Grand Canyon State, How Ya Doin’?

The next series of posts will feature your happy writer’s first time setting foot (and 4-wheels) in the state of Arizona in the last spring break of her quickly disappearing college life.

Special mention and photo credits to Dad, who I had the pleasure of traveling with this weekend. Second special mention to my Nissan Sentra 2014 rental, which I drove over 840+ miles of highway, a new personal record. Third special mention to Madame Mother Nature, who I take my hat off to for producing some of the most awe-inspiring wonders my young human self has ever seen.

I jotted my memories down before hitting the pillow each night- darn good pillows and darn great memories. Back to the Grand Canyon State we go…

3/21/2015, 10 PM, Grand Canyon Inn on the 180-64 Junction, Arizona

I totally lucked out yesterday. It was the first time I have ever missed a flight, but thanks to a four hour connection in Los Angeles Airport (LAX) and being cleared on the 5pm standby for the SFO-LAX flight, I made it to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) as planned. After finding Dad, I drove a Nissan Sentra, registered only in January 2015, to the Red Roof Inn on Highway 17.

LA from above- goodbye, California!
LA from above- goodbye, California!

Today: started off with a scenic Northbound drive up the 17 from Phoenix, past Sedona, to Flagstaff. Transferred to Hwy 180, where I stopped by Mount Humphrey’s (3852 m, 12637 ft tall). Ironically, its tallest peaks are known as the San Francisco Peaks. Not only are they the highest among a group of extinct volcanoes, but also the highest points in Arizona. The Snow Bowl next door offers winter skiing and throwback to my last Thanksgiving in Tahoe. There’re still remnants of melting snow (to my surprise) by the highway, flanked by a breathtaking expanse of short, dry grasses. I found it a little hard to believe that this was the southern-most tundra in the USA. The altitude (~6000 ft) probably accounts for the cold. Jumped back into car after pictures because it’s a bad idea to wear shorts here. Oops.

Presenting Mt. Humphreys, highest peak in Arizona. Also, do not recommend driving with passenger door open.
Presenting Mt. Humphreys, highest peak in Arizona. I do not recommend driving with your passenger door open.

Next: drove through Kaibab National Forest and at 180-64 junction found our motel, the Grand Canyon Inn. Let me assure you, this is in the middle of nowhere. Period. In retrospect, I’d recommend living in Flagstaff because it’s a more convenient junction for accessing multiple scenic spots in Arizona besides the Grand Canyon.

We drove up the 64 North toward the Grand Canyon National Park at 2ish and FINALLY found parking around 3 PM. It’s as bad as parking in San Francisco. We meandered to the Visitor Center, gauged our action plan and attempted to make the 3:30 PM geology tour at the Yuvapai Geology Museum by walking the Rim Trail from Mather Point, and utterly underestimated how easily the Grand Canyon would detract us from our path.

You know that anticipation you carry when you’re about to see something really meaningful or eminent, something you’ve envisioned for the longest time, something your eyes are bursting to drink in at any second? Exactly. When you walk up the Rim Trail in search for that Grand Canyon view you’ve only seen through NASA’s photos from space (on the Internet, duh), but not with your own eyes, you will literally stop everything you are doing when the real view falls into sight.

It is magnificent. The pictures have a right to do the talking first.

The Grand Canyon South Rim: a panorama of geological time
I present you a panorama of geological time from the Grand Canyon South Rim
Wow
Too wide for my iPhone to capture: the North Rim you’re looking at is actually 1000 ft higher
Rock formations by day
3PM, rock formations by day. Note the horizontal rock stratification. 
Rock formations by sunset
6:30 PM, rock formations by sunset. The red of legends. 
Oops, dad fell off the Grand Canyon today.
Meanwhile, dad fell off the Grand Canyon today.
We are small but the canyon (and 2 billion years in between) is ours!
I found him! We are small but the canyon (and 2 billion years in between) is ours!

Three viewing points and several megabytes of photos later, we dragged ourselves off the Rim Trail and into the Yuvapai Geology Museum to understand what exactly we are looking at, which I will detail in the next post.

Prepare for the coolest geological crash course in my next post.
Prepare for the ultimate geology crash course in my next post. Cheers!

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