Huntsville to Arizona - Grand Canyon, of course
May 21 – May 28, 2016
It took several years to convince Gary to make this trip, but here we are getting on a plane and finally headed out west to see the Grand Canyon.
DAY 1 – HSV TO PHOENIX
It would have been a better start if Gary had not failed to remove a knife from his back pack strap (leftover from his last boy scout outing with Zach’s troop!). After going through check in and security, he had to go back down to check in, check his knife with our luggage and go back through security … thank goodness we got to airport really early!
We had a layover in Atlanta for one hour, however, since our plane had to circle Atlanta upteen times, we actually had to run from gate to gate to get on our plane to Phoenix.
When we arrived in Phoenix we picked up our rental car, a Volkswagon Jetta. A car which I would never recommend to anyone, unless they were only concerned with good gas mileage. It was small, cramped, we banged our heads continuously getting into the car, the back door kept hitting Gary in the crotch or knee, because it has a weird slant on its door. The AC was so loud we had to turn it down to talk to each other. But it had great get up and go, and it got great gas mileage. Ehh Ours was burgundy.
Our first night we stayed in Phoenix at the Drury Inn. I love the Drury Inn. It has a great breakfast included with the room and also, it always has an evening mini meal – nothing big, nachos, hot dogs, salads, chicken strips sometimes, baked potatoes with toppings, enough to make a meal, but nothing fancy, plus free beverages The beds are also very comfy.
We ate in and took a ride to see a little of Phoenix. We went to Camelback Mountain and walked around a bit – they closed at sunset, so we could only walk around the entrance, but it was pretty. It was 98 degrees in Phoenix, but it was so dry, it really didn’t feel as bad a 80 degrees in our lovely humid south.
DAY 2 – OFF TO VERDE VALLEY, SEDONA, ETC.
We got up, had breakfast, and got on the road to the Verde Valley.
The drive was pretty and the landscape changed dramatically. It started out in a desert , Sonoran Desert to be exact and there were cactus everywhere and would eventually turn into snow peaked mountains, high elevations and even drove through a wildfire, mostly under control, thank goodness!
The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert which covers large parts of the Southwestern United States in Arizona and California, and of Northwestern Mexico in Sonora, Baja California and Baja California Sur. It is the hottest desert in North America, with an area of 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 sq mi). The western portion of the United States–Mexico border passes through the Sonoran Desert. / copied
The desert was beautiful, and Gary was fascinated by the saguaro cactus. We both took many photos of these plants, they covered the hills like crazy, and then suddenly, they were gone. They can’t survive the higher elevations.
The saguaro (/səˈwɑːroʊ/, Spanish pronunciation: [saˈɣwaɾo]) (Carnegiea gigantea) is an arborescent (tree-like) cactus species in the monotypic genus Carnegiea, which can grow to be over 70 feet (21 m) tall. It is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican State of Sonora, and the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California. The saguaro blossom is the state wildflower of Arizona. Its scientific name is given in honor of Andrew Carnegie. -copied
We had driven out of the desert and were getting into the higher elevations of Arizona. The temperature dropped about 15 to 20 degrees. We left 100 degrees in Pheonix and drove into 75-78 degrees in the Verde Valley. It got down to the 50s at night. So nice.
Mom and Dad deeded me their membership to Thousand Trails, a camping membership several years ago, a nice extra to these campgrounds is that several of their campgrounds also have cabins. On a fluke, I searched to see if there was a campground near where we wanted to go and hit the jack pot. They had one near Cottonwood, AZ, which is the in the area we wanted to go. They have very cute relatively new cabins and we were able to get one for $77 per night. The hotels in the area were all $150 and up, the decent ones were more near the $220+ range. So we were happy to stay at the cabin.
When we found the place, we thought we were out in the wilderness of no where. It was so desolate seeming, we felt we had driven back into the desert, but there were mountains all around us too. The mountains were not green though. They were sandy shades of brown with specks of green. The trees in northern Arizona that we saw were not large trees, they were relatively small and spread out. Cottonwood is in Yavapai County. I like that name – Yavapai – it sounds so Indian. It is actually, Yavapai Indians lived in the area, also Yavapai means “people of the sun”. There was a lot “sun” in Arizona, so that makes sense.
Anyway, our cute little cabin in the Verde Valley, was actually only 4 miles from Cottonwood and very close to several other areas we wanted to see. The campground was well kept, had a beautiful pool and spa area. I would definitely go there again because it was so nice. The older people who ran it were a little crotchety, but I guess when you get old, you earn the right to be crotchety if you want to be. Our cabin had the Verde River running behind it, but we never saw it – the brush had grown up and we were warned so many times about rattle snakes (17 DIFFERENT VARIETIES IN ARIZONA), so we didn’t feel like venturing through the brush to find the river. Also, our first night there we had wild javelinas in our yard.
Though some people may call them "cute", Javelinas are arguably rather ugly animals and possess a rather unpleasant odor which is why some people refer to them as "musk hogs". They aren't wild pigs but are actually members of the "peccary" family that originated in South America. They have become accustomed to being in close proximity to humans and will generally ignore people. If you try and approach them. they will simply leave the area, but if provoked and threatened they've been known to defend themselves with their long, sharp tusks.
Apparently javelina sightings are not that rare and Sedona is scattered with Javelina sculptures all over town.
After we got settled in our cabin, we drove into Cottonwood to find some lunch and buy some supplies. We had lunch of burgers and meatloaf sandwiches – it was great and then we took a drive through the countryside.
Tuzigoot is a small national monument, one of several sites south of Flagstaff where the remains of dwellings of the 12th century Sinagua Indians are preserved. Unlike the single cliff house of Montezuma Castle 20 miles southeast, Tuzigoot comprises a cluster of buildings, on top of a small sandstone ridge close to the Verde River valley near the towns of Clarkdale and Cottonwood. The approach road off Hwy 260 is badly sign-posted and a little difficult to find; it does however pass through an expanse of reeds and bushes around the wide, sandy river bed, crosses a field and then climbs a short distance to the site of the monument. The river plain is home to several unusual species of birds, including the great horned owl. - copied
Tuzigoot is apache for “crooked water”.
This is what is left of Tuzigoot. You can see it had several rooms, must have been quite the structure to see. It was originally 2 stories high, 87 ground floor rooms, very few doors, entry was by ladders.
After we left Tuzigoot, we drove into Jerome, which is known as a ghost town – an old mining town. It was a very scenic drive and you could see Jerome from faraway up on the mountain side. You had to drive up this winding road to get there and the town itself was a built on the side of the mountain and the winding road wound through the town itself. We stopped and walked through the shops, made a stop into a biker bar – had a beer and listened to the country band inside and did some people watching (always a fun thing to do).
It was actually chilly in Jerome. In the middle of town, the City Jail, had slid from one side of the road to the other, and there it sits. Weird. This whole area is very artsy, mystical and hippyish. There are art shops everywhere, palm readers, places that sell crystals, there was an old whorehouse – nonactive- in Jerome. It looked like it might sell naughty stuff. The biker bar was most entertaining.
Views from the hills behind Jerome.
Some local plant life …..
We came back to our cabin, and sat outside for a while. Our cabin had a front porch and chairs – nice. We walked over to the pool and checked it out met a guy named Mark, who’s husband’s name is Mike…. He was quite friendly and invited us to stop at their camper if we were out walking by. We didn’t but we did see him a couple more times – he was nice. They had sold their home in North Carolina and were on way to the Seattle area. They were making lengthy stops at the Thousand Trails campgrounds along the way. They were retired. We never met Mike. When we came back to the cabin, we saw the javalinas mentioned above.
Sunset in the Verde Valley
Day 3 Sedona.
We are still on Central Time which is 2 hours earlier than Arizona time, so we wake early everyday. We had breakfast outside at the cabin and got on our way to see Sedona. It was only about 30 minutes away. But our time in Sedona, kept us out all day. Driving into Sedona – was breathtaking. You leave the sandy brown desert looking mountains, round a curve and there before you are the big beautiful red mountains, sandstone rock formations and canyons.
Views of Sedona …
The countryside is gorgeous, but the town, eh – too touristy for me. The stores were full of tourist crap, mostly made in china and just junky crap. There was a Sedona Art Center which had nothing but local artist stuff and it was full of beautiful things. I did find a piece of art I would like to own, but will have to suffice with a print one day ….
Sedona /sᵻˈdoʊnə/ is a city that straddles the county line between Coconino and Yavapai counties in the northern Verde Valley region of the U.S. state of Arizona. As of the 2010 census, its population was 10,031.
Sedona's main attraction is its array of red sandstone formations. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. The red rocks form a popular backdrop for many activities, ranging from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails.
Sedona was named after Sedona Arabella Miller Schnebly (1877–1950), the wife of Theodore Carlton Schnebly, the city's first postmaster, who was celebrated for her hospitality and industriousness. Her mother, Amanda Miller, claimed to have made the name up because "it sounded pretty." -copied
We reserved a jeep ride through the canyons and sandstone formations and had a few hours to kill, so we walked through the town, bought a couple of things, had lunch and then went on out jeep ride. It was out back in the country, a rather rough ride, but so very enjoyable. We were able to see the countryside and had a funny guide telling us all about the area, history and some of the plant life.
Views from the jeep ride ….
This is a 100 year plant. They grow for 80 to 100 years, bloom, and then die. They only bloom once.
More of Sedona …
When driving to Jerome, I had seen this plant (pictured in above photos) that I kept wanting to get a photo of, but had been unable to find a good place to pull off the road to get a photo. While in the Art Center in Sedona, there was a painting of one of those plants and I found out it was called the 100 year plant or Century Plant – it’s a part of the agava family. It grows for 80 to 100 years, blooms and then dies. Beautiful and sad at the same time. All parts of these plants found uses with the Indians …. Make soap out of the leaves, the stalks can be baked and eaten, the tips of the leaves are so sharp that if you fell on them, they would slice you clean through, they were use for sewing, they made for needles, nails and pens. You could boil the leaves and make a tea that treated constipation and excess gas, on and on.
Beautiful aren’t they. So tall and proud.
When we left from the jeep ride, we went to area call Red Rock Crossings which was beautiful and had a great view of the sand stone formations called Cathedral Mountains. We hiked through the woods to a creek and were able to take some awesome photos.
There were also these little rock stacks in this area. Interesting little things …
We were walking on a trail in Sedona and came upon this big red rock, with all of these rock mounds on it. Thought it looked cool. Then I looked it up later ... Mound of stones (Cairns) usually were built as a memorials or landmark - but people have gotten to where they just put them up anywhere, now - without much meaning except to mark that they were there, or a personal spiritual statement.
Sedona and the rocks …
This was also an area which attracts a lot of vortex searchers, meditators, shamen, rock worshipers, etc. These were a couple of guys who were meditating with drums. Like I said, attracts a lot of hippy like people. It was a beautiful place to meditate.
Love the scenery and landscape of Sedona, didn’t really like the touristy feel of Sedona, so that part of it let me down.
It was late by the time we got back to cabin, We ate sandwiches, and went to bed, we were pooped.
Day 4 – Montezumas Castle (cliff dwellings)
This is our last day in the Verde Valley. We had breakfast in cabin and then took off to see the cliff dwellings called Montezumas Castle. They were very impressive. Homes built into the side of a mountain, beside a nice river, with a large field area for gardening. Not a life I would care for, working in fields, hauling water into the cliff dwellings, always on the lookout for the enemy tribes, etc.
Montezuma Castle National Monument protects a set of well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings near the town of Camp Verde, Arizona, United States. The dwellings were built and used by the Sinagua people, a pre-Columbian culture closely related to the Hohokam and other indigenous peoples of the southwestern United States, between approximately 1100 and 1425 AD. The main structure comprises five stories and twenty rooms, and was built over the course of three centuries.
Neither part of the monument's name is correct. When European-Americans first observed the ruins in the 1860s, by then long-abandoned, they named them for the famous Aztec emperor Montezuma in the mistaken belief that he had been connected to their construction (see also Montezuma mythology). In fact, the dwelling was abandoned more than 40 years before Montezuma was born, and was not a "castle" in the traditional sense, but instead functioned more like a "prehistoric high rise apartment complex". -copied
After seeing these and some of the lower levels of cliff homes, when we returned to our cabin, we could see the remnants of some cliff dwellings in the mountains behind our cabin.
Day 5 – Grand Canyon
We left early, checked out of camp and hit the road. Grand Canyon here we come. I was a little melancholy about seeing the Grand Canyon. Mom and Dad have been on my mind ever since we arrived in Arizona, but the closer we got to the Grand Canyon, the more they were on my mind. I was constantly talking to both of them throughout most of this vacation.
The Grand Canyon is spectacular – so many color, formations and just the pure largeness of the place is … what word can there be to describe it. We spent the whole day there. We rode the shuttle to different areas of the canyon, hung out at the lodge, took too many photos.
There were so many Asians there, mostly Japanese, rude, incredibly rude Japanese. The English language was rarely heard – there were so many people for different countries – seemed weird you are in your own country and surrounded by so many foreigners. I did not remember it being like this when we were there as children. Wish I could ask mom and dad about that.
I took Mom and Dad with me on this trip. There was not a day that I didn’t think about them and try to remember what all we did on our Grand Canyon vacation. Wish I could have talked to them and shared this vacation with them.
It was a beautiful site to see, glad I was able to see it as an adult and with my husband, this time.
Gary was so sick in the GC – he had a cold coming on, plus his sugar had dropped, so when we left the GC for the day, we were very tired, we headed to Flag Staff, AZ – drove through a forest to get there, but met only 3 cars – the trees were so small, seemed weird to consider it a forest, we saw snow on the mountains ahead of us, but never drove through it. It was very cold though. We drove through 8000 plus elevation, saw elk, lots of darkness too. The dark was so dark it was eerie. Finally made it to Flagstaff and before we knew we were on Route 66 and didn’t even realize it. We stayed the night at the Hampton Inn, had dinner at Ihop and back to hotel to sleep! Had to stop and get Gary some cold medicine. He was sick as a dog.
Leaving the canyon ….. view of the mountains ….
DAY 6 Sunset Crater and Pueblo Ruins
With Gary sick and us being so tired, we decided to stay in Flagstaff another day and take it easy. So after eating semi-okay Mexican at a diner on Route 66, we drove up to Sunset Crater – a volcano which had erupted eons ago.
Sunset Crater is a cinder cone located north of Flagstaff in U.S. State of Arizona. The crater is within the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
Sunset Crater is the youngest in a string of volcanoes (the San Francisco volcanic field) that is related to the nearby San Francisco Peaks.
The date of the eruptions that formed the 340-meter-high cone (1,120 ft) was initially derived from tree-ring dates, suggesting the eruption began between the growing seasons of A.D. 1064–1065. However, more recent geologic and archaeological evidence places the eruption around A.D. 1085. The largest vent of the eruption, Sunset Crater itself, was the source of the Bonito and Kana-a lava flows that extended about 2.5 kilometers (1.6 mi) NW and 9.6 kilometers (6 mi) NE, respectively. Additional vents along a 10-kilometer-long fissure (6.2 mi) extending SE produced small spatter ramparts and a 6.4-kilometer-long lava flow (4 mi) to the east. The Sunset Crater eruption produced a blanket of ash and lapilli covering an area of more than 2,100 square kilometers (810 sq mi) and forced the temporary abandonment of settlements of the local Sinagua people. The volcano has partially revegetated, with pines and wildflowers. The crater is the namesake for the Sunset Crater Beardtongue (Penstemon clutei). Since the last eruption of the volcano is a recent occurrence, it is considered dormant by volcanologists. -copied
Doesn’t much look like a volcano does it?
Gary in the middle of a lava flow.
This was my favorite day.
After we passed through the volcano area, we entered the area where there were several pueblo ruins. There were only about 5 other cars that we met in the area, so every ruin we stopped at except 2, we had all to ourselves. It was cold, peaceful, desolute, peaceful again and beautiful. Belng alone let us imagine what it might really have been like to be a part of this community.
In total there are more than 800 identified ruins spread around many miles of desert within Wupatki National Monument, but five of the largest (Wupatki, Wukoki, Lomaki, Citadel and Nalakihu) are close to the main road, and these are the only sites open to visitors. All the dwellings were built by the Anasazi and Sinagua Indians during the 12th and 13th centuries - the habitation of this region was influenced by the eruption of nearby Sunset Volcano during the winter of 1064-5, as the resulting ash and lava made the surrounding land infertile and so the residents of that region moved further afield into desert areas previously considered too dry and barren. In the early 13th century all the settlements were abandoned, as were most other villages in this part of the Southwest, although it is believed that some of the present day Hopi are descended from the former inhabitants of the Wupatki pueblos.
The Wupatki area is 2,000 feet lower than the volcanic region north of Flagstaff so the vegetation is quite different - the loop road from Sunset Crater descends quite quickly through fir and pine trees to the arid scrub-covered desert, and soon arrives at the visitor center, next to the largest of the ruins.
This is the 3-storey Wupatki Pueblo (Hopi for 'big house') that was once home to 300 people and had over a hundred rooms. The settlement is built on the edge of a small plateau and has unobstructed views eastwards towards the Painted Desert and the Little Colorado River. The ruins are reached by a short, paved, self-guided trail starting at the visitor center, which takes about half an hour to walk at a leisurely pace. Hiking off trail is not permitted. A leaflet is available describing 20 points of interest; apart from the main building, these include a circular community room, a masonry ballpark - a recreational feature usually only found much further south, and a natural blowhole. This is a vent of unknown depth linked to underground passages in the sandstone, and either blows out or sucks in air, depending on the ambient pressure. All the rooms at Wupatki are partially reconstructed, and the main building once served as a residence for an early park manager and his wife, though the extra walls and stairs constructed during their tenancy have long since been removed.
Just south of the park headquarters at Wupatki Pueblo, a side road branches eastwards to the Wukoki ruins, perhaps the most distinctive in the park as the house is built on an isolated block of sandstone, visible for several miles across the flat surroundings. The structure is quite tall, centered on a square, three storey tower with a series of intricately-constructed rooms at one side. The bricks have a deep red color, and the building merges seamlessly with the underlying Moenkopi rock. A short trail loops around the ruin and climbs to a vantage point on top. Past the Wukoki turn-off, the side road becomes unpaved and bumpy, crossing treeless, desert land for 5.5 miles without encountering anything of great interest until the monument boundary at the Little Colorado River, which at this point is wide, stony and usually dry. The track, now for 4WD only, continues across the riverbed into the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Like all five of the accessible ruins in Wupatki National Monument, the impressive remains of Lomaki Pueblo are reached by a short trail, starting towards the north end of the park road. The dwelling is built right on the edge of a shallow, vertical-walled canyon, which was probably formed by faulting or other volcanic activity, and has a good view of the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks to the west. Several smaller ruins may be visited along the same trail, further along the rim of the box canyon. All buildings sit on flat, thin-layered strata of the local Moenkopi sandstone, deep red-brown in color, and eroding at the edges so that the canyon floor is littered with fallen boulders; the broken rocks complement the crumbling masonry walls of the pueblo. In contrast to the rich red rocks, the soil around the canyon is mostly black volcanic ash.
Citadel Pueblo and Nalakihu Pueblo
Nalakihu is a small, partly restored pueblo alongside the main road close to the northern entrance. A very short trail runs past towards the more impressive Citadel Pueblo, built all across the top of a small hill overlooking the undulating surroundings, which include a limestone sinkhole just to the south. Citadel is unreconstructed so there isn't much to see, just a large pile of fallen stones enclosed by a low wall. Many other stones from the building are scattered over the slopes below, mixed with black blocks of lava. From the hilltop several other ruins can be seen, at the edges of some of the adjacent mesas, though none can be visited since off trail hiking is not permitted.
This area gave me peace. If I lived close, I would come here often, sit within these ruins, feel the sun and wind on my face, and embrace the peace and just enjoy it. There was just something about the place – Gary loved it too. If ever we come back to this area, this would be on the list to come to.
This is Wukoki …
Below is a mixture of the other ruins that we saw on this drive …
We saw wildlife we had never seen before. Took, again too many photos, stopped and took photos of the sunset, found a steakhouse that served steaks the size of your plate on the way back to Flagstaff and had a good meal.
(friendly squirrel we met on this vacay)
It was a good day.
DAY 7 – BACK TO PHOENIX
The next day we headed back to Phoenix – 102 degrees. Got checked into our hotel (the Drury Inn of course! J ), had lunch at an oyster house, went shopping in old Scottsdale, turned our rental car in, back to hotel, made our shuttle reservation, packed our bags for travel back home, ate at hotel and crashed. I could have stayed one more day, but was ready to go home too. One thing we both agreed about was that we never had a “great” meal. We had some “okay” meals, but nothing outstanding and some that were just downright bad … J We would have liked to have enjoyed the food more.
DAY 8 - HOME
We were tired, but a good tired. This was a good trip, we both enjoyed it, saw things we’ve never seen, some we’d like to see again, and some, well, we’ve seen them, have the photos to prove and that was good enough.
It was time to go home.