Day 19 – Monday 28th September
We were up early as planned, Terry Tent packed up and we drove a mile & a half back the way we had come down the dirt track to the car park that sits at the head of the trail. We left Rosie parked in the shade of a huge motor home and went to sign in.
At the start of all the trails they have a register you have to sign so they know who is still out there. We don’t know who checks these registers as we have never seen a ranger but then again maybe they just check them near sun set when we have gone.
We set off with water up a dry river bed which it turns out we would follow for some distance.
There were no signs to the wave and we were just relying on Bryan’s GPS on his iphone to find the trail that took us to it. It wasn’t too hot yet either but you could tell the day was going to be a scorcher. We had water with us and were not planning to be gone too long so were not at all concerned.
We followed the trail further and further admiring the layers and lines in the rocks. It was only when we stopped chatting and thought about it we realised we had walked about 2 miles. Much further than we were led to believe the Wave was from the car park.
We decided to continue as we thought we’ll just see what’s around the next corner.
Well we turned that corner and saw that the river bed we were walking on seemed to be coming from between the rocks which were getting narrower and narrower.
As they got narrower they got taller and the sides straighter too – more like a canyon.
So what did we do? We followed the river bed into the rocks of course.
And we were so glad we did. It was amazing. The river had obviously carved out this track through the rocks over so many million years and had left smooth sided walls which wiggled along . It was astonishing (looking for new words). Very very beautiful.
It did cross our minds that if there was a sudden downpour further upstream we were done for. There was no way out other than forwards or backwards but they have been without rain for so long here we didn’t really worry.
Well we walked this track for a while and Jody started to notice massive leggy spiders on the walls. Not many – and just those thin, long legged cobwebby ones but she still didn’t like them. Normally she can cope with those as she just avoids them but here the walls were closing in getting narrower and narrower.
Then we came to a point that was so narrow and there were spiders on it. We needed to climb over a massive boulder stuck between the walls and Bryan had already gone over it. But Jody couldn’t get passed the spiders so Bryan had to climb back up again and get rid of them before she would go anywhere near it. It took us about 20 minutes to do this little bit in the end.
We walked on but still hadn’t seen any other people (there were actually lots of footprints showing that people had been along this way) and yet the car park had about a dozen cars/vans in it.
Eventually we came to a clearing and we ate the fruit Jody had been carrying as
we hadn’t had any breakfast either.
Rested, we walked on a bit and came to more of the narrow rocks. This time there was a lot of very sticky looking mus and some water along the track. In the mud were footprints made by what looked like a dog. Was it a dog? Was it a lone coyote? we didn’t know and wondered if we would find it or startle it.
The pathway was getting very narrow by now and Bryan couldn’t read his GPS any longer as we were in deep rock. We had no idea where the Wave was and knew we had missed the trail for it somewhere along the way as we should have been there a long time before now. Also the track had become covered in water and we decided that with no guarantees of a shower later, we didn’t want to get wet and filthy by going through it so made the decision to turn back.
And then we heard voices. Faint but getting louder.
2 people appeared and as it would be extremely rude not to, we stopped to chat for a bit and asked them if they were on their way to Wave Rock too. “on no, that’s in the other direction” they said, making us both feel foolish.
We walked back they way we came and arrived at the sign saying “Coyote Buttes (real name for the Wave) 1/2 mile this way”. And yes , it was almost right back at the start of the trail. Plonkers!
Well we had had such an enjoyable walk and loved The Narrows (as we later found out it was called – and very appropriately too) and as the sun was climbing higher towards midday, we decided to give the Wave a miss. Which is such a shame because if you google Coyote Buttes and see the pictures it is stunning! But now we have a reason to go back another time.
We drove on back down the dirt road but this time heading south. The dirt road in this direction is 20 miles long to get to the main 89A main road. Along the road we saw a group of people who had settled down for the day to spot the rare Californian Condor which nests there. The California condor is one of the world’s rarest bird species: as of October 2014 there were only 425 condors left in the world which is better than in 1987 when there were only 22.
Further along we saw a real life cowboy rounding up his cattle. He only had about 20 though, not the great roaming herds you see in the films.
Along the left hand side of the road we could see huge red cliffs getting higher and higher. We reached the main road about an hour later and they had become ginormous. Our map said this was the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. We had never heard of it before and it was very very impressive.
They ran for about 50 miles too. That’s like having a massive cliff running from Swindon to London but twice the size of the White Cliffs of Dover. We were very in awe of them.
We drove on to Marble Canyon and stopped at a fantastic little roadside place for lunch. Although we would have stopped if it wasn’t fabulous as it was the only place we had seen since we got up this morning!
It was run by Native American Navajo Indians and set against the fabulous backdrop of the Vermillion Cliffs. And the food was good too. What a place!
Just over the bridge where it crosses the incredible Colorado River (the same river that carved the Grand Canyon a bit further down), there was a group of Navajo women whom had set up stalls. They were selling handmade crafts from the people in their reservation and they had many beautiful things for sale.
We browsed for a while and selected a few things including a genuine handmade dreamcatcher for Bryan, a carved stone horse for Jody’s mum as it is reputed to bring about healing (she had just had an operation) and a selection of dangly things for our Christmas tree when we eventually get home.
We realised we didn’t have enough cash on us but it wasn’t a problem for these 21st Century business women. They whipped out their credit card readers that attached to their mobile phones (they obviously have a different network from us as we got zilch out here) and it was as simple as that. Credit cards charged in the middle of the Arizona wilderness!
Onwards towards The Big One. The Grand Canyon.
We just hoped that as we had seen so many canyons and cliffs and monuments and rocks and all sorts of impressive things, we were not going to be underwhelmed and all canyoned out.
We arrived at the entrance to the National Park (there goes another $30 saving thanks to our annual pass) from the east side and drove to the Desert View Visitor Centre. We parked Rosie and followed the crowd towards the edge of the canyon.
We were quite anxious to see it. Would we be underwhelmed?
Not on your nelly!
It was incredible!
One of the most jaw-droppingly amazing sights we had seen. And we’ve seen a few.
None of the things we had seen could quite prepare us for the sheer size of the thing. The Colorado River was barely visible a mile below us. Yes a full 1 mile deep and 10 miles across to the other size. We could not help but just stand and stare.
Just for a while anyway. The sun was going down and we still had to find a campsite for the night and the one we had planned to stay at was still a drive away further into the Park. Then as we were driving out of the car park we noticed there was a campsite here too. We drove around the site looking for an empty pitch. It wasn’t looking good as they all seemed taken. Then just as we were nearing the end of the loop, we found an empty spot and jumped in it quick. Jody went to the Camp Manager’s office to pay for it quick and we had a nice surprise that it was only $12 a night to stay.
We set up camp just as the sun was setting and we got the pots and pans out to make supper. Whilst we were doing all this a young lady came over to ask if their music was bothering us. Her name was Sarah and she was on a road trip with 2 of her old university friends. We chatted for a while and as she left she said come on over later and join us if you feel like it. Sounds like a party to us!
Bryan went for a drive to the shop at the visitor centre and came back with sangria and some fresh supplies. We had just opened the sangria and were enjoying our first glass when we had more visitors. Sarah was back with her friends and the other two introduced themselves; Leah and Pete (or should we say Pashley???) Ha ha Pete, we remembered!
They reaffirmed the invite for a drink and after we had finished our food we wandered over. It was now full dark and they had a campfire burning, we pulled up a seat (well a log and an cool box) and got to know our hosts a bit better.
They were really good fun and were travelling around the US in an SUV with a giant inflatable flamingo strapped to the roof. Fabulous!
We had a fabulous evening enjoying their hospitality and conversation and sharing stories for several hours. Eventually though, the fire died and we all had to drift off to bed.
Wow! What a day we have had. Just Brilliant and we had more of the grand Canyon to come tomorrow.