If you have a hankering for a fried chicken sandwich, drive directly to Page. The Birdland comes with spicy mayo and hand cut fries. The Grand Canyon (brewery) and view of Sunset is extra.
Even though Page is not overly bike friendly, driving is a breeze as the town in basically three streets wide and a mile long. The library has become a daily hangout, mostly to post blogs and research destinations but also because they’re having a fundraiser to rid the shelves of antiquated books. At fill a bag for $2, Eric picked up 2005 Fodor’s and Frommers for Utah, Colorado and Oregon while Sheri loaded up on “how to” from the arts and crafts section. Her favorite is 1983 paintings of Arizona Cacti and Succulents that will surely be repurposed after reading New Decoupage from 1998. If you can’t find a thrift shop, check out your local library.
We’ve pretty much done everything outdoors thing there is to do in Page that doesn’t require a boat or a tour guide. So on our last day we took an hour drive to Lee’s Ferry where early settlers crossed the Colorado River. An hour drive is like 15 minutes on the East Coast. Things are spread out here in the Wild West and an hour is like a trip to the local Walmart.
Navajo Bridge was dedicated in 1929 and was the only crossing of the Colorado for 600 miles. It was mostly used by Mormons making the pilgrimage to Salt Lake City Mecca to have their many marriages sanctified. Eventually tourism picked up and the weights of vehicles and non-Mormon people increased. Congress authorized the building of a similarly designed bridge that opened in 1995. Mormons may still use either one. Everyone else can walk Navajo Bridge and shop for souvenirs, but you can’t refill your water after hiking 4 miles in 101 degree heat. It is a water-less tourist stop. How refreshing.
The hike through Cathedral Wash is in the Lee’s Ferry section of Glen Canyon, marked by mile high painted rock and artistically placed boulders that fall from the sky and weather for millions of years. Kayak guide Mike recommended we drop in on some solitude, check out some amazing geology and get some perspective on our place in time and space. If he would have added sweat like a fat man in Florida, it would have been a complete description. Temperatures are rising and we are getting nervous. When we arrived it was a high of 80. Coming off the Cathedral Wash, we saw 101. And tomorrow we unplug from concierge camping in the National Aramark Monument. Uh-oh!
Up the road from the hike, we chatted up a group of seventy somethings who were doing a bucket list float down the Colorado River. Bussed in from Vegas, they put in Lee’s Ferry and would spend the next 8 days being motored 200 miles down river by day and sleeping under the stars on the banks of the Colorado by night. Breaking it down, they ride 14 to a boat where shade is your hat and there are no tents or toilets, just cots and buckets, which was something they hadn’t actually thought through until we asked. But it’s going to be amazing, they said. As we were chatting, the final four dozen cases of beer and wine were being strapped onto the raft. Sounds like the guides have a time-tested plan for combating the long days floating on the slow moving river. And we hope they keep at it, cause maybe we will be doing the same trip in 10 years.
Page is at a crossroads and only Mother Nature can predict the future. As long as the lake is somewhat full, life is centered on hoverboarding and endless 9 am bloody Mary’s on mammoth house boats. Should the unmatched spectacle of Glen Canyon ever return due to a thousand year drought, Page will undoubtedly get a lot smaller. Truth be told, beautiful slot canyons in a harsh wilderness just don’t pay the bills. Judging by the new homes going up, real estate developers are betting that Lake Powell’s falling waterline will turn around. If history is any guide, capitalism will win no matter how dire the predictions.
Until then, we’ll pack avocado tomato sandwiches and carry a gallon of water through a wicked hot wash where shade is our hat and a giant boulder overhang our patio. Our vote is for a return to what probably is the most spectacular work of nature ever submerged under five hundred feet of water since Atlantis. But, then again, we didn’t just put down 20% on a condo overlooking the lake.