The week after Christmas we glided over the Rockies to much warmer climes than the snows of the midwest to what turned out to be one of the most restful times we had all year.
Wonderfully, I had over two full weeks of vacation for Christmas, the longest stretch of vacation I’ve had since moving to New York, and my in-laws generously planned a trip with us to the warmth of Arizona between Christmas and New Year. On the itinerary: the Grand Canyon, the red castle rocks of Sedona, and the boulders and cacti of Scottsdale. The dry sunshine on our backs as we hiked through the desert was so rejuvenating, and we came back home energized.
Since we were already halfway across the country, the flight into Phoenix brought us away from snows and stinging cold in just a few hours. We drove straight up to Sedona, where we stayed for half of the trip and which served as our base to explore both the famed Sedona geography as well as the Grand Canyon.
And so first things first: our first full day we took a Pink Jeep Tour to get the most out of the Grand Canyon. It was all of our first time at this yawning, unfathomable Wonder of the Natural World.
The drive from Sedona in our bouncing Jeep was curvy and took more than 2 hours. We took the secret back side entrance and then right there--out our right window, it scooped down into the earth.
The layers of color, the seemingly endless drop down (a mile!), and the contrasting snow made for a deep painting that as you looked deeper, repeated itself.
Photos of the Canyon are notoriously difficult, and so I love that Walk saved the layers of color contrasting with the snow for us to look at now.
Here is something you might not be able to tell straight away. It was SO cold, and much colder than it had been in NYC. The elevation of the South Rim, where we explored, is still around 6,800 feet, and the dry air seemed to crawl under my coat.
Thankfully, we had a big pink Jeep to get back into whenever we wanted.
Look down, and you'll see how bitty those pine trees look. Specks!
There were moments that looked like the desert more than I expected, the shape of the land raw and the foliage sparse.
One of the most surprising things to me was how much pine there was. Ponderosa forests were so airy--the trunks had no brush underneath and it felt clean and clear. We drove through miles of pines within the Grand Canyon National Park itself.
Breaking up the landscape a bit, and yet so naturally at home in it, were some of the historic landmarks designed by architect Mary Colter in the 1930's.
We climbed to the top of the Desert View Watchtower (where we also learned to tell authentic Native America crafts from counterfeit), and the inside was like a treasure hunt with art on every wall.
I spied Walker out of one of the tiny windows, but they were too fogged up and small for him to see me (he was outside taking photos). He took these later.
Colter also designed Lookout Studio, now a gift shop,
and about a half mile away, the Bright Angel Lodge built into the cliffside.
My mother-in-law knows me well and when I was getting a little hungry, we went into the El Tovar Hotel (which was still decked for the holidays), and she got a cheese plate. It felt like a festive ski lodge.
Silly moose still hadn't opened their Christmas gifts!
We took a walk after and I would not be parted with my leftover cheese. This photo also shows my emotions: cold and slightly nervous that someone is going to slip off the iced edge.
This was part of a geology walk we took, although the chronology confused us a little.
Isn't it a stunner? We looked and looked for hours and it felt like a turning kaleidoscope all the way around.
I loved when we could see the river clearly, so tiny below. In the Jeep tour, we watched a video about the famed dangerous rapids, so hard to imagine from the trickle it looked like above.
Over one million acres of this!
Such an epic way to approach the New Year, and someday, we'll be back.