Sunday, August 16, 2015

Grand Canyon - Quick Southwest Vacation

Our extended weekend getaway to the beautiful Arizona, and one of the seven wonders of the world - the majestic Grand Canyon.

Without much thought I booked a quick weekend visit in Arizona. April was still pretty cold in Chicago, so getting away sounded really good. Saturday to Tuesday was just enough time to relax, chill by the pool, do some day hikes in Phoenix area. I research tons of nearby trails, and planned our days, but quickly realized Grand Canyon was not terribly far from Phoenix. Plugged in driving directions and, phew, 230 miles sounded like nothing, 3 hrs 30 min (per google directions) was a breeze, in compassing to what we drive sometimes. I got all excited about the possibility of tweaking our trip to see the Grand Canyon. And it didn't take much, once I have something on my mind, I will make sure it will happen. And so it did...

We arrived to Phoenix after 12 pm on a Saturday, after three hour delay. We should have been there at 9:30 in the morning, that was our day to relax by the pool, and get some sun before we headed to GC next morning. The delay messed up the plan a bit, we still got some sun time, and got out for a dinner and planned the next day...

Sunday morning, Easter Sunday, in fact, we packed our staff, for the next two days - since we wouldn't be coming back to the hotel until Monday night, went to an early breakfast, made a stop at Scottsdale Trader Joe's to pick up some camping/trail food and water, and got on the road.

The drive north was very interesting, as we left the city behind, we drove through dessert hills, covered with tall cactus plants, green dessert bushes and tons of rocks and sand. Typical southwestern landscape, as I thought.

As we got closer to Flagstaff, that begun to change. Old tall pine trees, and an alpine mountains appeared from time to time, peaking from behind the forests. I knew Flagstaff was a skiing destination, but I didn't realize it was a home to a 12,633 feet stratovolcanic peak - Humphrey Peek - part of San Francisco Peaks, volcanic mountain range, with the highest elevation in Arizona. It was pretty cool to drive through different terrains, withing 4 hours, we drove through the rocky desserts, some alpine mountains surrounded by old pine trees, and eventually we entered dessert flats, where you could see for miles, with the canyon on the end of the road...

South Rim of Grand Canyon reaches about 8,500 feet high, so naturally the temperatures will be lower than in Phoenix, or in fact, on the bottom of the canyon. Sometimes even 40 degrees difference can be recorded between the rim and the river.

Around 4 pm on Sunday, we finally made it to Grand Canyon. The plan was to spend the afternoon driving along the South Rim, stop at various overlooks, see the greatness and beauty of GC and catch the sunset.

[My first ever look at the Grand Canyon in hazy afternoon sun]

As we pulled in to the first overlook, I literally jumped out of the car, run to the rim, and for the first time in my life, I laid my eyes on this nature phenomena. There it was - So Still. Colorful. Majestic. Grand... The one and only Grand Canyon in it's glory. I am not sure what I felt, what was going through my mind. It was just so beautiful, and different, and unbelievable... is it possible that the Colorado River crated this???

The afternoon was cold and very windy, we quickly changed into warmer clothes, and bounced from one overlook to the next one along the South Rim, to see as much as we could squeeze in. We made it to Lipan Point for the sunset, and it did not disappoint. I've never seen anything like that before - the fiery sky reflecting the colors deep into the Colorado river and the canyon walls, it was just breathtaking. As we jumped from rock to rock, to capture the moment, the sun was slowly falling behind the rim, painting the sky with amazing colors. We stayed until we couldn't see anything. Finally the wind picked up even more and we run back to the car... We sat in the car in complete quiet, trying to comprehend the last few hours spent at GC, and the amazing greatness and beauty of it.

The next day - trekking South Kaibab Trail.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Visiting Arizona & Oregon

2014 was quite boring, we didn't really travel much, so I decided to change that a bit in 2015, and booked two wonderful vacation in the first half of the year: Arizona & Grand Canyon in April, and finally (I have been daydreaming about it for a while now), the Pacific Northwest - Portland/Oregon in May.

[Hiking South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ]

[Trillium Lake, Mt. Hood Wilderness, OR]

I love both destinations for a different reasons. Arizona was sunny, warm, dry dessert, sand, palm trees, quite different landscape I am used to here, in the Midwest. And Oregon, oh my... I do love Oregon for the amazing diversity it offers, from the majestic pacific coast, to beautiful rivers, mountains, volcanoes, hills, gorges and waterfalls. Even the rain forest. I fell in love with Pacific Northwest, just as I expected and it's being considered as one of the places to live in, maybe not so distant future...

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