Heading north from Phoenix, our first detour off Hwy 89 was Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. We’d spend this half of our trip looking at God’s art and creativity. Much like Taliesin West, this little sanctuary is an example of human artistry inspired by and set in God’s creative endeavor. We didn’t have time to take in all Sedona had to offer but enjoyed the breathtaking drive up through Sedona’s red rocks up to the chapel.
On the way to Flagstaff, which sits at 7000 feet, the terrain changed from rocky red cliffs to mountains and evergreens. Some friends from Ted’s Austin Symphony days live there now so we met for dinner and they drove us around a bit. Our friends told us Flagstaff is a big ski destination in the winter. Ski Arizona? Who knew?
From Flagstaff we headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The drive took us into the Kaibab Forest, over the Colorado River, and past alpine meadows.
We stayed at the Grand Canyon Lodge which is run by the National Parks system. I guess we should have expected rustic conditions but there was no AC. Fine at night but it was a little warm in the daytime since there was only one window and no breeze through. I’d recommend a cabin over a lodge room if you’re thinking of going in the summer. It’s not like we were staying inside anyway though.
I hiked two of the less demanding trails, Bright Angel Point and Transept, both of which begin at the Lodge. Neither is particularly long, but Bright Angel is a little steep. The altitude is over 8000 ft. which will take a toll on the lungs.
The Grand Canyon is vast, awe-inspiring, beautiful, teeming with life, full of story, full of breaths taken from a million awed mouths silenced by its splendor. Words are paltry tools to describe the experience of standing there on its rim.
We left the Grand Canyon and headed for Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon on Navajo land just south of the Utah border near Page, Arizona. To get in requires going through one of the Navajo tours, we chose Ken’s Lower Canyon Tour. The upper canyon is jeep ride and walk in (and more expensive), but the more adventurous lower tour requires climbing down ladders and squeezing through some tight spots. From the surface, parts of the lower canyon looks like a large crack in the ground. Ken is a photographer so our guide was trained to help us with our camera settings inside the sometimes dark and cave-like canyon. In many place only indirect shafts of light come through. The colors created by the light on sandstone are unusual and other-worldly. I’ve always wanted to visit this place and I wasn’t disappointed.
From Antelope Canyon we drove into Utah to Bryce Canyon. The terrain here is unique as well, filled with spherical spires called hoodoos, that look like big chess pieces randomly placed around the rocky terrain. I hiked from Sunset Point on the Navajo Trail. Going down the steep switchback trail lived up to the trail’s “moderate” designation, but going back up was more than moderate for me. At 7500-8000 ft the uphill climb took its toll on my lungs but, this 50-something, out-of-shape woman made it back up even if I had to lean against the canyon wall gasping every 50 or so feet of the 550 foot climb. Something about doing that built my confidence about tackling some metaphorical mountains I’ve put off climbing.
The variety in geography was most evident on our one-day drive back to Phoenix as we made our way back down the Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau, past the Vermillion Cliffs, and descended to an elevation where Sagauro Cactus took over the view. The Sonoran Desert’s 100 degree temperatures welcomed us back to Phoenix. We experienced so many amazing, unique, inspiring things on this vacation.