From Palms Springs to Phoenix
Trip Start Sep 01, 2012
9Trip End Dec 02, 2012
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It’s a four hour drive to Vegas through more desert. Occasionally a town with no reason at all to be there crops up offering rooms for $30 and casinos. The Vegas sprawls eventually starts and we have to drive up the Strip to get to our hotel. And Vegas was what we were expecting, though, oddly, we were expecting it to be even more so
We don’t look back and head north for a great big dollop of natural beauty. The dessert gives way to mountains and we gradually climb to 8,500 feet. We have a few days in Bryce Canyon, which is not in fact a canyon as its extraordinary landscape is not carved by a river. It is impossible not to see things in the ‘hoodoos’ the bizarre orange pillars created by the endless freeze, thaw and fracturing of the relatively soft rock. Look… there’s a cathedral, there’s an Indian temple, there’s a bunch of meerkats. We walk down amongst them, squeezed and breathless with occasional glimpses of brilliant blue skies in perfect colour contrast to the oxidized rocks
Only the thought of the Grand Canyon tears us away and we drive through hours of mountain and dessert. It is the country of cowboys and injuns, landscape we only ever saw in monochrome at Saturday morning cinema. The roads are lined with the trading stalls of the remaining native Americans selling pottery, baskets and reproductions of their ancient artifacts. Their houses are barely houses at all, and we wonder how their lives must be.
We stop for an impromptu tour of the immense Glen Canyon damn on the Colorado River. We are warned that we mustn’t say words like bomb or terrorists and take a lift 600 feet down to the base of the damn where 30 foot concrete walls hold back the water. As a result of the detour we arrive at the Canyon in the dark and a strange pink glow in the sky is all that tells us there is something out of the ordinary waiting to be seen. We are staying in an historic hotel, a giant and grand log cabin badly in need of a bit of updating but it doesn’t matter. When we wake up and go outside the canyon is quite literally incredible. It would be wise to stop with that word as anything else written here risks under-representing a landscape of such immense scale and grandeur. None of the pictures we take come close to capturing the truth. It really is a place you have to see for yourself. One of the joys of the State Parks is the Rangers. And here like every park there are talks and walks and enthusiastic staff who with deep knowledge help us to understand more of the geology, fauna and flora. A few facts must suffice to fuel the imagination for those who have not seen it. It is 227 miles long, more than a mile deep and 11 miles wide.
Utah and Arizona are huge and empty but by now we are comfortable with driving hour after hour through the beautiful mountains and desserts
And, oh goodness, three months has gone and we must away to Phoenix to make our way home to the cold and the familiar. It is tempting to try to make a summary of our travels but we feel it is premature without a time for reflection.
We can say though that we have had a marvellous adventure, have seen astonishing natural beauty, visited some intriguing cities and have grasped a little of the American perspective. We have met some fascinating people, enjoyed meeting old friends on their own turfs and have found good coffee quite often. It could be the trip of our lifetimes but with luck there may be other trips to other places, as the old saw that says travel broadens the mind is so manifestly true.