Grand Canyon and Chinle
Apr 5, 2007
One of the realizations that came to us quickly was how much Flagstaff is just like Kamloops: it's dry, has lots of Ponderosa pine (Coconino National Forest), the railroad runs through it, it has a regional university and on and on. Our hotel appears to be the finest in town (just lucky, again) and our stay here has been most enjoyable.
Today was our trip to the Grand Canyon and we planned a circle route we hoped would be comfortable and scenic; we were not to be disappointed. Just as our trip to Sedona had shown there are several distinct ecological zones within mere miles, this trip had it all. While still arid, we started out going by the Ponderosa forests beneath Humphreys Peak (12,643 feet) in the San Francisco Mountains. We then moved into the Kaibab National Forest of small rounded pines (Pinon)and finally mesquite covered high desert hills.
I don't think you can ever truly prepare for your first sight of the Grand Canyon. We entered the National Park at the South Rim (main entrance) and parked along a road where we took a short walk through the trees until we reached the rim path. Our jaws literally dropped; it is so immense, colourful and unbelievable that it appears surreal. We saw people standing out on craggy precipices with no barriers or fences such as we had seen in magazines. Unfortunately, there was a light haze that made it difficult to take the best pictures unless you had the right filters.
We completed our loop tour by taking the east south rim highway which offered several more vistas that gave different yet similar perspectives at historic sites like Grandview and Desert View, where there is a high stone watchtower built in the 1930's as a tourist attraction. We saw several small groups laden with camping packs heading into the canyon. There are many signs warning of the dangers, not only of falling, but of taking adequate food and water as it is very steep (duh!) and can be 10 to 20 degrees hotter in the canyon. They give several examples of extremely fit people who had died on day hikes through lack of preparation.
We completed our tour back in Flagstaff and once back at our hotel, we did some internet sleuthing for information about the motorcycle accident and discovered the name of the woman killed. This was the small article we found:
"Alaska Woman Killed
In Motorcycle Accident
KINGMAN, AZ - The Arizona Department of Public Safety has released the name of the Anchorage, Alaska woman who was killed in a Monday traffic accident 12 miles east of Kingman. Kimberly Burshek, 43, was dead at the scene of the accident on Historic Route 66.
DPS said Burshek dumped a rented Harley Davidson while trying to avoid impact with another eastbound vehicle that slowed in front of her to turn off the highway. Burshek was not wearing a helmet and suffered fatal head injuries."
It helps with closure to have at least this little bit of information.
We checked out our hotel on Thursday morning to head to Chinle and Canyon de Chelly. We sought out Winona just east of Flagstaff to check off one more Route 66 town on our list. Winona is famous for 2 things as far as we can tell: it has a coal mine right nearby and it rhymes with Arizona for the song.
We carried on I-40 east, looking for Winslow, another 40 some miles. Winslow has made the most of its fame in the Eagles' "Take It Easy". It has created a destination of sorts at the famous corner called "Standin' on the Corner" Park. It was a great photo op, so we did. There are 2 souvenir stores kitty corner each other and it must take special qualifications to work there, as they run a continuous loop recording of "Take It Easy"...great song, but come on!
Back on the highway we saw truly miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. There are several exits offering "free" samples of petrified wood as this route takes you right by the famous Petrified Forest National Park. We stopped for gas at the exit north to Chinle. There were several motorcycles there and I noted one was a Harley from BC. We talked to the guy and he was from Abbotsford and his partners were from Ontario....once again, a small world. We were glad to see they were all wearing helmets. Checking our mileage, we found we had just passed 5,000 kms.
We arrived in Chinle at 4:00 pm (we thought) and discovered when we checked in, that the Navajo Nation does observe Daylight Saving Time so it was actually 5:00 pm. Chinle's population is 98% Navajo (honest, I looked it up). It is very dusty as, like pretty much everywhere in the southwest, water is precious. As there is not much else to do here, we decided that we would only stay the one night and push on tomorrow after our tour of the Canyon.