Beautiful Arizona

Trip Start Jun 02, 2002
Trip End Apr 01, 2003

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Greetings from Arizona,

Our destination was the small town of Williams which is about a half hour west of Flagstaff. We left the Vegas desert on the famous Route 66. It was a long drive and naturally we got hungry. So, we pulled over and ate lunch at the Roadkill Café. We met a lot of nice couples that were working at the campsite. They travel around the country working at different campgrounds for a free campsite and a little money. It is easy money with easy traveling.

Wednesday - I knew we were getting higher as we drove towards the Grand Canyon because the amount of snow on the ground was getting thicker. We always go to the visitor's center first so we can talk with the rangers and find out if there are any guided hikes or ranger talks. The park's bus dropped us off at the visitor's center and we walked inside and sat down behind a group of people listening to a ranger as she finished up a geology talk on how the canyon was formed. Oh well, there were plenty of informational pictures and timelines in the visitor's center that taught us about the canyon's history, natural features, and hiking trails.

We followed the rim trail, and at one point, these young kids showed us the three big horn sheep camouflaged against the grey cliffs. As we looked out over the canyon, the upper levels were covered in snow that gradually disappeared as our eyes scanned the scene from the top of the plateaus towards the bottom of the canyon floor.

We were still walking along the rim trail when it started to rain very lightly. The rain soon became a downpour as we made a dash for the truck. We thought it would pass soon, so we decided to eat our brown bag lunch. With each bite of our sandwiches, the rain turned into snow and then the snow flakes grew bigger by the minute. We have been extremely fortunate throughout most of this trip with having good weather when we wanted it, but no one can control Mother Nature. Mother Nature wanted snow and we did not want to drive in snow, so we called it a day.

Friday - My parents and my cousins The Stevens have raved on and on about Sedona. Friends of ours as well as many people we met in our travels have told us to book a Pink Jeep tour. We had to see what everyone was talking about and we booked a tour. The drive south to Sedona took us along a tight and winding road through mountain passes that opened up to red rock canyon vistas, Walnut Canyon. We totally enjoyed just the drive to Sedona from Flagstaff. The town is full off art galleries and small shops selling the local artist's crafts. We learned that most of the people who live here are wealthy, but prices seemed reasonable.

It worked out that we were the only passengers, so we had our own private tour guide. Sometimes this is nice, but sometime we like to meet other people and hear about their lives. We opted for the tour that took us out to the red rocks where an ancient civilization once lived for hundreds of years and had left behind their homes. We bounced along dirt roads before we finally arrived at our destination. Our guide was a part time college professor who knew a lot about the Sinagua people who once lived here but mysteriously packed up their things and left.

As we walked around the remaining ruins of multistoried houses built into the side of the mountain, our guide verbally painted us a picture of what life was like back then. There were pictographs all over the walls and we learned that the symbol of a downward open hand is a peaceful gesture versus a closed fist raised above the head. He also showed us a kokopelli pictograph which is currently marketed as the symbol of the Southwest. Our guide got married here in front of the ruins and he said a prayer facing the pictographed wall before we left.

We said goodbye to Sedona and stopped by Slick Rock Creek on our way back. We thought there was going to be a big slick rock that people slide down into a river. Well, we did not find such a rock and besides it was too cold to go into the water anyway. We walked along the shore of the river, explored the old shack in the woods, and we sat down and just took it all in.

Saturday - Today was an open day. Jenn wanted to stay home and catch up on her photo cropping and I wanted to go back to the Grand Canyon and find myself the toughest trail they had. I asked the ranger inside the visitor's center which was their most strenuous trail and when she told me about it I changed my mind. The trail she spoke of required special footwear to keep you from slipping off of the ice covered trail and falling to the bottom. I settled on their second most challenging, the South Kaibob trail, and I got what I asked for.

This hike was different from all of the others because you begin by going downhill first and then you return going uphill. This makes hiking in the Grand Canyon dangerous because people go too far out and then they find out that they do not have the strength or enough water to make it back uphill. The ranger said it takes twice as long return as it does to go out, so I planned to go down for an hour and a half which should take me three hours to return.

The first part of the trail consisted of a series of switchbacks covered in snow. If I was not careful, I could have gone skiing down the trail out of control in my hiking boots because it was that slippery. It got warmer as I made my way down, and the snow melted and turned the ground into mud. The mud was deep in some places and slippery throughout. I began to wonder how I was going to make it back up through all of this slipperiness. Nonetheless, I walked on with one eye on the ground and my other on the spectacular vistas the Grand Canyon offered to me.

I made it to my destination in one hour and after I climbed around the local rocks for a while, I sat down and ate my lunch with the best view in town. The air was clear and this time it did not rain or snow on me. I picked up my backpack and began my trip back to the top. To my surprise, it took me one hour to get down and only one hour to get back when it should have taken me two hours to return. If I knew it was going to be like this, I would have ventured further out. However, the fact was I was beat and I napped the rest of the day.

Sunday - The Arcosanti experiment was an interesting place that is still being built by its volunteers. Paolo Soleri, its creator, coined the term arcology to describe the concept of architecture and ecology working as one integral process to produce new urban habitats. Basically, it is a new way to build cities without creating urban sprawl. When this place is completed, it will house 6,000 people by combining compact urban structure with large-scale solar greenhouses on only 25 acres of a 4,000 acre preserve. The construction of Arcosanti began in the early 1970's. When we got there it was not even close to fifty percent complete and I wondered if it will ever be completed.

We took a tour around the place and we were impressed on how efficient everything was. For example, they make bronze wind chimes to sell in their gift shop to help raise funds. When they melt the bronze, an overhead vent sucks away the hot fumes. The hot fumes are then redirected through pipes that run through the walls of the building thus heating the building. Pretty neat, huh?

On our way back we stopped at Montezuma's Castle. No, it was nothing like a European castle and nor was it built by the Aztecs. It was a multi-story mud and rock ancient condo built into the side of a mountain. Built by the Sinaguas, it was only accessible via ladders. No one knows why these ancient people left their homes. There are theories, but no one knows for sure.

At night, we stopped by the Campus Coffee Bean in Flagstaff to listen to Jill Cohn play her music. I bought a CD of hers and she signed it. It was impressive to watch her play all by herself and we learned that she travels around playing at different venues in different states. She is living out her dream, go Jill.

Monday - Jenn dropped me off at the Arizona Snowball and then went to the Lowell Observatory; this observatory was the one that discovered Planet Pluto. Their museum was very interactive which is the best way to learn things. Their 24" refracting telescope was closed during the day, but they did have something else cool to look through. What interesting thing is there to look at during the day? That's right, the sun. She looked through their sun telescope and she was able to see sun spots and a solar flare up close.

I took a snowboarding lesson at the Arizona Snowball. I have now been snowboarding twice and skiing twice, and snowboarding is still my favorite. I became friends with this guy, I forget his name, from the class and we started doing our runs together because we were at the same level of snowboarding. On the lift, I told him what Jenn and I were doing and he invited us to his house for dinner with him and his wife. My gut told me that this guy seemed safe, so I agreed. However, I lost him somewhere along the trail and never saw him again. Jenn picked me up from the observatory and we went out for dinner in downtown Flagstaff.

Tuesday - Today we saw a mountain that was actually a dormant volcano named Sunset Crater. The ground surrounding the volcano was covered in volcanic rocks. The rocks near the mouth of the volcano have been oxidized and they turn reddish when the sun sets in the west. This is how it earned its name. Did you know that millions of years ago, much of the Arizona/New Mexico area was full of active volcanoes that were constantly changing the area's landscape? Just a thought to keep in the back of you head when you look at the pictures.

We followed the road past Sunset Crater and found ourselves at the Wukoki Pueblo ruins. This was the only ruin we were allowed to enter and walk around the rooms. It was interesting to pretend that we lived here back in the day. The land looked a little different back then when there were crops to tend to and a river nearby to get water from.
It was so quiet out where it was.

We continued down the road again and found ourselves at the largest pueblo ruins we have ever seen. It was called the Wupatki Pueblo and just like the previous one no one lived there anymore. This one contained 100 rooms plus a conference circle and a ball room for playing sports. We walked around imagining how these people once lived and compared it to all of the conveniences we have today.

Wednesday - Today we met a visitor from outer space. It came to our planet 50,000 years ago and when people first saw it, they did not know what it was. Today scientists know exactly what it is they called it Meteor Crater. It is the best preserved impact crater in the world that came from a meteor. The crater is 700 feet deep and 4,000 feet across. Most of the actual meteor vaporized upon impact because it traveled towards the ground at a speed of approximately 35,000 miles per hour. However, there were a few large pieces that survived the crash and they were on display in the visitor's center. It was just the coolest thing to touch something that contained unknown elements from outer space.

After we explored Meteor Crater's visitor's center we left to go see a different type of rock at the Petrified Forest National Park. There were large petrified logs of trees all over the place that fell nearly 225 million years ago. After the trees fell, swollen streams carrying silt, mud, and volcanic ash covered the trees which slowed their decay. Gradually, silica replaced the original wood tissues. Then the silica crystallized into quartz and whamo, you've got a petrified forest. Most of the trees broke into large chunks which gave us a cross sectional view of all the different colors of the quartz crystal: red, blue, orange, yellow, purple, and green.

The road through the Petrified Forest led us into the Painted Desert area. They call it this because the hills and mountains are made up of many layers of different colors. It was simply breathe taking to look out over a never ending desert filled with the colors of white, purple, green, red, and dark red. There was a trail called the Blue Mesa Trail that led me into a place called the Painted Desert Badlands. It was a one mile loop trail that brought me up close and personal (I was the only one on the trail) with these large colorfully striped hills that were made of clay. They were spongy to the touch and made me feel like I was on another planet.

Friday - We waited until night time and went out to the Lowell Observatory, because we wanted to look through its large 24 inch refracting telescope at the night sky. We were fortunate that the sky was clear and the planets and stars wanted to be seen. When we looked through the big telescope we saw Saturn with all of its rings. Just outside the main telescope were other smaller telescopes set up by the observatory's volunteers. We go to see Jupiter, a close up of the moon, and the Pegasus Nebulae in the Orion the Hunter constellation. Afterwards, we went inside for a PowerPoint lecture of what we saw in the sky. We got so excited after we learned how to identify constellations that we bought our very own sky chart to assist us in finding other constellations.

Saturday - Every year, thousands of RVers converge in the tiny town of Quartzite for its annual Gem & Mineral Show. The show increases the town's population from a few thousand to slightly over a million people. There are literally acres of federally owned lands where RVers can camp for free. We went down there to check things out, but we only took our truck and decided that it would be fun to spend the night in our truck.

We parked the truck in the shade of an overpass and ventured out to the giant Gem & Mineral show. There were so many other things that were sold besides gems and minerals. There were tools, socks, stained glass, clothing, hand creams, and one guy sold these twisted fork sculptures that spin on each other. Of course, there were 600 pound amethyst crystals for sale as well as trilobite fossils the size of a large pug dog. We also walked over to the RV show and went inside some of the bigger and more luxurious RVs. We scrapped the idea of staying overnight since it was still early and drove the four hours back home. When we stopped for gas, we looked up at they sky to check out the giant Star & Planet show going on overhead.

Well, it is true what people have said about Arizona. Its heritage is rich in cultures, its rocks are filled with colors, and its ecosystems are diversified. I don't think we would move here because the air is so dry, but it did make our list of places to return to. We knew we had to leave because something wonderful was going to happen to us in New Mexico. Our friend John was coming out to visit us for a second time. Let the good times roll again, in New Mexico.

Wishing on the planets and the stars,
Love Dave & Jenn
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