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Published: December 8th 2011
Out to the airport by 9.30am to pick up a car and say fond farewells to Wendy and Peter before driving off on Highway 17 towards snowy Flagstaff! We were hoping the roads wouldn’t be too bad as there were reports on the TV of 4” of snow at Flagstaff!
It soon turned into a beautiful sunny day, if somewhat cold and we soon climbed up another 2000ft to 4000ft and onto a high plateau! Quite a lot of snow in the shade and where the sun hadn’t melted it but the roads were very clear!
Our first stop was Montezuma Castle, which is a high cave dwelling up in the rocks dating back to the Aztecs in 1100 AD. Had a wander around the short trail (the sky was soooo blue!) and then headed off on Highway 179 towards Sedona. Stopped at Bell Rock and decided to follow the Bell Rock trail around these amazing red rocks but somehow ended up on the Courthouse Butte trail and did a 2 hour hike! The scenery was so amazing – the colour of the rocks against a deep blue sky with small water creeks and cactus with
snow and flocks of bright blue birds flying around! Really enjoyed it!
Back to the car and drove along Chapel Road for photos of chapel of the holy cross set in the rocks, and then up to Airport Road to enjoy a couple of scenic lookouts as the sun was setting!
Decided it was too late to drive any further so stopped at the Matterhorn Inn in Sedona for the evening.
After a breakfast in the local coffee bar we set off along the 89A via Oak Creek Canyon. The roads were still clear although the snow was slightly deeper here and it made a very pretty drive alongside the river with all the fir trees covered with snow. The road climbed up high above the creek and we stopped at a viewpoint near the top. Here the snow was even deeper (about 9”) and it was bitterly cold, even though the sun was shining and the sky was blue! There were a lot of native red Indians selling hand made jewellery, and it was good to stop and have a chat with them.
Drove on towards Flagstaff and decided to take
Route 180 across to the Grand Canyon, so we had to drive through the historic part of Flagstaff, across Route 66 and past the old Santa Fe railway engine before joining the highway! The road climbed steadily to 8000ft and after passing Humphreys Peak - the highest peak in Arizona at 12633ft, drove through forests of Ponderosa Pine trees heavily laden with snow! The road eventually flattened out into a plateau and we joined Highway 64 for the drive to the Grand Canyon National Park.
After entering the Park, we parked up and caught the shuttle bus to the furthest point – Yaki Point, where we were truly astounded by the size and magnificence of the Canyon. There was a light dusting of snow on the North Rim but on the South Rim the snow was a good 6”deep, with icicles hanging from the fir trees, where the sun had melted the snow on them, but as the air was still freezing it created icicles! All very pretty – a winter wonderland!!
Caught the shuttle back to Pipe Creek Vista, (stopping on the way to admire and take pictures of elk!) where we then walked about 1km in
the snow, along the rim back to South Kaibab Trailhead. It would have been good to hike down into the Canyon on one of the many trails, but the paths were pretty steep and covered with snow so not really practical or sensible..........
Back to the Visitor centre to collect the car, and drive out to the Grand Canyon Village and lodges. We were booked in at Bright Angel Lodge (cheapest on the South Rim!) which is also quite a historical building. In the early 1880’s Buckey O’Neill built a log cabin right on the edge of the south rim and soon discovered tourism. In 1898 it became the Bright Angel Hotel and in 1935 Mary Colter expanded it into the lodge it is today.
After locating the Lodge we then drove on out to Hopi Point to watch the sunset (as advised by the bus driver!!) It was getting even colder now with a wind chill kicking in as well, so after taking a few pictures, we sat in the car for half an hour, overlooking the canyon to watch the sunset. Beautiful colours of the strata, and a pink hazy glow in the sky so with
the snow as well, it seemed quite spectacular. The temperature high today was 23F (-5C) with a forecast low of -3F (-19C) so back to the lodge for a warm by their fire, food and a relaxing evening!
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