Preface Flagstaff, Grand Canyon and Beyond
I’m very conscious that it is almost a year later that I’m writing these blog posts, keep in mind the memories aren’t very current but seeing the photographs and videos I’m having memories flood back to me.
I left Flagstaff after a few days rest, eager to get into the Grand Canyon. The weather was already hot and forecasted in getting hotter! However, the ride out of Flagstaff was a little deceptive; it was a very mild day.
From people I had spoken to at the hostel in Flagstaff, I knew what some of the common trails were, and where places would be busy (which to avoid). However, I also wanted a good insight into what would be a good photography location “Duh, it’s the Grand Canyon!” I went to the busiest information centre in the world. Well, it appeared that way. People self-important unable to queue; children screaming and hitting things (my leg), it seemed like everyone wanted internet service, the “energy” was horrendous! After a long wait, I got attended to, where I finally found out that there was an information centre for less trivial matters elsewhere.
I got back on my bike, and soon was being dealt with by the kindest know-it-alls in an empty information centre. Sun charts, photographic angle suggestions, drive times, walk times, parking locations, places to camp on BLM land etc. Finally!!
I got back on the bike, rode to my new home in the woods somewhere in the middle of the south overlook, set myself up for a few day camp and then took to scout out locations.
Based on maps and data I had on me, I thought O’Neill Butte would make a good sunrise time-lapse. But it is about 2,000 feet down into the canyon. Sunrise was expected to be about 5:09am so with the walk down, I’d need to be on the trail about 4:00 am. I figured this, to allow for some of the dark to come into the time-lapse. The following morning, I woke up at 3am, but between one thing and another (preparing food, and water and trying to get there) I wasn’t on the trail until 4:20, I ran the whole way down and in 25-30 minutes; I made it to O’Neill Butte, just before 5:00 am, and yes, I skipped past about 50 serious hikers. Suffice to say, that by the time the crowds of people I had run past on the way down had caught up with me. I was there with tripods set up, cameras rolling, sitting very calmly eating a Lära Bar and enjoying the sunrise they mostly stood mid-frame staring at me with anger. Note to self: Don’t make serious hikers angry.
I did my thing with my cameras, finished off, and headed back up with (not quite as much) enthusiasm. I got back to the trailhead (the top) at about 7:30am yup taken me 3 hours to do what was considered to be a day’s worth of hiking (including setting up and letting a time-lapse roll).
I headed back to my camp, totally shattered. I ate breakfast (take 2) and lay there wondering what to do with myself, the sun was intense (which is bad for good photography) but not overly hot at that altitude. I was restless for sure!
I decided to ride to the other end of the south side of the park to see what I was missing out on. It worked out: I lacked 3.84874 gajillion tourists in my life. It was a nightmare! I bought expensive fuel, looked in the shop for a while, bought postcards, filled my water bottles and then headed back to camp. I was a little frustrated. Crowds make me anxious and lonely.
That evening, I decided to go and find myself a sunset time-lapse. With lots of preparation time, however I did not foresee the swarms of irritating people who would come to where I would be and jog my tripod, stand in frame or make me feel uncomfortable for being alive while they talk about me in third person. I’m not sure you’re picking up the vibe I’m trying to set here… 😉
On to Page
The following morning, after the previous day running down the Grand Canyon and up in 3 hours. I woke to relieve myself, when I discovered my previous day’s exercise didn’t go without payment. My legs were totally stiff, I couldn’t flex my feet and my inner thighs were seized tight. I laughed at that agony one has from over-working out, but then was worried about my inability to move. I hobbled to a tree to pee and wondered: How the heck do I ride today? I spent a while doing some yoga stretches with extremely limited flexibility and contemplated life a while.
I honestly don’t remember much of the drive to Page, I’m guessing it was boring. What I do know is I packed up, and wasn’t sure to do with all the trash I had found from previous campers at my camping spot, I didn’t have any space to carry it all in, I recall there being a ceramic frying pan in good condition that I just left there, I picked up some decent webbing tape that was wrapped around a tree and there were all sorts of other trash that I bundled into a pile. I felt terrible leaving it as I was already carrying more than I had brought to site, and still there was so much more left.
Leaving the Grand Canyon slowly got hotter and hotter, and soon as I got to Page I was sweating from every possible point on my body. I returned to the campsite from the year before and they didn’t have any shaded camp spots or any trees. The alternative was to find a BLM spot about 10 miles out-of-town, but after thinking about the searing heat and no facilities out in the desert, I opted for paying for at least having running water (a shower, a pool, jacuzzi, a shop and the possibility of a shaded camp spot freeing up, ….and the availability of having the town right there).
Page, why Page? Well, if you recall last year I met Elijah over Horseshoe Bend and our friendship began there! We had been in touch in the hope of meeting and he agreed to accept the failed packages I had not received in Phoenix. It was a win-win situation! We met for a couple of breakfasts while I was in town but our schedules didn’t work out so well.
While in Page, I think I must have made about 3-4 visits to the Horseshoe Bend, trying to catch sunrise or sunset. Frankly, with my legs as stiff as they were, the hardest part for me was walking from the parking to the edge, I physically couldn’t tilt my feet downward to walk down the slope over the bluff. It was ridiculous, funny but ridiculous!
I met an Argentine adventure rider (Guillermo) in the campsite who had been on the road for 4 years. He’d spent 2 years living in Mexico on his way up to Alaska we buddied up and shared a camping spot together (with shade and trees for my hammock) we talked about his onward journey to Alaska and I shared with him my unused bear spray, and some other knickknacks I had spare.
On Elijah’s recommendation I decided not to take the generic tour of Antelope Canyon. I had heard both from Guillermo’s experience and Elijah that Antelope Canyon is swamped with tourists, over priced and un-rewarding (particularly in June). I scouted out for other “Slot Canyon” tours and found one to a private canyon, maximum of 8 people in the canyon at any given time plus an hour in the canyon vs the 20 minutes you got at Antelope. I was sold. I have to say it’s a strange thing to go to a slot canyon, both beautiful, relaxing and also terrifying. The slot canyons are formed by flash floods that tear the rock that way, and in previous years people have died without a drop of rain in the air and suddenly being crushed to their death by the fallout of a storm tens of miles away. Very interesting, I wish I could go back for more!
After Page, I wanted to go to Zion National Park, but from the circuit that seemed very clear lots of camping tourists hitting the campsite in Page mentioned they had just come from Zion, and that the temperature was hotter up there, and it was more crowded. Two things I wanted to be away from. I considered going to see the Wave, and maybe go to the North Kaibab trailhead overlooking the Grand Canyon, but all these lone adventures seemed a little pointless, I wasn’t feeling too adventurous at this time, I wanted to focus on doing fun things like climbing or parachuting.