Ramble On

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Trips to Las Vegas - Part 3

This is the last of three posts I’m putting up during my current business trip to Las Vegas this week.  My goal is to reprise my past trips, from 2009, when I took a helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon, 2011, when I drove up to Death Valley, and today’s post, about my 2013 trip when Mary joined me for a day trip to the Grand Canyon.  Next week we’ll return to the day-to-day posts about the brewery and hop yard! 

My infatuation with the Grand Canyon started in 2003, when I was on a business trip to Phoenix and ended up with an extra day for sightseeing.  Back then, I had planned to catch a Southwest from Phoenix to Albuquerque for an interview with a colleague looking to start a consulting business on the East Coast.  The trip fell through at the last minute, so I drove up to the Grand Canyon for the day instead.

Then in 2009, I took a helicopter tour of the canyon from Las Vegas.  After that trip, I knew I had to come back and bring Mary along, too.  I hoped she was as inspired by this incredible American landscape as I was - and that's how things turned out.

Our trip included a couple of nights in Flagstaff and also the fantastic tour of the Hoover Dam.  But the absolute highlight was the Grand Canyon – pictures can only begin to capture the experience of seeing it in person.  There's the scale of the thing, the wonder of the geology, and the full pallet of colors - all elements that a simple photograph cannot transcribe.  

The Grand Canyon is one of our most popular national parks, and as we left the hotel in Flagstaff that morning I prepared myself for traffic and a parking challenge.  I was right about that, but for most of the drive, as we went through the pass over the San Francisco peaks north of town, there wasn't much traffic to speak of.  We passed through pine forests and aspen groves, and then a desolate high desert that is carved up ranch land - proof that in our country, we're never far from exurban sprawl.

Mary and I took the walk along the Rim Trail over to the village, had some lunch, and then walked back.  There were plenty of park facilities to check out along this 5-mile round trip, including a geology museum, art galleries, and souvenir shops.  For the first half mile or so, you're wading through bus tourists, but after that, the touring crowd thins out into smaller groups enjoying the incredible views in a fairly remote and undisturbed atmosphere.

Since we had arrived just before mid-day, we made our trek along the trail immediately, arriving at El Tovar lodge just before 2pm.  We had a great lunch over there, with a window seat that allowed us to enjoy the scenery and incredible Grand Canyon weather - warm but not hot, and wonderfully sunny.

After lunch we began our walk back, and already the sun's changing position began highlighting new formations in the Canyon and emphasizing a new range of colors – hues of blue and violet, where they had been all yellows and reds earlier in the day.

We wrapped up the day with the drive back to Flagstaff.  We grabbed some dinner in a local pizza parlor where big family groups all sat around picnic tables digging into extra-large pies and drinking Budweiser.  It was tasty and refreshing after our day in the sun.

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