Friday, September 30, 2011

Scottsdale and Taliesin West

Caesalipinia Pulcherrima, or Red Bird of Paradise
It is hot hot hot here in Scottsdale today. It's the hottest day we have had in Arizona so far and it makes it hard to do anything outside. But I did take pictures of some Arizona flowers--the colors are so great. You only really see them in the resort areas and parks, where they are watered regularly. Everything else is so dry and you see little grass or color.

We drove into Old Scottsdale in the morning to look around, visited a few art galleries and shops. But it seemed so dead, as hardly anyone was outside.  In the afternoon we went to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home in Arizona. We took a tour of the house and grounds and loved it. We have been to Fallingwater in PA and liked that house so much. Taliesin West is the house he built with the money he received for building Fallingwater (there is another Taliesin in Wisconsin where he would spend his summers). The interplay of house and nature is so great. Most of the rooms open to the outside, even the bedrooms. We especially appreciated his concept of "compress and release," meaning you go through narrow doorways and hallways to "compress" and then"release" upon entering a larger room. It was cool. Also the way he used lighting, dark and light.

There are several pools around the house, and believe me,  everyone on the tour was ready to jump in! Most of the land is dry and full of brush and cacti, but there are some gardens right by the house with some pretty flowers and lots of sculpture.

And I loved these trees, they are called Palo Verdes trees, and they are the state tree of Arizona. The picture doesn't show it so well, but the bark is a really pretty chartreusey green.
Palo Verde tree
We ate dinner tonight at a restaurant in Scottsdale called Bloom (shrimp tagliatelle for Walt, and roast chicken and stuffing for moi), and now it's time to pack up. We leave for home tomorrow afternoon. A great trip for us, good to see some places so totally new and different. And the Grand Canyon--that was the best. A good vacances.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Monument Valley, UT

While eating breakfast at our Hampton Inn in Kayenta, AZ,  an old Navajo man was telling stories to a group in the dining room about his service as a U.S. Marine during WWII as one of the original "code talkers." I had never heard of them, but the code talkers were a select group of Navajo men who were recruited during the war because a white officer who had grown up on a Navajo reservation had the idea to use the native Navajo language as a code for military communications. It was successful and many Navajos were eventually drafted as  code talkers. It was very interesting listening to him.
Approaching Monument Valley
The land is so barren here, rocky and sandy with an occasional surprise of a clump of yellow or purple flowers. Somehow we missed the entrance to Monument Valley and drove 20 miles past to the town of  Red Hat, UT, when we realized we had gone too far. Not sure how we could have possibly missed Monument Valley in this area--it's not like there is anything else around!! It was pretty funny. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not too hot and again, not too crowded. We walked around, took pictures, went to the Visitor's Center, which had alot of information (including the fact that this was one of John Wayne's favorite places and many of his movies were made here). It was kind of strange to look out at this expanse and think of real cowboys and Indians roaming the could almost imagine it. We had lunch at The View Hotel, which was really quite good and you couldn't beat the view!
A rare bunch of flowers
Monument Valley

We left Monument Valley about 1:00 and started driving south and west towards Flagstaff, through Tuba City and Cameron (believe me, these are not big towns, just dots on the map). It was fascinating to watch the landscape change as we neared Flagstaff, turning greener and greener and then almost forest-like, as the mountains around Flagstaff are filled with pine trees, almost like Oak Creek Canyon. What a difference from an hour before. We stopped in Flagstaff for an hour or so, found a cute little coffee shop for a coffee and the best chai latte I have ever had. Flagstaff is a really cute town, has a very European feel to it, with lots of coffee shops and restaurants and even a creperie. The guy at the coffee shop said this has been a very warm fall, that they usually have had snow by now. I can't get over how varied the climate is in Arizona.
Loved this wall--so colorful
Train station in Flagstaff
Route 66!

A shoe hospital, seriously?

Yum, a creperie
We got into Scottsdale about 7 pm, and checked into our hotel. We were both tired, so we decided to eat here at the outdoor restaurant and had fajitas and margaritas (well, I did). We are staying at a resort, so Walt is anxious to swim tomorrow morning and check out the other facilities here before we start to explore Scottsdale. Our last day of vacation--wow, it goes so fast!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lake Powell, AZ

We left the Grand Canyon around 5 pm yesterday and headed east on Route 64, which was a very scenic route to take because you are basically following the eastern rim of the Canyon. Stopped for a few more elk sightings. Then we headed north up Route 89 and it's hard to describe the scenery. We started out seeing other smaller canyons and rocky areas but then the landscape turned into deserty areas, and because the sun was going down, the colors were so beautiful, all shades of red and pink. Looking at the map I could see we were on the western edge of the Painted Desert. And the most amazing thing is that there is absolutely nothing around, no towns, no stores, no 7-Elevens, nothing, just miles and miles of open land. I don't know that I have ever been in such an area. I wouldn't call it desolate because it was so beautiful. It was amazing to me that there are such vast, open areas like this in the U.S. We got into Page around 7:30 and checked into our hotel, happy to find wifi working! The hotel recommended a restaurant in town and we went there, Bonkers, and it was actually quite good. A family-owned small Italian restaurant and we were able to sit outside and have some good spaghetti marinara (me) and chicken parmesan (Walt).

This morning we woke up and headed to the Ranch Grille in Page for breakfast. There is not much in this "town" of Page. Several tatoo parlors and tanning places--tanning places in this sun-drenched place?? Jeez. It is mainly a hub for hotels for people visiting Lake Powell. After breakfast we went to see the Glen Canyon Dam, which is the dam that created Lake Powell by damming the Colorado River. The dam provides water for the southwestern and western desert states, as well as hydroelectric power.
We walked over these rocks to see the Glen Canyon Dam
Glen Canyon Dam
Closeup of sandstone
Then we were off to see the main attraction,  Lake Powell, the result of the Glen Canyon Dam. We heard the best way to see the lake was to take a boat ride, so we took a 2-hour cruise which took us through Antelope Canyon, a narrow slot canyon, and close up to the Glen Canyon Dam, and then along the rocky and colorful shoreline. We found out that the reddish colors in the sandstone are the result of iron oxide, a rust (see, we were listening to the tour guide). The patterns that are made from the iron oxide and the ribbons crossing the face of the sandstone create an effect that is called Navajo Tapestry. And sandstone is really petrified sand dunes.
Entering Antelope Canyon
Kayakers on Lake Powell

Navajo Tapestry

It was an interesting trip, and we were glad we stopped at Lake Powell, although it was very hot (105 degrees) and we were out in the sun most of the afternoon. We left about 4:00 and started on our way to Kayenta, AZ, where we are now and tomorrow we will visit Monument Valley, which is about 20 miles away. One interesting fact, because we are in the Navajo Nation, it is illegal to serve alcohol, so no wine with dinner for me tonight! Also, no daylight savings time here, so it is an hour later here than it was last night in Page, AZ. We can go to bed early.

Jet skis on Lake Powell--Brooks would love this!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hiking the Grand Canyon

We were up early (6:00)  and quickly walked to the rim of the Canyon to see the sun rise. What a view to see when you first wake up!
Sun rise over Grand Canyon

Sun rise over Grand Canyon
We took lots of pictures and met a nice couple from Seattle, who gave us some tips about short hikes and other things to do at the Canyon. They were headed to Sedona today, so we gave them some ideas for Sedona. We also met some hikers who were just getting to the top of the rim after hiking up all night. Some people had started at the North Rim and hiked down and across and up to the South Rim. I think that is about 27 miles.  Amazing! Breakfast at the the Maswick Lodge. Then it was back to the rim where we started our own little hike down the Bright Angel Trail. You can go all the way down into the Canyon, but we just did about a one-mile hike down, which was enough for us, as it seemed like 5 miles coming back up!
Heading down the Bright Angel Trail
It was funny because yesterday I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to hike down the trail at all (too scared--there are no railings!!),  but I did it and I'm glad I did. The views were incredible, and we met a lot of nice people. It is amazing what a hat can do. Walt was wearing a UNC hat and we heard several "Go Tarheels" and of course that led to conversations. We met people from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, North Carolina, Germany, and several from Virginia (one guy with a George Mason t-shirt). People are so friendly on vacation. There are lots of mules on the trail and I had to laugh at this one.

Loved the park ranger on mule and on cellphone
So back to the hike, here are a few pictures as we hiked down the Canyon.
Going down
See people on top right coming down? We are below them

We were exhausted when we got back up and after a short rest went to eat at the Arizona Room, which is a restaurant in the Bright Angel Lodge. It was nice and we sat eating lunch with views of the Canyon. Pretty nice. After lunch we got on a shuttle, which takes you to various points along the rim to get different perspectives on the Canyon.
The jokester
So beautiful

It was a very long but wonderful day. Beautiful weather and a gorgeous blue sky. It was not very crowded at all, which made our visit all the more enjoyable, as we didn't have to fight any crowds and there was always plenty of viewing space at the rim. We said our goodbyes to this beautiful place and set off for Page, AZ about 5 pm. More on that tomorrow, as I am exhausted right now and ready to go to sleep.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Grand Canyon, At Last

Grand Canyon
We finally made it to the Grand Canyon. For some reason, it is a place I have long wanted to see, and today I finally made it. It was all I had hoped it would be.  I will try to catch you up on the trip--thank God I am back in the world of the internet, as it was kind of spotty at the Grand Canyon and I wasn't able to get to my blog, although I did try. (We are in Lake Powell, AZ right now and I am catching up on the blog). We left Sedona about noon after spending the morning walking a few more trails, the best of which was the Chapel of The Rock, which is a church that was built right into the red rocks of Sedona.
Chapel of the Rock

Walt at the Chapel of the Rock

We ate lunch outside at a place called Sedona Memories (HUGE chicken salad sandwiches and delicious bread), and then we were on our way up 89A again,  through Oak Creek Canyon, finally on our way to the Grand Canyon. 
So excited!
We stopped in Tusayan, a town right before the GC, to see the IMAX movie about the Canyon, and John Wesley Powell is our new hero. He was a civil war veteran who only had one arm and was the first to make it down the Colorado River in the canyon in a boat (1869). He was quite an adventurer! Anyway, as we started our way on the road toward the Canyon, look who we saw.
Elk on Grand Canyon road
First look at Grand Canyon

The elk are everywhere--we saw them outside our hotel, outside the restaurants, on the roads. It's cool cause on the road everyone stops their cars and takes photos. After getting our first view of the Canyon at Mather Point (the first picture above), we went to our lodging at the Maswick Lodge, a bare bones place in the Grand Canyon Village, but only a short walk to the rim.  After checking in, we walked over to the rim and, as the sun was setting, had some magnificent views of the Grand Canyon. It is a truly humbling place. So vast, so quiet, so beautiful, almost impossible to describe and to photograph. 
Sun setting on Grand Canyon
Sun setting on Grand Canyon
We had dinner reservations at El Tovar, which is the nicest hotel on the rim, and it was very nice (except for the weird waiter, who kept calling us "the gentleman" and "the lady." Hehe. But the best was after dinner, when we had to make our way back to our lodge in the dark, along the rim. It was a little scary and we got a little lost, but we finally made it without falling over the rim. We kept seeing lights moving in the canyon and quickly realized it was hikers making their way UP the trail in the dark. Can you even imagine?  And the stars--AMAZING. The first time I saw a sky like that was last year in Maine, but the stars over the Grand Canyon are truly a phenomenon. It is like the sky is solid stars. We could see the Milky Way, which seemed to stretch over the whole sky. A great first day at the Grand Canyon.