Arizona is the newest of the lower 48 states, having been
created in 1912. The perception of the state is generally of desert, cactus and gunslingers,
but as I found there is a great diversity across the land. Arizona has some of the most
spectacular natural scenery in the US, if not the world, including the likes of the Grand Canyon.
I visited Arizona in April 2004, when I went to see some of the people I had lived with in Valencia
for the previous academic year. I was based in Flagstaff for a week and made day trips from there to
Monument Valley, Sedona and the Grand Canyon amongst others. I also had a brief visit to Phoenix,
and I flew home from Los Angeles after getting an overnight train.
Flagstaff sits on historic Route 66 as well as being
on the Santa Fe railroad. It is the nearest sizeable place to the Grand Canyon, 70 miles away,
and is the third city in Arizona.
The town of Flagstaff from up near the Lowell Observatory,
from where Pluto was discovered in the 1930s. Flagstaff's altitude of about 7000 feet means that
it is a good clear place for astronomy, and the thin air also means you can get drunk more easily.
The San Francisco peaks form a spectacular backdrop to Flagstaff,
Humphrey's Peak in the centre is the highest point in Arizona at 12633 feet. The Arizona snowbowl
is a popular ski resort with varying snow reliability, which has led to the proposal of more snow making
facilities on the mountain. However the area is also sacred land to 13 Native American tribes who have already
had to put up with the destruction of their forests for the ski industry, and don't want any more.
We visited the PowWow at
Northern Arizona University's
arena, where there were two days of Native American chanting and dancing. This chap is dressed for the
fancy dance contest, in full regalia.
My first glimpse of the Grand Canyon through the trees as we
marched up to the edge ready for our descent. The canyon is never less than four times as wide as it
is deep, so I'm told, which means that at the depth here of 1 mile (!) the opposite rim is four miles away.
After we had hiked down the Kaibab trail about halfway to the
Colorado River, Pat had a little snooze while I took some photos. There are warnings at the start of the
trail telling you not to try to hike to the river and back in one day as you will probably die, but nonetheless
we met some keen German and Swiss people who were on their way back up having just been right down to the
water's edge, and they were still in good spirits.
A view from the south rim again, as the sun went down all the colours
changed. The quietness was very nice. The hike was not quite what I was used to, as normally I start with
a lot of "up" before a significant amount of "down" rather than the other way round. It's this which catches
people out, they think they're doing fine all the way down but when they start the 5000 foot ascent they
get into trouble.
This is a view of Slide Rock State Park to the south of Flagstaff, and
it was not too much unlike Linn of Dee near Braemar by design. People were jumping off cliffs into
the freezing cold water, and sliding down the natural chutes in the rocks which the river has carved. We also
had a short hike upstream through the gorge.
Sedona, yet further south of Flagstaff towards Phoenix is a very scenic
tourist town which due to its strict building planning laws and colour harmonising, boasts the worlds only
McDonald's with blue arches not golden. This is the view from near the airport.
Here I stand at the Arizona/Utah state border, on my trip up to
Monument Valley. My journey took me through Navajo land and if I could pick up anything on the radio it was
none other than Navajo FM. These are the places where there are no people for miles around, the tumbleweed
blows through, and the vultures circle above.
Monument Valley is famous for these rock formations known as the
"Mittens" which were formed by some strange geological and erosion processes. They are sacred to the
Navajo, and as such rock climbing is not usually permitted. The area spans the Arizona/Utah border and there
is a dirt track which you can drive round to see the best views. The mittens are between 500 and a thousand
feet in height.
These three rock spires are known as The Three Sisters, and they were
tricky to photograph in the late afternoon with the low sun.
This is John Ford Point, named after the director who shot much of
his famous work for the old Hollywood westerns here. More recently some of "Back to the Future III" was
In the mid-right of this photo stands the "Totem Pole", a very
slender and tall spike of rock, famous in the world of rock climbing. It is eight metres wide and
125 metres tall (over 400 feet).
This picture was on a postcard in the visitor's centre, which I gave
to the person at the till and asked "tell me how to get here". So I was pointed further up the road into Utah
to this archetypal American open road, the essence of Easy Rider and other such things. I had always assumed
that this was Route 66 but in fact it is Route 163, this view is looking south back towards Arizona which is
about 20 miles away. Although there were very few cars I still kept checking over my shoulder to make sure
I wouldn't get flattened by the next truck mid-photo.