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13.04.24 0420 [PST]

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The Grand Canyon Is Just A Really Big Hole

"The Grand Canyon? Why would you want to go there?". Jeff was loading up on groceries and supplies for our trip, at the expense of having to endure the Phoenix Walmart, when the cashier asked them this pointed question. "You know it's just a really big hole, right?"

Maybe she had a point. We had flown all this way just to look at what tantamouted to be nothing more than the world's largest hole in the ground. Although, that would make Mt Everest just a really big rock, and planet Earth just a really big ball of dirt. This cashier was almost philosophical, but I doubt that was her intention.

Regardless, we were still excited. With a week of amazing sights planned, and world famous photographer Jeff Cruz at our side, we were feeling confident it would be a great trip.

Wednesday, April 21

- Landed at Phoenix airport, where Jeff was waiting with our groceries from Walmart, after the cashier had attempted to crush Jeff's sense of being.

- Drove to the Mexican grocery store 'Phoenix Ranch Market'. Lots of Mexican music playing throughout, and streamers rotating on the ceiling. Very festive. We ate at the cafeteria which had quite good and authentic food for the money. Ordered some mystery juice drinks.

- Got in our car and drove to Flagstaff. Checked into Highland Country Inn. We were surprised at how cold Flagstaff was.

Thursday, April 22

- Woke up the next day and went to Macey's for breakfast. Had some good breakfast sandwiches and good hot chocolate.

- Then we drove through the snow on our way to the Grand Canyon. Checked in at the 7 Mile Lodge. It definitely wasn't the Hilton, but it was cheap.

- Went to the Grand Canyon. Entrance to the park turned out to be free, because it was National Parks week.

- The snow continued to fall as we checked out the first viewpoint. It was amazing, but the fog was rolling in, obstructing our view. Some of us were surprised at just how cold it could be at the Grand Canyon.

- We walked to Mather Point, where there was a lodge. Spent some time in the bookstore. Then we caught the shuttle back to our car where we drove along 'Desert View Drive' stopping at the various viewpoints along the way. Each one more dissapointing than the previous one, as the fog became worse and worse, to the point where you couldn't see any of the Grand Canyon.

- Walked up the Desert View tower and observed from there. Checked out the gift shop to pass the time, hoping for the fog to clear, but it never did.

- Decided to call it a day and hope for better weather in the morning.

- Went back to our hotel room and made some spaghetti and spaghetti sauce on the campstove that we had planned to use for camping, which never happened due to the weather.

= We prepared to get up well before sunrise the next day, setting out our cereal already in the bowls, and straws ready for our juiceboxes. There wouldn't be a minute to spare.

Friday, April 23

- Woke up at 4:30 AM to make it to the Grand Canyon by sunrise. Jeff dropped us off at South Kaibab trail where we would begin our descent. We started our hike at 5:15 AM. The weather had certainly improved since last night and the sun made it's first appearance.

- The views were spectacular as the sun rose and cast it's first rays of light on to the Canyon. The descent was steep, but fairly easy, being downhill and all. We felt like we had the Canyon all to ourselves, until finally encountering some people who were making their way up the Canyon trails. They definitely looked a lot more exhausted and weary than we did. We felt like this was probably a glimpse of our future.

- We made it to the bottom by about 8:30 AM and walked across the bridge spanning the Colorado River. We hiked a bit, and then walked across another bridge, crossing the river again, where we ate some trail mix and apples, enjoying the view. We both commented on how we don't think we've ever accomplished so much before 9 AM.

- From there, we began the tough part. It was all uphill from here. Well, it wasn't too bad in the beginning, as it was fairly flat for a while as we walked along the river.

- Then the path started to ascend, and we started our journey out of the Canyon. About half way up, we stopped for lunch at Indian Garden, eating our well deserved sandwiches.

- Continuing on, we grew more and more weary. From this point on, the day began to seem a litle longer. Our stops for rest became more and more frequent. The last 3 miles were the most difficult. The skys clouded over and it began to rain, and eventually turning to snow. The trails were also becoming busier.

- Finally, exhausted and aching, we made it to the top, after an estimated 27km from top to bottom to top again. We arrived it at just before 3PM, a bit ahead of schedule.

- We radioed Jeff and asked him to come pick us up. At this point, all I wanted to do was just eat, lay down and pass out. We tried to look up a good restaurant in Tusayan but even the best restaurant had terrible reviews. So we went back and made some more spaghetti in our room. There would be no trouble sleeping tonight.

Saturday, April 24

- Woke up, sore from the day before. Packed up our car and headed back towards the eastern exit of the Grand Canyon park. We stopped at Lipan Point on the way out, this time with beautiful blue skies and no fog. This time, the view was amazing, and by now, I felt I had really seen the Grand Canyon in all it's glory.

- Drove to Page, Arizona. Checked in at Lulu's Sleep Ezze motel. Lulu took her time explaining everything there was to do and see around Page and Lake Powell.

- Drove to Horseshoe Bend, and checked that out. Then we went to a spot near Lake Powell, also near Lake Powell damn, another Lulu recommendation.

- Then we went on a short nature trail hike, taking in more views of Lake Powell.

- Drove back into town, stopping at Safeway to pick up some food for our BBQ. And Samuel Adams beer for Lulu and her husband.

- Dale, Lulu's husband cooks for all the guests at the motel and did a great job of grilling our chicken, peppers, mushrooms, and corn on the cob.

- We ate our delicious dinner outside with some people from France and San Francisco, along with berry pie for dessert.

- Went back to our hotel room where Chris and Jeff really got into their 'Hills' marathon. I was bit shocked and confused by just how much Hills knowledge Jeff had tucked away.

Sunday, April 25

- Checked out of Lulu's and headed to the Antelope Canyons. We toured the lower canyon, but couldn't get a photo pass to stay in the canyon longer without a tripod. Jeff offered me his mini-tripod but I felt like an hour was probably long enough anyways.

- It was an extremely narrow opening down into the slot canyon. Once inside, it was pretty nice, with all sorts of interesting colors and light playing tricks with the shadows and beams of light. No wonder photographers love this place.

- We left Jeff to go check out Waterholes Canyon. At first we couldn't find it, or at least how to get into it. We finally figured it out, after climbing over a wrecked car and made it part way into the canyon. But then we reached a point that would have required a rope and some climbing skills, so we turned back.

- Went and picked up Jeff, who had actually finished early, thinking we were waiting for him. Then we drove to Bryce Canyon, stopping at Best Friend's Animal Sanctuary along the way. We were too late for tours.

- Arrived at our Best Western Hotel, which was by far the nicest one on our trip. Jeff even filmed an episode of MTV Cribs. We relaxed in the hot tub for a bit and then went to watch the sunset at both 'Sunset Point' and 'Sunrise Point' in Bryce Canyon.

- Tried to find somewhere to go for dinner at 8:30 on a Sunday night in small town, Utah. Good luck with that. Resorted to eating at Subway.

Monday, April 26

- Jeff and I got up around 5:30 AM to photograph the sunrise at Bryce. It was cold and windy, but there were still a crowd of photographers jostling for position at Bryce Point. Then we came back to the room, crashed for a bit, then woke up for the Best Western breakfast which was quite good. I had 2 platefulls of eggs, which Jeff found amusing.

- Headed out for our hike of Bryce Canyon. We started with Navajo Trail, beginning at Sunset Point. We wanted to go to Wall St, but it was closed (falling rock).

- Then we headed to Peekaboo Loop, with lots of good views and switchbacks. Last we headed over to Queen's Garden, and finally found 'The Queen'. This brought us to the end, back to Sunrise Point.

- On the way back I nearly drove us off the road, distracted as I was removing the park permit from the windshield. Luckily, no damage was done. Went back to our hotel and had some well deserved hot tub time as well as a swim.

- Then we headed into Tropic and had some decent pizza at 'The Pizza Place'.

- Went back to the hotel, and efficiently packed up everything and put it in the car so we could get up as early as possible the next morning to head to 'The Wave', which we were a little apprehensive about finding. - Weary yet again from our hike, we slept soundly, until Jeff snored and woke us up.

Tuesday, April 27

- Had a really early breakfast at the hotel. We were well prepared to find 'The Wave' with our permits (acquired 3 months in advance), maps, instructions, and GPS as backup.

- The road to the Wave was a dirt road, leading us to the trailhead. From there, we followed the detailed instructions, using landmarks as our guide through the hot desert sun.

- At last, we arrived, after about 1.5 hours of hiking, to the glorious Wave. It was perhaps smaller than we had thought, but no less spectacular. Another photography dream location for Jeff.

- We took a lot of pictures, and then went off to find the Wave II, just beyond the Wave. Suddenly the wind was really picking up and sand was blowing everywhere as we attempted to eat lunch. It gave new meaning to the term 'sand'wich. <-- weak

- After lunch we took some more pictures and then said goodbye to the Wave. We walked back quickly, as it looked like a storm might be rolling in, and we had read that the roads could flood out.

- Finally got back to paved road and drove to Sedona where we checked in at Sugarloaf Lodge. After showering quickly and getting the copious amount of sand off our body, we drove to Elote Cafe, which we had heard was a great restaurant. And it was certainly popular, as the waiting list was over an hour long. We put our name on the list and decided to check out the main street of Sedona. It was filled with the usual tourist crap, t-shirt shops (get your dirt shirts here!), jewelery stores and general souvenir garbage. That killed a little time, and we went back to the restauarant, to enjoy our first 'real meal' of the trip. Mushroom enchiladas, chicken enchiladas, and steak with tortillas, all delicious and huge servings.

- Then we went back to the hotel, where Jeff was thrilled to find out that the season premieres of both 'The Hills' and 'The City' were on TV. Oh that superficial Heidi, how would she look after her surgery?

Wednesday, April 28

- On our final day of the trip, we just took it easy, eating a continental breakfast and driving around to a few of Sedona's 'vortexes' which included Bell Rock and the viewpoint/overlook near Airport trail. I have to say, I didn't really feel any of the purported 'spiritual energy' that is alleged to surround these places, but at least they were scenic.

- For lunch, we headed to Pizza Picazzo which had gourmet pizza. Delicious. Tried a peppadew for the first time, on one of the pizzas, yum.

- Got back in to the car and headed to Jerome, about 30km from Sedona. Jerome was a mining town that went bust, and then in the 60's a bunch of hippies started buying properties and revitalizing them. Now it's an artist colony, with interesting shops, such as a store that only sells Kaleidoscopes.

- After Jerome, we stopped at Whole Foods on our way back to the airport. Lost Jeff at the airport, but no worries, we all made it home eventually.