Z and I are back from our long vacation through the southwest. The trip lasted forever, or so it felt. I guess that means we really needed a break and packed in a lot of sight seeing and hiking. We visited the Hoover Dam, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon National Park (south rim only), Montezuma Castle, Taliesen West (Frank Lloyd Wright studio/winter home), and Sedona.
I took over 400 photos with my regular camera and many more on my phone, but I’ll just show some highlights of my favorites. My favorite was Bryce Canyon.
Hoodoos everywhere. Some clusters looked like castles and fortresses. We hiked a trail that gave us a close up look of them all and wound our way through the main amphitheater of the park.
This area is named Wall Street. People are for scale and Z is on the rock.
Z’s favorite was Antelope Canyon, which is a series of slot canyons. Slot canyons are protected under Navajo reservation territory so one can only go via guided tour. We walked behind the main guide building and then down 4 flights of super steep ladder-like stairs straight into the canyon below us.
The above photo came straight out of my camera. I’ve not done any editing. The shadows and lighting in the canyon made the digital sensors in the camera go a little off, but I like the effect. Of course, this wouldn’t have happened with a film camera.
Some areas were large and the guided tour groups all crowded in them so it was hard to take good photos without people, but most of the 3/4 mile trail was full of winding single-person lane paths like the above. In some cases we had to walk sideways and really squeeze ourselves through. Not recommended for people with claustrophobia!
I kept forgetting that we were technically several thousand feet above sea level already so to walk down into the canyon felt very strange, like we were submerging ourselves underground, but we were still technically above sea level.
We spent the most time in Sedona. After hiking in Zion, Bryce, Antelope, and Grand we relaxed. The first day we wandered town. It’s really surprising how 20+ crystal shops can exist and all stay in business when they sell nearly all the same items at every shop. Their schtick is the whole “crystal vortex” thing, which I laughed at but I know many take very seriously. One can also take guided “sacred” tours to the vortexes. The amount of rich hippie voodoo in that town blew me away. I’m not a believer in all that, so to see tourists eagerly drink the kool-aid and pay a lot for it was quite amusing.
The following day we did a little sight seeing and then Z went on an ATV tour. He got his own vehicle (paid extra for the fast one) and ran around the mountains for 4 hours while I wandered town more. I found a spa with a NuFace facial treatment.
I’d never been to a spa before, so I was a little nervous. Also, I had a guy for the massage. A lady in the locker room said wear whatever is comfortable – as she bared her breasts while changing right in front of me. I went nude (with robe and slippers) and while the guy was professional and kept the blankets over me appropriately while he worked I still felt a bit OMG!!!! It was nice but I probably didn’t get as much relaxation out of the massage part as I thought I would. No regrets though for reasons I will explain later.
The NuFace facial was worth every penny. Since Elaine mentioned NuFace a while back I’ve been curious but hesitant to pay for something I wasn’t certain would work. The woman who gave the facial did a great job and I was surprised at how the hour was filled with her putting stuff on my face and then massaging my neck, shoulders and hands while the serums and moisturizers set in. The NuFace device really did give my face a bit of a lift, but didn’t tempt me to spend $300+ dollars for it. I have an amazon cheapie that’s not even a NuFace dupe at home and if anything, the professional facial made me more vigilant in using the cheap device more often. Also, I was given a free tinted lip stain I’ve worn each day since then. I’m allergic to most lip glosses and most stains or semi-gloss lipsticks are too dry for my liking. I’ve been able to put my lip balm over the stain throughout the day and not have it disappear or get weirdly textured on me. At the end of the facial I got a menu of sorts of the products used on me if I ever wanted to purchase them at the spa or elsewhere.
There were a few cons to the trip: arid weather, getting a little altitude sickness and our Airbnb choices. Being in places with less than 20% humidity for an extended period of time did a number on Z and myself. My nose bled every time I blew it and hurt from cracking inside. I also sneezed constantly due to the dust. I NEVER felt clean while we were away. All I could smell was dust and even after bathing and using my lotion I still felt a bit gross and dry. Z had crackly skin the entire trip and applied lip balm like it was his job. Originally I wasn’t going to get a massage, but Z convinced me to do it and I’m glad I did if only for the fact that someone spent an hour working oil into my skin to retain moisture.
When we got off the plane at home, the blast of humid, rainy weather made us instantly feel better. Z said we had super human strength now and could run a marathon. Not only was it humid, but we had AIR. I felt like King Roland at the end of Spaceballs . Sedona was the lowest place we stayed at – around 4300 ft above sea level. I had an episode of “uh-oh, Z you may want to catch me now” while we were hiking the south rim at Grand Canyon at 7000+ ft. The weather this trip was nice, but 75F in the desert feels oddly much warmer in the sun than it does at home. It felt more like 85F at times, but then I’d need a jacket in the shade… I was oddly sunburned and hot but cold very easily as well. That combined with odd sleep made me more susceptible to altitude sickness.
The Airbnb choices didn’t help much in making me feel better. The Zion place was decent. We had cows for neighbors – literally – as in they were on the other side of the fence less than 100 ft from our door. The bed was rather hard for us though. Next was the Bryce place and that was downright awkward since it was a room built next to a roadside diner sort of place run by the Airbnb owners. The only positive I can say about it was the phenomenal water pressure in the tiny shower. Being next to a highway made sleeping awful for us. Also, I really think Airbnb people who list full size beds as “queen” size should be shot and then give us our money back. There. Is. A. Difference. The Antelope canyon place was ok, but having a cabinet stick out over the pedestal sink made washing up very difficult. The dumpsters being cleaned out right outside our window in the morning was not pleasant. Also, the standing shower was so small I had trouble washing in it. I don’t know how Z managed, who is many inches taller than me- maybe he had a foot out the entire time or something. The Sedona Airbnb was a winner. It was a small cottage next to the main property that was completely self-contained in a nice neighborhood and very comfortable. The owners knew what they were doing. There was clearly an aesthetic to the place with matching neutral colors, unlike the crazy mix of colors and decor in the others (or lack thereof).
1 out of 4 was a winner for Airbnb. It’s our fault for picking such oddball places. You get what you pay for. Every place we stayed at was completely adequate in its own separate way. Technically, the blame lies with us for picking the place. So, what’s wrong with them? Other than the one in Sedona – none of them were comfortable. I felt gross in two of them and all of them were weird to some degree. During our second night in Bryce I flat out told Z: I’m too old for this shit. Sleep is extremely important to me because I get so little of it regularly. So staying in these weird places that look like people just threw whatever was in their storage closet in a cheap room and called it a day ain’t cutting it. I’m not young enough to tolerate the inconveniences and inconsistencies in amenities each place offers anymore. I’m done with hard beds, 10+ year old flat pillows, wildly colored POLYESTER SHEETS, tiny bathrooms with zero sink space or standing showers I can’t move around in, oddly dim lighting or just one overhead light and nothing else, and places that really aren’t as convenient as the listings make them sound. We aren’t struggling financially anymore to make these trips happen. We agreed that from now on we will find better places to stay because it’s worthwhile to have a comfortable place to stay with proper amenities after a full day of activities.
I did greatly enjoy our trip and have more to say for another time, but I do feel the need to write out what I disliked because I’m already planning our next trip so we don’t make these mistakes again with lodging. National Park trips are best planned as early as possible because the best lodging and air fares go very quickly. We’re looking at going to Glacier National Park next.