Published: January 9th 2008January 2nd 2008 When:
Horse Shoe Bend
Colorado takes a horse shoe bend in this location
21st Dec 2007 - 1st Jan 2008 Where:
CA, NV & AZ
American southwest is always a personal favorite. So, when our last minute plans to FL shut down, we embraced ourselves to yet another trip to The Grand Canyon State.
It was winter & theme for the vacation was going to be "Deserts". Well, AZ is all desert, you may say. But this trip was going to be desert all in all. We love the deserts!
After convincing each other about a "relaxed" vacation, I got down to business. For people on the run, it is pretty difficult to space out each day. That being said, we did not do a lot; But that certainly does not mean we did not see a lot. American Southwest is huge & has a lot to offer to adventurers of all frequencies.
Once all the reservations were in place, I pretty much forgot about the entire trip. For once, I did not worry about food, visiting places, blah blah. Simply because, I was held up with other things in life.
We did not want to stay at home & that was taken care of. Day 1: Fri, 21st Dec 2007
Our schedule to leave home by 3pm fell apart as expected by an instantantly over-enthused workaholic husband. We had a relaxed start from home about 1.5 hrs later. Result:
380 miles & 8 hrs later, we reached our pit stop at Barstow, CA. Not to mention "tired, sleepy & hungry". Nothing to wait for, we hit the bed almost immediately. T-I-R-E-D! Day 2: Sat, 22nd Dec 2007
Repercussions of an unplanned trip started to surface. We knew we were heading to Mojave National Preserve
, but no maps on hand. It so happens, when you are not prepared, you just are not prepared. Apparently, there are many entrances to the park, all a couple hundred miles apart! We just took a guess & headed along I40. The entrance is at Baker, CA(60 miles away). Miles of road with no one to give to company(other than an occasional car racing by). This trip was all about photography & so we stopped a lot to do just that. A couple miles from Baker, you see a lot of cinder cones. You are free to hike any part of the park. Without a map, you are sure to get
lost, though. The Visitor Center could not have been in a much better location-near a train station.
A quick look at the visitor center threw some much wanted insight on what to do in the area. With that knowledge, dawned the fact that we did not have enough time to cover the entire park(it happens every single time). Anyways, not wanting to lose whatever light was left, we drove the 7 miles to Kelso Dunes(one of the largest dunes in North America). Weather was hot & cold. Hot when you are in the Sun. Cold otherwise. Who am I kidding? Its the desert after all. Map of Mojave Kelso dunes
is definitely impressive. A short 1.5 mile hike takes you to the top of the dunes. Some 600+ ft. It is difficult to judge the totality of the area unless you get to the top. We could not get to the very top. Maybe half-way. We did not want to miss the sunset.
As we neared the Joshua trees area, the Sun began to set & we got to see the colors. It was a couple more days to full moon & it was bright up the East,
above the mountains. Temperature dropped to 32F by sunset.
We were soon heading to Las Vegas. Sure tired after a long day, but felt better when the temperature rose to a good 41F near Vegas.
Ganesh rewarded himself with a Garmin eTrex Hcx just a couple days earlier & it could not have come in more handy anywhere than in Las Vegas.
Fountains of Bellagio was a must stop for the significant other. Driving on the strip is a nightmare. Even today!!!
Thank you Garmin!
We parked across in Bally's & walked in the cold to Bellagio. Honeymoon memories creeped in. We remembered Vegas to be a lot more crowded & busy. Maybe, its the weather that forced people back to the slot machines/blackjack tables
After 2 fountain cycles, Ganesh was satisfied. We chose to stay in the downtown rather than the strip itself. Mission "The Cal"
Room- no complaints! Very cozy. An LG 42 inch Plasma TV in the room needs a special mention. The sole reason Ganesh could not get a full night sleep!!! Day 3: Sun, 23rd Dec 2007
Somehow things got delayed(don't they happen every single time?) when we
Taller than the dunes???
Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve
finally reached Red Rock Canyon State Park.
It is awesome such a place exists, so close to Vegas. Instead of rushing through to get to Valley of Fire State park before sunset, we decided to stay back at Red Rock Canyon. Managed to do a couple of hikes in the red rocks. For a person who loves rocks, I had to refrain myself(very very hard, by the way) from climbing on all those abundant red rocks.
We were driving into Mountain Time Zone later that night. It was a good 2 hr drive into Hurricane, UT. Days Inn welcomed us there. The thought of tomorrow brought happiness. That was the highlight of this trip- Page, AZ
. Day 4: Mon, 24th Dec 2007
We had a decent start next morning after breakfast. Our first stop was at the Kanab Visitor Center. On her recommendation, we drove down until the paved section of Johnston Canyon(part of Grand Escalante National Monument
). After lunch at the canyon, we ventured out to Page, AZ.
The first sight of a lake & I knew it was Lake Powell. Immediate thought: uh oh! Not much water! Turns out it was a part of
Joshua Tree silhouette
Mojave National Preserve
the 8th yr of drought & the lake is now only half full. Nevertheless, blue & beautiful. You could not ask for a better boundary than those red rocks!
Even before entering Page, we were asked to take the 1/2 mile dirt road to Wahweep Overlook. It was totally worth it. A 360 degree view of the lake. After a couple of shots, we headed towards the Carl Hayden Visitor Center on Glen Canyon Dam
. Trust me! The visitor center could never be in a more picturesque place. With a view of Lake Powell, the dam itself & the Colorado river past the dam...you couldn't ask for anything better.
We took the time to walk the whole bridge. This was something no one could do on Hoover dam.
A few recommended hikes went into execution. The visitor center would be closed for Christmas, so we had the option to take the free dam tour on 26th.
Wahweep Overlook saw us again for the sunset. The place to be for a spectacular sunset. We stopped when we could click no more & could not resist the wind anymore.
A short 2 mile drive brought us to Best Western Arizona Inn. We
Red Rock Canyon State Park, Las Vegas
upgraded to a "room with a view" & it was probably one of the best things we ever did on this trip. The curtains gave way to Lake Powell, part of the dam & bridge. oooo...goosebumps!!! Day 5: Tue, 25th Dec 2007
We headed to a scenic view point along hwy 89 for the best view of the dam & the bridge. It was windy, but the Sun made it all bearable.
After being thoroughly confused about a 9.30 or 11.30 tour, we proceeded to Antelope Canyon Tours
. After a cold & windy 20 minute buggy ride on something that was nothing short of Bigfoot, we were at the Canyon entrance. We took the 11.30 am tour & did not regret. Of course we could not get a noon skylight or lighting that spectacular, but we missed out on all the crowd too! With all that low exposure, I really wanted to be my camera/lens. It managed to capture the colorful canyon. The canyon itself is only 1/4 of a mile, but you eventually stop at practically every turn. It is just magnificent. A must stop if you are in Page.
We came back for lunch & we
Red Rock Canyon State Park, Las Vegas'
did not close the curtains even for a minute. The view grew on us.
We headed S 3 miles to the Horseshoe Bend
trail head. There were a couple cars parked & we wondered if we should've come a little later to catch the sunset. Nevertheless, we started the 3/4 mile hike to the bend. Oh! I am so absent-minded these days! All these days, Ganesh seldom parted from his GPS.
Anyways, it was 3pm & it was cold & windy. Ganesh wanted to stay back, but I was glad to get back to the car. A 2 hr sunset wait seemed futile.(to me at least)
I got back to my Angels & Demons
until Ganesh came back around 5.30pm happy & relieved!
Again the temperature dropped down to a 32F almost immediately after sunset. We still stopped for a sundae at Sonic. Day 6: Wed, 26th Dec 2007
We were disappointed to know there was no Navajo tapestry tour today, so we settled for a 2.30pm Antelope Canyon(Lake Powell) cruise
. After making a reservation early in the morning, we took the 10.30am dam tour
(45 minutes). It was very informative & I was glad that it
was spacious enough that I did not feel claustrophobic. You can spend like half a day in the Visitor center, with all their documentaries.
After a lunch with a view, we dashed to Wahweep Marina for the lake cruise. At the first thought, beautiful, colorful. It was a pricey $36 per person. I would not pay any more than $20 for it. The cruise to Rainbow bridge once seemed inviting, but a 7.5 hr cruise- no way! (In any case, they did not operate a tour then)
But yeah, being in the area, you might as well shell out the money for a short cruise. Antelope canyon was beautiful, but I wish they had stopped there longer. Summer is the best time to be in Lake Powell. The area does not sleep, but sure takes a nap in the Winter months. With the weather they have, I would do the same too!
We hanged out at the Wahweep area for the sunset later in the day.
Snow was in the forecast & we were trying hard to keep ourselves awake. I got up at 2.30am to see a white sheet out the window. Only then I realized I was
Glen Canyon NRA
so tired that I crashed almost immediately after dinner. Ganesh's motivation to stay late was a movie on the 99 channels. Guys!!!
Looks like it had snowed around 10.30pm earlier that night & Ganesh managed to experience the snowfall. Day 7: Thur, 27th Dec 2007
The view outside was simply fantastic! A white sheet of snow covered the whole of Page. It was fun to see the pool covered in snow. Fortunately, they had dug a hole. Else, there was no one stopping you from falling into ice cold water!!!
The road was icy for a bit & we had to slow down. But it was not treacherous. The day's high never climbed above 25F but it was bearable. We reached Monument Valley
around lunch time. A $5 entrance fee per person & there was no visitor center. The restrooms were frozen. There was no way I was getting out. The wind was strong enough to push me off my legs. The road seemed really bumpy & hence we did not bother to take the jeep tour. You cannot drive more than 5-10 mph. The Jeep zooms by at 25 or so. More info on Jeep tours
Lake Powell Cruise
Despite the wind, we enjoyed every view the valley had to offer. I don't know if I would agree it to be an 8th wonder, but it is majestic & beautiful. We took the 17 mile drive on the unpaved road. It got really bumpy at places but very much drivable. Such winds could cause a million such monuments.
We were back at the entrance for sunset & that seems the best place. ie., if you can take the wind chill. Your hands freeze to death unless you are an Eskimo. I had to heat the car for Ganesh. He had to warm himself every 5 minutes or so.
We dropped the idea of coming back the next morning. So, we drove back the 22 miles to Kayenta's Best Western. Day 8: Fri, 28th Dec 2007
One look outside & we knew it had snowed at higher elevations. The roads seemed fine & it was a short 2 drive into Flagstaff. Having been to Flagstaff earlier, we had the rest of the day to ourselves. Harkins theater, a mile away seemed a good stop. National Treasure II was a good break.
It had just started snowing
White day-after Christmas
A view from our room window...Can you spot the Glen Canyon dam/bridge?
Lake Powell in the distance
a couple days earlier in Flagstaff & it was not as beautiful as we had seen it just after a snowfall. So, we were more than happy to get to Cottonwood, 60 mi S on I 17 the next morning. Day 9: Sat, 29th Dec 2007
We had first class reservations on Verde Canyon Railroad
. It was a cold day & a 4 hr train ride inside a heated coach seemed welcoming. What I did not know was that these cars had attached observation coaches too that were O-P-E-N. Even worse, that Ganesh would want to spend 2 of the 4 hrs outside
The worst was yet to come. He wanted me to be out in the cold as well
Well, the ride was wonderful & we managed to eat whatever vegetarian food was in the coach.
The Canyon, imo, is over-rated being compared to the Grand Canyon. But it is a decent fun ride if you are in the area. The part where it goes into a tunnel is spectacular specially if you are on one of those open cars.
The ride back from Perkinsville was uneventful but the colors were more significant
as we were close to sunset.
A good 2.5 drive & we were at my friends place in Chandler, AZ. I am probably seeing her after 12-13 yrs. The kids were adorable.
Probably the best food we had in the entire trip. Authentic South Indian tiffin found us hogging for more.
After some nice family time, we had to retire.
* Perkinsville, when fully populated, totals up to 8 Day 10: Sun, 30th Dec 2007
Heading 80 miles S to Tucson. We had a late start from my friend's home. Being this far from home, we just could not miss Saguaro National Park
. A few miles S on I10 & we could see Saguaros along the freeway.
Saguaro National Park is a must stop is you are in the Tucson area. We visited the Western part of the park. The Eastern part was mostly for backpackers though they have a visitor center there as well. The directions to the park was not very well marked I would say. The GPS came in very handy here.
The parks offers a decent palette to hungry hikers, but we opted out for the easier ones. We took a couple
Saguaros & me
Saguaro National Park(West)
of short hikes on nature trails & for sunset, we were at the scenic Bajada wash loop - a 5 mile well maintained dirt road that had lots of Saguaros.
A short hike to Signal hill & we were ready to get back to the visitor center for some star gazing. The stars came up almost immediately after sunset.
Saguaros seem majestic & human-like. Day 11: Mon, 31st Dec 2007
We had 3-4 hrs to kill & we chose the far away Biosphere 2
. Arizona highways can irritate you with sudden closures due to construction. Again, thanks to our hand-held, we did not get lost. The 1.5 hr internal tour of the Bio2 was very very informative & one cannot help but wonder how they managed to construct such a building. Even better, to maintain it till date. Bio2 is in collaboration with University of Arizona & was a great stop. The best part for me was the entrance to tropical world when there is the huge desert outside!!!
We were done with Arizona for the season & we started our long journey to Palm Springs, CA. We could see high winds on I10. Courtesy: Santa Ana
Mojave National Preserve
Other than sand storms, the drive was pretty uneventful.
We found ourselves in Palm Springs by 7pm. Boy! Was I glad to get back to Pacific Time or what?
Missed you California!!!
We got to know there were no fireworks in the area. Even better reason to get a good night's sleep. Day 12: Tue, 1st Jan 2008
Welcome 2008! A quiet New Year at Palm Springs.
We headed to The Living Desert
to start our New Years with the animals.
A nice place for the kids, I should say. The giraffe feeding was pretty cool.
Walking here & there & we knew were were getting late to go back home. Ganesh so wanted to do the Ariel Tramway
to Mount San Jacinto State Park atop the 8500 ft summit. But we just did not have the time.
I10 was seeing the worst traffic that day & it got windy again. Ugh!
It was a quiet, sleepy drive back home.
There were a million feelings each time I was in the desert. Looking back closely at the 12 days seem close to impossible. I should jot it down then & there from now on.
desert sure made me feel vulnerable. Every minute the wind blew, the sand moved, the sun shone, the moon rose I knew I was very close to nature. Deserts sure have their way, all the time.
Standing barren, yet full of life, I bow down to thee, ye deserts!
May not be too far from another short trip.
_____________ “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
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