VOL. 131 | NO. 185 | Thursday, September 15, 2016
The Daily Traveler
All Monuments Are Grand in Arizona
BY LANCE WIEDOWER
By rule it doesn’t rain in the desert. It can’t rain in the desert, right?
Wrong, and when it rains it pours, especially when driving through Arizona’s Painted Desert on our way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
When we left Arches National Park and pointed the car south toward Arizona the air was dry, the skies were blue and the heat was, well, hot. I was happy to be in a car looking at Utah’s red rocks pass by as we sped toward Monument Valley.
We spent too much time exploring the arches, so a planned visit to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park would wait for another trip. I was disappointed; anyone who has watched an old Western movie has seen these magnificent sandstone masterpieces that tower as much as 1,000 feet above the surrounding desert landscape.
For a fee we could’ve driven a 17-mile scenic dirt road through a landscape that consists of mesas, buttes and spire rock structures.
We could actually see some of these beauties from the highway, so as we headed toward the Painted Desert we enjoyed some of the landscape that inspired the great filmmaker John Ford.
Shortly after speeding through Monument Valley the blue desert sky turned dark, and magnificent lightning bolts could be seen for miles. It was surreal, really, staring at what seemed like a black curtain many miles away before finally driving into it.
Once we made it through the rain we continued on to the eastern entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. The desert terrain slowly transitioned to pines as the elevation climbed a couple thousand feet. Then, suddenly, there it was to our right.
Soon after entering the eastern gate of Grand Canyon National Park, there are several vantage points to enjoy. In fact, it’s still another 25 miles to the heart of the Grand Canyon Village.
But for us, other than stopping to let several moose cross the road, we headed straight to the pine-scented village of Tusayan and our hotel.
Cars aren’t allowed in the western section of the park during the summer, so the next morning we parked and boarded a shuttle bus that took us to the many vantage points. We walked between some and rode to others.
The paved Rim Trail travels over 12 miles with several vantage points and shuttle stops along the way. There are also trails that go down into the canyon for those with more time and energy, not to mention no fear of heights.
As we neared Lake Powell and the town of Page, we noticed a pull-off for Horseshoe Bend. We were exhausted for the uphill, mile-long hike but we couldn’t pass up the vantage point high above where the Colorado River forms a tight horseshoe. Seeing the sun set over Horseshoe Bend was a strong ending to 24 hours in beautiful Arizona.
Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.