It’s hard to imagine that it’s been twenty years since Alana and I vowed to love and cherish one another for eternity, but it has. In an effort to not sound overly sappy (I can be), I’ll just say I feel very blessed to have found a partner so early in life that has not only been willing to put up with my crap but appears to be willing to continue doing so! 😛
For several years Alana and I have planned to be remarried by Elvis, an alien, or something silly in Las Vegas for our 20th anniversary. Earlier this year we started to make those plans a reality. Somewhere along the way we realized we were about to put a whole lot of money out for a long weekend to Vegas. Now, this wasn’t so much the issue, but rather our only plans that didn’t involve getting pretty far away from the city was the silly wedding redo that would take all of a couple hours. So, it wasn’t long before we set our sights a little more central to where we actually wanted to spend our time…. we were headed to northern Arizona!
As many of you know, we aren’t scared to put in some windshield time for a long weekend of exploring. This said, the 27 hours from our home to the hotel was a little too much travel for a 4-day weekend, so this exploration was going to be a bit different. We decided to fly in and get a rental car. There was a fair amount of deliberation on rental type as we are darn near incapable of staying on paved roads and, in-spite of the fact we ultimately went for a convertible car, this trip would be no different.
Luckily, between our VERY early departure from home and with us gaining time as we traveled west, we arrived in Phoenix with darn near a full day yet to enjoy. Alana planned to make full use of this and, after a quick pit stop to get lots of water and sunscreen, we were headed north into the Tonto National Forest where she had planned a little buggy time!
Unfortunately, Alana has never been overly good at handling heat and, with her not drinking as much as she should on the flight to avoid extra pit stops, it wasn’t long until the 111 degree heat got to her and we had to take a break. She came around pretty quickly once she got the hot helmet off of her head and a cooling towel on. About the time she started joking with me I knew I was in the clear to grab the camera and take some pictures of the sights from where we stopped.
With it being several klicks to the hotel and Alana already pushing her heat tolerance, we decided to put the top up, crank the air conditioning and meander our way in that direction pretty promptly after completing the buggy ride. This really worked out as we were feeling the time shift a bit and had to get up really early again for the next day’s plans.
There are many things about popular social media I don’t like, some I do. I put a fair amount of time in on Instagram trolling pages and finding new places to put on the bucket list and this is one thing I LOVE. On this day, we would be knocking a few Instafamous spots off the list. The first being Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon just barely clings to Arizona and is located just south of the Utah line and to the east of the town Page. There are two sections, the upper and lower, each are overseen by separate families of the local Navajo. We were visiting the lower canyon. Both are products of rapid sandstone erosion and you can literally see where water churns and swirls through the area after heavy rainfall. When it’s dry, the caverns offer amazing sights as colors reflect off of the walls creating interesting shadows and textures.
The Wolf, The Monkey, and The Chief… (Alana says this sounds like the start of a bad joke. :razz:)
I know it sounds cliche, but as hard as I worked to capture the beauty of this place, pictures really can’t do it justice.
Once our tour of the canyon was done we decided to hit up a few other cool spots that are near this area. The first was the Glen Canyon Dam that creates Lake Powell.
Then, before the day’s heat got too out of control, we headed over to Horseshoe Bend which requires a little hike to see. While not even a mile, you are either going up or down the whole time and the fairly deep powdery sand makes it far more work than one would think. There is a pretty big reward for doing it though!
After getting back to the car we were on the back half of the day, so we set our sights back to the hotel for showers and a night on the town.
The colors that are present in Arizona always amaze me. In an hour drive you are likely to experience temperature swings in excess of 25 degrees and literally every color of the rainbow in the landscape. You will go through cactus filled deserts, pine filled forests, and rocky landscapes galore. All set below an amazingly blue sky.
I’m not sure how one ever would, but if you do find the landscape a bit boring, there is always the abandoned structures that are often covered in “art”.
The following morning we were up and at’em early again (still mostly on east coast time) and had our sight set on the Grand Canyon. With as much getting around as we have done, this spot has eluded us and we were about to rectify that.
True to form, we diverted from the pavement a bit and opted for a long cut through part of the Coconino National Forest.
I won’t lie, I was a little apprehensive about continuing after we passed a “Primitive Road” sign, but we rolled on. We figured what the heck, we had darn near a full tank of gas and could always turn around right!? In truth, we never did really travel over anything too crazy, but the fact that we were in a fairly low, rear-wheel drive, sports car kept me fairly attentive to the road.
The dirt and gravel continued for about 20 miles beyond the sign where we finally popped out on a road that was mostly paved.
This road wandered along a ridge and through the forest for a fair amount of time before pointing us toward Williams which happens to be on Route 66. How could we not indulge in this?
Having spent far more time in Williams and on Route 66 than we planned, we put more effort into actually making it to the Grand Canyon. Then, when we were about 30 miles out, we passed a billboard for helicopter tours. That was all I needed…. and after some sweet-talking Alana, we were standing at the Grand Canyon Airport in no time buying tickets. 😛 It seemed our first views of the Grand Canyon would be by air!
Once back on the ground, we decided to head into the park and out toward the Desert View Watchtower to work our way west. This way we would be turning right into the viewing spots. Before we got there we stopped off at the Tusayan Ruin. It was cool but we were itching to move along so we didn’t stay too long.
Luckily, the Watchtower was literally just around the corner so it wasn’t long before we were stopped again. I must say, the views were pretty amazing. But I must admit, it was very hazy out and it was very difficult to get decent pictures as a result. I won’t lie…. I used a lot of camera trickery and built in filters to try to find a winning picture that wasn’t so clouded.
As we continued along the canyon the haze continued to build and, as we neared the end, it was difficult to see the other side. Before this however, I spotted a lone Agave plant atop a ledge and really dug it’s yellow and green coloring with the pinkish/red rock in the background.
Just a few more pictures before we wrapped up the day.
…and almost as quickly as it began, our weekend was largely over. We still had one more day, but most of it would be spent flying home and giving those three hours up that we gained on the way out. We were treated to a very nice sunset on our way back to the hotel.
….If you are looking for a little humor…. Here are the top songs from the year we got married 😛