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Published: September 3rd 2014
Travelling around the world is an exhilarating experience that Victor and I always try to do at least once a year. Our focus is mainly travelling to new places outside of our own country. But when I found out that my lovely childhood friend from Spain was coming to visit me in the USA, I got excited with ideas for which States and new places to take her. I didn't want to give her a one-sided experience of America, I wanted her to get a once in a life time experience. That experience was going to be visiting the incredible three of ARIZONA: Sedona, Page (Antelope Slot Canyon & Horseshoe Bend), and the Grand Canyon. We got to see this, and a hundred other things along the way! I did my best to plan it all out so that we could get a chance to experience it all on a limited time schedule. Fortunately, it was an experience that my friend Zhara ended up enjoying very much. Here is how we did it: Sedona:
We flew in to Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport one morning, and picked up our reserved car from Fox Rent-A-Car. It was very important for us
to choose a comfortable sedan with air conditioning (it’s really hot here in the summer, so AC is important!) and also that its fuel efficient (you'll be driving in areas where you won't see a gas station for many miles.) We ate lunch and grabbed some snacks for the road trip. We bought plenty of water to last us for days. Immediately we set off to Sedona, which is a 2.5 hour drive from Phoenix with cactus and beautiful desert-style scenery. You start off north on highway Interstate 17 and go up 179. Sedona is famous for its attention grabbing red rocks and vortexes. People claim that specific red rocks in Sedona are actually healing, and that positive energy flows and spirals through them as if from a magical parallel universe... very mysterious for those who believe in mystical things. You will see a lot of new-age healing practices here too, like crystal therapy. You will also see a lot of spa and relaxation centers. I think a lot of people retreat here to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and find it to be very calming and spiritual. For us, it was a treat to
drive through the stunning landscapes of the giant sandstone rocks, and witness their magnificent red colors in person. Bell Rock
is one of the popular vortexes we got to visit, which has a distinctive bell shape. We also visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross
, which is a church built into the red rocks with spectacular views of the Sedona landscape. The church is set so high amid the rocks that you can see almost all of Sedona's vortex rocks in one panoramic view. This is a great place to take pictures, and contemplate the beauty of nature surrounding you.
After spending some time in Sedona, we continued our drive up highway 179, into 89A and passed even more beautiful scenery. Here, the panorama changed from red sandstone rocks, into a huge forest called Coconino National Forest
. It amazes me how vegetation can change here so drastically from one mile to the next. We drove up the winding highway, through all the pine forest trees. We weren't even aware that we were climbing to such high altitudes until we got to the end of the highway, where a sign said we were at 5000 feet above sea level!! You
can walk out to a view point and see how high you are, and how steep the drop is... it was such a beautiful sight! Continuing north on highway 89 got us to Page Arizona, where we stayed at a basic hotel for the night. Page
Page is located at the very north end of Arizona. It has a very small town, and lots of desert landscaping. There is a large lake called Lake Powell, where many residents and visitors like to take their ski-boats. Glen Canyon Dam
is also nearby, and is as impressive as it is huge... just a little smaller than the hoover dam. They use this dam to bring a lot of hydroelectric power to the region. We went out to a view point to get awesome views of the dam and the river below.
Our main purpose in Page was to take a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe bend
. It has been a dream of mine to see these two places, and both Victor and Zhara shared the same enthusiasm! Both are stunning sites, and are extremely photogenic... seriously, you can't take a bad picture here! We started the day
with a pancake breakfast, and set off on our tour. Everything in Page is close in proximity, so we had plenty of time today. Our tour started with an improvised Native American Indian dance performance. Zhara, in particular, is very drawn to the Native American history and aspect of America. This is the one part that I wish we could have been exposed to more on this trip! The Navajo
are the predominate Indians of this region, and our tour guide was one of them! I feel so lucky that we had him as a guide, his name is Lenard and was very knowledgeable of how to take pictures of the canyon. At one point, he played a beautiful native song on a flute. Having a good guide here can make or break your experience at Antelope Canyon. Unfortunately, there are masses of tour groups that come here every day, and it gets very crowded... to the point of possible claustrophobia. It's busy here for a reason, this is the most beautiful slot canyon on earth. Erosion and rain water formed the gorgeous spiraling/flowing shapes that make this canyon stunning. Light beams that radiate through the cracks above make it
worth photographing and seeing with your own eyes.
After our visit at the Antelope Canyon, we visited the Glen Canyon Dam, and then Horseshoe Bend. To get to Horseshoe Bend it's a short 8 minute drive to a small parking lot, and then you hike just one mile to the edge of the horse-shoe shaped meander where the Colorado River flows down below. From beginning to end, the trail and landscape is stunning. Another natural place you can't miss when you are in Page. Sit or stand near the edge of the meander and check out the blue/turquoise color of the river. Just make sure to bring plenty of water, it gets really hot here so you need to stay hydrated! The Grand Canyon, South Rim
Out of all the places we were going to see on this trip, the Grand Canyon was absolutely the most anticipated. We were saving it for last because we knew that it was going to be an amazing experience! It's best to keep your expectations neutral for your first trip here, because your first impression of the Grand Canyon should come from how you actually see it and experience
it... not from how other people say they experienced it. From Page, we headed out to the Grand Canyon by driving south on 89 and then going west on 64 to get to the east entrance of the south rim. We planned on staying here over night so that we could experience the national park at sun set, and so that we could hike the bright angel trail down into the canyon in the morning. There are several ways you can stay at the rim of the canyon: you can camp at the camp sites, stay at the hotels, or stay at the cabin lodges. There are over 5 million visitors here every year, so expect to reserve your room many months in advance to secure a spot. But it is so worth it; when you stay at the Grand Canyon, you are sleeping just feet from the rim of one of the most magnificent places on earth.
As you arrive at the entrance to the park, you pay a fee and continue driving about 20 minutes on a road that will take you to all the view points and to the village that's located there. Our first
impression: I will tell you that there is nothing that can adequately describe how magnificent the Grand Canyon
is... we were left rather speechless. There were a lot of "Oh my God's" and "Wow's", and then speechlessness as we gazed at the canyon's grandeur with astonishment, disbelief, wonderment, and awe. The vast canyon seemed to go on forever and was so big and deep that you could hardly grasp its presence there in front of you. The landscapes of the gorge inside are marked by sharp peaked rocks, and giant boulders. I kept wondering what this place must have meant to the native Indians, and what the new settlers of this region must have felt when they first witnessed this awe-inspiring site. I think it's safe to say that everyone must see this place at some point in their lives in order to understand how amazing it truly is, especially because everyone's experience and impression is different and personally unique.
We stood along one of the viewpoints on the canyon rim to watch the sun set. As the sun traveled down, you could see the colors of the sky and gorge start to shift and change from browns to
oranges and pinks and blues. Among us were many other visitors from around the world, and we were all there trying our best to capture the beauty on camera, although I am sure none of those pictures will do it justice. At this point, it was starting to get really cold. We packed up our stuff and drove the rest of the way to the village to get something to eat and check in to our cabin lodge.
For anyone reading who is vegetarian/vegan
, there are many options here in the dining areas. On our first night we ate pasta with tomato basil sauce, and with a substantial salad made at the salad bar, which is equipped with all the toppings you'd love. Other options include, but were not limited to: vegetarian chili, lasagna, and burgers with fries. Breakfast was also great as they provided soy milk for your hot oats/cereals, as well as plenty of fruit, croissants, and pancakes. I think it's important to mention this for anyone who might think it's impossible to meet everyone's food necessities out in the middle of the Grand Canyon, because it can be done! As for our cabin, the lodge room
was very cozy and cute. We stayed at the Yavapai lodge
, which had very tasteful decor as well as many useful amenities. Don't expect Wi-Fi here unless you are at one of the dining areas. Before you finally go to sleep, take a quick look outside. You can see the entire night sky; the stars, the moon, even the Milky Way!
! It's amazing how clear the night sky looks when you are this far from what most think of as civilization. This was the first time any of us saw this view of the night, and Victor captured some beautiful pictures of it with his tripod and Cannon. We also saw real shooting stars!! There were so many "pinch me moments" on this trip. The Hike down in to the Grand Canyon
All three of us love being physically active, so I knew that doing a hike into the canyon would be a great idea, especially to get the full experience of being here. They will warn you from the beginning that no matter which trail you choose to do, it will not be easy, and that you should not attempt to make it all the way to
the bottom. Another thing they will tell you is to take as much water as you possibly can, and that for every mile you climb down, expect to it to feel like double on the hike back up. Now that we've done it, I must say that this is so true; the climb up is brutal compared to the climb down. Before officially starting the hike, Zhara and I took an ice cream picture at the rim (something fun she tries to do when she travels, as a unique project) and then we set off on the Bright Angel trail
. I loved this experience because I was conscious of all the other people doing the trail that were from all around the world. We heard so many languages being spoken as we passed each other on the trail. We took many photos as different views appeared to us. Although the weather was very nice, we definitely felt the stinging of the hot sun upon our skin. It is so important to wear your sunscreen here, or to wear a hat! We did over a mile of down ward hiking before deciding it was time to go back up. I consider
myself to be in good shape, and I think I did pretty well, but the climb up certainly was not easy!
We saw several animals on the trail; we saw curious squirrels, dogs, horses, and then the "pièce de résistance" which was the condor
. Condors are considered rare birds, and breeding programs are in place to make sure that the birds don't stay endangered. This was a surprise bonus to our experience at the Grand Canyon that not everyone gets to see. The condor seemed to be posing for pictures as it perched itself on a rock and spread its long wings as if stretching or doing yoga. In the blink of an eye it flew away and disappeared down into the canyon. The squirrels here also pose for pictures, but they'll expect a little treat in return.
Our drive out of the national park was actually kind of sad. We felt like we wanted to continue our exploration of the Grand Canyon for even longer. I was just relieved that Zhara, my dear friend visiting me from Spain, had been enjoying her trip so much. We left via the west entrance/exit and headed south on 64 going
towards Sedona again in order to return to Phoenix. On our way we stopped at two places; we stopped at the original Highway 66
, and then while in Sedona we stopped at Tlaquepaque
, which is an arts and dining village designed with beautiful Mexican architecture and landscape. We reached highway Interstate 17, and finalized our destination to Phoenix where we returned the rented car and boarded our flight back home.
We had a great experience in Arizona. There is so much to do and see that you could easily spend a week or more there. A road trip can be easily achieved with the right preparation, all you really need is a map to go by. We are all very happy with what we did get to achieve on this trip. We can see ourselves returning again someday, and hopefully get to see and do more. I hope you have enjoyed our pictures and tips on how to make this once and a life time experience a reality. There is nothing that compares to the peace and wonderment of nature... it has provided us with these magnificent landscapes to treasure for years to come. I would like to dedicate this blog
post to someone very special: Zhara, thank you so much for not only agreeing to come with us to Arizona, but for flying all the way from Europe to spend the summer with me. You know you are an important part of my life forever, and my hope is that our friendship, which has been sealed since childhood, will continue to flourish and withstand the test of time.
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