Day 6 of our summer road trip Nevada-Utah. We woke up in Kodachrome, hiked there, and then drove along a scenic drive, Cottonwood Canyon Road: it was a glorious day, full of surprises and emotions. At 5pm, it was far from over. Our next stop sounded promising: Alstrom Point, an overlook of the Lake Powell.
The drive to get to Alstrom Point
We leave the visitor center of Big Water, we are told to cross the street and make a right just before a white warehouse. I was given a map hand-drawn on a piece of paper, but fortunately Google Maps is set on Alstrom Point as well, the road seems to exist!
It is supposed to be an hour drive: and we are warned that the last miles will be complicated, because the road is pretty messed up. For now, it’s still easy: it’s a plain dirt road going up and down, in the middle of huge canyons. There’s no trace of a human presence but the road, and some rare signs with only numbers of roads written on them. No animals, it’s too hot – we are in the desert. The road seems tiny in the middle of this giant decor, it gets through small round black hills or huge cliffs on the side. It switches and turns right and left, I’m not sure that our hand-drawn map would have been enough to navigate and I’m glad that Google Maps is working, but I’m also scared it would stop all of a sudden: that wouldn’t be easy to find our way back.
We are starting to trust ourselves, driving faster: the road is bumpy but it’s not that bad (that’s a mistake, it will gets bad). Everything becomes complicated only 3 miles (5 km) before the end of the road: we are not on a dirt road anymore, but on top of stones. Cairns indicate where to go. It seems messy. We can’t drive fast at all, and Manu is driving carefully in order not to scrape the bottom of the car. I understand now how useful a four-wheel drive is: the car slides sometimes, or balances. I’m a little bit scared but at the same time I trust Manu’s skills as a driver. We go slow. We slowly get through it, while I’m walking out of the car to guide Manu. And then, we have arrived.
On the side of the road
A sign in the middle of nowhere
Before Lake Powell was created, that’s how it probably looked like! It’s called Glen Canyon
That’s when the road became a little bit more technical
A magical view over Lake Powell
We embrace the view: the blue of Lake Powell contrasts with the red rocks. It’s canyons all over us, as far as we can see. This is a special place.
We thought we would be on our own, since it’s so remote and not super easy to get there, but soon after we have arrived, 2 other cars park next to us. We talk to one of the group, they are from California and have pitched their tent near Big Water, and regret now not staying there tonight! On the other side of the lake, it’s Arizona, and the Navajo reservation. There’s a family of Native American whose daughter were traditional clothes. They take her picture with the view of the Navajo Mountain in the background.
We’ve briefly stopped by Lake Powell in 2012: since the area is full of great things like Horseshoe Bend and Antelope canyon. Lake Powell is an artificial lake created in 1963 when the Glen Canyon dam was built.
It’s 6pm and it’s still super hot out. Where can we pitch our tent? We look for a nice place: it’s easy, there’s a lot of space and it’s nice everywhere. We take all our stuff in the car: camping gear, food and water for the night. We pick a spot located at a 10 minute walk from the car, since the trail isn’t easy, we carry everything at once and don’t plan on going back to the car until tomorrow morning.
Wow. That view!
One of the many twists of Lake Powell
Our dining room from where we can contemplate the sunset and the moonrise. When I see that I was barefoot, it creeps me… knowing that a snake invited himself on our camp –
This is not an add for REI even though we love our tent, backpack and anything from their store
On the other side of the view
We were not that alone
Hello rattlesnake !
We pitch the tent, then move it because we thought it was too close to the rim. We are alone on our plateau, there are maybe 5 cars scattered: there’s so much space here, and people who come here prefer to stay on their own, so we are let alone.
We make diner, I notice that we have forgotten our “sporks” (spoon/fork/knife) in the car but none of us wants to go back to the car. We’ll just have to slurp the Himalayan rice.
Life feels good, the show has started: the rocks lighten up, the moon rises. I write in my notebook, Manu sets the camera to do a time-lapse.
The colors are crazy. I posted this pic on Instagram, follow me at @mathildepit
Multi-layers of red rocks
I love this picture by Manu: it looks like we are on another plantes. Contrats and lines are gorgeous
50 Shades of Pink
A lonely butte
The last pic before the snake!
We are both sitting on our chairs, still and quiet. There’s no noise, only a few boats and jetski down below on the lake. Manu, who’s the chillest man on Earth, jumps out of his chair all of a sudden. “What’s going on?” “A snake!” I look on the right side and coming towards us, only 4 feet from our chairs:
A rattlesnake, the same color as the rocks. Fuck.
Manu lights him up with its lamp, he doesn’t want to lose sight of it and also wants to take a picture. I ask him to let go and enter a stable state of panic mode: how do I get rid of a snake without dying?
(NB1 : always think about the most dramatic situation)
(NB2 : if there’s no picture of the snake, my bad, but we are still alive, and I’m also taking credit for it).
Manu decide to scare the snake by flashing its light, but the snake stands up, surprised, he hasn’t felt us before. I start stomping my (bare!) feet on the ground: vibrations seem to work, the snake leaves in the bushes. My 2 years of girl scout 25 years ago have finally been proved useful.
We clean up our dinner setting quickly, Manu keeps lightening the Bush of the Snake. Merde. What do we do? Do we stay here tonight? It’s already dark, there’s no way I’m gonna walk back to the car walking through rocks and bushes ;then we would still have to drive back on this bumpy road. Where would we sleep anyway?
The tent is our only option: all my hopes are now based on this plastic dwell. I regret not having put the backpacks inside the tent beforehand: Manu poke them around to make sure no animals have sneaked inside them.
We close the tent, with the backpacks inside, hopefully free of snakes. It’s hot, there’s no air circulating inside, but I don’t want to go out and remove the tarp on top of the tent. It’s silent outside: the boats don’t circulate anymore on the lake. It’s nighttime, with shadows and weird animals sounds. Nature sucks sometimes.
I’m being paranoid and we decide to place our sleeping bags along the rim of the tent, on the inside, in order to create a anti-snake barricade. It’s probably a terrible and useless technic, but I want to be able to sleep without picturing a snake bitting me through the tent.
The moon is high in the sky, it’s very bright outside. During the night, I wake up and stare in the dark with my lamp on to see if the snake is coming.
The day after
I open my eyes at 5am. It’s dark, no more moon, the sky is cloudy. It could rain and I think that we are stupid adventurers and we will finish stuck in the mud on the road. Anyway, I’m too tired to think about a smart solution and go back to sleep.
I wake up for good at 6.30am. The sun is rising, and soon it’s gonna be hot in the tent. I get out, stretch, and enjoy the amazing view with the sunrise light. It’s quiet, I can see the other campers waking up. I’m at peace in front of this incredible scenery.
We don’t have anything for breakfast, everything is in the car, we pack up everything, slowly. We have time. We are more cautious about the potential snake lurking around, and I told myself I need to learn everything about the animal. It’s our new obsession: each road trip brings a new one. One year it was grizzlis, another one it’s the heat “heat kills”, or the mountain lions. Even though it’s touristic and looks safe, the American South West is still wild!
We go back to the car, stepping through rocks and bushes. I have a stick in one hand, but I’ll learn later that it’s not a solution against snakes: they should never feel threatened, that’s when they attack. We arrive to the car, safe, the car is still there, like nothing happens. We stay there for a while, enjoying the view, and then the drive back starts.
I feel good, and I feel free!
Early morning facing Lake Powell. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been there! I’m finishing this article in a coffee shop in Boston, during wintertime. It seems like it has happened a long time ago.
Same view, with a morning light
Time to pack up
Our dear car: the Ford Expedition, way too big for us too, but we got used to it quickly.
Infos about Alstrom Point
- Campground: Alstrom Point belongs to the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, we didn’t need a permit to camp there. You’ll find here more info here
- How far is Alstrom Point? It took us an hour from the Big Water visitor center, which I recommend you to stop before going to Alstrom Point to check if there’s anything to know about the conditions of the road. It’s a 90-minute drive from Page, Arizona. If you’re not a camper, check out this lodge* in Big Water, or if you’re looking for something fancy, there’s this neat Bed&Breakfast*
- IMPORTANT. A high-clearance 4 wheel drive car is mandatory to get there. And you also need to be a good driver. It’s not an easy drive. We’ve seen along our many road trips people being stuck in sands or difficult roads. It happens often. In this region, you have to be ready to the worst, and be able to wait for help for a few hours (having several gallons of water and food in the car). Insurance doesn’t cover most of these dirt roads incidents. The South West is touristic, but let’s not forget it’s the desert and by definition hostile to humans. The drive to Alstrom Point can be closed because of flooding.
Our primitive camp
The dirt road
▶ If you use this article to build your own road trip, don’t forget to mention it on your blog, on social media or on the comments below. We try to find nice spots with Manu, not to follow what everybody does, it’s nice to have a shoot out for it.
▶ I hope you like and share this article. I know you’ve been waiting for it through comments on Instagram and Facebook. Leave a comment below if you’ve been there or want to see it for yourself!
Bonus: We talked about this place to people we met on this trip, we were told it’s the $1 million view for $0. In the same vein, a rafting guide told us that her favorite camping spot in the area was similar, and could be found at the end of the Muley Road. We went there a few days later on our way to Monument Valley, that’s what you can see from there, it’s also pretty awesome: