Saturday, February 11, 2012

Journey to the Grand Canyon

After visiting our chapter in Arizona, I took a day off work to see the Grand Canyon.  Ever since we first received our chapter assignments in August and I found out I would be in Arizona, I planned it out, booked a hotel room and rented a car in late August, so I wouldn’t miss this opportunity to visit this amazing geologic feature. There was just no way I was ever going to be only within a few hours of the Grand Canyon and just let that opportunity slip.  And I’m so glad I didn’t because it was so marvelously breathtaking.  I even met up with a friend from college to keep me company along the way too!

I began my journey from Prescott to Flagstaff (where my friend Ashley lives) early in the morning. I stopped at my favorite coffee place in Prescott and was excited to be on my way! Unfortunately, since my chapter tour of the Western United States didn’t really have me driving anywhere, I left my GPS at home. This left me winging it from my slightly-above-mediocre sense of direction and Google maps powered by the slowness of Blackberry. Unfortunately I was delayed on route because I ended up traveling one highway for a really long time. I kept going back and forth deciphering if I was driving the right direction, and then I would get so far and decide that the other way was the right way. After doing this for about 40 minutes, I finally was on my way to pick up Ashley in Flagstaff and be on our way!

I drove straight to Ashley’s house in Flagstaff to pick her up. There, I met her roommates, her boyfriend and her super sweet dog, Cedar. Before we drove to the Grand Canyon, we took a small detour to downtown Flagstaff.  There, Ashley brought me into Late for the Train, the cute local coffee shop where she worked at the time.  We took our handcrafted beverages outside and just sat and talked along the sidewalk. 

Ashley gets us some java

It's named Late for the Train because there is a nearby train station

After catching up over coffee, we dined at Diablo Burger, which was one of the best decisions I made while in Arizona.  It’s a  great meal and I enjoyed giving my support to this company!  All of their the burgers from Diablo Burger are made from 100% local, anti-biotic free and growth-hormone free beef. They also purchase local produce for their products, as well, and for the products they can’t source locally, they seek other companies who believe in their same values and sustainability practices. Even though the prices seemed a little on the steep side, but now having the knowledge I do, I know understand that it was more than just a burger – it’s a movement of support for the local and responsible business.  The burger I got was the Marilyn (which included Sharp Cheddar) and each burger came with fries.  Another fun thing about this place is that Diablo Burger substituted English muffins for regular hamburger buns and branded each muffin with a “db.”


 As we were walking back to the car, we passed this really neat statue of a lion, and it kind of reminded me of Penn State’s Nittany Lion shrine. Since Ash and I are both Penn Staters, we got our picture taken with this festive reminder of our alma mater.

Two Penn Staters and a Nittany Lion wannabe in Arizona

One last stop we made in Flagstaff was to the train station so I could get some postcards for people.  It wasn’t until we got to the train station that I realized that I was along the Historic Route 66! It was so exciting because when Allison and I were in Kansas, I joked around “wishing we got to see Rt. 66.”  And here I was in Arizona, not even realizing the highway passed through that state, let alone that city.  Needless to say, we had to get a few photos with the Rt. 66 sign since this clearly was a milestone day for me. 

Got my kicks on Route 66!
Main Street of America

At the train station!

Everyone in Arizona, at least Flagstaff, seemed happier and friendlier – like there were more smiles on their faces and like strangers weren’t a burden to them.  I’m not sure if that’s something in the culture or if everyone was just pleasant that day because it was a beautiful day outside. Regardless I had a great time in Flagstaff.

Flagstaff, AZ

After that short but pleasant stop, we were on our way to the Grand Canyon! The ride to the canyon was beautiful, some parts more than others.  Along the way, there were these gorgeous trees with extremely light bark and bright yellow leaves; they were quite the sight! We also saw a controlled fire happening along the way, as well.  That was neat to witness, because Ashley and I both had the same ecology professor (and best ever) in college and seeing the fire sparked some great conversation about ecology and the environment.  It’s nice to be around another loony hippie who cares for the environment and wants to talk about those kinds of things.

We finally arrived at the Grand Canyon in the late afternoon, checked into our room, and just barely had enough time to catch one of the busses and head on over to Hopi Point (if memory serves me correctly) to watch the sun set.  It was GORGEOUS. Magical. Simply breathtaking. I have never in my life seen anything natural be so vast. It was hard to even just imagine how big the whole Grand Canyon truly is (which is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and averages one mile deep.) It was definitely a rush to see the sunset, but oh was it worth it! Once we watched the sun set over the horizon, we walked along the rim in the direction to the hotel.  Very, very neat. 

Sunset at Hopi Point

Ashley and me!

A view of the Colorado River

This is what the walkways around the rim look like

We loved Sprees!

Having fun on a photo shoot!

Taking a peek into the canyon...

After watching the sunset, we grabbed some food on site at a cafeteria style dining hall, where the food was surprisingly decent! It had quite the variety too! We ate our dinner there and brought pie back to the room to snack on while I filled out some postcards and wound down for the night. 

The next morning, we woke up and drove to Mather Point (again, if I’m remembering correctly) to watch the sun rise. There were a lot of people there, but we kind of expected that because it’s one of the most popular places to see the sun rise.  It was fun when the sun was first peeking over the horizon because everyone began cheering and clapping like we were welcoming a new friend. We stuck around for a little bit and then grabbed some breakfast at another cafeteria.  We also browsed their gift shop, where I purchased the dream catcher that now hangs from my rear view mirror. 

The sun rising over the horizon.
The sun shining on the rocks below

 After shopping, we went for a brief hike into the canyon. We walked a decent way down, but it sure didn’t seem like it – until we were walking back up the trail.  On our hike back up, I encountered my first startling wild Arizona creature: a tarantula!  We stopped, stared, and took pictures for a little while until some more folks came down the path and wanted in on the fun.  It seemed like they were locals and frequent hikers, and since they must see these spiders all the time, they told us more about the animal.  The man even faked poked the spider to show us how tarantulas puff up to look larger as a defense mechanism.

View from the trail

Pondering life whilst gazing into the abyss

We wore our Penn State stuff on the hike!

Eeek! A tarantula.

Here is the tarantula in comparison to my shoe.

Because I had to catch a flight to Los Angeles in the afternoon, we weren’t able to spend that much more time at the Grand Canyon.  On the way out of the park, we stopped at the National Park Service sign and got a few pictures with it, and then headed back to Flagstaff where I had to drop off Ashley, return the rental car, and catch a flight.  Twenty-four hours is definitely not enough time to fully experience the magic of the Grand Canyon, but I graciously acknowledge that it’s 24 hours more than a lot of people get to visit it. I’m definitely not taking this experience for granted, but I want to revisit this park again someday for a longer period of time. Now that I’ve seen a glimpse of the Grand Canyon, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would be worth it.

Thanks, National Park Service, for a beautiful and clean park!

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous! I'm so glad you were able to go! I agree... 48 hours wasn't enough time either. If/when I go back, I also want it to be warmer! But the cold deterred the tarantulas, so I guess I shouldn't complain much!