"Around Arizona in Four Days"
Day Two - Tuesday - Williams to
Flagstaff, the long way 'round
Tuesday morning we awoke to find four inches of snow blanketing
the car - but roads cleared (which meant I didn't have to
try and figure out how those chains I bought worked...).
I cleared the snow off the car, then we took the obligatory
pictures of Dee Dee being cold and myself wearing far too
little for the temperatures that were about, and finally headed off
north towards the Grand Canyon, about fifty miles away.
Williams had been clear that morning (if cold), but as we
approached the Canyon through the white covered landscape
("look, it looks just like flocking..."
), things started
to gray up again and we passed through occasional snowfalls
as we got closer. At the entrance gate to the park, an
ominous sign noted that
the Canyon was "fogged in" and
that there were no refunds of the rather hefty entrance
fee ($20 a car - four times any other Park entrance fee I
had to pay on the trip) if you couldn't see
"Ominous sign" or no, we went in anyway (hey, it wasn't as if we could come
back next week or something) and stopped at the first
lookout we came to. I got out into the snow (which was going
sideways at the moment) and peered out into the mist.
Yep, the Canyon was fogged in, all right.
We continued on through the Visitor's Center. Once there, the
snow stopped, and bits of blue appeared overhead. Five
minutes later, we were in Grand Canyon Village, looking
for a parking space (not easy - I hate to think what it's
like during the summer!) and it was snowing again.
The whole time we were in the Village, in fact, it did a
cycle of snow, clear, hail, repeat. Finally parking, we
headed off towards the Canyon edge through the (at that
Reaching the edge at Kolb Studio we saw that the canyon
was still fogged in - but it was clearing somewhat. The
hail turned into snow, then into clear and the fog
Grand Canyon is hard to describe without using a lot of
overused words like "glorious" or "breathtaking" or
"awesome" so perhaps it's best that I don't really try
here. I'll just point out that it's one of the most
beautifully unreal landscapes on the planet and that I
burned through three rolls of film while I was there -
and that was only for a few hours.
We strolled along the rim eastwards towards the El Tovar
Hotel, a 90 year-old Fred Harvey (as in "The Harvey
Girls") establishment in rustic wood and stone, perched
right on the rim of the Canyon, with the Grand Canyon end
of the Grand Canyon Railroad in its back yard (they were
built basically at the same time). Next to it is the
"Hopi House" gift shop/living quarters (once, anyway),
designed by Mary Colter (who designed many of the
buildings at Grand Canyon, and very nicely too). We spent
an hour or so going through the gift shop and the hotel
then, me being me, I had to drag Dee Dee out back to see
the G.C.R.R. train station
The day's train was parked in the yard by the station,
still partially covered in snow, and idling so that
things wouldn't freeze up before it had to go back. A
beautiful old F-Class diesel (the steam engine only runs
during the summer, unfortunately) painted in the deep
forest green and gold of the G.C.R.R., I of course took
several pictures of it.
By now the snow seemed to have stopped on a more or less
permanent basis and we got back in the car and headed out
along the East Rim Drive
Of course, every mile or two we stopped to take more
pictures, as conditions/views changed, but soon we
reached what is basically the last spot to view the
Canyon - "Desert View."
From Desert View's "Watchtower"
(another Mary Colter creation) you can see far down the
Canyon to your west, and as far east as the Painted
Desert. The Tower itself is a giftshop (yes, another one)
on the ground floor, then the several levels of the tower
proper up to the observation area on top, each floor
covered in Indian artwork. Mary Colter is rumored to have
picked every stone in the building by hand - which seems
just the tiniest bit anal to me, but the effect is very
good. Sorta as if the Celts crossbred with the Anasazi...
It was about four when we finally left the Canyon and headed
on out to finish our big loop to Flagstaff, with the moon
rising above the 64. By now, the sky was mostly clear
where we were, though off in the distance in several
directions, you could see the dark clouds and blurred
landscapes of rain or snow.
The landscape actually looked like desert
now - you know, what Arizona is supposed to look like -
as we paralleled the Little Colorado for a bit, then
turned south onto the 89 towards Flagstaff. Climbing
though the San Francisco Peaks, just north of the city,
we hit one of those snow flurries we'd seen along the
way, but it cleared quickly (or we drove through it
quickly, take your pick) and by six that evening, we were
descending into Flagstaff.
Finding our Motel 6 for the evening took a bit because I
was confused as to just where
the 89 hit town (I
thought it was at the west end - it's actually the east)
and I still can't find a map of Flagstaff that's larger
than a postage stamp (come on, Auto Club, it's one of the
"major" cities in Arizona), but we found it eventually and checked in (holding
our breath in the smoke-filled "No Smoking" registration
area) and then headed out for somewhere to eat.
I knew where I wanted to go - where I'd eaten last year.
Okay, I'd tried that in Williams, and it hadn't worked,
but the Galaxy Diner was open for business in Flagstaff.
Done in 50's Route 66 Diner standard, the food is
excellent, inexpensive, and fun (though, since they're
changing the names of their dishes in the menu to less
"amusing" ones, it won't be quite as fun next time). Not
only did we have dinner there, we had breakfast there the
It was amazingly cold as evening fell - we later heard it
got down into the teens - and ice formed that night on
all the open water. This is not normal weather for
Flagstaff in April, apparently, because all the Arizona
news channels on TV were going ga-ga about it - just like
SoCal channels do when it rains!
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All Non-Linked Pictures Copyright 1998 - David William Johnson