Monday, April 19, 2010

Sedona, AZ - April 3, 2010

I had never been to Sedona, so I was really looking forward to this day trip.   I have heard so many great things about that town!

The ride down from Williams was lovely - through forested hills with red rock cliffs all around.   Quite stunning!    We pulled off to the side of the road to investigate what looked to be a pretty spot, and we were not disappointed.   A little forested area with a creek running through it greeted us.   On the other side of the creek, red cliffs towered over us.    Wow!   This is what we had to look forward to!

My friend Eileen had recommended that we stop at Slide Rock Park, so we made that our first stop.

Now how's that for a view??

Slide Rock State Park, originally the Pendley Homestead, is a 43-acre historic apple farm located in Oak Creek Canyon. Frank L. Pendley, having arrived in the canyon in 1907, formally acquired the land under the Homestead Act in 1910. Due to his pioneering innovation, he succeeded where others failed by establishing a unique irrigation system still in use by the park today. This allowed Pendley to plant his first apple orchard in 1912, beginning the pattern of agricultural development that has dominated the site since that time. Pendley also grew garden produce and kept some livestock.
As one of the few homesteads left intact in the canyon today, Slide Rock State Park is a fine example of early agricultural development in Central Arizona. The site was also instrumental to the development of the tourism industry in Oak Creek Canyon. The completion of the canyon road in 1914 and the paving of the roadway in 1938 were strong influences in encouraging recreational use of the canyon. Hence, Pendley followed suit and in 1933, built rustic cabins to cater to vacationers and sightseers.   (From the Arizona State Parks website)
Tee hee....  I couldn't help myself
This is one of the actual Tourist Cabins

And the Pendley House

A short walk takes you down to the slides....

There were a few kids playing in the water, but it was WAY too cold for me to go check it out!!    But the area is absolutely beautiful.   The water area looked like sooooo much fun to play in.    If you're traveling with kids, it would be a GREAT place to stop!

From here, it was only a short trip over to Sedona, where we started seeing the famous rock formations....

Having never been to the area, we signed up for a Trolley Tour.   It was very reasonably priced and promised to give us an overview of the town and a stop at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which we wanted to see anyway.    Before the tour started, we walked around the main street in town for a little bit, and I have to say, it reminded me of a cheesy cruise-ship port.    If you've ever been on a cruise, you know what I'm talking about.   You get off the ship, and the first street you come to is full of tacky souvenir shop, after cheap t-shirt shop, after cheesy sight-seeing "opportunity".     Sedona was just like that.   I was actually very surprised!   Add to that some seriously loopy people, and well, it's an odd place.

Our Trolly tour took us through some nicer areas of town, where the higher end shopping areas were and some art galleries.   The guide showed us the only visitor information center in town that wasn't run by time-shares.   He warned that if you wanted information, that was the one to go to or you'd get attacked by salespeople.   

He did point out some of the rock formations and told us their names.   My favorites were:

Elephant Rock


Snoopy Rock

Our tour stopped at the Chapel of the Holy Cross.   This famous landmark was commissioned by a sculptor as a way to show faith through a work of art.

The church was very interesting architecturally and the location was stunning - surrounded by red rock formations everywhere you looked.    The inside was tiny.   It is apparently used for services, but I sure couldn't imagine how you'd fit too many people in there!

The outside was nicely landscaped and featured a pretty fountain:

As our tour headed back into town, our tour guide mentioned a Trout Farm just outside of Sedona.   We had seen it as we had come into town.   Well, it turns out that you can catch your own fish there and make it for dinner!     Well, we were pretty done with the loopy people in town and ready for an adventure by then so we decided to cancel our fancy dinner plans and head on over to the Rainbow Trout Farm.
Well - I should start this part of the tour with a disclaimer.....   Our tour guide told us they'd cook up dinner for us.   That's not entirely true, but you can purchase a "grill packet" and cook up your catch at one of the many grills around the trout lake.    We opted for the next choice - bring your fish into town and one of the local restaurants will cook it up for you  (more on that later).

So, very confidently we got into the line at the trout farm and started chatting with the gentleman in front of us.   He already had a bucket of fish he was about to pay for.    As we were chatting, that was about the time that we realized that none of us in our group had fished since we were kids and our dads were with us.....
Uh oh.....

So, we got our fishing pole, net, bucket, and blob o' bait and off we went....     We baited the hook, dunked it in the water....    As soon as I felt a nibble, I yanked it up, but no juicy trout on the end of my line - no bait either!!!!    Hmmmm....    More bait, another dunking, another nibble...   no fish.....    and no bait either...   and then another try, and another...     Those trout were WELL fed that day!!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the little lake, we watched this little girl bring in fish after fish after fish.   So we ambushed her - HELP US!!!!     If it wasn't for her, we'd probably STILL be there trying to catch our dinner  :-)     But, thanks to Sidney, we had success:
Yep, that right there is my very first fish!

Incidentally, no one told me they bleed.   By the 4th fish, there was a horror show in that bucket!!!    It took over an hour to get our 4 fish and I'm pretty sure we entertained the entire complex, but hey, it was worth it!  The Rainbow Trout farm folks are great - they will clean your fish for you and package them all up on ice so you can head out on your way.    We brought our fish over to the Heartline Cafe, back in Sedona:

Where they served it up - pecan crusted with a dijon sauce and a tasty rice medley.

Can you say YUM!!!    Nothing like fresh trout, caught within the last hour, served up in a lovely preparation!    I have to say, if you're in the Sedona area, I HIGHLY recommend this!   It was the highlight of our trip and the end results were incredibly tasty!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Grand Canyon, Arizona - April 2, 2010

Are we there yet????

On Friday, Mel's cousin Karen joined up with us and off we went to the Grand Canyon.    YAY!!!   I was so excited!   I've heard about it, but I've never been there.   So as you can imagine, the hour long drive seemed sooooo very long!!!

Well, we finally made it to the front entrance of the park.   I was surprised by how flat the drive was.   When I think "canyon", I think you have to drive up into the mountains to see it, right?    Well, this canyon happens to be a really large hole in the ground with practically nothing (other than national park signs, ranger stations, and traffic) to warn you that it's coming!

I could just imagine some poor pioneer in a covered wagon who had traveled hundreds of miles and was looking forward to getting to their destination coming across this:

It's a LONG way across and an even LONGER way down!!!!

Karen, Mel & I walked the Rim Trail, which is a nicely paved 2 1/2 mile walk giving you spectacular views of the canyon.  We didn't anticipate the impact of the 7000 foot elevation though, and darn nearly didn't make it all the way before dark!!   NOTE TO TRAVELERS:   Bring water & snacks!!!!   There aren't any places to buy them along the way, and we definitely ran out of energy before we got to the village.   But it was soooo worth it.   Here's a sampling of what we saw....

Yavapai Point & Observation Station
Inside were windows overlooking great views and all sorts of informational displays
(but no snacks)
Here's a little piece of the rim trail.
Very nicely maintained.
Hopi House was really cool!

Hopi House was built by the same architect who designed many of the buildings in the Canyon Village area - Mary Colter.   Her designs are all meant to blend in with the landscape.   This building was cool because she used many of the same techniques the Hopi had used for hundreds of years to build their homes.   The only concession was putting doors at ground level (Hopis enter from the rooftops).    Real Hopi indians lived in the upper 3 stories for many years.

The El Tovar Hotel is the premier lodge at the Grand Canyon.   This was opened in 1901 to serve the tourists.   The Grand Canyon Village area was designed and operated by the Fred Harvey company - have you heard of the "Harvey Girls"?    If you haven't, go out and rent the movie - right now!   It's really cute!!!   Well, the restaurants were staffed and run by Harvey Girls.    I didn't know that and thought it was a pretty cool piece of history.

Incidentally - this is where we finally found snacks   :-)     We dragged our sorry tired behinds into the lounge and ordered several items to share.   Never been so happy to have calamari in my life!!!

Lookout Studio

Lookout Studio is another of the buildings designed by Mary Coulter.   It houses a shop now, and has a wonderful balcony from which you can view the canyon (which was unfortunately closed by the time we got there).   There's a funny story about the Lookout....   Apparently 2 brothers, the Kolb brothers, had set up a photography studio a little farther down the trail, where they sold pictures of the canyon.  They also took pictures of the mule trains and would sell the prints to the tourists as they came back up from their trips.   Well, Fred Harvey didn't like the competition, so when this structure was built, they called it "Lookout Studio".  So, when tourists got off the train and asked where the "studio" was, employees would happily point them out to Lookout Studio.    Sneaky, huh??

Well, about the time we made it to Lookout studio, it was time to start thinking about picking a spot to watch the sun set.     Everything we had seen or read about the canyon said that the best views, best colors, best pictures were at sunrise or sunset.    (And we didn't make it there by sunrise...).    So, we headed back towards the El Tovar hotel, where the overlook had more sweeping views, and camped out on a bench....
Nice spot, don't you think?
We even got to check out some of the local "wildlife"

But seriously - watching the changing shadows and play of light & color on the canyon during the sunset is one of life's true spectacles and should not be missed.....

Since this was Good Friday, we could not watch such a spectacular display of God's creation and without worshipping the Creator.

Psalm 19

The Witness of Creation and Scripture
   For the choir director. A Davidic psalm.
    1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.
    2 Day after day they pour out speech;
    night after night they communicate knowledge.
    3 There is no speech; there are no words;
    their voice is not heard.
    4 Their message has gone out to all the earth,
    and their words to the ends of the inhabited world.
    In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun.

One of the things that struck me as so indicative of man's hubris is that the formations and landmarks in the canyon are named after ancient false gods.  How sad.....

After sunset, we wanted to finish the trail, so we headed back down past the Lookout Studio to Kolb Studio

It was closed by the time we got there, so we could not see inside, but it was situated at a stunning location, right at the beginning of the Bright Angel Trail.
Bright Angel Trail is the most popular route into the canyon.    Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was too dark to go even a little way.

From the rim trail, visitors can take a bus down the Hermit Route trail, which I hear is a spectacular scenic ride.   We did not have the opportunity to do it.   Maybe next time....    :-)

Instead, we hopped on a bus that took us back to the visitor center where we started.   ANOTHER NOTE TO TRAVELERS:    If you park at the visitor center near Mather Point and think you'll get back after it closes, BRING A FLASHLIGHT!   There were very few lights on, and those were only within the visitor center area.   The parking lots were not well marked and were PITCH DARK.    We wandered around into a couple different parking lots before finding the right one, and then we couldn't see our car at all until we were right on top of it.    Just getting to the car was quite an adventure!!!    And no, the flashlight program you can download to your smart phone is not enough - take it from me!

I have to say, if you've never been to the Grand Canyon, make plans to go - and stay a few days so you have time to see more than we did.    It's an awe-inspiring experience and a natural wonder you should not miss. You will not be disappointed!

Petrified Forest & Painted Desert, Arizona - April 1, 2010

Hello from Arizona!!    It's good to be out again!     Mel and I took a spontaneous trip out to the great Southwest....

Someone forgot to tell me it snows here!    Isn't this supposed to be the desert????

We flew in to Flagstaff and immediately headed out to the Petrified Forest, where quite possibly the world's largest concentration of petrified wood can be found. A gazillion years ago, this was a thriving forest, which was buried for so long that the wood turned to stone.   Time and erosion have exposed them so we can see them.

We started out at the visitor center.   They have done a great job there - lots of information to tell you about how the area formed, friendly park rangers, free wi-fi so you can upload pictures, and a great video about the park.   It's definitely worth the stop.   Behind the visitor center is a trail that brings you right up close to many, many samples of petrified wood - in some places, it looks like the trail is going right through a tree trunk!!

It was a neat walk, but COLD!!!   It actually started snowing while we were there.   We eventually sought out the warmth of the car heater, and headed on down the 28 mile road that winds through the Petrified Forest & Painted Desert.  

Our next stop was at the Crystal Forest.   This is an easy .8 mile trail that takes you through the landscape that is littered with colorful petrified logs that once held glassy amethyst & quartz crystals (they've all been stolen, sadly)  We walked the trail, and by that time it was getting WINDY too.   But it was a really neat walk - we got to see lots of really pretty logs close up and even were able to appreciate the vastness of the land around us:

Look at the color in that log!
I saw this plant growing there - it must be a hardy one to survive in the harsh conditions in that area!   But it was really pretty - a vivid purple among all the browns of the desert.

Our next stop was the Agate Bridge.

It's pretty cool when you realize that people have worked to preserve this because it's so interesting.   I read somewhere that it's the oldest natural bridge in the world (but of course, now I can't find where I read that, so don't quote me on it) :-)

As we headed down the road, we saw a sight that just made us stop the car along the shoulder and get out.   It's called The Teepees, and they are impressive formations layered with blues, purples & grays created by iron, carbon, manganese, & other minerals.

I just love these!!

Off we went towards the Painted Desert.   The Petrified Forest is actually part of the Painted Desert and the same road takes you through both.   There are lots of other stops, but I was limited on time (and well - cold!) so I didn't get out at all of them, but the ranger at the Visitor's Center had told me to be sure to go to the Crystal Forest & Pintado Point.      So I headed down the road, marveling at the vast wide open spaces and pretty soon, there I was.    There wasn't another soul at Pintando Point when I got there, and I soon figured out why....   I got out of the car and was almost blown over!!!   Those winds had picked up so much I was scared to stand out on the wall to take a picture!    But I couldn't help myself - it's beautiful out there!

I was on my way out of the park, when for some reason I pulled over at Kachina Point, and boy am I glad I did.... How beautiful is this?

And finally - one more "Oh my gosh I have to take a picture of this" stop alongside the road.....

I'm not normally a desert person - I don't like to be hot!  (I'll melt, after all).   But I was so glad I came through this way.    The landscape is so unusual and so beautiful in its own way.   That's something I realize everywhere I go - how grateful I am for a creative Creator who gave us so many very different beautiful places to enjoy!