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Posts tagged ‘Arizona’

Driving Arizona

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Our plan to make a Canyon loop of Grand, Bryce and Zion for our road trip was defeated by an impending “Storm of a Decade.”  Even after suffering the cold icy rain and a white-out day at the Grand Canyon, Todd and I still kept checking the weather as we fled the storm to see if we could somehow loop back and make it to one of the canyon national parks after the storm passed.  Eventually we realized that just driving through Arizona made for a great road trip, and dropped the idea of chasing winter by heading back north.  Instead, we fully embraced that we’d make the worst storm chasers ever.

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So, Arizona.  Wow! I have a newfound appreciation for the beauty of the state.  I spent the last several years driving across Arizona on my way to or from California, with the only notable stop in Yuma, a city few would describe as picturesque.  Even after hearing all about Arizona from my best friend, who grew up and attended college there, I just never really got it.  Now, after spending a week and a half on its state roads, in its national parks, and around its historic towns, I am duly impressed!

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Heading south from the Grand Canyon we got off the main road and looped back behind the San Francisco mountains through a ponderosa pine forest and valleys covered with snow.  We mostly had the road to ourselves to pull over and take pictures whenever, although the wind and cold mostly kept us bundled inside of the RV.

We drove through the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Parks to take in more of Arizona’s natural beauty.  I was shocked to see a tropical illustration with alligators and other riparian species on front of the park brochure, but millions of years ago, northern Arizona was a lush jungle.  Now the petrified trees remain to give us hints of the story.  It was difficult to imagine that the current arid landscape was once hot and balmy, and even more challenging to accept that the petrified trees lived 2.15 million years ago!  The signs remarked on the theme of the constant presence of change – what a lesson.

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As we headed south towards the Mexican border, we passed through the Salt River Canyon, a beautiful drive where the agave was sprouting on the hillsides and the setting sun highlighted the golden cliffs along the river.

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Further south, we saw saguaro everywhere!  What an amazing plant.  It only grows about an inch a year, so many of them of are hundreds of years old.  Although there were many in the classic two arms outstretched towards the heavens shape, there were also plenty to get the imagination rolling – it’s like watching clouds in the skies.  Long tall skinny ones, short little chubby ones, arms ready to punch, arms swaying in the sun, one growing a head, one lopsided, some many breasted Artemis types and some with so much outgrowth their silhouettes resemble regular trees.

In Bisbee, we toured the Copper Queen Mining Museum and sampled the local beer and baked goods then managed to hold onto our wallets as we walked through some of the town’s galleries.    Because we had a kid in the stroller we couldn’t explore all of the hills and staircases, but we’ll definitely be back again.

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On our way out of Arizona, we drove by a double rainbow – surely a blessing for our trip.

Surrendering to the Weather at the Grand Canyon

We arrived at the Grand Canyon National Park on a cold rainy night and immediately went to our campsite.  So the next morning, we woke up and trudged with great enthusiasm through even more cold rain to the Visitor’s Center.  The posted weather report said that it would rain all day, so we spent quite a bit of time checking out all of the informative exhibits while we were inside and dry, despite the flickering lights from the Center’s malfunctioning solar panels.

I was determined not to waste the day, despite the weather!  So we got back in the RV and started driving the Canyon’s Rim.  At first, we saw absolutely nothing.  Just a whole bunch of white fog, or gray rain.  Occasionally a rock wall would poke through the fog, but nothing that took your breath away, which is the generally expected reaction to seeing the Grand Canyon.

I finally gave up on trying to see anything, so we spent hours doing laundry, taking showers, lunching at the lodge, and trying to pass the time.

Around 5 pm, Todd looked out of the front window and reported some blue in the sky! I ran to the front and found a few patches of bright light in the sky – sun!  So we got back on the road to try and catch one of the famous Grand Canyon sunsets.  We were so excited to actually see any part of the canyon that we kept pulling over at random spots to catch a glimpse of the beautiful golden peaks atop the pink and red walls.  We eventually arrived at Mojave Point, where I took my favorite shot:

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And here are some other, less glorious sunset images, including us messing around. It was so cold and windy that we could only take a few minutes at a time on the edge with the baby.  She was a trooper and just smiled as she snuggled into us to get away from the cold and wind.

Before we left the park, we tried to spend a morning hiking the rim of the Grand Canyon.  Once again, we were defeated by weather.  Even though sweet Josephine was all bundled up, our SoCal baby was not at all happy with cold wind and occasional rain drop on the 0.7 mile walk from the Visitor’s Center to the Geology Museum.

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One bundled up SoCal baby

Her constant whimpering made it difficult for me to really soak in the views as I was distracted by trying to make her more comfortable.

Still, it was amazing!  The size alone is a lot to take in – 18 miles long and a mile deep.  You can’t see all of it from any one point on the rim, although I think next time I’m at the park I’ll look into helicopter tours for a new perspective.   There is very little vegetation in the canyon so you just see one formation then another, and your eyes scan up and down the rock faces.  I felt like I was an overused zoom lens, looking out to see it all then focusing on a tiny point, over and over again.

Here are a few views:

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Despite the weather it was truly awe-inspiring to see the Grand Canyon, and I think it joined the ranks of Yosemite – a park that I will visit again and again.

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