Our nation's Grand Canyon in all her glory

On Saturday, Janice and I caught an early morning tour van and zoomed up to the Grand Canyon National Park to snap a few photos. It had to be done. In March I spent some time in Arizona exploring and by the time I reached the exit signs for the Grand Canyon, I had run out of time and was forced to drive past. This was a well-timed follow up to my spring excursion.

Bell Rock

Janice is one of my co-instructors, along with Terry. Janice is a world traveler, and accustomed to planning tours and excursions, and making the most out of seeing the place she is visiting. She found an inexpensive and quick trip to the northern part of the state to see one of our planet’s great wonders. I decided to purchase my own ticket and go along with her.

Our driver and tour guide was Tom Haas, who kept us entertained and made stops along the way for us to take photos and to browse souvenirs for possible purchase. Our first stop was outside of Oak Canyon, Arizona in the Coconino National Forest. We had a great view of gorgeous red rock formations that make the Sedona area famous. We took quick photos, then jumped into the van and continued on into the town of Sedona.

Sedona downtown has a stunning natural backdrop on all sides

Tom dropped us off for a half an hour, while he went and rounded up a few more people to add to the group. I decided Sedona is distinctly NOT a town I could live in. I do not care for perfectly polished communities. It reminded me of the town in Edward Scissorhands.

Javelina

I would be afraid that if I lived in Sedona and one of my cactus plants in the yard tipped over, I might have the local neighborhood Beautification Committee pounding on my door within hours. We got to see large, lovely homes that supposedly belong to celebrities and directors, actors and actresses, politicians and athletes. Further research shows that no mega-stars live in Sedona. Which is fine by me.

Cameron Suspension Bridge

Janice and I had shared the ride up from Phoenix with the Suzuki family from Japan, who spoke limited English. “Motorcycles!” joked Mr. Suzuki, and his beautiful family smiled at us. Their daughter was stunning and looked about twenty. Maybe she was a particularly mature 17. But in any case, culture differences became readily apparent because she clung to her parents and looked to them for approval in everything she did. She was extraordinarily sweet, polite, demure. My own 13-year-old would have barely had time to wave goodbye upon exiting the van, and would have disappeared into the town, eager to discover it without me.

Janice and me in front of Courthouse Butte

On the way out of Sedona, we took a winding road through forests and shade. It illuminated for me the reasons why so many people are drawn to Sedona. Not for the kitschy tourist town, but for the jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape. Here, maybe, is an example of what a god would do if I believed a god existed. Green leaves splashed against red rocks under a blue sky umbrella. It is stunning. The rivers, streams, lakes and waterfalls are a constant surprise in the unceasing sun. I just don’t expect it to be that brutally hot and then still see a rushing river and dozens of people swimming and cannonballing into Slide Rock State Park!  It seems like everything would evaporate, but instead there are delicious canyons of shade trees and water.

One of many stunning views from the South Rim

We stopped at the Cameron Trading Post, near an abandoned suspension bridge built in 1911 that caught our attention. Janice and I went to explore the bridge and the canyon it spanned. By the time we made it into the souvenir Mecca, we had only 15 minutes left to use the toilets and browse. We did not buy anything there. It would have been the best place to buy souvenirs though. A range of prices and variety of wares, from 50 cents for a tequila candy with the worm inside to $6000 for hand-woven rugs. I would have like to have had the chance to browse for a few hours. Our goal was not to shop, however, and off we went.

The van was now crowded, and the eight of us were smashed into bench seats. I was grateful to be a party of two, so Janice and I had room. We were also in the front seat because Janice gets carsick if she’s in the back. My knees were a little jammed behind the driver’s seat, but I was glad for my spot. I wish we had found a better means of travel, but enough on that topic. It was not too hot, and also not too cold as is usually the case with air conditioning. The other tourists were mostly silent, and Janice and I jabbered away during the entire trip. I hope we didn’t annoy them!

Trail below moves through a cluster of trees, up to the edge, and drops out of sight into the canyon.

Finally got to the Grand Canyon and made one stop at a lookout point before being deposited at the main Village area, site of the famous El Tovar Lodge. We were starving, so wasted our first 40 minutes there getting food. Then we were left with an hour to look around. We did not go far, didn’t even hike a trail, but the canyon is sufficiently stunning no matter how one is able to see it. We played the role of tourist, taking many shots of each other at the canyon’s edge. Browsed a gift shop. Watched foreign tourists with curiosity: listened to their German, and French, and Spanish voices.

The temperature was more comfortable there at around 6000 feet elevation, than it had been in Phoenix. We were probably in the upper 80s to around 90 degrees, as opposed to the 109 degree temperatures we left behind us. Surprisingly, though still hot, the difference was noticeable and appreciated.

We had met Tom at 6:30am in the hotel lobby. By 3:30pm at the Grand Canyon, it was time to crawl back into the van and head for home. It was a long, quiet drive and we were tired from our day. Finally, at 8:00 pm, we arrived at our home away from home. Tom sent us off with autographed postcards of some of his artwork. It was a good day!

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