Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Northern AZ Road Trip: Part 2

Onward and upward...

The next stop on the trip, excluding the pseudo-detour to Sunset Crater Volcano, was Page, Arizona.

Advertised as a resort town, Page was nothing more than a glorified rest stop. Before I delve into the details of Page, though, I want to talk a little about the drive up.

For those of you who can appreciate a nice sunset and a panoramic view of the world as far as the eyes can see, I recommend a trip to the desert at some point. Between Sedona and Page, the only city you come near is Flagstaff, and only near enough to see the snowcapped mountains of its ski resorts.

But when you take Route 89 north through the vast, empty expanses of the Arizona midlands, you get breathtaking scenery. Hills rise into mountains, and mountains shed their curves to become jagged rocky crests, flatlands open into canyons. Greens and browns and reds and oranges in shades you've never seen envelope you. We managed to catch this treasure right as the sun sank beneath the mountains on the horizon. The wide open skies let you see the entire gradient of colors in every direction. Behind us, it was a shade of pink-orange that Crayola probably couldn't name. In front, there was a deep purple-grey that hovered over the Vermilion Cliffs in the distance.

Unfortunately, our cameras could not do these moments justice, so you'll just have to trust my descriptions.

To Page.

Had we seen this sign upon first entering the town, we would have thought "Nice, they outline some of the attractions for us." However, we entered during the night and did not see the sign until the following morning. Of course, after discovering what the town had to offer, we just laughed. A lot. And circled around to get a good picture. That was IT. All the town had. No downtown. No restaurants open past nine. The hotel was nice enough, though.

I bet you're wondering why we went to Page in the first place? Let me answer your question with a question. Have you ever seen anything like this?

This is Antelope Canyon. One of Arizona's famed slot canyons. The canyon is formed by a combination of flash floods and wind passing through soft sandstone. Unfortunately, I don't have the photography know-how or a good enough camera to really capture this place either. To get to the canyon, we had to hire a Navajo guide to drive us to the entrance, which you would hardly notice if you weren't looking for it. It's named a slot canyon for good reason: the entrance is a narrow slot in the side of the canyon. And the roof of the canyon is a narrow slot in the ground above us. We caught it at a slow time for tourism, but also at a bad time for overhead sun. Summer time gives you the best view, but you have to fight hundreds of people through the canyon and wait your turn for pictures, all the while hoping no one gets in your shot and ruins it.

Antelope Canyon is about five miles east of Page.

Next stop was Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam. I didn't know what either of these were, but they were both about two miles northwest of Page.

Page (and the surrounding attractions) sits right on the Arizona-Utah border. So we decided to drive a little way into Utah so we could say we were in Utah. That was about all it was good for. The nearest city was 60 miles away, and we had more on the agenda for the day. So, our 10 minute trek into the next state was enough. We pulled a U-ey and headed back south toward Marble Canyon and Lee's Ferry.

So, down we go. Next entry will chronicle our southbound venture toward the Grand Canyon. I'm going to delay the grand finale with a post about Marble Canyon and the Navajo Bridge before we wrap this thing up together.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Northern AZ Road Trip: Part 1

Without further ado...

I'm finally getting around to posting about our amazing road trip through Arizona. The idea kind of started on a whim. We decided to be spontaneous and take a vacation inside our vacation. So, with the Christmas money I got from my Grandmother, I decided to do some sightseeing...experience what Arizona actually has to offer beyond long, toilsome hours buried in law school text books.

So, Melissa and I sat down in front of Google maps and charted out our journey.

Stop 1: Sedona, Tlaquepaque
Our last trip to Sedona was great, but I was really sick so I couldn't really enjoy the whole experience. And we didn't have enough time to see some of the things we wanted to see. So, we went back. Sedona is about two and a half hours of driving through beautiful landscapes. As you leave the Phoenix area, things slowly turn to a different shade of brownish-grey, the cacti disappear, and trees appear intermittently along the highway. By the time you're getting close, you notice the red rock formations for which Sedona is famous. It's called Red Rock Country for good reason.

One small disclaimer, before I go on: There are countless sights we did not get to see that we still plan on seeing. I may mention a few in passing.

So we passed Camp Verde and Montezuma's Village (one of those sights for another time) and entered Sedona, which is perpetually under construction. We stopped at an information center before we entered the town and had a nice chat with one of the attendants there. He turned out to be from Aberdeen...small world. He recommended a few sites along the way which I will mention as they come.

We hit Bell Rock...

We went back to the Chapel of the Holy Cross...

Then we headed up to Tlaquepaque, "the art and soul of Sedona"...

Tlaquepaque is kind of a shopping plaza, but more. It's hard to explain its allure, but it exists, I promise. It's full of arts and crafts and paintings and photography exhibits from local artists (not necessarily from Sedona, but regionally local). I almost spent hundreds of dollars, but fortunately Melissa was the voice of reason this time. I did buy two inexpensive prints from a set, depicting a sunset over a desert landscape with cacti. They are set in hand-cut mats. We had extra frames for them.

After a few hours, we decided to get on our way to Page, AZ.

We looked for Sunset Crater Volcano along the way (recommendation of the Aberdeen man), but were relatively unsuccessful in finding it. We found the sign for it, but we didn't feel like delving too deep into a detour when we were antsy to get on the road. Page was another four hours north of Sedona.

The journey to Page will be another entry. Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Back from Vacation

So much has been going on since we last spoke.

I've been home. My sister got married. Christmas happened. New Year's, too, back in Tempe. Virginia Tech finally won the Orange Bowl. I finally made it to Sedona and beyond.

Melissa and I decided last week to take a quasi-spontaneous road trip through northern Arizona. We packed up and left on Monday with a hotel room for Monday night in Page, AZ. The rest of the trip was going by the seat of our pants.

I'll chronicle this trip in a three entry series with pictures.

In the meantime, a few quips about everything else that's happening.

I passed all my classes. It wasn't pretty, but I'm officially a 1.5L (my own term...I don't know if that's the accepted legal terminology). I dropped over $700 on text books for the spring.

Liz is married. The wedding was a blast. She had it at St. John's College in Annapolis. The reception was beautiful. Beautiful bride. I'm glad to have Zach in the family.

My two weeks at home were way too busy. I tried to squeeze everyone in at least once. I know I missed some people. But I did my best. It was great seeing the people I did see.

We (me, Melissa, her aunt and grandfather, and my mom) took a trip into DC to do a little museum-ing. It was a very nice last day in Maryland. Melissa's parents took us to a Maryland basketball game (a win over American). I got all sorts of fun things for Christmas. No complaints at all.

Back in Tempe for New Years, we went to the Insight Bowl (Kansas over Minnesota), then to Tempe Town Lake for a block party and rang in the New Year's with Styx. I met Elvis.

A McDaniel/Haik family trip to Sedona after that was a blast, too, except that I was really sick. Came down with a vicious cold/fever combo that knocked me out for a few days. I'm still recovering.

Moving on to post-road trip things...I have little to say. The rest I'll cover in my Great American Northern Arizona Road Trip 2009 series.

Dreading classes starting again on Tuesday. I was just getting used to all this free time.