Southwest Trip 2021

Grand Canyon Day 1: Smoke Day 2–The Smokening

So, we woke up today, threw open the curtains and were once again greeted by wildfire smoke. We were off to a rough start.

Today we’d be making our longest journey, the one from Arches to the Grand Canyon via Monument Valley. The ride would be about six hours long, which was fine, as it would be scenic. Though, perhaps less so with a blanket of smoke over it.

We packed up the car and made our way to Downtown Moab to pick up a few things and grab a coffee. We went to Moab Coffee Roasters, a local shop, for a bite and caffeine. I got an Asiago bagel and a cookie dough latte. Both were to die for.

Then we made our way down south towards Arizona. I was driving today, so all of the “out the window” photos of our surroundings were taken by Daniel. Behold, smoky southern Utah.

After about two hours we reached Monument Valley, the array of towering, uniquely shaped red rock “monuments” that line the border of Utah and Arizona. The trail starts at a location now dubbed “Forest Gump Point,” which is the spot from the movie where Forest decides to stop his run across the country. It also offers up the best far-off view of some of the monuments.

And because of the smoke, we could barely make out the shapes of these rocks from Forest Gump Point.

Probably the biggest bummer of the trip so far.

We took some half-hearted pictures from the side of the road, but overall it was pretty disappointing. Not much you can do about visibility. Oh well. Guess we’ll just have to come back someday.


We were close to the Utah/Arizona border, which concluded our stay in Utah. Overall it was a beautiful state. Some fun facts: we learned that the state symbol of Utah is the beehive, which was coined by Mormon settlers as a symbol of organization, hard-work, and community collaboration. The state highways in Utah use the beehive for their little logo. It’s cute.

Another weird quirk about Utah: about every half an hour on tv, there’s a commercial about how to alleviate bad credit, work around credit checks, buy big-ticket items without any credit, etc. I don’t know what happened here, but the credit situation is apparently concerning.

So, anyway. It’s been lovely, Utah. Enjoy your beehives, hope your credit gets better.

We had a few more hours on the road in Arizona, looking at more desert landscapes and listening to Office Ladies podcasts. We skipped over lunch, as we were making good time. Also there were limited options for food in the middle of the desert. But hey, at least the smoke was clearing out!

Before we knew it, we were crossing into Grand Canyon National Park. The surrounding area was more wooded than we expected. But after a bit of driving, we came to a tree clearing, and beyond it, well, the Canyon herself.

It’s pretty amazing. Words can’t describe it. It’s just so unfathomably vast. We’ll be here for the next three days, so I’ll be able to gush about it plenty. For now I’ll just leave it at “wow.”

Our hotel, the Yavapai Lodge, was about 30 minutes from the park entrance. Once we got there, we unloaded and settled in. Our hotel is cool. It’s one of the original buildings of the lodge, built in the 1950s as a little motel. But the rooms are all recently renovated with big windows overlooking the forest behind us. We want to see an animal walk by SO BADLY. So far we have seen one chipmunk. Stay tuned for more.

Having skipped lunch, we were starved by the time it was 4:30. Granted, we’d switched time zones so it felt like 5:30, and our only meal today had been a bagel at 10am. We needed food. So we headed to the Yavapai Tavern, the restaurant at the hotel, to grab some grub. We also got beer flights to sample not one, but four local beers! They were all pretty good but the IPA was my favorite.

I got a regular burger for my meal and Daniel got an Elk burger. Both hit the spot. Granted we would have stuffed our faces with cardboard, we were so hungry.

The night was very young, but we had hit a wall. After traveling regularly for years, I’ve noticed every trip needs to hit a lull at some point if you want to hold onto the energy to carry on. Tonight was our lull. So, before 6, we were back in our room. We planned out some activities for tomorrow, bathed, and watched the greatest movie of all time, Armageddon, on cable tv.

We’ll do more interesting stuff tomorrow, I promise.

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