ride through Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
reveals an icy red desert and buttes on the
something other than the traditional 70-degree, sunny
Christmas that Southern Californians like me often take
for granted, I persuaded my dad to spend the long holiday
weekend last year somewhere more remote, and perhaps
signed up for a three-day trip with an Asian tour bus
company out of Monterey Park, just east of Los Angeles, to
Arizona and Utah. Disclaimer: The trip is better done
driving your own car, especially if you like legroom.
the crack of dawn, we loaded our luggage onto the bus and
it made its way east. It stopped briefly at Baker, Calif.,
which boasts the tallest thermometer in the world, and we
saw Sin City only in passing.
it was all desert and mountains. After hours and hours of
what started to look like sameness, we reached the Virgin
River Gorge, a long canyon in northwest Arizona carved out
by the Virgin River. Water flowed majestically across the
sundown, we reached St. George, Utah, a city near the
Arizona border with a large Mormon temple visible from the
highway. The tour bus stopped at an Asian buffet that I
assumed had mediocre cuisine compared with whatís
available back home, so I decided to walk to the Mormon
was farther away than it looked, and it started to snow,
so I got just close enough to take a decent picture.
it was back on the bus for the final stretch of the day to
Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas, where we stayed for the
night. When we arrived, it was too dark to see the lake,
so we headed to our room to get some rest.
sunrise the next day, we packed back into the bus to make
our way to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, a
red-desert region on the Arizona-Utah border. It was
snowing, and the wind chill factor made the cold more
Americans operating the park had us pile into Jeeps. My
dad claimed the seat next to the driver while I convinced
myself I could weather the low-30s temperature for the
panoramic view from the convertible Jeep.
the Jeep followed a trail down a gentle slope, the vehicle
slipped on the ice and I thought we were on the verge of
tipping over. It didnít, though, and Iím not sure if
the driver was even worried. He must be used to driving on
buttes of various shapes made the ride seem almost like a
safari, but we were tracking images, not animals. We
stopped at several photo opportunity spots, including the
Mitten Buttes and the Merrick Butte, and surveyed the
landscape where John Wayne filmed "Stagecoach."
Snow made it especially picturesque.
the end of the ride, I ran into the visitors center for
shelter from the chilly wind and also ran back out to the
bus, which was a bad idea wearing traction-less Ugg boots
because I slipped and fell. Conveniently, I was wearing so
many layers of fleece and goose down that I barely felt
then headed to what I anticipated would be the highlight
of our quick holiday getaway ó Antelope Canyon. Iíd
seen photos of the multi-orange slot canyon formed by
it in person, I found the pictures didnít lie. We walked
into the canyon led by a young Navajo guide even more
savvy with iPhone photography than we were.
we weaved through the natural wonder, our guide showed us
how to adjust our iPhones to the chrome setting and how to
focus the lens to capture flowing "shapes" in
the rock like a sunset and a bear.
photos, in my opinion, could pass for the professional
ones that enticed me to visit in the first place.
ended the day with a nice dinner back at the resort with a
view of Lake Powell where the cinnamon roll bread pudding
was warm and delicious.
woke up before dawn again on the final day of our getaway
and took a scenic ride around vast, blue Lake Powell to
Horseshoe Bend, on the Colorado River near Page, Ariz.
the bend required a hike up a slight incline, but the
physical activity helped warm us up.
lookout point was the perfect place to watch the sunrise.
As the blue hues of the night receded, light illuminated
the red rock and water at the base.
couldíve visited Antelope Canyon in warmer weather, but
Monument Valley was more pleasant coated in snow than
enveloped in scorching heat ó and it was especially
enchanting during the holidays.
three days full of postcard moments, we began the long
Valley: Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation offers guided
tours, hiking trails and scenic drive directions at
Canyon: Various tours of the Navajo-operated slot canyon
are available at antelopeslotcanyon.com.
Bend: Tours and information on visiting the canyon are
available at horseshoebend.com.
Powell Resorts & Marinas: Rates on lodging and boat
rides are available at lakepowell.com/lodging/lake-powell-resort.