(London resident Jay Cassie has found that renting and traveling in an RV is a good way to learn about the U.S. Here is her account of her trip to Arizona and Utah.)
Having visited the U.S. a couple of times before, we wanted to spread our wings and try another part of the Southwest. We had done the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park and been truly amazed by the natural beauty of them both. Surfing the Internet for inspiration, we came across an intriguing story called the “Coyote’s Curse.” This made up our minds to go to Bryce Canyon and here is the legend:
Long, long ago before there were any Indians, the “Legend People” lived in Bryce Canyon. There were many of them—birds, animals, lizards and such like who had the ability to take human shape. These people displeased the Coyote God with their bad behavior, so he put a curse on them, turning them to stone.
Today, many visitors say they can see the images of these people sitting, standing and holding each other frozen in time. The “Legend People” stand there today waiting for release from the curse when they will go forth and fight again.
We flew from London direct to Phoenix, where we arranged to pick up an RV, and the next day we hit the road to Sedona, the town used by John Ford as the backdrop of many of his western films.
We found a beautiful campsite nestled among aspen trees beside the river in downtown Sedona, complete with hookups and our own barbeque and seating area. We booked in for two nights. The park supplied free transport so that we could eat in one of the town’s many restaurants. It was our first taste of rattlesnake and deep fried cactus—quite delicious and like nothing we could get back home.
We took a Jeep trip into the backcountry to explore the strange red sandstone cliffs and find out more about the geological history of the region.
Leaving Sedona by the winding road out through Oak Creek Canyon, we called in at Flagstaff to get provisions and picked up Highway 89 heading for Page. However, we could not resist taking a quick excursion to have another look at the Grand Canyon, and the East Rim road with its watchtower gave us the opportunity to see this wonder of the natural world whilst avoiding most of the crowds.
Heading back to Highway 89, we drove through the weird landscape known as the Painted Desert, which was somehow very lonely and strange. The colored rounded mounds of rocks looked as though we had arrived on another planet
Page did not have a lot to offer so we made our way to Lake Powell to see the Glen Canyon Dam that was built to stem the mighty flow of the Colorado River and provide electricity for the city of Las Vegas. There was a brand new RV park on the side of the lake, which provided facilities for boating and sailing. We took advantage of a day on the lake and were enchanted by the coves and strange blue and green colors left on the banks from the receding waters.
From here we followed the highway that skirts the Vermillion Cliffs dividing Arizona from Utah and kept an eye out for the famous condors that are said to soar up into the sky, taking advantage of the thermals caused by the vertical cliff face. These magnificent birds have a wingspan of 10 feet and weigh as much as 24 pounds but we were not lucky on the day we drove that way.
After a very long drive we arrived at our main stop, Bryce Canyon, and we were lucky enough to get a campsite within the park itself. Strictly speaking this is not a canyon at all but a rock amphitheatre rising from the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. Taking a hike into the canyon gives you a different perspective and you are immediately struck by the maze that has been formed by the thousands of pillars, columns and arches.
Red, gold, orange and yellow hoodoos, as they are known, make this area a unique geological landscape. Strong winds, ice and rain have sculpted the soft and hard rock layers into spires. Hoodoos range in size from that of an average human to taller than a 10-story building.
In the columns of rock, we could see the figures frozen in time waiting for the release to go forth and win their battles, but we were pleased that they remained there for us to see. This is a unique landscape that provides fuel for the imagination.
Booking in the high season is advisable within the canyon, as pitches are quickly taken up but if you are lucky, this gives you the opportunity to walk out onto the rim at dawn or dusk and watch the sun pick out the vibrant colors of the rocks. The haunting splendor of this vast bowl will live in our memory for a long time, and you could see how the legends of the Indian peoples grew up around these mysterious rock formations.
The night sky was awash with stars because there is no light pollution from towns or cities, and bright showers of falling stars made this especially magical. We could pick out the various constellations and saw satellites making their lonely way across the night sky.
We were advised to go to a nearby campground because they laid on evening entertainment, and we had such fun listening to cowboy tales under the black velvet sky. This campground was well run with clean shower/toilet blocks plus a small general store and the owners were more than happy to give advice on local things to see that might otherwise be missed. Each pitch had hookups, barbeques and picnic tables surrounded by bushes and flowering shrubs. They had a swimming pool and the people were so friendly and welcoming that you immediately felt part of a community.
One of the wishes we made on the falling stars was that we would return to this extraordinary place in the future.
We are already planning our next trip and can’t wait to get back to explore more of the country across the pond.