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Trip Report NM and AZ Fall Trip Report

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Considering all the questions I had answered by so many Fodorites, I want to give back a report of our recent trip to New Mexico and Arizona. We left on Sept 21 and returned Oct 7, so we had 16 days. Drove 2,040 miles. Much more than usual.

Except for spending 3 days on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon 10 years ago, this was our first trip to these two states. This was evident from my pre-trip posts and by the things we discovered on this trip, which will seem very common place to those of you in the are.

9/21, 22, 23 Greer, AZ

9/24, 25, 26 Los Alamos, NM

9/27, 28, 29 Taos, NM

9/30, 10/1 Chinle, AZ (Canyon de Chelly)
Holiday Inn

10/2 Grand Canyon, AZ
Yavapai Lodge Grand Canyon Nat Park, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

10/3, 4, 5 Sedona, AZ

10/6 Tempe, AZ

Flew into Phoenix, picked up car at off airport location, which saved big bucks, and headed for Greer. Going from about 600’ elevation in NJ to 9,000’ in Greer, we wondered if the altitude would be a problem, but except for a slight headache when we woke up the second day, we were fine. We planned to take it a little easy that first day to acclimate, and considering it rained all day, that was easy to do.

Greer Lodge Cozy Cabin was fine for 2 of us since we could use second bedroom for our “stuff,” but if someone else had been using that bedroom, it would have been quite crowded.

Greer Lodge first night because we were tired. Very good burger meal with herbed mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. (Surprised at the amount of asparagus we had on this trip as I usually consider it a spring veggie.)

Rendezvous for good homey breakfast and conversation with locals.
Molly Butler’s dinner another night was okay.

First day: easy 1 mile Butler Canyon Loop. Managed to get it in between showers and then returned to Rendezvous for great fruit cobblers.

Second day: One of the many West Fork Trails. Beautiful day and nice trail through grazing land. Saw mule deer that almost seem to hop when they run and heard elk bugling. After hike drove to Big Lake. A bit disappointed in this, as unlike the morning’s trail through the woods, the lake was just surrounded by grasslands.

Liked this high, forested area of AZ a lot. As another poster said, “There is a lot of beautiful country to see and explore here.”

WHITE ROCK (near Los Alamos, NM)
Drove 335 miles to White Rock through Albuquerque and Santa Fe. As was our thought on most of this trip, the changes in scenery were amazing as we drove from dense forest, to flat desert, back into forest then scattered mesas and more solid rock mountains interspersed. This scenery was definitely a first for these easterners.

Although some Fodorites suggested we stay in Santa Fe, we thought White Rock was an ideal location. True, there wasn’t much to do at night, except watch Auburn beat Mississippi State, but it was centrally located for what we wanted to do. I’ll also comment that the Hampton Inns we stayed at were very clean, always had some refreshments out and were quite comfortable. No issues with dirty bed spreads.

Saturday spent a great day in Santa Fe starting with the amazing Farmers Market. Being a foodie, I just love to see/sample foods from the local area, and this market was huge. Still haven’t figured out all the differences in the chilies and how they’re used, but I tried. Bought some posole there, too

Also enjoyed the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, especially since it was free that day. As we were looking at maps, some locals suggested Luminaria by the Loretta Chapel for lunch and we were so glad we tried it. A lovely plant and water filled courtyard shielded from the street traffic and excellent food, too. That’s where I had the pumpkin seed biscotti that I’m trying to find the recipe for.

Next day, we drove to and hiked at Valles Caldera as suggested by other posters. Again liked being in woods By the time we finished hiking, we, unfortunately, only had an hour at the Bradbury Science Center. It certainly deserves longer. I was fascinated to hear stories from the locals who had lived in Los Alamos as children and about their life with the govt there.

Before heading to Taos the next day, we spent the morning at Bandelier, which was a highlight of our trip. Perhaps there are better Indian ruins and cliff dwellings, but remember, these were the first we have seen. Loved going up the ladders to look in the dwellings and especially liked going up the ladders and many steps at the Alcove. Glad we went early, because even though it was a Monday, there were lots of people there by the time we left.

After leaving Bandelier, took the High Road to Taos, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t as wonderful as I expected. Perhaps one needs to stop and poke around the small villages, but I didn’t want to just go in and out of places. When we did stop to take photos at San Jose Mission in La Trampas, I felt as if we were really being stared at by local workmen.

Wonderful B&B with great hosts, Casa Europa, on outside of Taos.

Really got into trying some NM food in Taos and totally enjoyed the three places we had dinner, Antonio’s, Orlando’s and Graham’s Grille. Being able to eat outside was a special bonus at each place. Taos was setting record highs for the time we were there, mostly in high 80’s

Although it would have been nice to go up into the mountains north of Taos, this was our spot to take a break from hiking and much driving. Missed seeing the golden aspen though.

Hung around town first day and spent the second at the Oja Cliente Spa. Soaked in pools before and after a yoga class while DH spent his day in the wine bar.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit the Taos Pueblo until the last morning there as they were preparing for Feast of St Jeronimo. I was glad we were able to go in before we left town, but SO disappointed that because it was a feast day, I couldn’t take pictures. I saw SO many potentially great shots. Another totally new experience for us.

After leaving the Taos Pueblo, it was another long drive to Chinle, but going through the mountains and golden aspen was beautiful. I had read many negative reviews about the three hotels in Chinle, so wasn’t sure what to expect. However, our Holiday Inn was fine. As I wrote in my journal, “It’s a Holiday Inn.” I think people must be expecting super resorts every place they go. Even the food in their restaurant was good--not super--but perfectly fine. I did try my first fry bread here and wasn’t too impressed with that. The first very hot piece was good, but not being a fan of fried foods anyway, the rest just seemed like rather greasy dough.

Next morning had a great hike to White House ruins. Although there was a 600’ elevation change, we didn’t have problems. Unlike Bandelier, we weren’t able to get close to these dwellings. Interesting talk with ranger at visitor center about how the park is managed by both the Navaho Nation and the Federal Govt. We really learned a lot, but would like to know so much more, about the relationships between NM 22 Indian tribes and state and federal govt. and their whole culture.

So glad we listened to posters who said to head straight west from Chinle to Grand Canyon rather than going down to Rt 40. 232 mi this way. Going across the Navajo Reservation was the only part of our trip where the scenery didn’t change too much, but it was easy to tell when we entered and left the Hopi Reservation as their settlements are built on several mesas.

Stopped at Cameron Trading Post, as also suggested, but it was too early for lunch and we wanted to have more time at Grand Canyon. Glad we went through east entrance, which really was the most practical way to go. I wasn’t blown away by the canyon from the north rim ten years ago, but, wow, the south rim is magnificent!

We were back in Arizona, so it was time for the rain to start again, but we still made lots of stops along the rim. Very difficult to cull my photos when I returned. Each shot is “the same,” but yet “so different.”

Dinner at Arizona Room and lunch the next day at El Tovar were both very good.

I started off early the next morning to go down the South Kaibab Trail. After shuttling around, I left the rim at 7:15 am and returned by 9:15. Yes, I only went down 1 mile to Ooh Aah Point, but oh what a mile it was! Just amazing! Although there were lots of tight switchbacks at first, I didn’t mind them either going up or down. The views and photos ops were great around each bend. Just like at Bandelier, it was a 600’ elevation change, but a bit steeper because it was a ¼ mile shorter. Being below the rim was very special for me.

Leaving the GC, heavy rain and flash flooding were predicted as we headed to Sedona, but fortunately, we only encountered a little. However, it did rain much of the three days we were in Sedona. It did create beautiful rainbows.

After a protracted debate by several posters, we did decide to stay at Sky Ranch and were so glad. Even though we opted for a garden room, the gardens were very interesting. (Perhaps not if you see this type of vegetation all the time, but nice for us.) We also enjoyed “going up the hill” each night and putting ourselves above the city below.

In between the rain, we were able to hike some of the West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon (lots of shallow stream crossings) and also at Tuzigoot, which really was just a very short walk in the drizzle.

Tried the omelets at the Coffee Pot, and although they were good, we felt quite rushed. Had a dinner at Oaxaca with very poor service.

The night before we left, Flagstaff and surrounding areas had tornados, which warnings continued far into the next morning. It absolutely teemed in Sedona as everyone huddled under the store overhangs. Phoenix had also had a lot of wind and hail damage from the storms.

However, as we headed south to Phoenix, the weather began to clear and all was well as we prepared for our flight home the next morning.

Besides what I’ve already mentioned, some of our highlights were:
the magnificent golden light and great photo shots it provided;
the blue doors and trim, especially with a bright red ristras hanging on it;
seeing acres of saguaro cactus like telephone poles across the landscape;
the realization that this area of the country was settled before the northeast

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