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Clare
Clare

Day Twelve: Horseshoe Bend

After we'd relaxed for a while in the hotel room following yesterday's excursion to the Grand Canyon, we went out into Tusayan to find some food. We ended up in a fast food restaurant called Wendy's, which I'd never been to before.  It was interesting - different to McDonalds, I ordered an ice coffee and when it came it was absolutely enormous (sunglasses included for scale!)

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Like many places in the USA, it was possible to get a free refill of your drink but I definitely wasn't going to need that. I barely got to the bottom of the first one! Tim and both tried a burger called a "Baconator" which was very nice; a square burger with lots of bacon and cheese.

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Later in the evening we decided to go out to the Grand Canyon again. The sunset we'd accidentally seen while driving to Tusayan the night before had been so amazing that we thought it was worth trying to see the sun set over the Grand Canyon. Sunset was reported as being at 19.48, so around 19.30 we set out towards the park. 

When we parked and made our way towards the first viewpoint, we discovered that evening is a much more popular time to visit the Grand Canyon than early morning!

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Unfortunately the viewpoint we were at wasn't really very well positioned for watching sunset. But we did see a little bit!

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This gave us the idea of attempting to wake up even earlier than planned on Monday morning in an attempt to catch sunrise over the canyon. It seemed like a good idea when we were planning it the night before, but I wasn't absolutely thrilled when my alarm ultimately went off at 4am :D 

Sunrise was supposed to be around 05.20. When we arrived at the Grand Canyon around 5am we could just see the first tinges of red in the sky.

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After we'd been there for a few minutes, the colours began to get stronger...

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...until eventually there were some really strong reds.

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There were a fair view people out to watch the sunrise, but nowhere near as many as there had been for sunset, so it still felt quite peaceful.

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Ironically though, it was actually busier at the viewpoint we were visiting at 5am today than it had been at 6am yesterday. I think people must come for sunrise, then move on.

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At the time Tim was taking the photos we felt slightly frustrated with them, because it didn't feel like the camera on the phone was doing a very good job at capturing the colours we were seeing in real life.

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But looking back at them now, I can't really complain about the results!

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As the sun got higher, the clouds began to look like they were illuminated...

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...and then eventually we could see the top of the sun starting to come over the horizon.

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The sun grew bigger and bigger...

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...and soon it was almost too bright to look at.

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I might not have been very enthusiastic when the alarm when off at 4am, but this was definitely a sunrise worth getting out of bed for :) 

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Mission to watch sunrise complete, our plan for the rest of the day was to visit a viewpoint at a place called Horseshoe Bend. That's around 138 miles away from Tusayan, so a reasonable distance. The first part of our route involved driving through the national park and out of its eastern entrance along a road called Desert View Drive.

We had to drive slowly, because the speed limit was 25mph in places. We soon realised why, when we were driving along and two wild boar crossed the road in front of us :o

That happened too quickly to get a photo unfortunately, but we did stop off at a couple of viewpoints along the road for some more views of the Grand Canyon.

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I was particularly impressed by a viewpoint called Navajo Point, from where we had a really good view of the Colorado river.

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We could see the water at the bottom much more clearly than we could from any of the viewpoints we visited yesterday.

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That was good because our destination for the rest of the day should also involve seeing some more of the river :) 

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I hadn't really thought much about the drive between Tusayan and the small town of Page (which is the nearest place to Horseshoe Bend), but it turned out to be quite an interesting one.

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We drove through some really rocky scenery.

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And in some cases I really do mean that we drove through it!

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It was around 9am by the time we arrived at the car park for Horseshoe Bend. This isn't part of the national park, so we had to pay $10 to park. The lady manning the car park warned us that it was a 1.5 mile walk to the viewpoint and back and that we needed to bring plenty of water with us because we were in the desert.

And we were indeed in the desert!

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The path led us through what was a very barren landscape.

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The path was surrounded by sand.

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And it was incredibly hot!

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So hot that in places, there were little shelters by the side of the path to create shade.

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Luckily the walk wasn't very far.

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After 10 minutes or so of walking, we got our first glimpse of the view we'd come to see, on the other side of these rocks.

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Wow!

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This is Horseshoe Bend, where the Colorado river bends around in a shape that looks very much like a horseshoe.

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We definitely had a good view of the water in the river now!

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The path led to a small viewing platform - luckily a viewing platform with rails, because it was quite a drop down!

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The top of the canyon is about 1000 ft above the level of the river at this point.

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The horseshoe bend is so large that it's difficult to fit it all in one photo.

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We gave it a good go though :)

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It's another day when we've probably taken far too many photos, but it was so stunning here that it was hard to stop.

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It's such an unusual landscape - definitely worth visiting!

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It was coming up to 10am by this point and we hadn't had breakfast, so we had a final look at the view and then headed into the nearby town of Page.

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We found a McDonalds there where we could get breakfast and then we couldn't resist the temptation to drive about 10 miles up the road to.... Utah!

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There isn't anything specific to see in this part of Utah, so it really was just a drive. 

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We went for about 15 miles and passed some interesting landscapes.

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Predominantly the countryside was desert, broken up by large rock features.

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Eventually we had to turn around and head back to Arizona.

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The drive back towards Tusayan was equally impressive as the drive out had been.

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The photos are taken through the car windscreen, so unfortunately a bit marred by reflection and various things stuck to it.

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There were some fascinating rocks, though - these ones looked quite stripy.

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And as we got closer to our turn-off back towards the Grand Canyon, the road was lined with bumpy little features like this.

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It's been another very exciting (and tiring!) day. Tonight is our final night in Arizona; tomorrow we'll be setting off on a long drive towards our next state: Colorado :)  




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