Stone of Remembrance

August 25, 2006

Arizona and Worldcon (4)

Filed under: Commentary, Travel — admin @ 23:04

I’m going to jump over the Taliesin description until later, because I wanted to put up a few pictures of the Grand Canyon.

According to my cousin in Arizona, the average length of stay in the Grand Canyon national park is a little under half an hour. Disturbingly many tourists drive into the park (at $25, if you haven’t bought some sort of pass), pull up to a car-accessible observation point, look into the canyon and drive away. When I said that we felt that a day was hardly enough, she congratulated us on giving it a whole day.

Driving up to the Grand Canyon is a good chunk of a day. The main highway from Phoenix to Flagstaff is I-17. On the map, it looks like a straight line through the middle of nowhere; in practice, it’s a straight line through the middle of nowhere that climbs almost a mile in altitude from 2000 feet above sea level to over 7000. A lot of it looks like the view from the Sunset Point rest stop, as shown below;

Sunset Point, Arizona

But once you’re above Flagstaff in the Kaibab National Forest, it looks a lot more like Maine than Arizona. The outside temperature isn’t 100° plus either: it’s more like 70°. Well, it’s a forest, I suppose, so that makes sense.

We arrived late in the day and were able to visit Yavapai Observation Point, where we got our first look at the Canyon. It was an amazing sight; I’ve got a few pictures of the sunset we saw, but it can’t hope to do justice to the view. It’s been photographed millions of times by far more talented artists; but when you can sit on a rock ten feet from the precipice – no guard rails, no fences, just the view – it renders you speechless.

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Grand Canyon Sunset

Afterward we sat in an open-air amphitheater and watched a narrated slide presentation about Phantom Ranch – a campground down in the canyon proper. There’s only so much you can do on the rim: it’s a touristy place with things to see and do, but it scarcely conveys the grandeur and the natural wonder of the canyon. With only one day, there was no chance of going down inside – but we did get up in the dark to see the sun rise. With some effort (and leaving A. behind in our room to sleep), my wife and I got up in the dark and walked over to the bus stop. We took the shuttle out to the easternmost outlook accessible by bus – Yaqui Point – and with only one other fellow-tourist on hand, watched the sun rise over the canyon. A few more inadequate pictures appear below.

Grand Canyon Sunrise

With a long drive ahead of us back to Phoenix, we could only stay a little longer in the park. We walked around the Village a bit, peeked in at the magnificent El Tovar hotel (built in 1905) and the neighboring Hopi House and Verkamps, which sell souvenirs and native crafts, did a little more looking around, then got back on the road. By late afternoon we’d returned to the heat of Arizona.

Next: Worldcon in LA begins for us.

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