July 10, 2015

summer road trip

Colorado River near Lee's Ferry
Last week I went on a 3-day summer road trip with my parents and my boys, to enjoy more of God's creation in our state. It was mostly hot, so we didn't do a huge amount of walking around, but it felt great to get away from daily life and have an adventure together. Definitely worth it to see some beautiful new scenery! We drove up through Flagstaff, along the edge of the Navajo Reservation, by the Vermilion Cliffs, to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and then came back the same way. Before leaving, I broke out my big DSLR camera and finally cleaned the spots and lint off the sensor, and was glad I brought it along! It does a much better job with distant scenery than my phone (I happily took hundreds of photos on my phone while in the car, but all the photos here were taken with my Canon 40D).

My kids and I hadn't been to Flagstaff yet, so it was all new to us from there on. (oh, the wonderful scent of the pine trees as we climbed in elevation and neared Flagstaff!) We got a much closer look at the San Francisco Peaks, which we can see in the far distance from our back yard at home in Prescott. Then we went through the edge of the Painted Desert, which had some interesting rock layers, but seemed quite desolate. Eventually we started noticing an attractive red rock ridge running parallel to the highway, which turned into the Echo Cliffs as we went north. Very scenic. But they were to be outdone by the stunning Vermilion Cliffs, which we drove next to for many miles after crossing the Colorado River. Eventually we climbed into the pine trees again and spent the first night at Jacob Lake.

The next morning we drove to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We had been told that the north rim has more vibrant color because some of the ridges are fairly close (some are side branch canyons), compared to when visiting the south rim. So we were a bit disappointed to discover that right then the air was so hazy (either from humidity of monsoon season, or smoke of California fires) it looked about the same as when we visited the south rim last year. That is, until we drove out to Point Imperial before leaving the park. At almost 9000 feet, Point Imperial is the highest spot along the Grand Canyon rim. This allows for an incredible view looking down over the beginning of the Grand Canyon! Suddenly each of us had that "wow moment" we had been waiting for. Definitely a not-to-be-missed spot while visiting the north rim. My photos don't do the experience justice at all.

On our way back, I loved seeing the Vermilion Cliffs again, in different light and from a different direction. I feel a little guilty saying this, but some of us may have liked the Vermilion Cliffs better than the Grand Canyon. We spent the second night at Marble Canyon at the base of the Vermilion Cliffs. That evening we took a short drive down to Lee's Ferry at the Colorado River, on a road surrounded on all sides by the fascinating red rocks that are the eastern end of the Vermilion Cliffs. We also experienced a powerful lightning storm there that evening (complete with a torrential downpour). The next morning before heading home, we drove down there again, that time without a storm looming.

In addition to the vast and beautiful scenery, we saw different types of lizards, different types of flowers, buffalo, a beach, a tiny fire started by lightning, and people leaving on a raft trip toward the Grand Canyon.

Here are just a few of the photos I took! Remember while reading my blog, you can click a photo to view it larger.

Echo Cliffs (or maybe here they are the Echo Peaks)

approaching Vermilion Cliffs (you'd never know the Colorado River is there!)

buffalo in meadow on road to Grand Canyon north rim

Grand Canyon, north rim (from Bright Angel Trail)

view from Point Imperial, Grand Canyon (looking south-southwest)

view from Point Imperial, Grand Canyon (looking south)

view from Point Imperial, Grand Canyon (looking southeast)

Looking across to the Vermilion Cliffs from a viewpoint along highway

Vermilion Cliffs

storm forming over the Echo Cliffs while we were at Marble Canyon

east end of Vermilion Cliffs (my younger son checking out a rock)

east end of Vermilion Cliffs (along the road down to Lee's Ferry)

Colorado River near Lee's Ferry

Colorado River near Lee's Ferry (yes, that's a beach! we were surprised!)

Colorado River near Lee's Ferry

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