Ten Reasons to Visit Marble Canyon, Arizona

As the halfway point between the Grand Canyon’s South and North Rim, Marble Canyon is more than an outpost town. It is a nature lovers gateway to paradise. Considered to be a base camp for Lees Ferry, Marble Canyon is an adventurers thoroughfare. River rafters, backpackers, day hikers, kayakers, and fishermen come from all over the world to experience this jewel of the southwest.

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Tourists utilize Marble Canyon’s facilities to refuel their gas tank and grab a bite on their way to the North Rim; many remain unaware of the attractions and adventures that this outpost town has to offer. Below are ten reasons why you should consider spending a  few days exploring Marble Canyon.

1. NAVAJO BRIDGE TWINS

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The two Navajo bridges, one historic and one new, represent one of only seven land crossings of the Colorado River for seven hundred miles.

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Serving as a pedestrian crossing, the historic bridge provides visitors with an opportunity to observe river rafters floating down the Colorado River and the chance to see the endangered California condor.

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2. CALIFORNIA CONDORS

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Only 225 California condors are living in the wild and 75 reside in Marble Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

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These majestic birds are often seen flying in the thermal currents and roosting on the steel girders underneath the Navajo Bridge.

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3. LOWER CATHEDRAL WASH

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The Lower Cathedral Wash Trail is located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This 2.5 mile round trip trail ends at Cathedral Rapid on the Colorado River.

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4. PARIA BEACH

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Directly across from Lees Ferry campground is Paria Beach. Known for its white sand and turquoise water, Paria Beach is a great place to watch rafters navigate their first set of rapids down the Grand Canyon.

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5. LONELY DELL RANCH

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This historic ranch, which lies near the mouth of the Paria River, was home to the families who operated Lees Ferry. Living in a such an isolated area demanded a self-sufficient lifestyle. Harvesting their own fruit and vegetables, these pioneers turned a barren desert into a green oasis.

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The main ranch buildings are a short walk from the parking area. Be sure to tour the orchard, log cabins, stone house, and the pioneer cemetery.

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7. PARIA RIVER

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If you visit the ranch cemetery, follow the dirt road all way the until you reach the Paria River Trail. Whether it’s a short nature walk or full-blown day hike, Paria River is a wilderness area begging to be explored.

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For dog owners, this is a great place to take the dog for a hike and swim.

8. LEES FERRY BOAT RAMP

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As the official start of the Grand Canyon, Lees Ferry boat ramp is a great place to watch commercial and private rafting expeditions launch.

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9. KAYAKING

For the price of a kayak rental and backhaul shuttle, you can explore a sixteen mile stretch of the Colorado River. Rated as a Class 1 paddle, I highly recommend spending a few days camping and kayaking your way back to Lees Ferry.

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For a detailed trip report

https://remoteleigh.com/2014/09/17/paddling-through-paradise-for-peanuts/

Backhaul Services

http://www.raftthecanyon.com/raft-the-river/back-hauling-services/

http://kayakthecolorado.com/backhaul-services/

Kayak Rentals

http://kayakthecolorado.com/river-rentals/

http://www.lakepowellhiddencanyonkayak.com/rental/

10. FLY FISHING

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Home to more than 20,000 wild trout per mile, Lees Ferry ranks as one of the nation’s top fishing destinations. Guided excursions, private and rented boats, and walk-in fishing are permitted for fifteen canyon miles upstream from Lees Ferry boat ramp. I highly recommend hiring a local fishing guide to take you upriver to fish the backwaters, gravel bars, and main river channel.

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FISHING GUIDES

http://www.northernazguideservice.com/about.html

http://leesferry.com/our-guides/

ACCOMMODATIONS

http://www.marblecanyoncompany.com/

http://www.vermilioncliffs.com/

http://leesferry.com/cliff-dwellers-lodge/

CAMPING

Lees Ferry Campground is located 1.5 miles from the boat ramp. Wind breaks, flush toilets, and a waste station are available for RV’S. First come, first serve, at $20 a night.

VERMILION CLIFFS NATIONAL MONUMENT – FINDING WIREPASS

Every morning I wake up to the rugged and remote beauty of Vermilion Cliffs.

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The ruggedness serves as a reminder that mother nature is my C.E.O. and the remoteness reinforces my belief that the environment is our entertainment.

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Every day, from sunrise to sunset, mother nature reveals her ever-changing moods and weather patterns.

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In the blink of an eye, a double rainbow can appear as quickly as an afternoon downpour ends.

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A flash flood can quickly transform a dry river bank into temporary natal pools for red-spotted toads.

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A pre-sunset sky transforms into a mosaic of pink, orange, purple, and red mystical hues; like a kaleidoscope of colors dancing across the desert sky.

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Mother nature’s magical moods entertain and energize me on a daily basis; however, there was still something missing, the Perfect Stranger.

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Every other week, the Perfect Stranger honored our romance by driving over a thousand miles (round trip) to Vermilion Cliffs. Even though she was completing her thesis, managing her non-profit foundation, and taking care of her two dogs; she still made time for me.

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How many people would be willing to drive to the middle of nowhere to pursue a romance with someone who could only offer their love and desert landscapes? Would the drive become tedious over time; diminishing the romantic sense of relationship urgency, or would the early morning desert driveway embraces serve as a reminder that this was no ordinary love?

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On a February winter’s morning, the Perfect Stranger and I set out for Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. After a twenty-minute drive to the Kaibab Plateau, we headed north on House Rock Valley Road (also known as B.L.M Road 1065). For twenty two miles, we followed the unmaintained gravel road before reaching our final destination, WirePass trailhead.

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Wirepass is a 1.7-mile trail that spills into the longest continuous slot canyon in the world, Buckskin Gulch.

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Buckskin Gulch holds a special place in my heart. In 2011, I celebrated my 40th birthday with a thirty-eight-mile backpacking trip into the lower intestine of Buckskin Gulch, before following the Paria River all the way to Lees Ferry.

It was during this trip that I fell in love with slot canyons and made a mental note to myself; this is a place you only share with someone special. Four years later, I found myself day hiking Wirepass with my love, the Perfect Stranger.

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In sections, which were less than three feet wide, the Perfect Stranger and I navigated and negotiated our way through the slot canyon. Having bruised several ribs a few weeks prior, rock scrambling was quite a painful endeavor.

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Slot canyons can be treacherous during flash flood season. With higher ground exit points few and far between, the B.L.M. (Bureau Of Land Management) strongly suggests avoiding slot canyons July through September. Rain from fifty miles away can deliver barreling flash floods within minutes.

As we approached the Wire Pass / Buckskin Gulch junction, petroglyphs left by the Anasazi came into view.

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Petroglyphs of humans, bighorn sheep, and a mysterious dotted line followed the entire length of the rock wall.

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Canyons with vertical walls a few hundred feet high and only a few feet wide are considered true slot canyons. True slot canyons are found on the many rivers and tributaries that flow into Lake Powell. Branches of the Paria River, Escalante River, and the numerous creeks that cross Navajo lands south of Lake Powell, are birthing grounds for mother nature’s masterpieces.

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Buckskin Gulch’s curved sunlight sandstone walls screamed the works of Georgia O’Keefe. Perhaps Georgia O’Keefe was speaking on behalf of mother nature when she said, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way-things I had no words for.”

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Georgia O’Keefe was right! No words or pictures could accurately convey the beauty of this slot canyon.

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Unfortunately, the Perfect Stranger and I were unable to venture any further into the belly of Buckskin Gulch. Within a half a mile, we hit our first mud puddle; a sign of recent rain in the canyon.

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A few hundred yards later, a deep water trough ended our hike. In thirty degree weather, a cold water swim was not something we had planned for.

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As we made our way back to the trailhead, the Perfect Stranger and I made plans to camp inside Buckskin Gulch for a few days. Due to the lack of water, most backpackers only spend a day or two in the Gulch. In order for us to stay three to four days, we would need to carry in enough water to sustain us.

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Leaving Wirepass trailhead, I realized I had a few weeks until I returned to my seasonal job. Would my work affect our extraordinary love?  Would the Perfect Stranger continue to make the pilgrimage out to the middle of nowhere in a Northern Arizona town? Would the miles that separate us continue to keep us close or would they painfully remind us of our geographically challenged romance?

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Perhaps life is a series of years managing unanswered and answered questions. Do we look for stability and a safety net in the answers? What if the answers only lead to more questions? Was I looking for a lifetime guarantee with love or was I simply fearful of losing something so precious?  For now, I could bank on the Perfect Stranger’s willingness and determination to be with me regardless of life circumstances.

MY FAVORITE GEAR PURCHASES OF 2016

This year was dedicated to buying gear that was affordable, lightweight, high quality, and to making my backpacking experience more comfortable. Comfortable in my world means staying warm. As a hiker living with Raynaud’s Syndrome, the air temperature feels 20 degrees cooler to my inner thermostat. Being so sensitive to the cold means beanie hats in the summer, wearing a down jacket to the movies, and keeping extra layers and gloves in the car.

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I wear wetsuits to swim, neoprene socks when kayaking, and I understand that a sleeping bag with a 20-degree temperature rating is really a 50-degree sleep sack.

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In 2016, I slept comfortably on the back seat of my car, discovered a new outdoor gear company, found a sleeping bag that keeps me warm, and experimented with two new lightweight tents. Listed below are my top six gear purchases.

BACK SEAT INFLATABLE MATTRESS  $40

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In less than three minutes, this inflatable mattress turns the back seat of your car into a rather comfortable bed. Great for long road trips, especially when you’re tired and need to pull over for a nap.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Car-Air-Bed-Inflatable-Mattress-Back-Seat-Cushion-2-Pillows-For-Travel-Camping-/172373321601?var=&hash=item2822402781:m:mrOopXO3RGbXBw-lDOOKrZw

NATUREHIKE EIDERDOWN SLEEPING BAG  $138

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A dream sleeping bag for a cold sleeper like myself. At just under three pounds, this sleeping bag’s is 90% eiderdown with a waterproof exterior.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/191584217207?var=490995443676

MOUNTAIN WAREHOUSE BIVY BAG  $30

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Weighing 11.9 ounces, I have been using this bivy bag as a protective cover and as an extra layer of insulation for my down sleeping bag.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01B8GEXIO/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

NATUREHIKE WILD WING TWO PERSON TENT  $74

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Less than $80, will get you a silicon coated two person waterproof tent. Yes, that’s right! Why pay two to three hundred dollars for a tent, when you can purchase the Wind Wing. This tent has two side entry doors and offers enough vestibule space for your backpacking gear. I had the opportunity to test drive this tent during my backpacking trip in Zion National Park. The tent provided great ventilation and protection from the elements.

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When you order this tent from GearBest, they also include the official tent footprint.

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http://www.gearbest.com/tent/pp_487875.html

NATUREHIKE CLOUD UP 2 PERSON TENT  $80

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Weighing in at 3.4lbs, the Cloud Up 2 was my first NatureHike tent purchase. It’s high-density mesh and silicon coated fly make this tent breathable and waterproof.

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I had the chance to test this tent over the summer on Santa Cruz Island. Snug for two people, however very spacious for a single camper.

https://www.amazon.com/Naturehike-Ultralight-Waterproof-Groundsheet-Backpacking/dp/B01N2H4VXN/ref=pd_sbs_468_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=PTZFG7EKWT925323C1J0

NEOPRENE WATER SOCK  $12

Having Raynaud’s Syndrome, I am constantly managing cold feet. These 3mm anti-slip bottom socks have made my kayaking experience far more enjoyable.

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JANUARY 1, 2015 – THE SOUND OF WHITE

“The New Year begins in a snowstorm of white vows” William E Lewis

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How did you spend the first day of 2015?  Do you remember where you were and who you were with? Did you find yourself committing to a New Year’s resolution? Was your resolution realistically sustainable? Are resolutions merely good intentions that never come to fruition? Would you be willing to trade a New Year’s resolution for a personal revolution? Name your revolution, what would it be? What would you change about yourself or your life?

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My New Year’s revolution was inspired by Janus; the two-faced Roman god for which January is named. Janus is usually depicted having two heads that face in opposite directions. One looks back to the year departed, and the other looks forward to the new and uncertain year ahead.

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Channeling my inner Janus it was clear that I had fallen in love with the perfect stranger during the final weeks of 2014. Over Christmas I kept it to myself; however, it was time I made it known to her. A friendship was not enough, I wanted a relationship!

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Out of respect to Janus, I started my personal revolution on January 1st. My revolution was overcoming vulnerability. I have always struggled with vulnerability. I liked feeling strong. I’ve always had to be strong, growing up in an addictive family vulnerability felt like kryptonite to the soul. Over the years I have befriended kryptonite; still, it’s easier to wear a cape than carry around kryptonite.

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Dr. Brene Brown was right when she said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.” I didn’t want to start my New Year malnourished. I felt a sense of urgency to tell the perfect stranger she was everything I hungered for! The million dollar question now was: how do I tell the perfect stranger who is on the other side of the country that I wanted her to be my girlfriend? I decide to braveheart my feelings and intentions via a video message. I felt protected by the spirit of Janus; he was the patron and protector of arches, doorways, and gates. There were no doors to close or gates to hide behind. The perfect stranger was one email and one click away from my New Year’s revolution: living without regrets by being vulnerable.

With my personal revolution set into motion, I decided to walk around the property and take some pictures. This storm was a once in a lifetime experience; I didn’t want to miss a single moment. I had been shooting in magical grey-white conditions for two days. According to weather reports, blue skies could be heading our way in the next twenty-four hours. Mother Nature was manipulating the mood, textures, and lighting of the desert landscape. It was undeniable, I was living a photographers dream.

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After shooting pictures for a few hours, I returned home to find Shadow passed out on the couch. Was he snow stormed out or was dreaming about his next hike? Perhaps he was contemplating his New Year’s resolution.

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I wondered what Shadow’s New Year’s resolution would be. Less anxiety? To be less fearful of men? Give up resource guarding? Finally catch the pack rat that has been hiding behind the fridge and under the bathroom sink?  Pursue his love interest, Coco? Perhaps he would have no resolution, being himself was enough!

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After a late afternoon snack and snuggle, Shadow and I headed outside for our first hike of 2015. Neither one of us could have foreseen our desert backyard turning into a winter wonderland.

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Barely a week before, this was the view from my kitchen window.

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Now, it was nothing but shades of white!

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With Shadow’s girlfriend Coco leading the way, we hiked out towards the property water tanks.

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After less than a mile on trail, Shadow traded his hiking boots for his track shoes. It seemed Shadow was committed to running himself ragged!

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I am not sure who was having more fun; me, capturing Shadow in full flight or Shadow footloose and fancy-free.

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With light conditions fading, Shadow and I took a final moment to honor the masterpiece Mother Nature created.

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This desert storm was a once in a lifetime experience: it may never happen again during my stay in Vermilion Cliffs. Fortunately, I had been able to document the storm. The million dollar question: twenty years from now, would my photos be able to transport me back to the day of this storm? Would I remember the bone-chilling winds blowing snow flurries across my face? Would Shadow remember the sensation of fresh powdery snow under his paws?

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As Shadow and I headed for home, I wondered how my friends were spending their New Year’s Day. Were they spending a quiet day at home or partaking in the shopping mall madness? How many of my friends spent their day outside? I thought about my nomadic Facebook friends who lived on the road; hopefully, they were stationed in a safe warm place.

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Since living remotely, I have found myself wondering about how other people live. Did this sense of wonder stem from no longer living by mainstream standards? Had my new way of life redefined my sense of normal? Living by mainstream standard now felt like a foreign concept. The majority of my friends seemed content with the stability and consistency of mainstream living, while I never did! Working in mental health I never felt a sense of job security. My work in high-end rehabs was contingent on client census. Furloughs were common practice when business was slow. A few treatment centers failed to make payroll on several occasions. Without union representation and a backlogged labor board, staff went unpaid.

In many ways, I feel the rehab industry has capitalized on codependency. By employing codependent staff members, companies could be assured of a one-sided loyalty.  Leaving employees feeling happy to have a job, even if they were underpaid or on some occasions never paid. Being of service does not mean working for peanuts at high-end treatment facilities. Ironically enough, the simplicity of living and working in an outpost town offered a job security that my former professional life couldn’t!

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With the sun starting to set, I snapped a few final pictures before heading indoors. On my evening to do list: sending my video message to the perfect stranger. Surprisingly, I felt no fear and was not worried about her response or the final outcome. My intentions were made clear. Here’s to 2015; the year of living vulnerable.

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WAKING UP TO A DESERT STORM

“For many years I was a self-appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms and did my duty faithfully, though I never received payment for it.” Henry David Thoreau

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Have you ever spent an entire night chatting on the phone with a love interest? What starts as a well-intentioned goodnight phone call slowly evolves into an endless conversation about life and love. Is it commonality that bonds two humans over the phone or is it the soothing sound of a familiar voice? Is love founded in chemistry and bonded in chemicals? What fuels a marathon long phone call? Could oxytocin be to blame? Can the social bonding love hormone be activated during phone conversations? I am saying YES because I felt chemically altered after hanging up the phone with the perfect stranger. So altered, that I could not believe my eyes when I let Shadow outside to use the bathroom. I saw snow; it was snowing in the desert!

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Shadow and I left the front yard and headed over to Highway 89A. Being off season, there were no tourists traveling along the road. Vermilion Cliffs lay quiet from a population standpoint. The majority of seasonal workers had gone home for the winter. All that remained was a handful of staff members and a few local residents. This is what the dead of winter looks like in a remote outpost town.

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After our slippery walk along 89A, Shadow and I returned home to have some coffee and banana bread with Min. As tired as I felt, I decided to stay up for the day. Sleep could wait, there was so little time and too many photo opportunities. Snow outside my back door was a dream come true!

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Just before noon, Min, Shadow, and I headed through the backyard towards the cliffs. Based on the weather report, the storm would continue for another thirty-six hours. It made me wonder; how much snow could we expect in Vermilion Cliffs? Six inches, eight inches, a few feet? I didn’t care, bring it on! I felt so fortunate to be hiking in a desert snowstorm.

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After less than a mile on trail, we found ourselves in the eye of the storm. The snow was falling at over an inch an hour and the wind was starting to howl. Shadow didn’t seem to mind, perhaps he felt like a seasoned snow dog after his white Christmas encounter.

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Halfway up the cliffs,` we decided to take a break and shoot some pictures. The storm was now in full force, white out conditions were looming.

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Late in afternoon, Min broke the bad news to Shadow. How do you tell a dog it’s time to go home? You don’t, you just start walking!

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Taking one final view into the canyon, Shadow, Min and I made a beeline for the house.

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Leading the way and setting the pace, Shadow ensured our return in record time. Maybe Shadow was keen to get home and warm his paws by the heater.

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Less than a hundred yards from the house, I turned around to look at the cliffs. I was awestruck! There were no words to describe the view. Not even in my wildest dreams, could I have ever imagined a desert winter wonderland on New Year’s Eve.

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Neither could Shadow for that matter!

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