Antelope 11/16/2013 12:31:00 AM
Two reasons I picked South-west as my follow up trip after Alaska, as I mentioned in my earlier post, One the contrast in landscapes and weather, and second, I wanted to do Grand Circle or at least some part of it this year, turned out, was well thought of. because it worked.
|I am Back in New York after an off-season trip to Arizona and Utah, the two states in the south-west of united states, w/ mixed emotions. The five days long road expedition was excellent from all aspects except there was something that left me bit torn as well. But as they say, every unfortunate incident is a learning for the future. |
So here is a quick road transcript from this travel, this time w/ some photographs ( As we could click some iPhone shots, quick to process and post.) the individual articles shall follow.
"My Ansel Adams Moment - US89 highway from Page Arizona towards Zion National Park Utah."
When I first discovered this area on the map, I knew this is not to explore in one single trip. there is just so much to see, dozens of national parks, monuments and changing scenery and culture. and that made me think it'd be a good idea to do an introductory trip to one certain area, and follow up accordingly. Thats exactly why when I drew the map for Grand Circle, there were multiple ones, anchored w/ There major cities falling in the region i.e. Las Vegas Nevada, Phoenix Arizona and Salt Lake City Utah. For the first trip we picked up Phoenix, and that was enough to book the flight in August. Where to go from Phoenix was left upon when we land there. All that needed was a car and a map and we'd be out on our mission to explore the south-west.
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I wish things were as easy as throwing a bag in the backseat and go driving, But anywhere you want to go here in US, its almost mandatory to book your flights in advance, and that is at least. i.e. I don't get worried about the hotels and everything else. Arizona flights were also booked in August just after I finished booking for Alaska, and I totally missed out on the timing and airport. Yes it was 6:30AM in the morning and from JFK which is 2 hours and 4 trains away from my home. well you can spend similar amount on your taxi that you spent booking flight, if you'd want to but I thought the two hours that I'have for spare, I'd use them working. So I took the last bus from my apartment at 12AM, and reached Terminal 8 at 2:15 or so, and thus begins the drama.
- Unlike what I thought, the terminal was closed. What were I thinking? that its a 24X7 job. No security, No self-checkin machines, and No chairs either. People lying on the floor here and there, sleeping the night off, and only One shop open for some coffee or water if you're in need. This is New York City.
- In case anyone noticed, the Boingo or some network at the airport is total crap. 30 minutes of browsing, after you watch their 30 seconds of sponsored video or download certain app, and then they'll block it asking you to pay for it. According to Me, the internet is one other thing that should be free world over, the first thing is water. irony is even in developed country, none is.
- I needed some place to sit, so I buy a bottle of water, and come back to AirTrain station and just pass the time doing I am not sure what. close to 4AM and I walk back to the terminal, only to know the counters for US Airways are not open still.
- Sitting on the floor, wait for a little long, tweet a pic for two using Boingo, Yes, and walk to security where a Gentleman greets me in Hindi. A long security check, Thanks to unknotting timberlands and taking about all the stuff, and screening etc, I walk to deserted Gate 40 something, wondering How many trips I will have to make before I am excluded from these security checks. Would be a bad joke if I say, only Lord of death doesnt ask for a security check before inviting one to Hell or heaven or do they. I wouldn't know.
- Thank Goodness there is "attwifi" at gate and its unlimited too. what else one needs while waiting to get onboard?
- The plane flew and landed on time for a change, but there came the news, Nandita's flight is delayed So this time I wait 2 hours at the airport, and don't mind it because I am loving the laid back Phoenix already. Very nice people and breakfast at four peaks and guess what there is internet too.
- Only 2 of us for this exploratory trip, e head out to Hertz from the airport at about 1PM on Friday 8th, 13. Dint know there is NAScar race starting this weekend, as Hertz announced to us, everything is sold out and we'd only be getting a Toyota Camry and that too, Not so cheap. honestly damn costly. but we take it anyway thinking the roads wont be like Dalton Highway here.
- now comes the planning part, half the day is already over, so No point heading out North to Page or close-by right now, we make a quick trip to Walmart for some food, water and tissues and instead head out to Tucson in South Arizona.
South Arizona : Tucson, Saguaro National Park, Oro Valley, Florence, Coolidge, Casa Grande & Apache Junction.
- How charming south Arizona is. Google can only give you a hint. Only when we drive away from busy Phoenix down south we know how American Desert looks like. But I have to control my emotions here and keep the details for posts later on.
- 5PM and we see sun setting in Pinal air park on our right, as we enter in the classy southern-central city of Tucson in Pima County.
- What could you see in the dark? we look for Starbucks and some wifi to explore the region, and end up getting stuck in the campus of University of Arizona.
- Around 7:30 PM we find a place to eat in E. Broadway Blvd. - A Korean Restaurant called Kimchi Time. Great food and lots of chit-chatting the two of us do and sleep in the car there only thinking we'll leave the town in few hours anyway.
- 1AM I wake up, and the market place is empty. I swear there were at least 30 cars around us and now none. There is police helicopter flying around on top of us, the sound of siren and oh did I not tell you how cold the Camry is. The Car is no way comfortable and perhaps doesn't even have a heater. So the plan of sleeping in the car while wondering at remote sites in future is totally off. Now we are looking for Denny's so that we can get some hot coffee and pass few hours before we hit Saguaro National Park.
- Not even a minute that we parked our car, and this guy comes to us, asking for help. He says he needs money for gas or something and his family is at hotel and he has mobile and wallet and police not helping and what not. and... I am now remembering the incident last monday when I forgot both my wallet and phone back home and got stuck at Newark Penn station for an hour and half. Well before My intelligent self would gather more info, the guy drops a bomb on me saying as soon as He knew my nationality He knew, We wouldn't help him. Seriously? and here I am still skeptical why would you need help if you have your phone and money w/ you and you seem to be all right!
- Lots of coffee and chitchat again at Denny's and we are beyond the incident, even when that guy shows up inside Denny's drunk. Saguaro is not hardly 2-3 miles from here, So we wait it out for some light and head out to park at 5:30AM Saturday 9th, '13.
- Saguaro has a loop trail named Cactus Forest Dr. A good way to explore some area of the park. Beautiful views of Tall Saguaro Cactus trees with hills on the backdrop with sunrise from the trail. But its only the picnic spot area where the trail closes, where we found the best cactus and a pair of desert fox. they stared at us from the bushes far off and then moved in before I could bring my camera out. The Park get quite busy with Joggers and cyclists by this time. few birds and jackrabbits to add in to wildlife spotting and we are driving north via Oro Valley.
- Tucson has beautiful surrounding w/ Traditional styled Sand colored homes, that I haven't seen anywhere else so far. the place reminds me of rural india a little two because of the desert look. as we drive towards Florence we find more and more Cactus on our way which make me wonder if its really worth going to Saguaro national park just to see the trees.
- So the idea is reach UP-North to Sedona or Flagstaff today, via country roads and cover a few places on the way. the first to see would be Casa Grande Ruins I thought. and thats exactly why we took US77 and then US79 and now we are detouring some country roads in Coolidge.
- And what do we find? Horse ranches, white cotton fields and farms in the middle of the desert. could wander around all day but we have to go and so we do.
- Casa Grande is a town south of Coolidge and not to be mistaken by the location of monument ruins, which is off US87 near Gila river. We reach the place around 11:30PM, explore the place and freshen up quickly for rest of the day and drive ahead to Apache Junction.
- There are so many monuments spread over the area, its almost impossible to cover them all, I was hoping to see Tonto but thats a long detour. so we take the US202, 101 and meet 17 bypassing Phoenix at 3:30PM.
- All monuments are long-off the highway and so is Sedona. so now the plan is to drive up to Sunset Crater Volcano 7 miles to Flagstaff, watch the sunset, look for stars and then go back to Flagstaff, stay over for night and then drive to page early Morning.
- How the GPS gave up I wonder, we can't find the exact diversion and so we'll keep driving via coconino national forest on US89. The horizon is all Yellow, the Cactus trees are far gone, Nothing we see until we reach the diversion A just 20+ miles away from Page and the sign that says the Road is closed.
- We are cursing the GPS for not finding out that road is closed, but I wonder if its GPS's mistake, who updates the road status btw I would want to know. Change of Plan obviously, We have to get back w/ whatever gas we are left with. Google maps shows two small lines joining the mesh of Navajo area but the prospects of them going anywhere are kinda low. 2 of us and we can not stay on the road here absolutely not.
- There was a gas station on the way after the diversion 160 to Tuba city so we drive real slow to gas station hoping fill the tank and then drive to Tuba city, stay there for the night and then take 160 East and then 98 to Page. and just as we trun back we find a desert fox on the road. Not many vehicles around I suppose, her reason to come out on the road.
- 30 miles back and How convenient there is 89T opening right at the gas station the lady at the station informs. A temporary route but new and smooth one, all the way up to Page, We reach our destination at about 10:30, look for hotels, settle in Best Western ( reliable one since I have stayed in Jersey at BW for 2-3 weeks) for the night, order a Pizza, watch a little bit of "Departed" and call it night.
Sunday 10th Nov 2013 - Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Dixie National Forests, Zion & Bryce National Parks.
"I don't like to put my pictures on the blog, this is an exception, since its not exactly a "me enjoying" kinda shot, so here is one of my first try on fine art self portrait shot in Coral Pink Sand Dunes Park" something I want to work more on in future" Do Tell me hows it. Thanks Nandita for helping me execute this.
- No sleep for past two nights, and a long day driving South to North, including extra 100 miles of detouring, who's gonna wake up early and leave for next destination? we sure not. almost 11AM relishing the view from the window, having the breakfast and getting ready w/ today's plan and we are finally out of the road again.
- So the Plan is to go to Zion and Coral Pink and if time permits to Bryce as well. Did I mention yesterday was Veteran day hence all the National parks were free for the weekend? Oh and Another point, the only off-point about traveling off season here, the sun goes down so quickly so you lose lot of light this time around. so though the Summers are crowded here, may be expensive too, but is best time to be here.
- The Drive to kanab Utah, a 180 degree opposite of South Arizona and of Alaska too, but is still a mind blowing one at that. we reach Kanab around 1PM, stop over for a Subway takeaway and then head to Coral Sand dunes Park off US 89.
- Who expect sand dunes in the middle of Forests and redrocks. But they are there and gorgeous one at that. thought of doing a self portrait shoot, so take some time and shoot a little in there, then drive to Zion. We spot many deer on the way, photograph a few too, Why I said photographed and not shoot I will tell you soon...!
- Its about 4 PM when we reach the Mt. Carmel Junction from where a left takes you to Zion and straight 89 to Bryce. we get the gas and coffee and take a left to Zion.
- I would've still wondered about the images I saw of Zion before, Dint realize how it was until we entered. well Awesome is understated for sure. Zion is more than what we see in the images. more beautiful and definitely more magnificent. Only after driving past the long tunnels, I realized the road goes all the way to Hurricane and is not a loop, and of course it was dark already so there was no point driving all the way so we headed back to the Junction while thinking should we be driving the Bryce at all or go back to Page.
- Bryce is about 70 miles from the Junction, and we are sure imagining the splendid views of those hoodoos in moonlight. doesn't look like a bad idea to just drive and come back specially since it was just 6:30PM. Yes, we think and take a left turn from the junction.
- All the chitchatting, a short halt at small town Glendale to eat something, and we are in Bryce in no time. Bryce national Park is nothing like I ever imagined. as I always say, its a different thing to see images and read stories and its totally different to experience something on your own. the narrow road surrounded by trees and some rocks here and there, and I was thinking, it'll be open space with a tree or two.
- The fairyland point is first we reach and see another car parked there, while two people wander around w/ a torch in there hands.
- who could be more scared, them or us? I thought it'd be good idea to let em come out in the open before we get out of the car, the definitely did, a couple in their 50s perhaps and there was no fearing anything anymore ;) well they sure thought we were pretty brave, two girls roaming around in the dark jungles! Yeah.
- Hoodoos at fairyland point are beautiful in moonlight still scary for their depth. but forest isn't, specially since two more cars arrive very soon, and come in them 7-8 more people, lot of conversations in the surrounding, and I get busy setting up tripod and taking some shots. soon everyone leaves and we two are left alone, we finish the shooting quick and drive further inside the park, only to find out the other view points are way too far to go right now.
- The Park has living area and few ranches as well. There is a big lodge too, where we find some network so we figure we will go back now to reach page at about 1AM.
- we stop twice, one at the entrance of Dixie National forest, and later close to where the road meets US89. I remember the first, because I was shouted "idiot" by some woman following my car, doesnt happen often or rather never happened before, well, I was only giving her way to pass, but she got angry seeing the camera installed above my steering wheel. Anyways, past that
- and there comes there fateful moment just 4miles before Kanab. I was driving somewhere b/w 30 and 40 and a deer came out of nowhere there it was, the hit on the left.
- it was exactly 12 AM, All i could do was to scream, But it was done. I am still not sure how we had the guts to handle the situation then, have none to repeat it now. the only wise thing to do report the situation, get the car checked and reach page. After multiple stops in 4 miles to reach kanab we could get the network, call Hertz, reported the accident, found a gas station open, where a guy tried helping us getting the plastic sheet out with out any success, The car was drivable, so rather than stopping there for the night, I drove the car to page real slow passing so many deer zones, seeing multiple deers and saving rabbits jumping from left and right, it was almost 4AM.
- We reached the room after explaining the situation to the guy at the reception who looked worried since not many people go in an out at that hour. Hungry pit, sad faces and shocked brain, we hit the bed, try to sleep on the whole situation coz that was only way to forget the whole thing and continue the trip.
"I could have avoided writing about the accident but it is important. I am still not sure if it was my fault or the deer, it was dead anyways am sure, but this was the first time, i realized driving through the national parks and at night is so risky. I am not a bad driver. and I knew I was very careful and slow as well. but it still happened. I couldn't sleep and googled a lot later about such situation, the girl at the gas station in Kanab mentioned it was pretty common in that already specially in this season, then of course the statistics all around US were pretty scary too. around 75 to 100K deer getting killed every year raised a lot of questions in my mind. well they are hunted too. but I am not that type so the guilt is whats killing me, as for me it wasn't intentional.but the poor thing was still dead. One of my friend on twitter told me about the deer bell so I thought I'd go to Auto shop and buy one for the rest of the trip, least I could do then. and now I am writing this specifically to educate, just incase you guys are driving through national parks, be extra careful, get these bells, the one I got for 10 bucks from the shop next day and they did make some sound. though we only drove in day light rest of the two days and never saw a deer again." and Honestly I dont want to see one ever again. the pics of deer I shot, from this trip are already making me go crazy"
Monday Nov 11th 2013 - Upper Antelope and Horse Shoe Band.
- The car seemed fine otherwise except that the bumper and glass of the headlight was gone, and there was this one big piece dragging under it resisting the speed. Now let me tell you, if You expect help from hertz in any such situation you are pretty much out of luck. the main reason I drove back to Page was to get a good check of car done, so that we can drive it back and it doesn't need a tow because thats a long process and it'd eat away rest of the trip. It was even difficult to report rather getting the help from hertz. Thankfully our car was insured so we dint have much worry from that side.
- So Morning first thing, we need a mechanic who can check the car and declare its fine or at least fix it. the second is to find the tour to Antelope if we cant drive the car there.
- If I haven;t mentioned it till now, I can not stress enough how gorgeously sweet the people of this small town are. every single one of em, whom we interacted with so far, doubled my belief on the fact that people from remote areas are so not in race of the world, and are still living a peaceful good life and are helpful and nice to each other.
- Since Monday is a holiday, we are having a hard time finding a repair shop thats open, but only because of locals we manage to find an Auto shop and a Repair shop, both guys generous enough to check our car engine and also bolt the broken bumper so that we are able to go ahead w/ our day.
- Another point to note, I insisted to keep the broken parts in the foot, though they were stinking, Because I wasn't sure, if Hertz wont ask for 'em. I was right. they did ask for em, Just in case if anyone gets in to such situation unfortunately."
- Since the talk w/ a tour company doesn't work out, I decide to rather go to Upper and Lower Antelope directly and see if we can manage a tour since they are all guided only. turns out, it was a good decision. we pay about 12 bucks for two people as entrance fee at Upper Antelope, valid both for both Canyons, and the guy point us two the tour company shack who give us a tour in $25 each, not only let me take my tripod and but also help me shoot the certain positions. The usual charges are 80 bucks for photo tours. 3:30PM we are out of Upper Antelope.
- next Stop Lower Antelope and then horse shoe bend. I think it was Sun that made me skip Lower Antelope? 5PM sunset, and I wasn't sure how long is the hike to Horseshoe Bend, so we headed directly to US89, all these places are pretty much around Page only. the hike to the bend is also very small, in fact just a little walk I would say and not a hike really, we relax at the bend till the sunset, and then its time for first proper meal and a dinner at that, at Indian Restaurant at 6:30PM in Lake Powell Blvd to finish the trip on a good note. Yes I would re-quote me that what you eat is what you remember from a trip if nothing else. so its important to have good food while on the road.
Tuesday Nov 12th, 2013 Lake Powell and Back to Phoenix
- A good 10 hours sleep, and today is the final day of the trip and we have to go back to Phoenix. the distance to drive is about 250+ miles but it doesnt take longer since the road is known and smooth except the fear of deer sightings near Flagstaff.
- Thinking a 5-6 hours to be good enough, the last thing we want to do is to visit Lake Powell before we head back and so we do the same. The Lake shore drive is about 7 miles from Page to the shore and Wahweap Marina. There is an entrance also to the marina. $18 if I remember correctly for a vehicle and valid for a week I think. The views of the lake and Canyons on the drive are nothing less than breathtaking but, with Multiple points to stop.
- So about 12 pm and we now drive back after a tank fill and packing a sandwich from the Subway. None of us want to really leave Page, and we vouch to come again once or twice, or more.
- The drive back is a memorable one with gorgeous views that sand stones and red canyons that we missed since we drove this road in the night while reaching here, we also find the entrance to crater volcano, which we missed while coming here,but we keep driving since 5/5:30 is when we have to return our car. and we reach on time too.
- the time left on the airport is spent writing postcards which we got from Page and putting up stamp, unfortunately no mailbox at the airport, even after googling and asking airport staff, so I keep them w/ me to mail em from NYC only.
- 10:30 PM onboard and I reach back home only 7AM on Wednesday Morning to a Beautiful Sunrise. Although I was missing page, I like being back in new york. feel like I belong here.
Until my next expedition....
The roadmap embedded with this article is approximate, since the google was throwing errors while I tried updating country roads and small diversions.
I got my other card from Alaska as well, so More images from this trip and also Alaska, coming up here - http://photos.poonamparihar.com and on flickr.
Individual stories/reviews of places / business etc will follow.