Perspectives: Grand Canyon

There are so many ways to see and experience the Grand Canyon. We went the first day the southern rim was open in 2012, when it was still too cold to raft down the Colorado River. Still, we had a grand adventure!

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Traveling with a Purpose

Some people like to shop on vacation, while some seek out cathedrals and others are working on the Seven Summits. We like to visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Although our son’s only 19, all of his adventuring has been with us. My husband traveled throughout Europe with his family when he was a kid, and through Singapore early in his career; and I lived in Germany while my dad was stationed there in the Army in the 70s. We decided to start a list for we Three Adventurers, which is reflected below. It’s a great way to learn about new people and cultures, and a fun way to gain a new view of the world!

The Urban Hikers Take to the Trails

We’re big hikers in my house, for lots of reasons. The fresh air; the exercise; the low-emission, carbon-free footprint; the enthusiastic conversation we share with our son; the pure, wagging delight of the beagle.

Last week, toward the end of our adventures in Arizona, my husband ran across a fabulous app that let him track and record our hikes: National Geographic AllTrails. He was bummed that we couldn’t backtrack to add our earlier hikes, but was pleased to record our time along the West Fork Oak Creek Trail in Sedona. For Mother’s Day, the boys and the beagle took me out to one of our favorite hometown trails, the Peninsula Trail at Harris Lake Community Park. And we added it to the database.

The best way to record your hikes into the system is through regular photographs with your phone. They act as weigh-points, and the GPS tracking helps to mark the path. It’s a fun way to remember where you’ve been. It’s also a cool way to learn a little while you’re at it.

For example, on the two trails we’ve added, here are the basic specs:

West Fork Oak Creek Trail: May 2, 2012
–  Distance: 4.82 miles
–  Elevation: 5,323 ft
–  Max Elevation: 5,406 ft
–  Elevation Gain: 201 ft
–  Elapsed Time: 3.23 hours
–  Average Speed: 1.49 mph
–  Top Speed: 3.68 mph

Harris Lake Park – Peninsula Trail: May 13, 2012
–  Distance: 4.84 miles
–  Elevation: 226 ft
–  Max Elevation: 258 ft
–  Elevation Gain: 69 ft
–  Elapsed Time: 2.26 hours
–  Average Speed: 2.14 mph
–  Top Speed: 4.72 mph

We were at a much higher altitude in Sedona, where the straight uphill climbs were sometimes slowed by my asthma, but in New Hill we had our easily distracted beagle in tow. I wish we could’ve recorded our hikes in Broken Arrow Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and Boynton Canyon — where the max elevation was sometimes over 6,000 feet, and our elevation gain was sometimes in the four-digit numbers.

So check it out. AllTrails is a great guide for new places!

A Southerner’s View on Desert Flowers

It’s a given fact that gardening is in my blood. It seems to have skipped a generation, mainlining straight to me through my granddaddy, who everyone knew as “Teddy.” He was a farmer, and even when he had to move to the city (Norfolk, VA) from the family homestead (near Grifton, NC) because the farm wouldn’t support his brothers and their families, he maintained a small patch of garden in the backyard. My mother, on the other hand, hated the farm and gardening. Word is that when she was two or three, they’d stand her at the end of a long row and she’d stand there and cry until somebody came to get her.

I think she’s crazy, but then again, I love gardening. I love to be outside in the sun, with my hands in the soil, connecting with nature and appreciating what the good Lord gave us. Our garden is too shady for vegetables, so we focus on an abundance of flora to our heart’s delight.

Who knew the Arizona desert landscape would offer as many delightful flowers as we came across, a fact I now know firsthand after our family vacation last week. Life, it seems, finds a way. I hope you’ll enjoy the slideshow of desert flora, collected from our five days of difficult to medium hikes.

Our travels took us to Sedona, which we used as a hub for small day hikes and trips. We ventured to the Grand Canyon; hiked for miles through the difficult trails of Broken Arrow Canyon; entered nirvana in Boynton Canyon–where there were a handful of different ecosystems depending on which way you turned appreciated the red rocks at Red Rock State Park; and tickled our toes in the West Fork trail at Oak Creek Canyon. We experienced Chimney Rock, Sugar Loaf, Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock, Snoopy Rock, Cathedral Rock, Capitol Butte, Coffee Pot Rock … first hand, up close, and smeared our hands in the iron ore-rich soil that makes the mountains in Sedona red. We visited the Tuzigoot National Monument, possibly one of the oldest ruins sites in the United States. We visited three vortex sites, chatted a nonstop blue streak with our fourteen year old son, breathed the clean mountain air (that does wonders for asthma), and realized that the world is so much larger than the three of us.

“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country – to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is.

I was delighted to learn of the wisdom of the Santa Fe railroad people in deciding not to build their hotel on the brink of the canyon. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel, or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon.

Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.

We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children’s children will get the benefit of it.”

– President Roosevelt made this speech at the
Grand Canyon, Arizona, on May 6, 1903.

What to Do in Arizona?

We’re going back to Arizona in a couple of weeks, and we’ve been compiling things we’ve just GOT to do. When we were there three years ago, we flew into Phoenix, and drove south to Tucson and Tombstone, and hiked the Sonora Desert.  We’re staying in Sedona, and figure we’ve got a three- to four-hour diameter … so far our list includes:

  • The Grand Canyon, south rim
  • Floating along the Colorado River
  • Red Rock Canyon
  • Antelope Canyon
  • Havasu Falls
  • Grand Canyon Skywalk
  • Desert View Watchtower

Got any MUST SEE suggestions, for either nature or cultural outings?