The Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon

…and some other road trip tidbits!

This is a bit of a throwback–but I thought it was worthy of a post. In the summer of 2014, my friend Joellen and I took a road trip from New Orleans to San Diego. It was the end of my internship at the Audubon Zoo, and she accompanied me on my trip back home. We stopped at many places, but two of my favorites were the Grand Canyon and nearby Antelope Canyon.

Before leaving the zoo though, I had to say goodbye to my favorite animals there–the giraffes!

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They love carrots!

One of life’s greatest gifts for me (so far) has been friends who are willing and excited to travel with me. I had my friend Zack accompany me on my road trip from Virginia to California, and Jo came with me on this one at the end of my internship at the Audubon Zoo. And my friend Chloe traveled to visit me in Spain, and we went together to Guatemala and Belize.

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Jo and I at a Jimmy Eat World concert in Austin

The plan with this trip was to show Jo around New Orleans first, then head over to Austin, Texas, then the Grand Canyon, then Zion, Las Vegas, and finally San Diego. We had my dog in the back of the car and we were ready for adventure.

While showing Jo around New Orleans, we got to explore the famous Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. It’s a party every single day. And you can get your alcoholic drink to go!

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One evening while we were wandering around the French Quarter, we ran into Dave Grohl. Actually, Jo peeked into a bar as we were looking for a place to eat, and said “oh my God, is that Dave Grohl?!” We then spent a few minutes trying to decide if we should casually sit next to him at the bar. But he was getting up to leave, so we got to meet him on his way out.

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This was later referred to as a “monumental” celebrity run-in

 

 

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The French Quarter at sunset
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Visiting one of the cemeteries in New Orleans
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We like to keep it light hearted, no matter where we are!
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Case in point…

Moving on from New Orleans, we made a stop in Austin. It was beautiful! We went hiking, swimming at Barton Springs, saw a concert, and even watched as thousands of bats flew out from under a bridge together to start their hunt for the night. Yes, that’s a thing you can see in Austin!

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Hamilton Pool
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Just after the bats took flight from under the bridge

Of course, along the way from Texas to Arizona, you see a lot of open land. Sometimes it’s nice to stop and enjoy the scenery (ok, and let the dog out to pee).

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To stay near the Grand Canyon, we found a hotel in Williams, Arizona, and planned to drive in to the park for the day. We explored around the South Rim while taking photos that make my palms sweat now. This was my second time to the Grand Canyon, but it still made my jaw drop. It’s such a sight to behold, and really photos can’t do it justice. It’s so vast, and it looks different depending on the time of day and year. You could spend a good while just thinking about how it would look to fly over the canyon. Hiking down and back up takes about 24 hours. People die from falling into it multiple times every year. The park employees who work there live in the “Grand Canyon village”, which has its own bus system, school, and post office.

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Late morning
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Mid-day
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Watching the sunset

Just a few miles from the Grand Canyon is Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon famous for its beautiful rock formations. There are two parts: the upper and lower canyon. We toured both and both were amazing. However if you only have time for one, I would recommend seeing Lower Antelope Canyon. It’s a little bit harder to navigate–you must climb down and back up a few flights of stairs to see it, and it’s much more narrow than the Upper canyon. But the rock formations are more dramatic, and I had a great time taking photos in there. It’s also less frequented by tourists, which I think is an advantage.

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On our way to enter antelope canyon

At the time of this trip, I was very much into nature photography. I had my “good” camera with me, and I’m so glad I did. Here are some of my favorite photos that I took.

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Okay, I didn’t take this one

To get to the canyons, you must book a tour. Be careful around monsoon season (mid-June to mid-September), as floods, even from miles away, can quickly become deadly. Granted, that is also a great time to visit the canyons as the famous light beams become visible at that time of the year. There are flash flood warning alarms at both sites, but it is good to be aware and avoid the canyons if any rain is expected.

Another nearby landmark that’s worth a mention is Horseshoe Bend. It’s a part of the Colorado River that curves like a horseshoe. There is a place to take photos from above that’s become very popular for good reason.

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When you first pull up to the parking lot, you can’t see much
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You have to walk up to the ledge to see it!
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Horseshoe Bend

After seeing Horseshoe Bend, we made a quick stop at Zion National Park. To see all of Zion, you would need to spend at least a few days there. But we only had one day–so we made the best of it. Just driving into the park was jaw-dropping. We went for a hike, spent the night in Kanab, then headed off to Las Vegas!

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We only spent one night in Las Vegas, and I’m just going to leave this photo here as a summary of our time there.

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Finally, we made it to San Diego and I got to show Jo around my “home” city.

There’s nothing like a road trip with friends.

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