Apr 22-30 - Grand Canyon Area AZ
On Saturday morning, 4/22, we checked out of the RV park and headed for the Grand Canyon, one of the most anticipated stops on our trip. On the way out of town, we stopped at an RV Wash (yes, there are such things) to see how much dust we could wash off (not much), and at Costco for cheap gas (well, not really cheap - just less expensive). Then we drove across the top of Hoover Dam into Arizona and headed south to Kingman. This was our first encounter with the old Route 66 "Mother Road", and we stopped in Kingman for lunch at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. When you drive an RV, you have to eat at Cracker Barrel. We think it's a law left over from the Carter presidency. The run then into Williams on I-40 was easy, and we arrived late afternoon at the Railside RV Ranch, a neat park owned and operated by Tammara and Pat Dora - themselves a neat couple who were a wealth of information (and a few very bad jokes) during our stay.
Grand Canyon Country has much that's compelling - the Geological and the Archeological aspects of the area could each take many days of attention. We barely hit the high spots of both in the week we were here. We could spend a lot more time around here. Williams is about 60 miles south of the Grand Canyon itself, and was the last town to be bypassed when I-40 replaced the old US Route 66. The last stoplight between Chicago and Los Angeles was in Williams until October 13, 1984. Today, the nearest stoplight to Williams is in Flagstaff, 30 miles east.
Sun 4/23 - Our first visit to the park was aboard the Grand Canyon Railway, which runs from Williams to Grand Canyon Village every day (twice a day during the summer). Before boarding, we were treated to a predictable (and quite entertaining) Wild West Show, where everybody but the Sheriff was (temporarily) dead by the end. It's a two-hour train ride, and then we spent about 90 minutes on a tour bus hitting the high spots before picking up our box lunches and doing some wandering. Justbefore boarding the train back to Williams, it snowed. Just a little. We were home a little after six. A very good day.
Mon 4/24 - After breakfast, we drove back to the Canyon, took in an exceptional Imax film about the early explorations of the canyon by the non-natives, and after lunch drove to the east end of the park, stopping at every viewpoint, coming and going. The views are absolutely awesome - and there are no words (or pictures) to adequately describe a big hole a mile deep, ten miles wide and about 60 miles long, filled with the most amazing sculptures. After wandering around, we were more than aware that we were 7,000+ feet above sea level, where the oxygen molecules are much farther apart.
Tue 4/25 - We really wanted to see some of the many Native American ruins in the area, so we headed for the Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monument, about 20 miles north of Flagstaff. Sunset Crater Volcano erupted in 1064 AD, and had a dramatic effect on the landscape and local population. The lava fields and cinder fields are enormous. Really neat. About 15 miles from the Volcano are a number of pueblo ruins dating to about 1250 AD, when the "dry farmers" of the area returned to exploit the moisture retained by lava cinders. It's hard to think of folks choosing to cultivate crops in a high desert with an annual rainfall under 20 inches, but they did and survived quite well until they were "discovered" by "civilized" explorers. From the ruins, we drove into the Navajo Reservation east of Grand Canyon, where Judy shopped for and bought some exceptional Navajo-crafted jewelry. Then, back home through the Grand Canyon park (and more photo opportunities).
Wed 4/26 - Judy really wanted to visit Jerome, AZ - a revived turn of the century ghost mining town. It's a vertical town a couple of thousand feet up the side of a mountain east of Cottonwood, AZ. The drive was at least as good as the destination, as it goes through a spectacular Oak Creek Canyon between Flagstaff and Sedona, and then through the spectacular Red Rocks around Sedona before heading up the other side of the valley. We didn't stop in Sedona except for gasoline and some ice cream - we may someday regret that. Jerome is strung up the side of a hill, filled with artsy-craftsy shops and galleries. We wandered for a bit, ate lunch at a "world-famous" Haunted Hamburger place, and Judy found some more jewelry and adopted another Native American Flute, which she's been playing almost daily. Back home by sunset. Great day.
Thu 4/27 - We went back to the Grand Canyon to tour the west end of the park, accessible only by shuttle buses. It was just as spectacular as we'd expected, and while the weather threatened (and actually spit some hail), the day was marred only by our first digital disaster - while changing some camera settings, Al accidentally erased all of the photos from the day before and the day so far. About then, we met a neat couple from Seattle on their way to Jerome. They've promised to send us the pictures they take there.
Fri 4/28 - We really wanted to see some of the cliff-dweller ruins, so we went a few miles east of Flagstaff to Walnut Creek Canyon, where you can climb down (and back up) 240 steps taking you 200 feet down into a canyon where more than 300 dwelling rooms had been built into the canyon walls. Absolutely fascinating. The walking (wheezing, panting) tour goes past (and sometimes through) a couple dozen rooms. As hard as it is to imagine the pueblo dwellers farming out there on the arid plains, it's even tougher to visualize folks living 200 feet down in a canyon so they can farm crops up on the canyon rim, where the rainfall is under 20 inches a year. We may never complain again.
After the canyon, we lunched again at a Cracker Barrel, and then took a tour of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, one of the most pioneering astronomical places there is. It was from this place that Clyde Thombaugh discovered the planet Pluto, and where Percival Lowell spent most of his lifetime (and much of his fortune) trying to prove the existence of the Martian Canals. Neat tour. We then stumbled across the Flagstaff Arboretum, which didn't show us much, as nothing was yet in bloom. Home again for dinner.
Sat 4/29 - A lazy day. Judy did some laundry, Al fixed a few things on the RV, and we did a walking/shopping tour of Williams, walking much, buying naught. In the evening, we prepared to pull out in the morning.
Sun 4/30 - Up for breakfast, and on the road for Albuquerque by 8:30.
Al's Highlight Geologically, the Grand Canyon will be hard to top. For one who'd never seen it, it's just plain awesome. I suspect it will still be awesome the next time I see it. Archeologically, I was really impressed with the cliff dweller ruins down in Walnut Creek Canyon. Being that close to an 800-year-old brick wall built by so-called "primitive people" was really special. And on the side, being able to fool around a little with those legendary telescopes was just plain fun. It's like touching history.
Judy's Highlight - Gee, what else can I say?! Al and I had the time of our lives wandering and taking pictures of the Grand Canyon and all the other grand places we'd never seen before. I think one of the highlights is going through all the digital photos each night and re-living the day. The digital age is great!! (And my new jewelry is pretty spectacular, too!)
Click here to see a slideshow of some of our pictures from this leg of the trip. We took way more Grand Canyon pictures than any sane person could ever want to see, but we've put them all in a separate show of 170+ pictures here, just in case you feel like joining us in a canyon OD.
Stay tuned . . .