Visiting Arizona

While we were still in CA with friends, we mapped out our next 7 days on the road, which was the most we had ever planned in advance on this trip. We wanted to visit the slot canyons (Antelope Canyon) in Arizona. They’re found in Page, AZ at the very top of the state just south of Utah.

We ended up scoring a ridiculously cheap (and kind of terrible) camping spot next to a busy road, but they had a pool and laundry facilities so we considered this spot a huge win with temps in the upper 90s in September.

We went to Horseshoe Bend one night at sunset where the Colorado river makes a big u-turn. It is an easy walk to get there and apparently a huge tourist attraction. We took pictures of the river and the sunset, but this one is my favorite.

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When Andy found himself stuck inside a selfie

We also visited Antelope Canyon. The land is owned by a reservation and you can only visit the slot canyons by booking a tour with a guide. It is INCREDIBLY crowded, but if you look up most of the time you can’t see any of the other heads all around you!

We waited outside, then inside, then outside again to walk down stairs to get inside the slot canyon. Our guide was fantastic, kind patient, not pushy, and shared lots of history with us.

This is one of those times where the pictures don’t do it justice. The landscape was breathtaking and awe inspiring.

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Antelope Canyon

 

The picture on the right above shows the chief’s face that the guide pointed out to us. It was so peaceful looking up and seeing these beautiful colors and curves. I could have stayed down there a lot longer, though our tour time was sufficient to see it all since we kind of huddled through it with our groups.

At one point some sand started to fall and that was pretty once it stopped and I realized we weren’t about to be buried alive.

If you’re anywhere near Page, Arizona I wholeheartedly recommend stopping to see Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

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Utah National Parks

We drove east from California after a wonderful visit with friends and spent three days camped outside Zion National Park in Utah. The campground shared a space with a local hotel and we were unexpectedly able to use the pool too! We met people from Kentucky and the Netherlands and laughed that the pool was full of campers rather than people from the hotel. The temps were in the upper nineties the second week of September, we all knew a good thing when we found it!

We got into Zion around 4 pm the first day and I’d like to thank Andy’s tattoo for getting us some good info from the get-go. At the visitor center a Park Ranger recognized Andy’s tattoo, they talked about Big Sky, Montana (where the mountain range on his arm is from, and wouldn’t you know the guy used to work there). And he said, “Okay, I’m going to give you all the cool spots- let’s see, what time is it, okay, you can see this and this tonight and then take the walk back at sunset to have a full view of the Watchman (big mountain) with the sun setting on it.”

Zion park has become so popular (nearly 4 million visitors last year) that there isn’t enough parking for everyone within the park limits. So they have a shuttle service that runs people back and forth to set destinations in the park and then you can hike, climb, wander from there.

This was a really nice treat for us since we had been in our car for 2 months at this point and now we could BOTH stare out the windows in awe as we listened to the narration through the park.

One thing I noticed right away was it seemed that everyone had the same awe and appreciation for what we were seeing. The shuttle was packed but when the guide started talking everyone fell silent and listened while looking at the tall red rocks just outside the windows.

For our first night in the park, we followed the Ranger’s recommendations from the visitor center and he was spot on which gave us a great start and welcome to Zion. The walk he mentioned was about 2 miles and we only saw about 10 other people on the trail at sunset with most of the time we were alone with the vast park all around- it was surreal and stunning.

 

There was huge red rock all around us in the park, the Virgin River was green and breathtaking, and we were just two small people walking beside it. I was wowed from the first moment I saw the park.

 

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Zion Park walking path that meets up with the Virgin River

 

This walk made me think of the Animaniacs song where Yakko sings, “It’s a great big universe, and we’re all really puny, we’re just tiny little specs about the size of Mickey Rooney.” So maybe I was humming that as we walked along.

Our campground was just outside the park but this was my view while I did the dishes at the campsite each night.

 

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Sunset at the campground overlooking Zion

 

The next day we visited Bryce Canyon National Park which is known for their amphitheater and huge hoodoo rock spires. I found this lone tree and used one of the roots  (below my right arm in the pic) as a seat to look out over the spires while Andy went exploring for a while. It was one of my favorite spots in the park.

 

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Bryce Canyon 

 

We didn’t do any long or crazy hikes in this part of the trip since Andy had sprained his ankle on a bouncy house slide when we were visiting our friends in CA. But we did hike down a bit to see what it looked like from underneath. I kept saying wow on repeat.

We met some kind retirees on a bus tour who took the time to tell us about their lives. One guy had met Michael Jackson and had designed some of our childhood toys. Some asked us questions and encouraged us to keep traveling and taking trips like this.

 

Our last day in Zion we did more hikes, saw some beautiful waterfalls and a rock climber who was stuck with not enough rope (he got help).

These are two parks I would go back to again with no hesitation.

West to southwest

The next part of our road trip/sabbatical took us on a loop of visiting some of our favorite people.

In Washington state we saw family and lots of friends, some I hadn’t seen in 18 years! Portland and Bend gave us more friends and their families and we got to visit our own family in Eugene, Oregon. From there, we took ourselves wine tasting in California before driving south to stay with friends on the Central Coast. On the first full day of our visit Andy went down a bouncy house slide and landed smack on his ankle. It swelled with impressive hues of purple and laid him up for the next few days and we both got sick for the first time on the trip. We were staying with wonderful friends who made us homemade chicken noodle soup and took us on new adventures together at the pier, coffee and thrift shops and bubblegum alley.

We went to church with our friends and the pastor talked about our spirits being like a cup and the Holy Spirit our unlimited refills. He said some of us are full, some are empty and others are somewhere in between. If we’re full, we don’t need to keep consuming more and more (church, messages, etc.) we can pour out so we can be refilled again.

I really liked that message and kept turning it over in my mind. There have been times where I was running on empty and other times in my life that I kept taking in more information instead of pouring out what I had been given to others. I looked at our trip, 9 weeks or so on the road at that point, and I realized I had been slowly getting refilled as we moved along the road. My first big fill up was with our friends in Vancouver, BC. We were still getting our travel legs under us and they gave us love in time and generosity that caught me by surprise. More fill ups happened with friends and family in Washington, Oregon, and now California.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying having good friends are better than Jesus. I’m saying God used our family and friends to fill me back up. He was speaking through them, to my soul that had become a bit dry and crusty. Some spoke difficult truth in love, others gave kindness and hope when I was discouraged. One friend said she noticed a different gentleness in the way we spoke to each other since the last time she had seen us. I was glad she took the time to see it and tell me, it was encouraging.

I left California refreshed and optimistic about what was next for us. Andy drove us through 4 states that day, California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. Next up was the beautiful landscape of more National Parks and another week of camping, our last long stretch of it! More of Utah in the next post.

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Our trusty steed