short trip to Phoenix and Northern Arizona

May 6th, 2019, 07:04 AM
  #1  
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short trip to Phoenix and Northern Arizona

I had a meeting in Phoenix, so I tacked on some days to continue my plan to see sights missed on earlier trips to Arizona. I had a traveling companion for part of the trip, but then she had to leave, so I made two loops from Phoenix. Inefficient to say the least, but it was what was necessary.

Return trip to Montezuma Castle; first time to Montezuma Well and Fort Verde.
It's been years, but I still enjoyed the short visit to the Castle. Accessible for anyone with mobility problems. Shady trail. They seem to be making some improvements. It's not Mesa Verde, but interesting to see not only the main structure, but the other openings and the relationship with the water below.
Montezuma Well just seems so strange--such a large continuous source of water in an arid area. The loop walk up and down was easy. We chose not to go down to the water--my friend has problems with her knees, so climbing up is difficult for her. There were lots of butterflies in April.
Fort Verde is an interesting story. Only a few structures remain, but living conditions well presented and a small museum. I also liked the looks of the small town. A circus was setting up for an evening performance, but we couldn't stay.

Return trip to Sedona. Walked along the Bell Rock and Little Horse Trails. Too close to the road/traffic noise for my taste. The rock formations are always changing with the light, so always something to see. My friend is not an early riser, so we were walking mid-morning, which means the sun was intense even in April. Whole Foods provided sufficient picnic supplies for our outings. While my friend had been to Sedona before, she hadn't been north of town, so the drive in from Flagstaff came as a surprise to her. I love the views as one drives down the canyon with the red rocks and it opening up. People were driving at more reasonable speeds than the last time I drove through, but lots of vehicles parked on the roadway as the parking lots were full at all trailheads and creek access sites.

Return to Grand Canyon. Can one ever visit the Grand Canyon too many times? The highlight was spotting a condor soaring in the canyon. We also watched a helicopter come up from the ranch (working on the water pump, so carrying down some equipment).
We were able to book a room through Delaware North at Yavapai just a few weeks before the trip. The GC website warned of crowds and signs were up encouraging people to take the shuttle bus into the park; however, we had no trouble with parking or people. We spent most of our time in the stretch between the visitors center and the Village. I prefer the views from the center to the west and the light at dusk and dawn. We saw the dusk, but my slow morning friend ensured we had a nice breakfast, but only mid morning sun views of the canyon.

First stop in Page. On my own now, I booked the Lower Antelope Canyon tour with Ken's at 10 am. Climbed down the ladders in my group of 10 people and 5 or 6 groups following each other amid guides shouting warnings about the ladders and instructions to keep moving through the canyon. I don't have words for the beauty--amazing? glorious? wow? The guides helped everyone set their cameras or phones to the best settings to capture the reds, violets, and oranges in the sandstone walls. I was torn between just staring with my mouth agape and taking photos to memorialize the experience. We even saw a few shafts of light that the upper canyon is known for. The tour was over much too soon. Ken's has a small gift shop/snack bar etc. The prices were OK--some professional matted photos were discounted, so a good deal.

The City of Page has at least part of the new parking lot at Horseshoe Bend open. $10 to park and walk down to the view. There are plans for a visitors center and a paved path is under construction. When I drove into Page at 4-5pm, the lot was full, so I went the next morning before my canyon tour rather than risk it being full after the tour. Thus, I saw the bend in partial shadow. Still an amazing view of the natural beauty, people camping and on boat tours below. Also the usual people sitting out on rocks over the edge just to get that perfect photo. The boat trip around the bend is now on my list of things to do if I return to the area.

Navajo National Monument was my picnic lunch stop along the route to Monument Valley. An easy walk to view a cliff dwelling across a valley (best with binoculars). The guided long hikes were not on offer. A tiny museum with constantly playing videos, a gift shop, and a local artist working. Enough trees to block the wind so I could picnic.

By the time I finalized my plans, Gouldings was full and the only room at the View was available by phone, the stargazer--top floor way from the restaurant, so I paid top dollar and made the most of it. I watched the colors change on the formations as the sun set on the other side of the hotel and I got up to watch the sunrise from my balcony. Interesting sitting in the dark hearing camera shutters click from other balconies. I thought that one had to stay at the View to be in the location after/before the drive into Monument Valley was open, but there were lots of people from "outside" with their cameras set up along the walkways and outside the restaurant. The restaurant only serves guests after 7pm, though. When I drove into the hotel at 5pm or so, the gate attendant was gone. If I had wanted to drive in the Valley, I would have driven back to the gate in the morning and paid before entering the valley.
I booked a 2.5 hour group tour in an enclosed vehicle with Three Sisters. I ended up in an SUV with two other tourists. The back road portions of the tour beyond the loop road were much better than the loop--large arches and rock formations, so well worth the tour cost. I know I would have been disappointed in Monument Valley if I just drove by and took a photo. I think I would have been disappointed if I had just driven the loop on my own and looked at the formations from the hotel. On the tour, I kept thinking "this is the most amazing sight" and then the next stop "this is the most amazing sight", so it made all the difference.
Kay2 is offline  
May 7th, 2019, 03:01 AM
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Sounds like a great trip. I agree that Grand Canyon never gets old, I try to get there any time I'm close by and seeing the condors is a treat, they are so huge. One time they were hanging out quite near Bright Angel lodge.

Thanks for the report.
emalloy is offline  
May 7th, 2019, 05:27 AM
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A ranger told us that if I had been able to read the number on the condor's white tag, that he could tell us its entire history. We were just happy to see it, even if I couldn't make out the number. Up close would be amazing to get a true feel for the size.
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May 7th, 2019, 05:49 AM
  #4  
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Phoenix

I had passed through Phoenix several times, but never stopped, so I took a couple of days to look around.

I booked a tour of Taliesin West. I don't think I had the best tour guide. Nevertheless, we learned a lot about Wright and his processes. Sort of seeing the factory versus seeing the product in places like Oak Park, Illinois. Fallingwater is on my list of missed places--I used to drive the PA Turnpike to visit relatives, but never took extra time to see it. Now I will need to book a trip to Pittsburgh.

I also took the tour of the Biltmore Hotel. As much about the people who have stayed at the hotel as the architecture, so a full history. Also enjoyed lunch outdoors at the restaurant. Salad was very good. The Wrigley home is nearby, but my timing wasn't right to fit in a tour there.

The Heard Museum was a delight. I arrived just as a free guided tour Highlights of the Heard was starting, so I joined. When we finished, the same docent started the of the HOME: Native Peoples in the Southwest tour, so I continued along. The docent was great, providing information about the history of the museum as well as the exhibits. If I had to choose one, I would say the docent added more to the Home exhibits while one could glean most all the information from the exhibits in the rest of the museum. There was a weaving exhibition that added to our visit. I arrived just after a weaving workshop finished. I ate at the outdoor cafe. The food was good, but the chairs particularly uncomfortable and the service poor.

I had a vague plan to visit Papago Park for a walk or the botanic gardens. The sun was intense and my timing not quite right before my next appointment, so I decided not to pay the gardens admission price. As I tried to drive around the park, I kept encountering detours because of a triathlon, so I eventually gave up and went in search of food instead.

Navigating Phoenix by car was generally easy due to the grid system and multilane roads. Some dangerous drivers, like everywhere. My worst experiences were on the freeways in the airport-Tempe area. Every traffic light seems to hold a camera, which does appear to moderate behavior. I also saw lots of scooters, some being used in dangerous ways amongst the auto traffic. I didn't get a chance to try the light rail line or buses. My friend used a few ubers to visit an outlet mall and other destinations while I was busy. One driver got totally lost, doubling her travel time.
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