It was the trip discussed and planned for years. Gotta see the Grand Canyon. Not from the air, but go to the rim. See the colors. Ooh and ahh. So we did. Early in December we flew to Phoenix and made the drive north through Arizona. Past the cactus and the sagebrush, up to the mountainous areas where the air is remarkably thin.
Our first destination was the Petrified Forest. The Geologist interviewed the staff member behind the counter in the gift shop, showing her various postcards he had picked off the rack and asking "where is this? where is that?" Come to find out that a certain formation that appears on lots of these postcards really isn't there at all. Hmm.... We left the park just at sunset, with the moon rising overhead.
We stayed our first night in Winslow (insert Eagles soundtrack of "Take It Easy" here) at www.laposada.com
, where each room is named for one of the celebrities that had stayed there over its colorful history. The Roy Rogers Room was quite cozy, with a bookshelf filled with interesting reading material. We enjoyed a fine dinner in the Turquoise Room, and awoke to a bright, sunny cold morning. The sun on the wall in the famous Sunken Garden tried to warn us of the chilly day ahead.
For most of the time I have known The Geologist, he has expressed an intense interest in seeing Meteor Crater. So we pointed our Jeep westward and found it, 5 miles south of the interstate, in the middle of nowhere (which is where one finds a lot of Arizona attractions, it seems). We walked the rim, teeth chattering in the wind, and got the money shot.
Many miles later, we found ourselves nearing The Canyon. Approaching from the east, there are numerous places to pull over and marvel at the amazing sight. Yes, it IS more impressive in person. All the National Geographic pictures do not do it justice. Its hard to imagine what John Wesley Powell thought about this place when he and his crew decided to navigate the Colorado River through this vast gorge in 1869.
The Spanish explorer El Tovar was the first to "discover" the Canyon in 1540, and the grandest of the South Rim lodges bears his name. We stayed there on our first night, and dawn brought not only daylight, but several elk to the front lawn outside the hotel. I bundled up early and, before coffee, took this photo.
A full day of canyon exploration was ahead of us. There were very few tourists to get in our way, as this was the week after Thanksgiving and most children were back in school. The cold weather kept all but the hardiest souls home, and at many of the stops along the trail, we had the views all to ourselves. Thanks to the peace and quiet, the local wildlife felt comfortable enough to make its presence known. We were able to get this close to a goat who sauntered out of the bushes at one stop.
The Canyon and the National Park Service provides its visitors with LOTS of historical information about this wonderous place. Most amusing of the smaller details was learning that 19th century geologist John Strong Newberry (an ancestor of mine, perhaps?), had visited and studied the Canyon extensively in the 1800s, and there was a butte named in his honor. So on the more detailed maps of the canyon, with all the features labeled, my family name also appears. Now THAT is awesome.
After a night in a cute cabin at Bright Angel Lodge, and a hearty breakfast, we finished our canyon exploration and headed south. After lunch in Flagstaff at Miz Zip's Route 66 Cafe, we made the leisurely and scenic drive through Oak Creek Canyon, and rolled into Sedona mid-afternoon. A panoramic and upscale locale, we discovered aggressive time-share vendors, glossy art galleries and more crystal shops in town than one could possibly imagine outside of Haight-Ashbury. A drive up the hill toward the airport offered us an overlook for taking photos, but a "donation" (and an old geezer to accept them) was requested after parking.
We used the rest of our daylight to explore the hills and canyons, admire the houses, and postulate on just how we could make a living in this beautiful place. It would have to be something lucrative -- we realized we were getting back to "Big City" territory when our mexican dinner that night was $60. My bargain hunt in town the next morning yielded the most sought-after prize -- a silver and turquoise bracelet to replace one borrowed (without my knowledge or permission) a few years ago. We made the leisurely drive to Phoenix and had time to relax in the airport before flying home. Highlight of that afternoon was sitting across from former presidential candidate and current congressman Ron Paul while we waited for our flight back to Houston (he sat in first class).