I am glad I spent my vacation days in Arizona. I knew there were two spots I wanted to visit from my bucket list- Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon. Anyhow, the first thing I noticed when I arrived in Arizona was how vast it was. For the most part- open roads, deserts, and mountains; no traffic as well which was a nice change (being from Miami). It is always interesting to see the way of life in a different state. Right off the bat, I can tell the pace of life in Arizona was much slower- which is something I really like.
Anyhow, we arrived to our hotel around 11:00pm Sunday. That morning we made a long trip to Joshua Tree National Park in California. To visit here, you for sure need more than one day to see this place. It is huge. One thing is getting in Joshua Tree National Park, but then you have an hour drive inside this area. This was something I was not ready for. I was used to Miami's small parks where you walk and call it a day. With Joshua Tree National Park, it is full on driving to each place the park provides.
I drove as far as Skull Rock in Joshua Tree. Then I made a U turn to return back home before dark. I would like to camp here for the next time I visit.
On Monday, I woke up really early to make a 4.30 hour drive to Red Rock State Park and the Grand Canyon. Since Red Rock State Park was on the way to the Grand Canyon (2 hour drive)- I figured it was best to see both of these places in one day. I arrived at Red Rock State Park around 10:00am (the park rangers were incredible by the way). I stayed there for two hours. I only did a small hike to enjoy the scenery.
I left Red Rock State Park around mid afternoon, which followed a two hour drive to the Grand Canyon. Throughout this drive we passed through Sedona (which would have been a great place to stay at; cutting down drive times instead of the city of Phoenix) and some nice open roads. Anyhow, no photos can do the Grand Canyon justice. It is huge. Even after visiting the Grand Canyon my mind can't grasp how big it is. I visited the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (as the North Rim was closed). I arrived there around 3:30pm. I took the time time to enjoy Sedona, fill up the tank, and eat a warm lunch. I was only able to stay in the Grand Canyon for about an hour and a half. It was 30 degrees, and the cold got to a point where I could not move my hands. I remember my hands throbbing from how cold it was.
On Wednesday (yes, Wednesday...because Tuesday I took a break from driving and stayed in the city) I visited the places in my bucket list. Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon. This was another 4.30 hour drive from the city of Phoenix where I was staying at. Again, I should have booked my hotel a lot closer to these places (Grand Canyon, Red Rock, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend). Anyway, the great thing about Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon is that they are 15 minutes away from each other. Exploring these two places in one day is easily doable.
When visiting Horseshoe Bend, I remember gasping a number of times. Not because of the altitude, the beautiful view, or because of how cold it was. I remember gasping a number of times because of how close people got to the edge of Horseshoe Bend for a cool photo. This was one of those few places where I enjoyed where I was at- yet felt so anxious because I legit thought people were going to fall off the edge of the cliff. If you get a second of vertigo- you are done. I did not have the guts to sit at the edge- but I took photos of people who did them.
On a completely unrelated note- I really like to "people watch". You could really see the personality traits of some people in Horseshoe Bend. I can tell the ones that felt like taking a risk, having a little fun, etc.. (the ones that got on the edge of Horseshoe Bend) and the ones that played it safe (example: me...the ones that left some space between themselves and the edge). Horseshoe Bend is an absolute free for all. You don't have to pay and there is no security. Yet, I spoke to a Native American who lived around the area. He told me that there are still rescue teams searching for bodies. That also next year, (2017) Horseshoe Bend might be changed to a "tour" area where you have to pay/people can't get to the edge of the cliff for security reasons. I personally think Horseshoe Bend is too beautiful to place restrictions, I would rather have it as a free for all. People just need to know their limits and practice safety.
I stayed around Horseshoe Bend for two hours. I left the area around 2:00pm to then drive to Lower Antelope Canyon. For $40 dollars, you get about an hour tour beneath these beautiful canyon. There is history behind Lower Antelope Canyon. This place used to be a free for all to visit, until a group of people got trapped down here due to heavy rains causing a flood. Going back a couple hundred more years, this is where the Native Americans hid from the white folks. Now it is a tour area, before coming...make sure you check tour times. I did not do that, but I lucked out in coming to a tour where there was space.
Around 4:00pm is when my tour ended, after that I made the long drive back to the hotel. My Arizona trip ends here. There were a couple more places I wanted to see, but the logistics made it difficult. My recommendations right off the bat would be to get a hotel near these areas, visit during the winter time (summer time is packed with people and really hot), and (for photographers) bring a wide angle lens and a zoom lens. I really liked Phoenix, and the day that I consider migrating to a slower pace of life...I would for sure consider Arizona.