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'Zona Road Trip

I sat staring at my watch. I recalled agreeing on a 9:30 A.M. start time, the clock now read noon. Just as I was debating scrapping the weekend plans of driving to Page, Arizona to see Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, I got a call from my timely pal saying he was on his way over to pick me up. Fuming and reluctant, I awaited his arrival as he crashed threw the door spewing initial excuses and subsequent apologies. After a short scold-session, we loaded all my gear into his car and left, almost three hours later than we had planned for our straight shot 11-hour drive to Arizona from Northern Colorado. 

At 11:30 P.M. we finally pulled up to the free campsite Google had lead us to. There was tons of broken glass all over the “campsite,” so we instead pulled off a dirt road and threw our pads and bags down to sleep under the stars.

We woke up at 5 A.M. on Saturday and hastily threw our gear back into the car just in time to avoid an early morning downpour. We drove into Page to grab a coffee and shot down the road to catch some pictures of sunrise at Horseshoe Bend. Arriving at the viewpoint just in time, we stayed for about an hour taking in the dance of light and color on the canyon walls and river below. The crimson rocks, indigo water, and algae covered cliffs made for the perfect canvas as the sun painted a new picture in front of us every minute. It started raining on us again so we decided to pack up our tripods and beeline back to the car to find some much-needed breakfast in town.

We stumbled across a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint called Paco’s Tacos where we gleefully grabbed an enormous breakfast burrito for just five bucks. After brekky, we drove back across the dam to a viewpoint over Lake Powell. We snagged a couple quick pics in the wind and hopped back in the car to boogie our way over to Antelope Canyon, about 10 minutes outside of town in the other direction.

Due to the canyons being located on Navajo land, you must go with a tour guide that will bring you through the winding slot canyon for a reasonable price. Bagging a 9:30 A.M. tour of the cheaper and apparently more strenuous Lower Canyon, we were introduced to our Navajo guide, Gwen. She was a young tour guide with quick wit and a natural balance of humor and professionalism. She showed us the best camera settings and places for pictures in the canyon while giving us historical information of both the canyon itself and the Navajo people.

After wrapping up our tour, we jumped back in the car and drove the four hours back up North to Moab, making for a more reasonable drive home the next day. Arriving around 4 P.M., we headed straight for Dead Horse Point State Park just a couple miles from the north entrance of Canyonlands National Park. This place was astounding. The view rivaled that of the Grand as the Colorado wound through the red cliffs and mountain bike paths carved veins in the desert below. The La Sals made for an ideal backdrop to the West, with their snowy peaks towering above the salt flats.

At sunset we drove the 20 miles back to the highway with the windows down, 90s hip hop bumping, and the night ahead on our brains. We made our way to our secret campsite outside of Moab joining up with about 10 guys and gals of which my buddy knew a couple. We drank beer and whiskey through the night as we sat around the campfire telling stories and laughing our asses off.

On Sunday morning we woke up around 8:30 A.M. dragging our tails as we packed up camp and grabbed a quick bite in town before leaving for our 6-hour journey back to Fort Collins. We arrived home around 6 P.M. nursing a seemingly endless hangover, but carrying with us new photos, new friends, and new stories to tell around our next campfire.

Thomas Evan West has two first names and a RIMBY-certified last name. He also has a camera, a knack for illustration, and an instagram. Check it out. For information on how to become a Mountain Standard Field Agent, click here.