Day six, Thursday

Daniel F. Smith in Arizona

The pressure is now on because my vacation feels as if it's about to end and I haven't done everything yet. Unfortunately, after being up late last night, I couldn't quite hit sunrise in Sedona. Besides, the ice machine was being uncooperative and I won't even mention the train that went past blowing its horn every ten minutes. I got there at about 11am.

Jonathon was right. Oak Canyon is a most beautiful place---a deep tree-lined valley that the road sinks into. The temperature was a perfect 70 degrees, there weren't too many vehicles around and it was just a gorgeous valley. I stopped at a pull out and headed down to the river, a secluded but deeply pooled freshwater stream that looked inviting. Jonathon had recommended the swimming, so I scrabbled back up the rock face to get my stuff. It was so cold that it took about 10 minutes for me to finally fully immerse myself. I was numb when I came out, but most refreshed and feeling like I'd accomplished something, though in retrospect I can't quite remember why. A pleasant Florida couple also wondered down while I was in the water, not daring to swim. When I got back on the road, I passed the Slide Rock Park---the rocks in the stream are very slippery, and there were a whole eager bunch of people here wanting to try the natural waterslides. I'm grateful my spot was more secluded. I didn't make it to Red Rock park.

I met a couple from my birth city of Bristol. They said they'd come to the Sedona region several times but still kept coming back. I can't fault them for that.

Oak Canyon: a breathtaking canyon on both the large and small scales. Swimming facilities: and it even has breathtakingly cold water. Brrr. Standing rock: there are quite a lot of these.

Sedona is one of those beautiful towns. One that has no particular merit except that it is in a beautiful setting and is populated by rich people. Nice enough, but the rock formations were the real stars. With the leaping columns, and layer cake red and white coloring, it's a sight to behold. In comparison with San Jose, the prestige homes here are still just about affordable, assuming you've got a million dollars to spare. If it stays undeveloped, then it would make a very nice place to retire to, and I have an awful feeling that a hundred thousand other people also know that.

Sedona: how would you like a view like this from your window? Flags: I was hoping to capture a shot of the Arizona State flag against some impressive rocks, blowing proudly in the wind. The wind was in the wrong direction today, and I even had to mirror the picture left-right to avoid a miserable background---but it kinda works. Rocks: Sedona has rocks. Yep.
More rocks: sure does. Canyon overlook: driving back up Oak Canyon, one is afforded this view. Winding road: the climb out of Oak Canyon would be much more fun if the speed limit was higher.

Up to the Grand Canyon. They were blasting a new road as I passed back through Flagstaff, so the going was quite slow as they made sure they didn't blow up passing motorists. I think we should have been allowed to make a run for it and take our chances. There were serious looking cops watching the parade of contemplative motorists.

The journey up was uneventful. Flagstaff is a nice town, with an apparently mild winter and mild summer. I think the only reason more people don't live there is because the ski slopes are in easy reach, so the businesses don't want their employees chasing off all the time. At about 8000 feet, the mountains turn into a vast high plain, with sandy bushes providing a mostly green spotted view. The place seems deserted. One mystery was resolved near the Grand Canyon---even though my guide book said Vail, in Valle I found the Flintstones village!

Flintstone village: found it! This picture was taken at night on the way back from the Grand Canyon.

As you drive up to the Grand Canyon, humming some tune or whistling quietly and admiring the endless scrubland, you suddenly get to the edge and.... Well, you gasp. Then you look carefully and start processing what you're seeing. This thing is big, really big. You may think the Ford Excursion is big, but this this is just huge. And crowded. But it's big. Did I mention how big it was? If you took all the thousands of German tourists (and over half of them were German, I'm sure) and connected them end to end, they still wouldn't reach the top. And you'd have a lot of unhappy Germans too.

Layer cake: imagine an ice-cream layer cake, and you pour really hot sauce over it. Now imagine a layer cake a mile high, with a lot of hot sauce. Tourists: the Grand Canyon has no shortage of them. Valley: you might miss it, there is an enormous valley running up the center of this view. If it were anywhere else in the world and it would probably be prominent.

But it is quite a sight. I won't quite say spectacular, because it's too big to be spectacular and I still don't quite know how to process such bigness. The village there was the usual tourist fare, with thousands of tourists. Did I mention how many people were there? (The National Parks lady at the entrance had laughed at me when I asked if there were any secluded spots. She hinted that I was lucky not to be here on a Friday or Saturday.)

Flare: playing with silhouetted valley ranges and lens flare. Cliffside: there would be plenty of fun places for mountain goats to hang out away from the tourists; if there were any goats. Formations: more rocks, more canyon, and it's big.

I talked with a lady in one of the lodges. It was her second time here. I asked her about hiking. The trip to the bottom of the canyon takes about six hours. Whoa. She didn't know how long it took to get out again. Later I looked at the notices on the trail leading down. It said that people collapse from heat and exhaustion nearly every day on the path down the canyon side. Start the trip before 6am and you'll arrive at noon or later. Make sure to start back again after 4pm. They also mentioned that the biggest demographic for medical exhaustion was 20-something males. I decided not to trot down and back this evening.

I also met a guy on the park shuttle. He was taking three weeks of vacation from his auto parts manufacturing supervisor position in Ohio, and was driving round the region. He'd been entertaining himself with the museums and hiking for the last three days.

I met another British couple while walking along the Canyon rim. They were on a three week fly-drive vacation. They'd done Los Angeles, Lake Havasu (both east and west shores, by accident) and were heading up to Las Vegas. They were also going to spend three days in San Francisco. Sounds like a busy trip!

I'm not sure I really liked the Grand Canyon. It was big, and grand and, indeed, a canyon, but it was so commercialized that it didn't feel like a natural wonder any more. Maybe there are a couple of blokes hanging around out back, muttering things like "if we make a new valley just over there, I think it would significantly enhance our visitors' enjoyment of the park". Oak Canyon, on the other hand, still had mostly untouched areas, and was much more enjoyable. Thank you Jonathon.

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