"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.

A snowy blanket for the car
David in what passes for cold weather gear for him Dee Dee realizing she doesn't have nearly enough layers of clothes...

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 thatJust north of Williams on the 64 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 anything.The sky grew dark...

"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. How you don't want to see the Grand Canyon

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 point) hail).

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 lifted...

The clouds broke... ...the fog cleared...
...the fog cleared... ...and the sun came out
Pretty, isn't it?
The Canyon with snow ...it's gonna be a bright (bright) bright sunshiny day...

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.

El Tovar Hotel, old advertisement The El Tovar Hotel 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.

...and a picture of the station itself

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.

The day's G.C.R.R., at the Canyon, waiting to return to Williams The Grand Canyon railyard

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.

Next lookout along the way The Canyon continued to clear
David on the edge... This is way too close to the edge for Dee Dee

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."

The Watchtower at Desert ViewFrom 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...

Ice from the drain spout - hey, it is still cold... Some of the decorations inside the Tower...
Some more of the decorations inside the Tower... Some even more of the decorations inside the Tower...

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 Moon over the 64...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. Snow flurry in the San Francisco Peaks

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 next morning!

The Galaxy Diner

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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