|Many a John Ford western featured this view of Monument Valley|
I really didn't want to leave The Grand Canyon. The weather that morning was brilliant - cool, clear and cloudless. Yet the bus was loading so there was nothing to do but get on board. Joe, our tour director, had promised more spectacular scenery later in the week, but topping The Grand Canyon was impossible. Wasn't it?
|Capt. Brittles's Office in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon|
Our first stop was a "trading post" in Cameron on the Navajo Reservation, and I was determined not to blow my money on cheap trinkets! Of course, I was picturing a tourist trap with lots of cheap souvenirs. I was only partially correct. It certainly was a glorified souvenir stand. It had its cheap stuff like key chains, coffee mugs and touristy t-shirts. I really liked the shirt with the photo of the rifle-toting Navajo warriors and the caption: "Homeland Security - Fighting Terrorism Since 1492." On the other hand, the Navajo pottery, Kachina dolls, sand sculptures, blankets, leather, artwork and clothing ran the gamut from nice to exquisite. I was particularly impressed with the etched pottery by (and I really hope I'm remembering this name correctly) Renisha Etsitty. Her pottery was so delicate, the etchings so intricate, and the earth tones so beautiful, that I returned to that table over and over. In the end, I had to buy a piece. I had to.
|Looking Across Lake Powell.|
The next day was advertised as a relaxing, full day at the resort. Well, yes and no. After a wonderful breakfast in the Rainbow Room, I went outside and strolled the grounds for a while. The rain had mostly cleared away, and I had a good time chasing Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatchers around the gardens, stalking a Yellow Warbler that refused to come out of hiding, and trying desperately to get a photo of the many Violet-green Swallows that dashed frantically above the lake looking for their own breakfasts of yummy bugs.
|Antelope Canyon. The high water mark is over 120 feet up!|
See? Over 2000 miles of shoreline make this one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. Unfortunately, it has problems. After reaching its full capacity, the lake's depth has been steadily receding for well over 20 years. In the photo on the right, you can see the high water mark where the canyon walls turn from white to dark red. This "bathtub ring" circles the lake and is a constant reminder that we need to address our water needs before the crisis becomes a catastrophe.
None of that made the tour any less spectacular. After sauntering up to the Glen Canyon Dam we turned into Antelope Canyon. This is a "Slot Canyon" - high-walled and very narrow. The cliffs rose out of the water right next to the boat and towered above us. I kept wondering if we would have to back out because there was no room for turning around. Yet at the end of the canyon was a small pool that was just big enough for a u-turn.
|A Violet-green Swallow feeding above Lake Powell|
Back at the resort, the evening turned cold and the skies threatened rain again. I stopped at the Wahweap Grill, got some more pizza, and took it back to my room. I read a little, looked at my photos, and fell asleep.
After yet another great breakfast, the sixth day of the tour turned its back on Lake Powell and headed for Zion National Park - but with a memorable stop in Kenab, the town known as "Little Hollywood." Over 100 western movies and television shows have been filmed here including some of my favorites - Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, and The Lone Ranger. We pulled into Denny's Trading Post for a bathroom break and a visit to their back yard. It was a somewhat small-scale replica of an old western town. I had loads of fun looking at the artifacts of the cowboy era. I still watch westerns every chance I get, so I soaked this up for as long as I could.
Soon we reached Bryce Canyon National Park where we pulled into the parking lot at the lodge. In the lobby I wolfed down my sandwich and then headed out to see what the big deal was about this place. A short walk brought me to the canyon's edge:
Holy Lord on His Throne! If this isn't evidence of the Divine Artist at work, I don't know what is. I was utterly unprepared for this. I had never even heard of Bryce Canyon before, and yet here was one of the world's most extraordinarily beautiful vistas. Why isn't this mentioned in the same breath as Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Canyon? I listened to the legend of the hoodoos - those tall stone pillars - as the petrified souls of bad people, but I listened with only a small part of my brain. The rest of me tried to memorize every rock, crevice and snow-capped peak. I wanted to remember this for the rest of my life.
I hiked along the canyon rim and climbed to one of the higher points for an even more impressive view. I saw a Stellar's Jay in the pines along the rim and a small flock of Western Bluebirds feeding in a small grassy area near the cabins. But all too soon we had to get back on the bus and head toward Zion. For my money, I could have skipped Lake Powell - as wonderful as it was - and spent more time exploring Bryce and surrounding forests. As it is, I thanked God for the opportunity to be there that day.
|Old Mining Town behind Denny's Trading Post, Kenab, Utah - a.k.a., "Little Hollywood"|
|A House Sparrow coated by the red desert sand in Monument Valley|
|Western Bluebird at Bryce Canyon National Park|
|Wildflowers in the desert at Monument Valley|
|The trail down Bryce Canyon|