

Rain has hardly stopped as we drive along the famous Vermilion Cliffs, who line US-89 almost all the way from Kanab to Page. It is still a bit grey, pictures are slightly pale, but we have to put up with. A few years earlier, I had travelled that same road the other way, under a bright sunny weather. What a contrast !

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Between Kanab and Page, erosion

What erosion leaves after taking off eveything else

 

This picture purposefully shows the geology of the region. The ground is made of different layers of very soft limestone, eroded by water and wind. Hard to believe, but 300 million years ago, all this region was a vast seabed, where sediments deposited, forming these layers, much like a layered cake.

 

Later on, all the region gently heaved, bringing up the former seabed about 8,000 feet high. With the sea gone, the work of wind and water could begin. Since that work has been far from homogeneous, some buds of the old limestone layers remained, in extremely diverse shapes. The picture shows an example.

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Lake Powell and Glen Canyon

Lake Powell and Glen Canyon

 

A few miles before Page, we take pictures of Lake Powell and Glen Canyon. I remember stopping at that exact same place without any further formality, but it is out of question, nowadays. Only our national park pass grants us access. The place is now handled by NPS, the National Park Service.

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Rainbow near Page, AZ

Rainbow over the prairie, just after Page, Arizona

 

We make more photo stops at the marina, then at Glen Canyon Dam, where some drops hit us again. A few miles later, this will give us the chance to take a picture of this beautiful rainbow.

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Dry prairie near Page, AZ

The prairie becomes dry

 

The precipitations we have just withstood must not be too frequent, in the region. The prairie becomes dry and scrubby, all in a few miles.

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Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

 

Close to Page, we stop at Horseshoe Bend, appropriately named after, well, the shape of a horseshoe. This bend has been carved by the Colorado river, in its attempt to find a way in between the rocks. The place is spectacular and the landscape stunning. Horseshoe Bend really deserves a visit and more than a short stop.

 

It is not yet Grand Canyon, but the valley is already narrow with steep sides.

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Near Grand Canyon

Not Grand Canyon yet, but we're on the way

 

On our right, the course of the Colorado is getting deeper and deeper. Soon, we will no longer see it. No doubt, we're getting close to Grand Canyon.

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Stairs-shaped limestone tables

Stairs-shaped limestone tables

 

This picture really shows the geological structure of this whole large plateau, whose edges, more or less eroded, have taken this characteristic staircase steps shape, thus giving this perception of superposed tables, or "mesas".

 

The weather is bright again, and we begin to hope for tomorrow.

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US-89 route across the Painted Desert

US-89 crosses the Painted Desert

 

Along one of the staircase steps, oxydes naturally present in the various rocks have given those cliffs the nickname of Painted Desert. We are lucky to see it under the sun, and it's really superb !

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Grand Canyon, Navajo Point, the Watchtower

Grand Canyon, Navajo Point and its watchtower

 

We are now inside Grand Canyon National Park. Only a very small part of the park can be visited. The rest is a protected area, difficult to access. But whatever little we can see is more than enough by itself to justify the whole trip !

 

Our first stop is at Navajo Point and its watchtower, which was erected in the 1930s by architect Mary Colter, in the syle of Native American buildings.

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Grand Canyon, Navajo Point, sunset

Navajo Point, sunset on Grand Canyon

 

Still at Navajo Point, we take a few pictures of Grand Canyon itself, warmly lit by the declining sun of this late afternoon.

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Grand Canyon, Navajo Point

Grand Canyon .... what's more to say ? 

 

Its beauty, its majesty is absolutely stunning and, short on superlatives, let me refrain from more comment.

 

It is almost dark when we make it to the Holiday Inn at Grand Canyon Village.

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