Road Trippin' Across Arizona - South West Basins, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon!
For someone who has a fear of heights, I have spent a lot of time staring down into abysses these past four days. Our decision to drive across the south-west basins of Arizona on a road trip between San Diego to Flagstaff was in part due to financial reasons – cheaper to drive than pay for five airfares. The other reason was out of a curiosity to discover the desert and enjoy a ‘Western’ experience along the way. We were well rewarded for our efforts and overwhelmed by the vast panoramic expanses of dry plains, surrounded by rocky mountain ranges. At times, we didn’t see a single tree for hours at a stretch. In places, on our right, stretched the imposing black border fence between the U.S and Mexico.
Six hours in, the city of Phoenix appeared. It really deserves its name as it seemingly rises (in a dust cloud) straight from a barren wasteland and into a sprawling metropolis, with roofs the colours of the desert sands. As we skirted the perimeter at dusk, four fighter jets flew impressively overhead, conducting their training exercises.
Onward and upward for another two hours we drove, continuing to Flagstaff. This town is built on the back of the railway, surrounded by pine forests and perches at an altitude of 7000 feet. We promised our son a glimpse of snow but unfortunately, due to a long drought, there was absolutely none. Flagstaff proved to be the perfect base to many interesting geographical sights. Sedona and Jerome, a mining ghost town a thirty minute drive away, the Lowell Observatory – first to discover Pluto, and an historic downtown district. As we only had two days there, we chose to drive the mile out to Walnut Canyon, a preserved Indian settlement, built into the side of the cliff-face and a 700 ft hike down (and back up!).
The following day we drove the 1 hour 45 minute drive to the Grand Canyon National Park to take in the views of this natural world wonder. It did not disappoint, even though, standing out on the precipice, the wind blew 0 degree, celcius.
After enjoying the shopping, food and exhibits of the South Rim, we drove another 30 minutes around to the East Rim, climbing the four levels of Tower View and gazing once more – this time out of the wind behind picture windows - across the ten mile divide and vertical mile down into the Canyon.
While the cold was difficult, visiting in early December was fantastic. We virtually had the place to ourselves and didn’t queue or wait for anything. Before we arrived, the kids were grumbling about having to get up early for yet another car trip. Yet once out there, they were duly impressed and the next morning our fifteen year old exclaimed the trip to be the best day of her trip yet. We are so glad that we allocated the entire day to this incredible place, taking our time to view the Canyon from several angles at different times of the day, to appreciate the diversity as the sun trekked across the sky.
Yesterday, we packed up again for the four-hour desert filled drive to Las Vegas via the Hoover Dam via historic Route 66, a long and very lonely stretch of road. Now the bright lights await!