Twenty years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Santa Fe, NM. It was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen in the United States. I knew then, that I would see other parts of the Southwest to further enjoy the artistry and the culture of the most beautifully naturally landscaped area in the United states. Although I am an avid traveler, I enjoy the national parks the most because of the scenic landscape and all the geological features that accompany each park. I have always enjoyed the outdoors, and I seek out natural parks whenever possible. This year, after previously visiting Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Tetons, Acadia, and Shenandoah, I decided that it was time to visit Arizona. During my week-long trip to Arizona, I went to the Grand Canyon (North and south Rims), the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Lowell Observatory, the Heard Museum, Taliesin West, and the Valley Bar in Phoenix for a jazz night out. I decided to fly into Phoenix ( Flagstaff would have been closer, but more expensive) and stay near Sedona, a beautiful part of Arizona filled with spas, but miserably hot. I rented a Buick Regal from Hertz. I had to have a large enough vehicle to climb the elevation to the Grand Canyon. The sales associate suggested a Buick. It was a great choice. The day I arrived in Phoenix it was a stifling vaporless one hundred-seventeen degrees! As I drove north, the temperature decresed about thirteen degrees, and I struggled to maintain the speed limit or even to surpass it as I was steadily climbing to seven thousand feet. After an hour of driving, I became acclimated to my surroundings, and was no longer anxious about driving. My comfort level allowed me to travel through out the state (1600 miles in one week).
Both Arizona’s skyline and landscape completely bedazzled me. The Grand Canyon is dessert to a beautifully accented region. The state was resplendent with naturally carved canyons that are only seen in the Southwest. I realized that I did not remember the lingo for all of the land formations such as mesa, butte, and that I would need to have a working knowledge of many terms unique to the Southwest. The next morning after my arrival, at four AM I drove to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was significantly cooler. In fact, I began to worry if I had the appropriate attire for the weather. When I reached the Canyon it was about sixty-two degrees around 9am. The drive was lonely, a bit treacherous, but scenic as I approached the higher elevations. I had heard that it was more beautiful at the North Rim because of the increased elevation. The temperature was expected to be about ten degrees cooler than the South Rim and greatly cooler than the valley. Thus, it was a climate ideal for hiking. I spent about five hours hiking there that day, because I knew that I had to drive back to my hotel. The North rim is significantly less developed and less accessible than the South Rim; however with its beautiful colors marked by water erosion and because of the sun’s angle, the pictures that I took seemed to turn out better than my South Rim pictures. Staying at the lodge in the Grand Canyon, whether it’s the North or the South rims, takes advance planning of at least a year for the summer months. On day three of my trip, I took the drive to the South Rim. It took two and a half hours to reach it. It was highly developed with a great walking trail around the rim, shuttle buses that picked people up at various points in the park, places to eat, and multiple places to stay in the park. In hindsight, I should have planned this trip over a year in advance so that I could have stayed in the park. As a result of this trip, I will plan my next national park trip now, so that I can stay in its park.
I always enjoy an educational component to my vacations. I visited the Museum of Northern Arizona and the Lowell Observatory after driving along the famous Route 66! I spent about two hours at the museum so that I could learn the geological history of the Grand Canyon – how it was formed over millions of years ago by the Colorado River. it also focuses on the archaeological history of the Native Americans. I learned much from my visit. After the museum, I spent the remainder of the day at the Lowell Observatory, founded by Percival Lowell. I took several tours through which I learned much about astronomy. I highly recommend both places, At night, I went stargazing for the first time using powerful telescopes that projected the images onto a computer monitor.
When I arrived in Phoenix at the end of my tour, I went to the Heard Museum, the largest of its kind in the United States dedicated to Native American history. I spent almost the entire day there, taking multiple tours to gain a greater awareness of Native American culture. I realized that I had scant knowledge of their culture and I have avowed that I must learn more.
I also went to Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Loyd Wright, the self-proclaimed and arguably the greatest American architect ever (He designed the Guggenheim Museum). His home is grandly geometrically landscaped with triangles accenting every area of the interior and the exterior. It’s adorned with Asian art and authorized replicas of his practically designed but stunning furniture. Today, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation owns the grounds as well as the architecture school that limits enrollment to thirty-six students yearly. However, because of new accreditation policy, the school is about to become fully independent from the foundation. The foundation even has the rights to all of the water on the property because Wright believed that there was water underground and negotiated the rights to any future water found on the property. He was thought to have been crazy to pay for water in a place in which there is little water. Water was later found from a river that supplies all of the water to the home gratuitously! Imagine never having a water bill!
I ended my tour at the Valley Bar, a performing arts venue in Phoenix. I listened to live music originally recorded by great jazz musicians. I contacted a friend living in Arizona. We had great food and great music to top off a grand vacation!
Visit the Southwest. You will not be disappointed. It will do wonders for the mind, body, and soul! Now I can say that Arizona is every bit as beautiful as New Mexico! See the gallery of photographs.