In the morning we left St George, Utah, for Page, Arizona. First we tried to have breakfast, but pro tip: if you’re visiting Utah, please note that *everything* is closed on Sundays. We finally found an open restaurant in St George, but due to the limited options it was packed, mostly with families towing packs of small blond children. We waited about five of the estimated 30 minutes for a table, and then bailed.
Instead of eating in the ‘city’, we headed out to a cafe I’d marked, about a 30 minute drive and only slightly out of our way — River Rock Roasting Company. It was friendly, busy, efficient, and had covered outdoor seating overlooking the Virgin River:
|This is a “river”|
That Virgin River was a theme for much of the drive — we must have crossed it about fifteen times between the Valley of Fire and this cafe. As you can see above, it’s not terribly impressive, at least not in October. At any rate, the cafe was an excellent choice. We learned a lot about the folks at our neighboring tables (mostly locals in for a Sunday chat, very few small children), enjoyed tasty sandwiches and large blended coffee things, and admired the view. Then it was back to the drive!
We passed through lots of small, insular towns in Utah, and crossed into Arizona at the intersection of Hilldale, UT and Colorado City, AZ (note: not in Colorado). You’ve probably never heard of these towns unless you’re either a member of a Mormon polygamist sect or interested in rare genetic disorders; it turns out that when approx 1/2 the population of your town is directly descended from one or both of the two founders and marrying your cousin[s] is the norm, unusual things happen.
After this exciting tour (not that exciting, as previously noted everything in Utah is closed on Sundays so opportunities for cultural tourism were limited) we split from the main highway in the booming metropolis of Fredonia (pop. 1,314) to take the scenic route, via US Route 89A. I chose this route because it goes past the Vermilion Cliffs (yay, desert and sandstone!) and for variety, since we’d be taking the faster main route the next day, but I didn’t research it very thoroughly. I was a little surprised when we started climbing winding mountain roads and driving through dense forest instead of desert, but pleasantly so. It turns out the Vermilion Cliffs are on the east side of the Kaibab Plateau, which peaks at just over 9,000 feet. We kept seeing signs along the road, warning drivers that there was a “Managed Burn” in progress, so please don’t call 911, but we never saw the fires, just smelled a little smoke.
After a nice long drive through the woods, we came out the other side rather abruptly, and discovered this, which despite the color and the previous warning signs, was not actually on fire:
We drove past miles of red rock, pulling over periodically to admire the landscape. My favorite stop was here, at a pull-off just past Cliff Dweller’s Lodge:
Huge rocks strewn over the landscape like marbles abandoned by a giant’s child; steep shale hills to scramble up, a brilliant blue sky and orange-red stone. Oh, and adorable little chipmunk things that moved too fast to photograph! What’s not to love? After running around here for a bit, we continued on our way.
Next we crossed an unexpectedly-high bridge over a river gorge. For variety, it wasn’t the Virgin River this time! Instead it was the Colorado, en route to the Grand Canyon. We parked right after crossing the car bridge, so that I could run out into the middle of the pedestrian bridge beside it and stare over the edge. My desire to do that wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me, but those who know my mom will be shocked to hear that she came with me all the way to the middle of the bridge! She stayed safely back from the railing, but still. I was impressed. Here’s the view both directions from the middle:
|The view upstream, back toward the cliffs|
|And downstream, looking toward the car bridge and ultimately the Grand Canyon|
Then it was on to our last hike of the day, at Horseshoe Bend. The name is descriptive enough — it’s a spot where the Colorado River wraps itself around a rock, forming a neat horseshoe shape. It’s just outside the town of Page, and very well-known, so quite crowded. After parking in the lot, it’s about 3/4 of a mile down to the viewpoint. There are plenty of dramatic pictures online of the full meander, but you need a wide-angle lens and a death wish to get those shots. Instead, please enjoy some dramatic cliffs and a little cairn someone left behind:
After hiking back, we drove the last mile or so into Page and checked into our hotel. It was still daylight, so we had a quick swim in the pool and then went hunting for dinner. I had marked a promising spot, and Big John’s Texas BBQ was everything I wanted and more. We sat outside at the communal picnic tables, snacked on whole peanuts, and then ordered large quantities of meat, cornbread, roasted corn on the cob, potato salad, and coleslaw, with peach cobbler and a giant rootbeer float for dessert. About halfway through the meal a local country band started up some Johnny Cash covers, complete with an extra member to lead line-dancing next to the giant smokers on the side. It was perfect.
|This is where the meat comes from|
After dinner we strolled back to the hotel for another quick night swim and a soak in the hot tub, and then turned in, as we had an appointment with a riverbed early the next morning.