Recently I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona for a conference for work. I was lucky enough to come in a day early, escaping Hurricane Matthew, so I had an entire day free to myself to explore. Being limited on time, and not knowing when I would ever get a chance to see the Grand Canyon, I decided to book a day tour with Across Arizona Tours to visit the Sedona Red Rocks, Navajo Indian Reservation and Grand Canyon. I was very pleased with this company. They were always in communication with me, taking my name down when I called about a week before as they weren’t sure if the tour would go out. They called me back a few days later to tell me they had enough people to take the tour out. The staff was very courteous and accommodating. It made for a long day, but it was entirely worth it. I was the first person picked up at my downtown Phoenix hotel at 6:30 am. Eric, our driver, was very knowledgeable about the geography and topography of Arizona as we drove around in the 10 passenger van. We drove through Phoenix to Scottsdale to pick up the next couple, and he pointed out Camelback Mountain, discussing the Pima tribe and their connection to the area. After leaving Scottsdale, we drove through the Sonoran Desert as the sun came up, making our way to to the last pickup and Sedona. The sun truly was blinding, and in a rookie mistake I had left my sunglasses in the hotel. Guess what I bought when we drove into Sedona? 🙂
Our brief stop in Sedona provided breathtaking views of the famous red rocks. It was explained to us that the rocks appeared red due to the hematite (iron oxide or rust) that stains the sandstone of the Schnebly Hill and Hermit Shale layers. The city of Sedona is charming, but property is of course expensive with such magnificent views. Being the daughter of a geologist, growing up hearing all about sandstone, I was fascinated by this. Eric pointed out the saguaro and prickly pear cactus as well as other native plants like rabbitbrush.
Leaving Sedona we headed for the Navajo reservation. Being from Florida, where there is nothing but flat lands, it was neat to see the changes in topography going up and down through the mountains, sometimes reaching 6000 ft. elevation and coming back to the more flat desert lands of the Navajo reservation. We stopped at the Cameron Trading Post for lunch. They had an overwhelming shopping area where you could spend quite some time looking at traditional native america art, jewelry and weavings. Lunch was delicious. I chose to go to with the Navajo stew, which is good comfort food. It was served with some traditional fry bread, which was so big I only ate a little bit of it. Very filling!
After lunch, we were finally on the way to the Grand Canyon, which wasn’t far from the trading post. As we continued to drive through the reservation lands, I was struck with the poverty of the Navajos. All around it looked like barren desert lands, and you would see little tents set up along the side of the road where these poor people would be there selling their beads and other trinkets. Very sad to see. The few homes, or hogans, looked more like uninhabitable hovels. Eric did say not too many lived on the reservation, but still, quite different from the wealth of the Pimas closer to Scottsdale.
Driving into Grand Canyon National Park you are immediately struck by the beautiful vistas. I cannot even begin to describe it so I will let the pictures speak for themselves. We were on the South Rim of the canyon, which Eric explained is usually more passable than the North Rim, which is only open about 5 months out of the year due to snow. It was a gorgeous, clear, cool day up in the canyon compared to the heat (yes heat, in October) in Phoenix. We were laughing as we drove, as Eric was explaining how nice the weather was at the moment, at a cool 89 degrees. Even myself, from Florida, laughed at that, but Eric explained, hey, to Arizonans that feels great! LOL. Up in the canyon it was probably in the high 60s during the day, and I was thankful to have a light sweater. The Grand Canyon is truly a geological wonder, hollowed out over thousands of years by the Colorado River.
It was a long journey back to Phoenix, but what a fantastic day! The sunset in the desert was a special treat.
Should you have a day to spare in the Phoenix area, I definitely recommend this tour!
I did get a change in the Phoenix area to see a few local attractions. St. Mary’s Basilica was very near our hotel, and is the only basilica in Arizona. It is on the national historic registry, being the oldest Roman Catholic parish in the area.
The inside was gorgeous, with stained glass and beautiful organ.
There was a beautiful statue inside dedicated to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be canonized by the Catholic church, patron saint of the environment and ecology.
The Heard Museum in Phoenix is also a great place to visit with exhibits on Native American culture. We happened to be there on the first Friday of the month (October 7th), and they do this great thing called First Friday’s through Artlink Phoenix, where they provide free trollies around the city. Museums and art shops all stay open in the evening and offer free admission. It was a bit of a process finding the trolly to begin with, and they are hot and crowded, but it’s a great way to take an opportunity to see some of the museums free of cost. I only went to the Heard Museum, as I wanted to take my time. Try the posole soup at the museum, trust me!
Phoenix was a great change of pace and I can’t wait to head back! I have to, in closing, give a thumbs up to American Airlines. Coming back, we were delayed almost an hour and a half leaving due to a scheduling conflict and having to wait for a co-pilot. By the time we arrived in Dallas, many of us had missed our connecting flights. Agents were waiting for us with rebooked tickets, although granted for the next morning, hotel reservations and vouchers, and vouchers for dinner and breakfast. Although it stunk to be stuck in Dallas a little longer, and I missed work the next day, they made it the best situation they could.
Buen viajes, gnomies!
Ever visited the Grand Canyon? Share your memories and photos with the gnome.