Hitting the Slots Jackpot

Gosh did we ever strike it rich!  No – not the Vegas way.  No – not the one-armed bandit way.  But rather in discovering two extraordinary slot canyons within 2 hours of each other.  A year ago we had no idea these two marvels even existed.  Warning – reading this is going to expand your bucket list….!

The Narrows – Zion National Park, Utah

On an earlier trip to Zion, we read in the Park Guide about The Narrows.  It captured our attention, so we decided to check things out.  We walked about 30 minutes to the start of The Narrows hike.  What is super cool about this hike?  First of all, it involves hiking UP a river – IN the river.  At times you can walk along a small shoreline, and other times fighting the current chest-deep in water.  When we were here in January,  a couple walked out of the canyon after finishing this hike.  So we asked them a ton of questions.    Done.  This hike officially became item #1 for our return trip in March.  Fast forward to March.  untitled-18We rented the required winter hiking gear – a full drysuit, neoprene booties, long hiking stick, and these superb river hiking shoes called 510 Canyoneers.  We also rented a dry bag knapsack for our camera and much needed snacks.  Zion Adventure Company rented us the gear for about $60 each.  So off we started.  We were floored by the combination of hiking in a river (3 degrees Celsius but we were comfortably warm, and hot at times) and the soaring 1,500 ft walls of the slot canyon enveloping us.

The hike is an out and back – taking about 4 hours in total.  The turnaround point is a famous section called, ‘Wall Street’, where the canyons narrows to 30 feet across.  Words cannot capture the magnitude, beauty, lighting, and the cool factor.  You’ll see what we mean when you do this hike.

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The Narrows in Zion National Park is the largest slot canyon in the world . A must see and do for any adventurous soul.

Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ

We were pretty pooped after the 4 hour river hike – not at all expecting to be fatigued.  We welcomed a car ride from Zion through Kanab to Page, AZ, to chill out and let our soggy wet feet dry out.  Don’t pack your camera away after The Narrows hike.  Keep it handy for the breathtaking drive east out of Zion towards Kanab.

Another priceless experience was the hike down into a slot canyon called Antelope, just south east of Page.  This sacred spot sits on Navajo lands, and requires a cash payment to tour the canyon with a guide.  We initially were kinda turned off at the prospect of a tour guide.  Seemed very ‘Disney-like’.  After parting ways with our $52 US admission, we were led down into the canyon through a series of steep ladders and platforms.  We quickly forgot about the money and immersed ourselves deep in the wild, wavy, orange and pale cream striated rock that was smooth and silky to the touch. Everywhere you looked – up, down, sideways, backwards – there were surreal images.   Don’t sweat about the guide.  Ours was invaluable – and knew all of the angles to capture the most magnificent light.  There are 2 canyons – Upper and Lower.  We did the Lower Antelope.

untitled-27Our basic tour took us about 75 minutes to walk up a 400 yard narrow canyon.  Yes, there were other people on the tour, however most kindly ducked or moved out of the way when taking photos.  For those professional/semi-pro photographers, there is an option to pay $48 USD per person for a 2 hour photo pass.  You MUST bring an SLR AND a tripod.  No sharing.  Jeff and I weren’t able to go in together with one camera and one tripod.

While you are in Page, AZ, check out Horseshoe Bend at sunset.  Make sure you arrive 45 – 60 minutes before actual sunset, as there is a high ridge to the West of the river bend.  Plus a 20 minute walk to the lookout.  Well worth seeing the work of Mother Nature and the Colorado River.

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So we hit it rich on Day Two of our March Road Trip through the SouthWest, thanks to the slots.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding…..!

Alarming Start to our Road Trip

We bailed on our plans to drive our VW Campervan, Marigold, home to Toronto from Vegas in March.  The damn Polar Vortex thwarted our plans to drive across the entire USA.  But that was just fine.  Plan B involved a road trip throughout Utah and Arizona.  Sunshine versus snow?  Tough choice.

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The trip started with a delayed flight from YYZ to LAS.  Groggy-eyed, jet-lagged, yet super stoked about the trip, we checked into a hotel for our only night sleeping with a roof over our heads.  Hit the pillow at 1:30 am local time (that would be 4:30 am back home), only to wake up to ear-piercing fire alarms squealing at 3:30 am local time.  We were evacuated and spent an hour in the hideous parking lot of a Best Western in Henderson.  We watched an episode of Dexter to kill the time (LOL), while the small fire was extinguished.

That was it.  Nuff of electricity, fire alarms, bright lights, and big city.  We could not wait to leave Vegas and connect with the outdoors.

The next day we packed up Marigold which is becoming quite a sacred ritual for us.  We first hit Trader Joe’s and loaded up on our usual grub – Kale Salad, fresh pasta, pre-made wraps, fresh organic salmon, plus their Triple ginger snaps.  This is the most glorious grocery store and we will drive out of our way to find one.

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We also got our camping supplies – propane, water, Mr. Heater ‘Little Buddy’, and webbed 70’s folding lawn chairs.  In green, of course, to match our plaid interior.

Off to Zion, via Lake Mead’s north shore scenic drive.  We had the entire roadway to ourselves, as it meandered through the mountains with views of Lake Mead to our right.  Far superior to the I-15 to St. George, and not much longer in distance.

Stopped for lunch at Echo Bay on Lake Mead which was interesting.  Ate lunch on a dock by the main boat launch.  Loved the variety of ducks that swam by and attempted to mooch food off us.  We’d recommend another place to stop along Lake Mead – this site was underwhelming.untitled-10

Then onwards to Zion National Park.  We love this place and it’s immense beauty.  Camped again at the Watchman campground just inside the western park gates.  We rather like our campsite #B039 with its open views of the surrounding peaks. After sleeping here in late January and waking up to -10 C weather, we decided to invest in a portable heater.  We are LOVING our Mr. Heater ‘Little Buddy’ and the warmth it kicks out.  If tipped, it shuts down.  It runs off a standard 1lb. Coleman propane cylinder.  It can run continuously for 5+ hours, and is fairly portable.  We found it perfect for heating up the bus prior to bedtime, and waking up toasty warm in the morning.  🙂

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Fortunately this time it only reached  -3 C, so our water didn’t freeze into solid blocks of ice.

The time in the hotel with the fire alarm was a reminder that we are happiest in the outdoors, underneath the stars and away from the hoards of people.  The only early morning alarm we need to contend with in the outdoors are the coyotes yipping around the bus.  We’ll wake up to that alarm any time – morning, noon or night.  And the only fire we wish to deal with is the one we use for toasting marshmallows.  Nighty night from Zion…..