Sunday, March 15, 2009

Birthday weekend adventure to the Grand Canyon!

With the arrival of friend Carolyn, we also celebrated my birthday this weekend! What better present than to have a loving husband, a dear friend, and the Grand Canyon?!

We headed north to the Canyon yesterday - arriving there around 3:30pm. That gave us time to check in, view the Canyon in all of it's glory, and then watch the sunset from the terrace of Bright Angel Lodge (where we were staying)! Carolyn had never been to the Grand Canyon, so it was especially fun to share that with her. While this was my fourth trip there, this was the first time we had stayed in one of the lodges (vs. camping in a tent during the Grand Canyon Star Party for a week). We loved our housing - a small cabin with adjoining rooms, very near the main lodge - charming to the max! We were joined for dinner (in the dining room at Bright Angel) by 'our' Ranger, Marker Marshall. Marker has been involved in the Star Parties for the past few years, and always fun to visit with. Dean set his camera up, rim-side, and did a great series of pictures of the Canyon - the shadows growing as the sun was setting. It was chilly there, being at something over 7,000 feet elevation - and it's always breezy there. We saw the remnants of snow in the wooded and coniferous shrubbed areas. This morning the sky was clear and bright blue, the sun was shining brightly, and we enjoyed seeing more of the sights around the village before heading east along the rim to exit the park at Desert View. Dean also had a nice visit with "our other" Ranger, Chuck Wahler, who has been a friend for many years. On our way to Desert View we stopped at some of the scenic overlooks, including a favorite of Chuck's - Lipan Point. We could see a really nice stretch of the Colorado River, including a couple of segments of the killer rapids that are encountered there. I would highly recommend the drive to the east rim - beautiful views, very different from what is seen from the south rim! We arrived at Desert View (last stop before the exit) and spent considerable time at the Watchtower there. The paintings inside are wonderful, and they have (of course) yet another great gift shop to explore! Leaving the Canyon is always sad, it's a place to stay and savor for as long as possible. From there we headed towards Cameron, AZ - and took the eastern approach to Flagstaff. It was a beautiful drive through a portion of the Navajo Nation reservation, seeing the Little Colorado River Gorge, and the snow covered, north face of San Francisco Peaks (Mt. Humphrey's). We ate lunch at the classic Galaxy Diner, in Flagstaff - in view of Mars Hill, home of the Lowell Observatory (and site of Tombaugh's discovery of the planet Pluto!). From Flagstaff we took the scenic route through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona - enjoying the view of the red rocks, and stopping at the Chapel of the Holy Cross to take some pictures (and find a red rock for Carolyn to take home as a souvenir!). Once we hit the highway, heading towards Phoenix, it was head for home - and arriving home around 8:30pm. It was a long day, but one filled with breathtaking sights and enjoyment of my favorite planet! I think we've just about worn Carolyn out, already! Tomorrow - lunch with friend Jane, and then a fun observing session tomorrow evening!

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