Hubby and I (60 & 53 respectively) spent a fabulous 7 days in AZ. Below is the trip report.
Hubby and I (60 & 53 respectively) spent a fabulous 7 days in AZ. Below is the trip report.
I need to preface my report by saying that this trip was in lieu of going to Egypt :( A coworker of mine found an awesome tour that i considered going on with her. However, due to the political situation we both decided to forego that trip. To apease my travel bug i decided to find and/or plan a trip that my hubby (well hubby all except the paper) and i could enjoy together. He's not keen on travelling so it would need to be something HE wants to do and i would work into the plan things i enjoy also.
I have to say upfront, that although I didn't see ancient mouments built by man (read Egyptian pyramids), the mother nature ones were more impressive!
Next up, GCNP
GCNP Sept 28-29
I took the advice from TA and booked a room inside the park. The only day available was our first night which meant a 4 hr drive from PHX to GCNP, but we went with it. Our flight arived @ 9am and we were on the road by about 10. I have to say that Payless car rentals tried the hard sell to get us to upgrade and also buy the insurance. Just be firm and you'll be fine. We had a Ford Focus which took us everywhere on our trip whithout a problem. My only disappointment was that it didn't have an aux port so i could play all the songs i brought on my iPod specifically for this trip. But we had radio reception during most of the trip so the iPod was less necessary than i thought.
We stopped at Happy Valley rd. on our way out of PHX to get snacks, drinks & a syrafoam cooler at Walmart and my sugarfree drink mixes @ Bevmo. One tip for cooler--line with a plastic garbage bag to prevent leaks. I brought a bag but hubby insisted we didn't need to line it. However, a day later it leaked all over the trunk at which time my hubby decided to take up my offer. No more leakage problems the rest of the trip once it was lined!
We arrived in GCNP about 3pm and went straight to Mather point. Our knees wobbled at the sight. It's true--pictures don't due it justice! You don't get the depth of the canyon and it's grandeur. Snapped a few pictures anyway and then checked into our room. We stayed in Maswik lodge, north side in a large corner room. An added bonus was parking right outside our room.
(will continue this later today)
GCNP part 2
Once unpacked we headed to the rim to set up for sunset. My new, shortish travel tripod was great for getting railing shots so i had to find a spot where the railing was lower, less people, and an open view. I moved around a bit but found my spot just east of the BA trailhead. Sat there for an hour and snapped away. This was the part of the trip where hubby got bored and i was worried that the rest of the trip would suck for him. To him, you view sunset for a few minutes tops--not an HOUR. However, my focus of the trip was getting good photos and breaking in my tripod on sunset/rise shots. So i decided that any further sunset/rise sessions would be optional for him. He did attend one sunset viewing in Sedona and a sunrise in MV (both he actually enjoyed!).
Since this was the day after the new moon we walked to the rim after dinner to view the stars and the milky way. One of the brighter stars in the sky turned out to be Jupiter. Internet via my phone on the rim provided that tasty info!
Next morning i headed to the rim about 6am for sunrise. I hopped on the Hermit's rest shuttle. At the first stop (trailhead overlook) the driver told us that, due to the time, if we went further we'd miss sunrise so i go off with a few others. Minutes later they moved on so i had the place to myself for a glorious sunrise! I decided to walk back rather then take a shuttle further down just to catch one heading back to the village. Once at the village i spotted the mules getting saddled up for the trip down Bright Angel. Snapped more pics as they descended into the canyon. Then as i headed toward Maswik i heard someone say, "Oh, look at the elk!" upon which i changed direction and snapped more animal pix. Hubby was bummed that he missed both the mules and the elk.
After a quick breakfast at the Maswick cafeteria we spent the morning on the Hermit's Rest shuttle taking in the various views. Hopi and Powell points were being retarred which hampered some of the best views, but there's so much to see that we still got our fill. Seeing the river below is very deceptive. Looks like a mere creek. Our analysis changed a few days later when we took our float trip down the Colorado.
One of my highlights was the orientation film in the visitor's center. The shots below the rim on a plane/copter were spectacular especially since i knew that's forbidden or unavailbe in tour form (above rim only). I forgot to mention that before hopping the shuttle in the morning, hubby suggested we go a few feet down the BA trail. We made it just past the doorway before heading back up. Glad we did. The view is different, even just a few feet down it.
We checked out of our room and headed east to Desert Tower stopping at most lookouts and on to Page for the night. At the Desert Tower a grand canyon rattler gave us a farewell shake!
Next up Page
Page Sept 29-Oct 1
We stopped for a navajo taco in Cameron, even sharing one is a HUGE portion as others have noted. Fry bread = yum. The painted desert was pretty on our way to Page and the mormon cliffs were spectacular. We stayed in the Page Boy motel (our cheapest motel costs of the trip). It's an older motel but with modern amenities (free wifi, frig & microwave). It was the only place we stayed at with a pillow i liked (prefer small or flat). For the money it was a good value. We didn't feel like eating out so hubby walked a few feet to pizza hut which served as both dinner and lunch the following day.
We just missed the 8:45 tour of Antelope Canyon so we hung around till the next one (10am) hoping that we could still make our pre-booked 12:30 float trip. No problem, we had plenty of time for both. What can you say about AC except WOW, WOW, and WOW! We were both blown away. Our guide adjusted my camera settings for optimal shooting and even took several pictures for me. This was one of hubby's highlights and he's not a photographer. Again, mother nature is a much better architect than any man!
For a different view of the grand canyon we took the Colorado River Discovery half-day float trip from Glen canyon dam to Lees Ferry (beginning of the NP). This was the last day of the year for two trips per day and we had the afternoon one. Glen canyon is amazing with many rock formations that evoke familiar things (faces, animals, hands, etc.). Our boatmates saw even more than what our guide pointed out to us! Petroglyphs were cool although i discovered from our Navajo guide in MV that the Navajo would NEVER do petroglyphs or carvings--like defacing the land. Our river guide (also Navajo) didn't share this info. Along with an awesome but cold river we also saw wild horses and blue heron on the river bank. All in all a great complement to the south rim of GCNP if you can't walk to the river.
On to MV
Monument Valley UT Oct 1-2
Pre-trip i booked a 2 1/2 hr. tour with Keyah Hozhoni for Sunday morning, but Sunday was threatening storms so i called to rebook for Sat. 1pm. No problem, told to just check in at the view on the left side of the parking lot. The drive from Page to MV was quick and filled with interesting topography. A map received with our AC tribal land admission fee listed many of the formations we saw on our way. We arrived about noon for our 1pm tour. They were ready for us so we quickly did a pit stop and ate our leftover pizza before the 2 1/2 hr tour. We were expecting an open-air jeep type vehicle and sharing the ride with other folks; however, this was a private tour and in a closed suburban. At first, hubby was disappointed. He wanted something more rustic and open-air. But once underway we were both happy that we were spared all the dust from vehicles on the 17 mile loop and we had the guide to ourselves! Well worth the few extra dollars ($65 a piece). Our guide was very informative and we learned a lot about the area and the Navajo culture. In the backcountry area we were the only ones in sight. We stopped frequently enough to snap many pictures, but as with GC, pictures don't capture the feel of the place. I stopped concetrating on pictures and just took in the beauty.
Almost on cue, when we entered our room at Gouldings we witnessed a thunderstorm. From our porch we watched it cross the valley along with lighting changes on the various monuments. Needless to say, a great photo op from the comfort of our room! After the storm passed we checked out the Gouldings museum and headed back over to the View to set up for sunset followed by dinner inside. Earlier our guide had recommended the open camping area north of the View for sunset pix. It was a great spot where i took some of my favorite pictures from the entire trip. Incidentally, this is a no services, (port-a poddy only) freeform camping area and first come first serve. There were RVs and tent campers alike there with no space designations. Something to consider for people who happen by without reservations and need a place to crash. I think it's $10 a night and you pay at the tribal entrance.
Dinner at the View was good. I had one of their stews and more fry bread. It was completely surreal to look out the window which framed one of the mittens. After a decent night's sleep we rose early to catch sunrise back at the View. We weren't disappointed. Just enough clouds to reflect the sun's light with pretty, pretty colors!
Now back to AZ and Sedona
Sedona Oct 2-4
Sedona was our last leg on this tour. We made a few stops along the way from MV. First was the Navajo National Monument. We took the trail to the overlook to Betatakin cliff dwelling. Pretty impressive. The 1 mile round trip trail was hitting hubby's limit for steep walking (arthritic knee) but we made it back with frequent stops. We also stopped at Elephant feet for pix and i also bought some jewelry from a woman there. Exactly what i was looking for and at a good price. We stopped again in Cameron to look at all their souveneirs but didn't buy. After lunch in Flagstaff we wandered down Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona. Totally not what i was expecting. I've seen pix of Sedona so i was expecting red rock canyons and no trees. WRONG! This canyon reminded me of the sierras near our California home. Arizona has SOO many different biospheres. And only a few miles apart!
I had a groupon for the Sedona Rouge hotel for two nights. Lovely place. We were on the second floor in a corner room with a view of Thunder mtn. Our first venture was to Airport Mesa for sunset. We arrived an hour early and thank God we did! by the time sunset was in full swing the place was a madhouse. Once dark, the parking lot was bumper to bumper with exiters so we just sat in our car and had a glass of wine until the traffic subsided.
We had dinner at the Cowboy Club and then window shopped in uptown. Next morning we took a broken arrow pink jeep tour. What a ride! So fun and just steps from town. Later i had a massage at our hotel (part of the groupon package) and hubby relaxed in our room while watching lightening strike thunder mountain.
We found our way to red rock crossing in Crescent Moon park to get the iconic pix of Cathedral rock. We also hiked to the "vortex" and buddha beach. A very easy walk and nearly to ourselves. This was one of my favorite parts of Sedona. I'll try to add a link to my trip pix later (if anyone is interested). We stayed for part of sunset but the clouds threatened so we left a bit early to avoid the downpour. We went uptown for more souvenier shopping and ate at the Open Range. This was our least favorite meal of the trip. Slow service and mediocre food for the price.
Next morning i rose early for the final sunrise session of the trip. Airport mesa again, but sunrise sees fewer visitors so it was much more enjoyable and i think my pics were better too! We took a short trip to see Bell rock and Courthouse butte. We didn't have the red rock pass for the that day (bought for the previous day which we never needed) so hubby stayed in the car while i got the best shots i could. We left Sedona by 10am on the final day of our trip.
We headed over to Prescott via Jerome. We didn't stop in Jerome. It reminded us too much of the cute gold rush towns near our home that we've had our fill of. Besides, we're both afraid of heights and the thought of getting out of the car increased our fear. Prescott was much more up my hubby's alley than Sedona. He's a cowboy at heart and has always wanted to visit Prescott. Whiskey row had the type of souveneirs we were hoping to find in Sedona. We ate lunch at the Palace and took a quick tour of the Sharlott Hall museum. Just as we exited the museum the sky let loose. I wanted to return to the rocks north of town for some pix but not in that weather. So we headed to Phoenix for our flight later that evening.
A wonderful, beautiful trip that we'll never forget! A big thanks to all TA experts and posters whose advice and reports made this trip the best it could be!! Gracias!
Pictures from the trip.
Great report and photos! Thanks for taking time to share. Please also link it to Texhills TR thread at the top of the AZ forum page.
You made it all of the best places and made the most of your time at each. As for Sedona, no one is ever really prepared for it, just like the Grand Canyon. Best plan is to come with an open mind and expect no more than to be amazed. Open Range is almost never mentioned as a place to eat in Sedona. Like the awful Mexican joint across the street, that shall remain nameless, it survives because of it's location in the heart of Uptown. It gets a fair amount of tourist business and none from the locals. I don't know of anyone who has been there twice.
Thanks RR, i followed your posts religiously while planning! I also linked this to the TR thread at the top of the forum.
Funny, Open Range was suggested by one of the uptown shopkeepers (maybe a part owner?). I checked TA for reviews which were all over the place so we weren't sure what to expect. I'll know next time. But one disappointing meal doesn't spoil a trip or a town! Sedona is definitely a shop stopper!
Thanks so much for a great and informative trip report. You planned well and were able to do and see a lot. Your pictures are wonderful.