On the Road in the U.S – Grand Canyon, Arizona

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Travelling west from Dolores, we were met with great expanses of desert and heat (thank goodness for the aircon and the cool box!). This area (which includes the Mesa Verde National Park) is known as the Four Corners region because it is the only place in the U.S. where four States meet – these being Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. There were the occasional interesting rock formations on the way

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but generally the land was quite flat and so vast.

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At one point we stopped off for gas at the only gas station around that also happened to be a historic Trading Post selling traditional American Indian wares amongst other things with wonderfully clean restrooms (it isn’t always thus and we have checked out plenty!) That was a pleasant surprise 🙂

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This area we drove through is Apache country. There was very little in the way of settlements on the drive, except for a couple of areas like the Red Mesa, Arizona (presumably called this because of the red rock in this territory)

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These couple of communities seemed to be well set up with housing, a school and a medical centre and some signs of industry. I believe the majority of the people living there are of American Indian origins. The area feels so inhospitable to someone not indigenous to the region.

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What I noticed and impressed me whilst driving through the “Wild West” was the endless pylons stretching across the deserted areas, connecting people across the country to the source and the never-ending roads built through an inhospitable and arid landscape.

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This work must have taken decades of hard graft in intense heat. It is incredible how much has been acheived in the way of connecting and taming this great vast country since the original pioneers headed West in the 1800’s. I must say I admire this indomitable spirit of progress, a true pioneering spirit and a “can do” attitude that gets things done. Of course we have only covered a small portion of the U.S but these were my impressions at this point.

The landscape changed every so often to low growing bushes and some trees and more lush vegetation, but it was still sparsely populated.

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At the Grand Canyon Junction we noticed how the clouds cast a shadow over the plains, giving the impression of a lunar landscape (difficult to capture on camera).

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By the time we arrived in Williams, it had started to rain heavily with thunder and lightning 😦

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This is a colour photo!

My eldest spent most of the time hiding under her cosy cover in the back of the car as she really hated it…such a shame there were a series of thunderstorms on our arrival at each of our destinations in the first weeks…

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We were pleased to arrive at our cosy holiday home and take refuge from the rain. It had such a homely feel, which is just what we needed. There was even a reading nook for the girls

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and plenty of cupboards to play in – very important! 🙂

Just as well as it rained the entire first day with occasional heavy thunderstorms. We were happy to stay in and catch up on our crafting. including finishing our pom pom chain. There were a lot of sweet vintage features in the house including this phone, which reminded us of the phone Ike Godsey has in The Waltons 🙂

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nostalgic – who me? 

The girls got very involved in a fantasy game of Pooh and Piglet  and made good use of all the tupperware on offer (for honey and haycorns of course!), laundry baskets (great for haycorn gathering) and the coloured paper that I brought with us 🙂

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There was a lovely porch to sit out on, where we could enjoy watching the rain when it wasn’t so heavy.

The place was full of character and we really appreciated the attention to detail. It was real home from home.

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We were staying in a residential area, only a short walk from the main street.

Williams is on the historic Route 66 a route popular with bikers and travellers.

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so there are plenty of motels and diners carrying the Route 66 plaques and shops selling memorabilia. There is also a local brewery and quite a few shops selling American jewellery, pots and artisan crafts.

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My favourite thing was the sound of the train whistling in town – it made me smile and launch into a certain Johnny Cash song several times a day 😉

There is a daily train leaving Williams at 9.30am and returning from the Grand Canyon National Park at 3.30pm. It’s a long two and a quarter hour journey compared with an hours drive, but it looked like fun. Although I fancied the experience, we didn’t want to be tied to set times.

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So on our second day in Williams, we visited the Grand Canyon National Park . The main attraction is of course the Grand Canyon itself which is a 277 mile long gorge, carved out by the Colorado River and geological activity over the past six million years. Tourists either visit the North or the South Rim, depending on where they are approaching it from. As we were coming from the South side of the Colorado river, we went to the South Rim. The Canyon is from 4 miles up to 18 miles wide and 1 mile in depth. Looking down to the river, your eyes find it hard to comprehend this depth: it really is unfathomable and quite astounding.

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The last time my husband and I visited in May 2003, we were camping near the North Rim and awoke to a snow storm! We went to the observation point hoping to catch a glimpse of this geological marvel, but couldn’t see anything at all! It was very disappointing, having journeyed all the way there, but we quickly moved down to New Mexico as the weather wasn’t set to improve.

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This time we were fortunate to have lovely weather – a little too hot for my daughters’ tastes but a nice break from the rainstorms! The altitude is 7000ft so we were a little out of breath at times, but the view made up for all that. WOW!

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The Canyon is one or the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and surely one of America’s biggest tourist attractions. There were tourists from all around the world, something we did not notice so much at any other National Park we visited. The South Rim is well served by several free shuttle buses which is helpful when you need a break. The bus drivers are really fun. One pretended he was a cowboy and there was lots of “saddle up” and “yee haw’s” that we had to join in with!

Of course you can hike the Canyon, but we were told this is not for the faint hearted. A back country permit must be purchased and a hiker would need to be prepared for every eventuality as the distances are great and there is no access to water. As we could only spend half a day at the Canyon, we stayed on the Rim and still enjoyed fantastic views and plenty of walking!

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After a brief look around the Visitor Centre, we walked over to Mather Point, which is only a 5 minute walk. It was busy, but the views were well worth it – just stunning. We then walked along the South Rim to the Yavapai Geology Museum where we had a look around. Our daughters weren’t as interested as they were at Mesa Verde as Geology is a bit too abstract for them at the moment.

We walked a part of the Bright Angel Trail, which is luckily on the Shuttle Bus route, so when the girls tired after a mile or two of walking in the heat, we were able to  take a bus to the furthest point Hermit’s Rest (where there was a snack bar and gift shop and more amazing views!) and treat ourselves to a much needed ice lolly. 🙂

As for wildlife, we spotted several Albert’s Squirrels – so sweet!

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and enjoyed watching the ravens in making the most of the big wide open spaces.

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We even spotted a blue jay much to our delight (but he was too fast to take a photo of – something I also found with Steller’s Jays later in our trip).

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I would highly recommend a visit to the Grand Canyon National Park. The Canyon is just so vast and unfathomable with incredible depth and colour – the photos don’t do it justice. I would have loved to have visited at sunrise or sunset but that will have to wait for another visit. 🙂

My daughters weren’t as awestruck as we were as they had seen pictures of the Arches National Park, Utah in a book and I think they were hoping they would be able to walk amongst the rock formations, which isn’t the case here, but I am sure they will remember thDSC00074e majesty of this natural wonder.

On our drive back, we stopped off at a gas station to use the restroom and this time the gas station doubled as a cavernous crystal shop with a Western theme outside!

Such fun! And such a beautiful shop with all that lovely crystal energy. The big amethyst geodes were just stunning (but way too heavy to fly back with!!)

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Well, that’s my round up of our time in Arizona. Next Stop Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

 

9 thoughts on “On the Road in the U.S – Grand Canyon, Arizona

  1. I was showing the Grand Canyon to the children this past week. The size really is unfathomable! The name Mather Point reminded me of the National Parks documentary series by Ken Burns. Have you all seen it? It talks about Mr. Mather and other folks who helped make the parks possible. Thanks for sharing your photos!

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  2. What a fantastic trip for your family! I haven’t been out to the Grand Canyon since 1992, and I would so love to take my children there. Interestingly, there was a massive thunderstorm, with unbelievable lightning, just before my visit as well! The locals said they hadn’t seen anything like that in ten years. Unfathomable is a good word for the Grand Canyon… I remember just staring and staring… it’s hard to grasp the vastness of it. Such beauty!

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    • Hi Stacey, lovely to hear from you. Yes it was truly breathtaking – and we saw a LOT of amazing things on our trip – but this was no doubt the most awe inspiring. We were also told at the time we first visited that they hadn’t had snow all winter and it was their first snow storm of the year..in May!! So glad we managed to go this time. Hope you will visit one day again too.

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