Does it ever seem good to be on the road again! We cooled our heels in the Bullhead City, AZ area waiting for it to warm up at the Grand Canyon. Finally on 4/22 we headed for Williams - about the closest town to the south rim of the canyon. We had to go over a mountain range, then down and across a valley, back up another mountain range and finally arrived on the Coconino Plateau. It is entirely different from what we have experienced in Arizona. It is covered with a type of juniper/cedar trees as well as pine forests and even deciduous trees. We went from the mid 80s at 9 AM to the mid 60s at 1 PM. Williams is a small town of just a few thousand but close to Flagstaff which has everything needed without being a huge city. We really like the area.
Grand Canyon-South Rim
It is said no words or photos can truly describe the beauty of Grand Canyon National Park. For all of you that have been to the GC, you will agree; for those of you who have never seen it, you must. Awesome doesn’t begin to relate the majesty and power of this natural wonder. We spent two days and a night here; we will return to walk some of the trails and just refresh our spirit in this magnificent setting. Probably our most memorable experience was spending about 45 minutes ALONE at Yaki Point - one of the most visited lookout points in the park. We took the shuttle and arrived at 8:30 in the morning. There was not a sound other than the birds; we just can’t describe the experience. While in the park, we enjoyed the nearness of the elk by our lodge [Bright Angel] although at times they could be a little inconvenient. We did walk the Rim Trail for a short distance but within the span of an hour, we experienced sunny/calm weather, strong winds, rain, and pea-sized hail. They are serious when they say to dress in layers and be prepared for all types of weather conditions. The North Rim will not open until we are out of the area, but that is on our agenda to visit in the future.
Just a note for those of you planning on visiting the GC in the future, we are very glad we did not take the train from Williams. It doesn’t leave until 9:30 AM resulting in you arriving at 11:45. By then the park is getting very crowded and the lines are long. You also miss the IMAX/National Geographic Center which is definitely worth the time. We left Williams at 7:30, drove the 58 miles with minimal traffic, spent a good deal of time at the IMAX/NG stop and were in the park at 9:30. There was plenty of available parking and way fewer people.
This is not a well known canyon although most people have seen pictures taken in it. It isn’t part of the national parks system; it is owned and operated by the Navajo since it is located on the reservation. You can only tour it with a guide and by traveling there with one of the tour companies. We had heard that Antelope Canyon Tours was the best company so used them. Our guide was excellent at telling us the best camera angles. It is a “slot” canyon through petrified sand dunes. It is an easy walk and an inspiring experience. We have included several pictures to try and give you a feel for this unique formation. Everything about taking pictures is the opposite from what you would expect. Although it is very shaded inside, you do not use a flash. The pictures come out much lighter than what you are actually seeing. The guide said it has to do with the quartz in the sand which is almost as fine as talc and is always floating in the air.
While in Page we did hike the short distance to see Horseshoe Bend which is supposedly the most dramatic oxbow bend in the Colorado River. In another million years the river will have broken through and the center will just be another pillar on the canyon floor. We also checked out Glen Canyon Dam. It doesn't begin to compare to Hoover Dam, but Lake Powell thar fills the canyon, is much more impressive than Lake Mead.
Overall the land formations in this area are magnificent and we haven’t even gotten to Monument Valley. We did travel along the Echo Cliffs and up the western side of the Painted Desert on our drive from Page to Williams.
A non-geographic place we visited was Bearizona, a drive-thru wildlife park. It has only been open about a year. We were a little skeptical but decided to give it a try. What has been completed is very well done and a great deal more is under construction. They have both brown and white bison. A large white bison was very interested in the big white rig. He got quite “up close and personal” with us. There were tundra wolves, Bighorn sheep, Dall sheep, etc. and an area with around 12 black bears. We learned that many of these had been rescued from various situations. They certainly weren’t afraid of our big truck. After the drive- thru area, there is a walk-thru section. What has been completed is very well done. The big attraction for us was the bear cub enclosure. There were 4 cubs that were all born in January. It was so much fun watching them play and climb around. The tiniest one, Little Bit, had been rescued with his mother from a zoo that lost its license. The personnel were afraid it wouldn’t live. It had to be kept in an incubator and of course hand feed. He made it and this week was put with the other three in their natural enclosure. He is probably the feistiest of the 4.
We are now headed into Utah where we understand the first couple nights may be in the high teens to low 20s. We haven’t experienced temps like that since NC, and it was pretty rare there. We aren’t certain we have enough clothes to keep warm!