Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Arizona Icons

 RV park, railway, hotels and restaurants are run by one company,Xanterra who embrace great service, "green" tourism and entertainment celebrating the heritage of the area. We camped in Williams RV Park and filled all their washers and dryers with our dust-filled desert laundry. In the morning, we booked Dixie into the kennel, breakfasted at the hotel and watched the reenactment of a gun fight by cowboys, horses and the heroic Marshall who brought peace and justice to the scene.

Even the conductor and greeters were decked out in period costumes as they guided us to our seats on the vintage train. The coaches are restored with passion by folks who value the history of the Grand Canyon Railway. Our tour guide, whose actual name was Amber Rose, provided an excellent, upbeat description of the railway's past, explained the geography of the area, gave us some insight into the people who work to maintain the history of the area and guided us to the best views and restaurants in the Grand Canyon South Rim. A seasoned cowboy and his gorgeous Gibson guitar set the mood with a few classic cowboy ballads like "The Freight Train Song" and "Texas Ranger". On our journey, we saw caribou, a herd of antelope and some cattle that wander the plains in winter and are herded back by their ranchers in the spring.

Our first awe-inspiring glance over the Canyon was Grand!  I visited the north rim about forty years ago with my family and confirm the concept that the Canyon is Grand whenever and wherever you view it. We've often visited Niagara Falls, another natural wonder, yet the experience is unique and exhilarating each time! Everyone knows what the Grand Canyon looks like so there is no need to describe the view. However, what one experiences by actually standing on the edge, overlooking the vast Precambrian display, are the intrinsic and spiritual sensations that grip you to the core.

The pathways skirting the rim have great information plaques and large sample of the many types of rock found within the canyon. We visited the cool Geology museum, Hopi House, Lookout Studio and Kolb Studio. An enthusiastic, bushy-bearded park ranger took us through the home, studio and theatre of the Kolb brothers. Their 1905 darkroom, produced hundreds of souvenir photos of folks travelling down into the canyon on mule back. A successful female architect and designer, Mary Colter, has left her mark in many of the buildings along the south rim. She designed Lookout Studio, hotel fireplaces, windows, porches, lamps, housewares and the Bright Angel Lodge and Cabins where we stayed. We savoured a great dinner while we watched the sunset over the canyon at the rustic "El Tovar" Hotel.  The dining room was decorated with huge panels painted with Hopi designs and our window seat was beside the huge stone fireplace that took the chill off the room when the sun descended.

After breakfast we ventured up the other side of the trail where we could look down on hikers far below.
We ventured down the Bright Angel Trail but ice and snow made it too dangerous for a long hike. We met some adventurers who had arrived at the rim after spending four nights at the bottom of the canyon. The sky was cloudy and added some drama to the view creating effects of a theatrical spotlight on distinctive plateaus and fissures. Our train headed back south at 3:30 pm. Another singing cowpoke entertained us with some country humour such as the famed "Cinderfella" story and the song "I am my own Grandpa". About half way home, the train was held up by cowboys who boarded the train and proceeded to rob the passengers at gun point. Sounds corny but they were really convincing and fun!

Dixie was happy to see us and agreed that she may have enjoyed the train ride but would have hated the singing! CC's fridge was dead when we got home so we lost all our frozen food and lots of our fresh stuff Yikes, another problem?  Luckily, in the morning light, Chris was able to wiggle some wires back into submission and low and behold, the fridge turned cold again! We did detect another problem with a back jack and headed southwest to Sedona to explore while the parts made their way to the repair shop.

Rancho Sedona RV Park was quite pleasant with a small river running beside it, white winding sycamore trees overhead and sculptured red rock buttes looming in the distance. There were egrets minding their nests in a rookery just 25 feet above the RVs. Spent a good part of the next three days exploring the famous red rock country by car and on foot. The sky was active with clouds and produced some dramatic light play across the buttes and valleys. As well as some great trails to hike, we saw many birds and cacti among the low green trees and crimson pathways. Dixie's pads were packed with the distinctive red dust of Sedona.
The rock formations are classic to the Arizona landscape with names like Bell Rock, Cock's Comb, Thumb Butte and Coffeepot Rock. Galleries and shops in the area carry a range of artifacts representing the Hopi,.Navajo and Mexican cultures of the area. We enjoyed a fresh Tex-Mex dinner at the upscale Elote Cafe and toasted Sedona with beet Margaritas.

About an hour's drive from Sedona is Montezuma's castle, two cliff side ruins of the Anasazi peoples. The oldest one consists of caves and rock walls along the base of the cliff. The more impressive is a four story  brick and adobe structure built directly into the side of the cliff  forty feet from ground level.

From there we drove to the former copper mining town of Jerome. It's buildings are piled up on a hillside overlooking amazing views of the distant mountains and desert. We looked down the mine shaft and perused some rusty mining equipment, then walked about the town. It was a busy Sunday afternoon and tourists and locals filled the bars and restaurants and checked out the galleries and shops. One entrepreneurial dude had his motorcycle decked out with a platform and two highback chairs. He was touring people about town and up into the switchback mountain roads at top speed with muffler-free engines roaring. The last thing you saw as he rumbled past were the row of skulls he had mounted on the bike's back bumper.
Next, we followed the faded signs to Gold King Mine and Ghost Town. We had a blast roaming about the wooden outbuildings and pathways that were all crammed with cars, machinery, tools, furniture,signs and myriad rusted artifacts from the past. The owner, Don Robertson was an authentic prospector type with scruffy blond hair under his ancient leather cowboy hat and a friendly, face weathered as much as the treasures he'd collected. The dentist's office, blacksmith shop, sawmill, walk-in mine, overflowing sheds and barns were a photographer's paradise. Don also had over 100 antique trucks and buses and like everything he collected, it all sat open to the elements ready to collect dust and rust. He lives on the property and has chickens, goats and a mule that wander everywhere. We ended our great day with a wholesome dinner at The Mile High Inn and Grill while we listened to live jazz and read the signs covering the walls; two of my favourites: "I started out with nothing and I have most of it left" and "It doesn't matter how new age you get; old age will always catch up to you."

February 5, we drove west to Quail Ridge RV Park near Mayer Arizona. The following day we ventured in to Prescott. We hiked around Lake Wilson and Dixie had a chance to swim and chase sticks to her heart's content. We walked about the town of Prescott taking in its Victorian home, great art galleries and old city hall. The most famous block is called "Whisky Row" where bars and saloons sit side by side and were visited regularly by the early day cowboys. The original buildings burned down in the early 1900's but all have been rebuilt and restored. We had a beer at the most famous "Palace Saloon" a huge building where Doc Holliday and brothers Virgil and Wyatt Earp drank and gambled back in the day. A huge building, it had traditional metal ceiling tile, heavy wooden bar and mirror, mounted deer heads, the winding staircase to the brothel and many display cases and photos of olden day treasures.

We are living in the present once again in the desert at Arizona's Petroglyph Campground. It averages 80 degrees F. in the afternoon but it's a dry heat and only feels like 75!


  1. You know, Dixie should really be paying you guys for this trip - it's like a dog's dream vacation! Oh the smells she must be smelling! Well, except for the outcome of the broken fridge/freezer :)

  2. aahhhh, bringing back memories, smells, and sounds or lack loving the, yer english teachers would be proud...excellent story telling vicariously...loving it all...missing ya much