We came here to get away from the snow

You know what would have been handy to look at when planning this trip? The weather report. Who knew that Arizona could have such awful weather, weather that made us feel like we hadn’t left Toronto.

Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon

We woke up at about 8, packed, loaded the car, had breakfast and then headed off for our first stop, the Horseshoe Bend. It was drizzling, not the best weather for checking out these magnificent natural wonders. At least we were able to see Horseshoe Bend.

We walked up to the edge and I felt immediately queasy about standing so close to the edge of a sheer drop. The canyon goes in a horseshoe shape, hence the name. We looked around, took some photos and then got back in the car for our second stop, Lower Antelope Canyon.

This was the main impetus for this two-day jaunt around the desert (cough, cough). We weren’t going to get the light that we wanted and with the rain coming down it was going to be an unpleasant one-and-a-half hour hike. Well, at least it would have been if it was open. Gates were locked. We found out from a woman at the gas station that it was only closed today because of the bad weather. It’s open the rest of the year. Bugger!

So, a little disheartened, we headed towards Grand Canyon National Park and entered what could have been mistaken for northern Ontario. Rain gave way to horizontal snow. The trees and ground were covered in the stuff. This was not part of the plan.

Grand Canyon National Park

It took a couple of hours to get to Grand Canyon National Park. The weather was horrible and just got worse the further in we went. We managed to see a bit of a canyon while we were still in the ‘rain’ segment. It was a bit chilly walking around and while I hadn’t packed quite the right clothes, at least I had my gloves and scarf. Glen very gallantly gave me his rain jacket to wear. It was still cold, but it’s still a sight worth seeing.

Grand Canyon National Park (proper) was unrecognisable. It was completely covered in snow. They had snow plows for God’s sake (or for ours). Driving was not pleasant and a couple of times the back of the car swung out on the road, luckily without impact on anything other than more snow.

We stopped at the Desert View Lookout where there’s a cool old-style looking watchtower. We went to the edge of the lookout to see, presumably, the desert and the canyon. We saw nothing. NOTHING! Just a whole lot of white. It was like a blank canvas and was awaiting someone to paint it. I was happy to get back in the car as the snow was coming down quite a bit then.

We drove about 40 km to the main visitor centre and got out and had a look around. I asked if snow in the canyon was normal, and was told that it’s a regular occurrence as the park is 7000 ft up. Here were we thinking this was unusual. You definitely don’t think ‘snow’ when you think ‘Grand Canyon’.

Return to Vegas

After a look in the gift shop, it was Glen’s turn to drive. It had been my responsible since 9am and it was now close to 2:30. Enough was enough. We had a bit of a problem though. When Glen tried to reverse, the wheels just spun without any traction. We tried it a couple of times as the disbelief bloomed in our minds and the utter lack of knowledge of what to do in such a situation.

Luckily, when Glen got out of the car to look at the wheels, someone else was having similar trouble but managed to get out. He enquired as to how it was done and we were told to just push the car out. That quickly became my job and we got the car out of the space and then some other guys helped with the second push to get it fully out into the lane. It was a male bonding experience.

Glen drove us out of the national park and towards Las Vegas, a roughly five hour drive. Driving was a fraught activity for both of us today as the passenger thought the driver was endangering their life. Glen thought I was driving too fast (I wasn’t) and I thought he was driving too close to the right edge (he so was). We spent most of the drive either snapping at each other or ignoring each other with a frostiness that made the outside temperature feel warm.

About an hour and a bit out of Vegas we changed over and talked about our problems, mostly laughing at the other and realising we had both been in fear of our lives but expressed it in different ways that both took to be criticising (even though mine was totally justified and delivered in a sweet manner that Glen failed to grasp because he’s a poohead).

The rain eased up (finally!) as we neared the Strip. We pulled into a gas station to fill the tank up (they charge $9 per gallon if it’s not full when returned) and Glen struggled with the petrol pump which I thought was hilarious. He eventually got it working and then proceeded to talk about why the instructions were bad, but by that time I’d gotten back in the car. He continued talking to no-one, meanwhile thinking I was still outside with him. I started laughing and then he realised I was in the car. He was not amused. Poor Glen 🙂

We returned the car to the car park though kept the keys in case we wanted to go for a drive somewhere tonight (unlikely). When back in the hotel, I asked to have our room moved up some floors. A further 21 floors up to be exact (kind of like in Toronto) so now we’re on the 23rd floor…in a room that looks exactly like the one we’d vacated. We can see more of the Strip now though.

We get to explore Vegas tomorrow (though we should probably do some of that tonight).

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