Posted by: Patrick | October 30, 2009

the Grand tour

We made it! The Grand Canyon.

We had a fantastic time with Jesse and Steve on our whirlwind northern Arizona tour, but eventually had to leave the comfy confines of Steve’s place in Prescott and head back out on our own. Our first stop was one of the big goals of the trip, the Grand Canyon. We spent a night on the south rim first, then drove the 208 miles to the checkout the more secluded north rim too. Both sides were spectacular!  We’ve seen a lot of canyons thus far, but we certainly saved the best for last. On the north rim we hiked down about 5 miles into the canyon to a waterfall and then back out again. It was a tough hike, because of the steep elevation loss and gain. We’ve been getting pretty fit with all these hikes and bike rides, so we were proud to make the hike out in just over two hours.

Caro on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

Sunset on the south rim.

We got there just in time for a beautiful sunset.

Looking down towards Plateau Point.

The north rim is considerably colder.

Looking out on Bright Angel Canyon.

Narrow trail, great views.

A weathered old pine.

Hiking down it got a lot warmer.

A tough hike down about 5 miles.

Layers of time.

Both nights on the Grand Canyon rim were well below freezing, I mean frigid about 18F!  We were in two sleeping bags each, both had Nalgene’s full of boiling water to keep us warm and were layered up with fleece.  We survived but they weren’t our best nights sleep. So we were looking forward to lower elevations and higher temperatures in Utah.  We continued north to check out the parks we had missed in our hurry to meet the guys in Prescott.  It was a quick drive from the north rim towards Hurricane Utah, a town near Zion National Park.  Arriving on a Saturday in Hurricane, we decided to lay low to let the crowds die down over the weekend in the park.  Hurricane was lots of fun with great mountain biking all around.  Our first night we found a comfy state park to camp in, just on the edge of town.  The next night we camped for free next to Zion on a ridge with views of the peaks all around us.

Moth massacre on the road to Utah.

Superb campsite just outside Hurricane Utah.

A fine view to wake up to.

Sunset over Zion NP, at another great free campsite.

After two days camping near Zion, we finally made it into the park for the famous Angels Landing hike.  It’s a steep switchbacking trail up to a high point in the middle of the park.  Near the top, the trail gets very narrow with a lot of exposure on either side.  We enjoyed the view up a the top and then headed down for a hearty lunch at the lodge.  Zion was worth the wait, it’s a strikingly beautiful canyon with the clear Virgin river cutting through the middle.  The park facilities are top notch; we enjoyed relaxing after the hike in an updated lodge and the informative visitor center.

Looking down the canyon in Zion.

Paved switchbacks up to Angels Landing.

Watch your step.

The view from our campsite on the rim at Gooseberry Mesa.

On our last night in the Zion area we camped for free at Goosebery Mesa, a large plateau overlooking the Hurricane Valley.  We tried to save as much cash as we could before heading to our next stop: Las Vegas!!  We found a great deal online and booked two nights at the MGM Grand.  We lived large for a few days eating better than ever and even went out to a spectacular show:  Cirque du Soleil – KA.  It was a welcome break from all this ‘roughing it.’

From this...

...to this!

Vegas baby.

Mmmm, we stuffed ourselves at the Wynn Buffet.

Three days in Vegas was enough; we were rested, relaxed and completely stuffed from all the wonderful buffets.  We headed back towards Arizona where we had plans to spend a few days with my Aunt and Uncle in Scottsdale, AZ.  Before getting down to Scottsdale we swung back through Prescott and visited Steve again.  On our way down, He called us up to ask if we could get there a little earlier since he had rented a plane (a tricked out Cessna 172) for the evening.  We were stoked!  It was a cool clear night, perfect for the short flight over to Sedona where the airport restaurant was having all-you-can-eat king crab night.  Steve kept mentioning, sort of jokingly, how Caroline was going to takeoff and I was going to land…  We both thought he was kidding, but he was not!  It was an awesome flight and night.

Little did Caro know SHE would be flying us to Sedona.

At this point she still doesn’t know.

What do you mean pitch up?

Turns out Caro is a great pilot! Looking back at Prescott airport just after takeoff.

Sunset over Prescott AZ.

Pat landed us smoothly back in Prescott after dinner. See the white knuckles?

 On our way down to Scottsdale, we made a stop in Camp Verde where the main attraction is the Out of Africa wildlife park.  We got there just in time for the afternoon feed.  It was awesome; the lions were pacing and foaming at the mouth waiting for the meat to get tossed over the fence.

Tiger!

Simba relaxing in the shade.

Feeding time.

My Uncle John and Aunt Julia have a lovely comfortable home in Scottsdale where we recharged for a few days before the final leg of our southwest tour through southern Arizona.  They’re travelers to; we really enjoyed catching up with them and hearing about all of their adventures near and far.  Also, they put together an excellent slideshow of their recent trip to Turkey, I’d love to add that to the itinerary!  We’ll see… 

Saguaro on the morning walk around the neighborhood in Scottsdale.

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