Arizona’s Draw: Climate and Imagery – USA

Arizona never appealed to me – too hot, dusty, down and dirty. I had watched far too many Western films growing up. Part of my heart was reserved for the Indians, treated unjustly, without respect, given no consideration to their culture, beliefs and way of looking at our earth. With the cries of global warming bombarding us, the Grand Canyon beckoned me – so close (I live in Portland, Oregon). Time to see it. We had five days to explore north of Phoenix; south of Phoenix would have to wait, or not be seen.

I'm going back! Definitely to the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Add Tucson and Yuma and anything in between, preferably the November to April time slot. I like fewer people, cooler temperatures and reasonable rates.

As we approached the Grand Canyon, my jaw dropped, tears gathered, slowly running down my cheeks. What a sight! It is in a league of its own – powerful, beautiful, flaunting nature's majesty in all its glory. Condors flock to it – great head winds and secluded ledges for their young. The weather was perfect – cool, a bit of snow along the path, sunny. At 11:00, with the sun directly above the canyon, we saw few shadows, rich yellows, oranges and reds reflected in the rocks. At 4:30, the scene changed dramatically – long shadows cast mixed, soft, muted tones of terra cotta, yellows, light brown and soft beige. Awesome!

We didn't do the The Grand Canyon Skywalk, another reason to return. And we never hiked, or drove around to get a different sense of its grandeur. But we surely felt it, smelled it, and marvelled at it.

Being a senior is a plus. Instead of the $25.00 charge for passenger vehicles, we paid $10.00 with a lifetime membership to "all" Federal parks – a good motivation for going twice in one day. In between, we took a helicopter tour of the canyon. It gave us an excellent, overall view, but I prefer seeing the canyon from the ground to feel its immensity and magnificence.

Walking along the path near the canyon, several times I heard, "Don't get too close to the edge. You can slip, fall and die." Some said the park should place rail guards around the edges, but wouldn't that take away from its naturalness? Several backpackers had climbed down to various cliffs overlooking the canyon. Yes, it's dangerous, but not impossible and certainly a decision best left to the individual. A few signs warned of deaths that had occurred due to wetness or loose gravel along the rim. There's even a book, Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon for those who want to pursue the topic.

We noticed as many foreigners (maybe even more) as Canadians and Americans. Lots of South Americans (Argentinians and Brazilians), Europeans (primarily Germans) and Asians (especially Koreans). I'd think more countries would be represented during peak season. What a deluge of languages then!

Rafting the Colorado River is limited and monitored. If you recall, the main character in the film, Into the Wild, based on the book of the same title, simply rode the river until he outran security and his ability to continue. I mention this because from where I saw it (south rim of the canyon), it appeared mild, inoffensive, even "lazy" – most deceiving.

From the wonder of the Canyon, we drove south through Williams, where Route 66 runs right through its middle and center. It hasn't let go of its past; you can feel its western history and its allure in the residents and tourists. I took a spur-of-the-moment walking tour that focused on street brawls, gunfights, ghosts and, of course, robberies. It does have a train that takes you to the Grand Canyon (the train used to transport water to the Grand Canyon), something we're considering when we return.

Flagstaff is a rather interesting and fun city: a blending of the new and the old. I had read that National Geographic named it in its "10 Great Towns that will make you feel young". True. Lots of coffee shops with a mix of business people and students, three hostels, Northern Arizona University, Lowell Observatory and several major manufacturers.

We didn't have enough time to do justice to anything "Indian" – warrants another trip. We did spend a few days in Sedona, though. Here's a cultural, artistic and stunning red rock city (the red looks more terra cotta to me). Sandstone formations surround Sedona, giving it a bit of a surreal feel. We hiked, we "birded", and we strolled through galleries and shops. We kept looking at the the rocks, again and again. They are everywhere and they are gorgeous!

Walt Disney got many of his inspirations from Sedona. I can see why. Snoopy is comfortably lying on his back (one of the rock formations). Erosion will eventually alter the entire landscape. Not to worry. It'll all disappear in 500 years or so!


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