Grand Canyon

August 27, 2016,

Grand Canyon – West Rim

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Last time we went to the South Rim. This time, for logistical reasons, we opted to go to the West Rim. The West Rim is privately held by the Hualapai Reservation. Though not as vast as the South Rim, I was more impressed. The shuttle bus makes three stops. The famous glass Skywalk (or infamous toilet seat) over the Canyon is at the second stop. There are no railings or barriers at the West Rim. It is a safety concern, but it also gives you a feel for the unfettered beauty and grandeur of the canyon. The rush you get when you stand on the edge and look down is incomparable. Be careful, for here you can hear l’appel du vide* and it will have you believe that you can soar like the eagle.

* l’appel du vide – call of the void, the crazy urge to jump from a great height

The Roadtrip from Phoenix to San Diego-Day 2

Day 2 – The Grand Canyon and the Antelope Canyons – What can go wrong –  part deux.

The next morning we had to be up by 4:30 am in order to catch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. Having already missed the cheat option of watching the sunset, we just had to do the sunrise. Surprisingly, we managed to wake up, drive down to the canyon and walk up the South Rim trail well in time for sunrise. After logistical confusion killed the idea of camping on the Desert View campground, we booked ourselves into the Grand Canyon Inn, a comparatively inexpensive motel a 20 minute drive away from the South Rim. The room we got had comfortable beds and a clean bathroom. They also have free wi-fi.

As much as we would have loved to explore the less touristy North Rim, our tightly packed schedule allowed us very limited time at the canyon, so we settled on the more popular South Rim. We did a small portion of the Rim trail. On our way to the canyon, we saw signs that warned of natural fires ahead. We assumed the lightening storm last night had  started forest fires. Later someone we met at the end of the trail told us that the authorities were carrying our control burns. We got on on the trail right behind the El-Tovar hotel. When we started walking, we were only people on the trail, and the first people to reach the end.  The walk is quite easy, but if you don’t want to do it there is a fantastic view point right at the beginning.

The Fantastic View Point

The Fantastic View Point

I had heard and read from several sources that the sight of the first rays of the sun hitting the red rocks of the canyon was magical. That glorious glow of redness as the darkness suddenly lifts, has been described as  mystical. Grand as the Grand Canyon looked that early morning, the smoke and the looming thunderstorm ruined the sunrise experience for us.

At the crack of Dawn

At the crack of Dawn

The dining room of the EL Tovar  is a great place to grab breakfast after doing the trail.

If you ask me to describe the Grand Canyon,I would say it looks like a number of magnificent temples dedicated to the great Gods of the old. Over millions of years wind and water have carved the mountain face to create beauty fit for worship.

Castle Rock

Castle Rock

After breakfast we started the next leg of our trip. We were going to Page, to photograph the Antelope Canyons and catch the sunset at the Horseshoe Bend.  On the way we stopped by at the Desert View point. This is just another vista point for the Grand Canyon. On the Rim Trail, a couple who have done multiple hikes in the Canyon told us that there is a trial that leads to the bottom and there is a waterfall there. Something we would definitely like to do on our next trip here.

The route from the Grand Canyon to Page is very scenic and is dotted with a number of distractions. There is the  overlook on Little Colorado, the  Cameron  trading post, the Echo Cliffs, the painted desert and the Vermilion Cliffs. On the way there is a little side road (US89A) in Bitter Springs that takes you to the  Navajo Bridges,Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry. On the way to Lees ferry are some remarkable rocks like the Mushroom rock and Balanced Rock. This information has been gleaned from Trip Adviser and we really didn’t have time for most of it. We did stop though, at one of the Navajo (pronounced Naa-va-Ho) stalls and picked up some pretty jewelry. If you plan to include the Vermilion Cliffs in your itinerary, there is a parking lot with Navajo stalls that has great views of Vermilion Cliffs. This information is again from Trip Adviser.

 Navajo Jewelry - Turquoise and Coral for the blue skies and the red rocks, butterfly for grace and wings for freedom

Navajo Jewelry – Turquoise and Coral for the blue skies and the red rocks, butterfly for grace and wings for freedom

We knew we would be cutting it too close for our reservations on the Upper Antelope Canyon Tour so we called the tour operator and had them shift it to the next morning, so we would do just the Lower Canyon and the Horseshoe Bend today. As we got into Page, the hot summer sun was sudden blocked out by ominous dark clouds. Just our luck!! By the time got to the Lower Canyon tour office, the rain had stopped, but the damage had been done. Both the Upper and Lower Canyons are prone to flash floods and once it rains they are closed for the day.

Since there were a couple of hours left before sunset, we decided to take a boat ride on Lake Powell. It is a pleasant way to pass time. I thought the boat would go all the way to the Navajo bridges, but they only take you as far as the Lower Canyon. Do it by all means if you have some time and money to spare, or have just been having a rough time like us.

Boat ride on Lake Powell

Boat ride on Lake Powell

From the Antelope Point Marina we drove down to the Horseshoe Bend well in time for the sunset.

The Roadtrip from Phoenix to San Diego – Night 1

Night 1 – A Lightening Storm

When we reached the gate to board our flight from LA to Phoenix, the agent at the gate scanned our passes and then scanned them again to verify something. The husband and I looked at each other and braced ourselves for the worst. She smiled brightly and said, “I don’t know why, but  they have changed (our hearts sink, not another flight please!!) your seats. You now have seats __ and __, but the flight is not full, so you could try and switch once everyone is seated.” Almost as soon as she finished the sentence the husband responded, “We’ll take it!” At this point we really didn’t care what our seat assignment was, all we wanted were 2 seats on a flight to Phoenix.When we finally reached Phoenix, I was ready to fall on my knees and kiss the ground.

A lightening storm is an awe inspiring spectacle, but when you see it at night, from the window of an airplane it feels more like dark demon grinning manically at you. As we approached Phoenix,  we could see flashes of lightning  jarring the dark night sky. Luckily it didn’t affect landing. Even more luckily, my bag was waiting for me at baggage claim.

After spending a good 10 minutes deciding on a rental car, we picked a bright red Kia and drove out into the lightening storm. Nature had put on quite a show for arrival. Four hours later, we reached our digs for the night at 2 the next morning. Almost twelve hours later than we had planned!

The Roadtrip from Phoenix to San Diego – Day 1

Day 1 – What can go wrong, will go wrong -The Hellish Travel to Phoenix 

Our big trip dates have finally arrived. We woke up at 4 this morning to make it to our 7 am flight. We decided to use public transport to get to the airport because, well because  we have access to it. Mistake  no. 1. – we did not check to timings. As we lugged our luggage down the stairs at Journal Square station, the wheel broke off one of the roller bags. The first in  long series of unfortunate events. At the bottom of the stairs, we realized we were on the wrong platform. We reached the Newark station, only to realize if we waited and took the air train, we would never make it in time for flight. So we took, what can only be described as a leisurely taxi ride to the airport instead.

Our flight was via Texas and since that flight was full, American Airlines (AA) was offering courtesy baggage check-in which I happily decided to avail. That was mistake no. 2 I must have been really hungry, because before checking my bag in the only thing I grabbed from it was not my wallet or cannot-afford-to-break-them sun glasses, I grabbed a bag of oranges. The Husband’s disbelieving  I-don’t-know-what-to-say-to-that-look sent me rushing out of the aircraft, back to the gate to retrieve the said items. It must have been the kajal and the danglers that did the trick, the ground staff actually brought the bag back for me to take my wallet and glasses out. Little did I know, this would not be the end of this issue, but more on that later.  As we settled in and waited for the flight to take off, the captain announced that the flight was delayed as a component of the communications system was not functioning and they were waiting for a technicians to come take a look. Surprisingly, 15 minutes later we were airborne.

One orange and a short nap later, we found ourselves in Texas. At Texas we received a call  and a message from AA that our flight was cancelled and we would have to re-book at a re-booking station they had set up at one of the gates. In the line there, we overheard someone say that the reason for cancellation was that there was a plane shortage, they had run out of planes. The agent at the re-booking counter said the plane had developed some technical issue and hence the flight was cancelled. I strongly suspect that it was the same plane with the same communications problem, and that they had taken off from EWR without rectifying it. The agent offered us 2 choice,

1. To take a flight to Reno/Tahoe and a connecting flight on their partner US Airways to Phoenix. this flight was due to depart in 20 mins.

2. To be waitlisted on a direct flight taking off an hour or so later, and a confirmed ticket on a direct flight almost 4 hours later. This last flight would reach 1 hour after the roundabout trip offered in option 1.

Pretty certain that we would not be accommodated on the next direct flight and would have to wait for 4 hours in the airport, we took option 1. Mistake 3. We regretted it almost as soon as we boarded the flight. We would be flying for 2 hours away from our destination, and then again another 2 hours or so to it. Essentially we would be wasting time in airplanes instead of an airport. When we reached Reno our worst fears were confirmed. US Airways did not have space on that flight. After wheedling and pleading, and someone else not turning up they agreed to put us on that flight, and here we come back to our baggage problem. They had one condition though, that our checked in bags go with us, or AA provide them with reasonable proof of location of the bags. Since AA could do neither, we got stuck on yet another roundabout trip, this time Reno to LA and then LA to Phoenix.

Once we were seated in the into aircraft to LA, the Husband asked the flight attendant what time the flight was expected to arrive in LA. Believe it or not, she said, “I can’t say. We haven’t even taken off yet.” Seeing the husband’s stunned expression she did go on to clarify, that the flight time was 45 minutes but taxiing  eats up a lot of time.

We’ve reached LA now and are waiting for our connecting flight. I hope my bag is waiting for me at Phoenix.  Our plans to catch the sunset at the canyon have been completely ruined. If all goes smoothly from here we will reach the hotel by mid-night or in the wee hours of tomorrow morning. We’ve slept through most of this flights, but I hope fatigue does not get in the way of our plan to watch the sun rise over the Grand Canyon tomorrow. Even as I am typing this, the husband is trying to sort out the reservations. Tomorrow is another day, and I sure hope it will be worth this one!

Grand Canyon Road Trip

I had planned a road trip to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley earlier this year. It was just a plan, I didn’t know when we would get around to it. All I knew was I wanted to do it. Well, it is about to materialize, with a few changes albeit. For starters, we won’t be going to Death Valley.  It’s just too hot now and we don’t want to be those two who died in Death Valley and gave credence to its name.

So here’s the new plan.

Day 1 – Fly into Phoenix. Drive down to the Grand Canyon.Take in the sunset. Stay overnight. We wanted to camp there.The desert view camp ground would have been ideal, but there were a few logistical confusions and now we will be staying at, I forgot..will have to ask the Husband. We will be close to the south rim though.

Day 2 –  Wake up before dawn. Watch the sunrise over the canyon. Breakfast. Drive down to Antelope canyon. Try to do both the Upper and Lower canyons. If you can do just one, do the less crowded Lower Canyon. The Upper Canyon tour needs to be booked in advance. I have not yet done that. I really need to micro plan that. Drive down to the Horse Shoe bend. Stay over night near the Antelope Canyon. Sadly, again no camping.

Day 3 – Try to do either the Bryce Canyon or the Sedona rocks. Maybe we can catch the humming bird migration in Sedona. Drive down to  to our final destination -San Diego.

Grand Canyon and Death Valley Road Trip Plan

*Alert* – This grand plan was stolen off the internet with a few minor additions. If it belongs to you, please let me know, I would like to give credit and thank you.

Day 1: Leave San Diego on I-8, moderately scenic until you hit Imperial Valley. When you cross the state line into Arizona at exit 2 take US95 towards Quartzsite. I-10 and US60 will bring you to the old ‘dude’ town of Wickenburg, and overnight here. Make sure you eat at the Horse Shoe Cafe. Has to be one of the best diners in the Southwest. Try www.arizonaguide.com for help with lodgings.

Day 2: North on US93, then take AZ89 towards Prescott. Beyond Prescott turn off onto scenic AZ89A and have break at Jerome , and lunch at the oldest restaurant in Arizona, the English Kitchen. Continue on scenic AZ89A through the stunning Red Rocks of Sedona and along beautiful Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff. Head north on US89 to Cameron and overnight at the lodge at the trading post . Good shopping, excellent restaurant. If you have time you can do a scenic loop, off US89, to Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki Nat Mon’s.

Day 3: Take scenic AZ64 to enter Grand Canyon Nat Park, stopping at the Watchtower at Desert View for your initial “WOW”. Continue towards Grand Canyon Village, enjoying the many overlooks, then take AZ64 and I-40 to Kingman and overnight here.

Day 4:  Check out the sunrise over the Canyons. Continue on I-40, then at exit 44 turn off onto Historic Route 66, over scenic Sitgreaves Pass to the ‘ghost town’ of Oatman. CoRd153, AZ95, NV163 and US95 will then bring you to Las Vegas. Plenty of places to stay here. Enjoy an evening on the Strip. Go for Phantom of the Opera if playing and if possible. If not, go for a stand-up comedy.

Day 5: Head south from Las Vegas on I-15, then take NV160 to Pahrump. NV372, which becomes CA178 will bring you to insane Death Valley Nat Park. Drive through the park, then CA180 and CA178 will bring you to Ridgecrest and overnight here. If possible camp in the desert. Stargaze.

Day 6: Wake up to a spectacular sunrise. Head back to San Diego/Vegas