It’s a beautiful, crisp day today. Sunny, with highs in the 60s. We’ll be retracing our journey from Phoenix to Grand Canyon last Sunday but with far better conditions.
Content at this point to see the canyon now as car tourists, we head back into Grand Canyon National Park one last time. We hop from scenic overlook to scenic overlook as we retrace the Desert View Road from the South Gate to the East Gate. The experience is completely different from Sunday night. We can see, and there is almost no evidence of the snow that fell on us for the entire 26 miles of the route.
Our best stop is Lipon Point, home of our freezing, one-photo-and-back-in-the-car stop Sunday. It turns out Lipon Point has some of the best views we’ve seen, now that we can see them. We linger a while, knowing it will be our last view of the canyon. I set up a panorama just to the east of the main overlook, trying to hide the parking lot behind some trees. A father and son (the son being my age) come up to us from the east and ask if we’ve been “over there,” pointing to an outcropping that juts out into the canyon. The rest of the story and the panorama are here.
We say our respectful goodbyes to the canyon here, on this beautiful, private platform. It’s a magnificent cap to a great visit.
Wapatki National Monument is a treat. It’s a series of pueblos in ruins, abandoned around 800 years ago. This is beautiful building, using the same rock that surrounds the area. Much of it is as yet un-excavated.
Sunset Crater National Monument is not as spectacular. People like us don’t get to go up to the crater and look around any more, so we have to satisfy ourselves with a hike through the lava flow that came down the side of the mountain when it blew. Curtis and I agree we are glad we were not standing there when all that lava came down.
From Sunset Crater, it’s off to Flagstaff, where we have a quick lunch before we hit the big highway. Again, I reflect on the difference between today and Sunday, and how much more enjoyable the drive is today. We pass from 7,000 feet down to 3,000 feet without incident. At 3,000 feet, the saguaro cacti appear. They are everywhere. They are at once joyous and sublime. They wave hello while they stand in stately serenity. We decide they are the cows of the desert: dotting the hillsides, the saguaros provide happiness and comfort to all who pass by.
At 2,000 feet, we are back in civilization, and it’s rush hour. This is a rude reintroduction to the big city. The second rude element is my choice of hotel in Mesa. It is a dump. We unload the car into the room and sadly slink away to dinner. As we eat dinner out on the patio of Harry Caray’s former sports bar, we notice a nice hotel across the street.
Over dinner, Curtis and I hatch a plan. Once the check is paid, we go across to the nicer hotel an inquire about rooms. Most everything is booked up due to spring training, but they have a room. We reserve it for Thursday through Sunday, and mope our way back to the dump to spend our one and only night there. At least we get to leave as soon as we wake up tomorrow.