The Monkey Wrench Gang

There’s a collection of 5 National parks in Utah and Arizona that are all within 3 hour drives. Naturally, we decided to visit them all. After leaving Zion in the afternoon we drove to find a free campsite near the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s tough to find roads when your map is drawn incorrectly, but a friendly employee at the Kaibab lodge directed us to a spot with a view of the Grand Canyon’s east rim. We promptly followed the advice, set up camp with an unreal view, and hopped back in the car to watch the sunset on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

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The next morning was scheduled to start at 5:10am. This isn’t my favorite time of day, but watching a Grand Canyon sunset was on our tick list of great things to experience. 5:10am rolls around, signaled by faint beeping of Tania’s watch. I groggily open my eyes, observe that it’s still pitch black outside and ignore the wake-up call.

10 minutes later, I hear the tent zip and Tania once again tries to wake the sleeping Janna and Sara. Finally, we give in and crawl out of our very cozy sleeping bags to be bombarded by freezing cold air. Okay, so maybe it was 45 degrees but we put on full pants and puffy warm jackets, even pulling out gloves and beanies to sit and wait for the sun to rise. We huddled for warmth and took pictures that couldn’t do justice to the scenery around us.

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At some point, we realized Arizona was on a different time zone and we actually woke up at 4:10. No worries though, we snuggled back into our tents and slept for 3.5 more hours. Thank goodness we set our own schedule!

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Our real wake-up was a mini workout led by Tania at our campsite, followed by a 5k run back at the north rim within Grand Canyon National Park. We were awestruck by free icemakers at the park, filling our cooler and Nalgenes upon this momentous discovery. We then took some timed 6 minute coin showers while we did our laundry and ate lunch. After a quick scenic drive to see the Colorado River and another perspective of the Grand Canyon, we cruised out of the park headed north toward Lake Powell to camp for the night.

Lake Powell is a really, really big lake created by damming the Colorado River with the feat that is Glen Canyon dam. They have a great visitor’s center and very helpful rangers- and an added bonus of 3 educational movies! The problem was that we really needed ice cream, so we restrained ourselves to one film, then rolled into Page, AZ to satisfy our craving at 10:30am. (Once again, a Utah/Arizona time snafu thinking it was 11:30.) Fully sated from our snack, we then checked out Horseshoe Bend with the whole country of France…or so it seemed.

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Next, we joined the flock of French tourists for a relaxing afternoon on the shore of Lake Powell at a spot called Lone Rock. Now, you can’t stick a giant rock in the middle of a lake and expect that I don’t see it as a challenge. So, Sara and I inflated our colorful tubes and confidently set out. 40 minutes later, success! But, you also can’t stick a giant rock in the middle of water and expect climbers to just look at it. So, Sara and I had to swim around it testing every possible hand and foothold in our efforts to climb it. About 90 minutes of treading water, pulling chunks of sand from the giant sandstone rock, and a few blisters later, we decided to end our deep water bouldering session. Boaters were amazed by our daunting trek, but we safely made it back to the shore to reunite with a happily sunbathing Tania.

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Some other highlights from our time around Glen Canyon include stargazing on the hood of the Subaru while eating pudding, hiking to see the “toadstools” in the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, and opting to forego an overpriced Antelope Canyon trip to instead watch the other two movies at the visitor’s center. We left Glen Canyon Dam feeling quite knowledgable and energized to continue on our next adventure!

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