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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Road Trip ! - Southwestern US (Part 4) - From Zion to Grand Canyon

We left Zion National Park on Sunday morning, heading east on UT 9 and then south on US 89.  Our route would take us through Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, across the Colorado River via the steel-arch bridge at Glen Canyon Dam, through Page, AZ and into the Navajo Nation until we got to AZ 64 and the road that would take us to the east entrance of Grand Canyon National Park.  It's about a 260-mile drive, and we added on a bit more with a little off-road detour outside of Kanab.

The stormy weather of the last few days cleared out overnight, and Sunday was a beautiful day for a drive across the high desert.  The eastern side of Zion National Park looks very different than the Virgin River canyon where the Lodge is.  We saw a group of bighorn sheep alongside the road as we were leaving the Park.  People were doing some really stupid things in the roadway to get a look at them.  We kept moving.

Heading south on US 89 outside of Kanab, UT the scenery changes again.  From the 1930's to the 1990's over 300 movies and TV shows (mostly Westerns) were filmed in the Kanab area.  One of the filming locations was a set comprised of 3 buildings, at a site called Paria, very near the location of late-1800's town of Pahreah.  The site is about 5 miles north of the highway, down a graded dirt road.  The sets were destroyed by fire a few years back, and all that remains of the original town is the cemetery.  We spent some time exploring around there.  It seemed as if we were the only people for miles around. 

We made a brief stop at the Visitor Center for Grand Staircase/Escalante NM, and then continued on south to the Visitor Center for the Glen Canyon Dam at Page, Arizona.  You get a nice view of the dam from the old steel-arch bridge.

We got out and stretched our legs a bit with a walk across the bridge and back, and then stopped into the Visitor Center.

One of the great things about traveling the way we do is all of the interesting people we come across.  When we stopped at the Grand Staircase Visitor Center one of the people working there introduced himself, and told us about how many dinosaurs they have been finding in the National Monument lately.  He told us his name was Merle Graffam and mentioned that he had discovered the toe of a previously unknown species, and that it had been named after him.  He insisted that we stop at the Glen Canyon Visitor Center to see his dinosaur, Nothronychus Graffami, so we did.  Here he (the dinosaur) is. 

About 5 miles south of Page, AZ the road gets to a spot that is just a 3/4-mile walk to a sharp bend in the Colorado River.  Known as Horseshoe Bend, the drop off is a very abrupt 1,000'.  There are no guardrails or anything, really, the trail just sort of ends at this view. 

US 89 continues south through the Navajo Nation, crossing over Antelope Pass, with some spectacular views along the way.

By the time we got to AZ 64 and started heading east towards the village on the south rim of the Grand Canyon it was getting dark, and the road was getting icy.  We saw a beautiful orange sunset as we climbed up towards the Park entrance, and then later we spotted a mountain lion and some elk along the road.  I was concentrating more on not running off the road on the ice than I was on taking pictures, so nothing to show.  By the time we got to our little cabin at Bright Angel Lodge it was dark, but with the half-moon or so we could still see that we were only about 50 yards from the rim of the Grand Canyon. 

To be continued . . .

Click here to see more pictures from the part of our drive between Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks.

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San Diego, California, United States
About me . . . When I'm not working I like to be out exploring and photographing. I do this blog just for fun, and to be able to share these images with friends. I hope you enjoy viewing these images as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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Header image: Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Cibola, Arizona. End image: Downtown San Diego, California skyline from Coronado Island. Profile picture: Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, by Heather Baiamonte.