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Grand Canyon south rim

Glorious Grand Canyon

Where I Went to Church on My Summer Vacation:)

I’m sure going to church on your summer vacation is about the farthest thought on your mind. Mine too, with the exception of our trip to the Grand Canyon last summer. In fact, this special place was the highlight of just about all my vacations in my life so far…combined!  So why is this one so special? Because this place is truly evidence of the existence a higher realm here on earth. God’s Church, a nickname my brother Pete appropriately tagged because no man could have imagined and built something so heavenly, divine, holy, celestial, and glorious as this God spot! The End!

Let me back up before I get all goose bumpy describing our experience. This trip was planned two weeks before we left. As always, we couldn’t decide where to go so the executive decision was made to by the parents to visit the Grand Canyon! Yay we finally won one:)

I’d been wanting to go again ever since I was there but wasn’t there. Short story: Summer-college 6 week geology trip- snow! We drove up to the gate of the north rim and no open gate! To say the least we were all very disappointed. From my adult perspective now, I’m glad the gate was closed because my mission to experience the Grand Canyon with my kids might not have been so pressing.

Let me tell you, being located in the middle of the country has its advantages when heading west. It is still far but as they say the journey is the fun part…right? Hey, our kids are so much more fun and enjoyable since they’re older….right?

daughter sticking her tongue out while traveling

See what I mean…so much easier to travel with!

son making a bored faceReally, it is more pleasant except the occasional eye roll or sigh that secretly says “God, why are you so stupid”.  I can take it as long as they help drive, navigate, hold #1 for hours on end (lucky), and carry their own suitcases.  See once you start truly enjoying them, they leave! Gone! There just isn’t enough time with them:(

The drive to and from the Grand Canyon from Tulsa is an event on its own. On the way out we did a slow “drive by”  Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo.  This place has always been kinda special to me; I remember seeing it with my dad when it was first erected. It’s kind of a kitschy place but worth a look into West Texas culture. Albuquerque is a great place to stop for the night and eat New Mexican fare. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a bad meal in New Mexico…I love that state! Grand mesas, extinct volcanoes, Indian reservations with the occasional active trading post, and the not to be ever forgotten visit to Tow ‘Mater at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona. You’ve got to venture off of the highway a little but well worth it.

Daughter in cool pose in front of Mater at the Wigwam Hotel in Holbrook Arizona

Tow Mater’s sassiest fan!

landscape view of the painted desert

Painted Dessert – worth the trip off of Interstate 40

Our last stop on the second day before we hit Sedona was the  Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park.  It’s worth it! It’s an easy park to go through because you only really need to get out of the car in three places. The Historic Painted Dessert Inn, made out of petrified wood, which was a beautiful lodging stop during the peak of Route 66; the small hike to ancient Indian petroglifts and the sundial rock; and the petrified wood and bridge. This National Park is almost a drive thru park…easy!

I must say the bed in Sedona, AZ. was unbelievable, LOL! This place is a very popular vacation spot and I can see why. The scenery is very unique and tons of hiking trails in and around this red rock paradise truly is a stunning adventure land. I would really like to revisit this beautiful place in the spring or fall. Advanced reservations for the numerous jeeping tours are a must.

Sedona Arizona Red Rocks

Sedona-just look at that sky!

We started out early the next day from Sedona to the Canyon. There’s nothing quite like morning drives in the mountains; they’re just priceless. Mountain skies always seems so fresh and new before 10 a.m. and usually lots of animals are out in the mountain fields. Most of them are domestic but we did manage to see some Elk in the distance. After we drove through Flagstaff we hit Williams, AZ. where you can catch the famous Grand Canyon Railway Train, a historic treasure dating back to 1901 when rail service was created by a group of investors looking to mine the area and promote tourist trade of the canyon. We didn’t have the chance to do this but I think it would be a great experience. The two lane main highway leading to the entrance is very well maintained and was not busy at all the morning we arrived. It really reminded me of a sleepy little farming road until we got about twenty miles out. There were no commercial billboard advertising the canyon, restaurants, or hotels. I kept thinking we were going to see some sign, any sign, of the canyon, from a change in the landscape, tourist stops, hoard of traffic…something of the canyon before we got there…then I realized the huge, turquoise, clear, endless sky ahead of us was the Canyon!  Skippidy Do Da!

Going in the gate was easy.easy.easy! In fact we were questioning whether the entrance gate was the real deal or just a first stop…No Traffic! I’d say it took 5 minutes to go through! Parking was a breeze. Every parking area was connected to a trail head so all we had to do was park, lock up, and walk about 3 minutes and then poof we were there; right on the edge of the most famous canyon in the world! Or were we…it all seemed so surreal. Honestly, I was so overwhelmed; I cried! The view took my breath away and the goosies hit my body; I remember Mitch and I just standing there smiling at each other, incredible!  If you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about…there is a force in that big hole that cannot be denied! It is a magnetic, majestic, magical place that created a spot in my being that will stay with me forever.

View of Grand Canyon at almost sunset

Peace!

After a couple of easy, fast hours hiking up and down the rim we stumbled upon the El Tovar Restaurant in the famous El Tovar Hotel. The sweeping veranda of this historic hotel is a welcome landing for weary hikers like us. The hotel is a walk back in time to cowboys and explorers with dark heavy decor reminiscent of an elite western hotel/saloon like the old time movies. The view was incredible and lunch was surprisingly tasty with a full bar menu.  Our waiter was full of knowledge about the hotel and canyon; he’s been working at this hotel for over 30 years! How amazing is that! After our break we caught the shuttle to the main information center and the largest viewing area… with the largest crowds…mostly foreign travelers. This I think was the biggest shock to me. Don’t get me wrong I think its great they come see our beautiful country but I never would have guessed we would encounter more travelers from different countries than from our own…Sad:(

Our trip to the Grand Canyon must be in my top three all time favorite vacations. Our only dilemma was figuring out what else we could see in the short 7 days. This is where planning ahead really helps…like a year in advance. On my college trip one of my favorite places was the area around Lake Mead so I investigated renting a house boat for a couple of days…they only rent for a week at a time…a year in advance. My second thought was to stay in Page, AZ and explore Antelope Canyon which the Navajo control. From pictures is looks so cool but word of advice… make a reservation months and months ahead of time to get on the tour schedule. If you don’t you’re only option is standing in line for one of the 14 slots they set aside for people like unorganized me! Finally, we decided to head to Monument Valley. I had been there before during my college days when it wasn’t so commercialized. Now this place is like an “Indian Nation Park” and a bumper car ride all rolled into one. You don’t have to make a reservation but I’d get there early in the day to beat the heat and the car traffic on the valley floor…and it’s not free; 20 bucks per car was the going rate that day. It’s worth it just to see all the famous John Ford movie scenes, that is if you’re old enough to remember!

The next time we go to the Grand Canyon, and we will, I’m pretty sure I want to Glamp in the park. From what I could see the camp grounds look really nice and have specific super nice bathrooms set aside just for park campers. There are just to many trails and awe inspiring spots you don’t have time to explore in a one day excursion.  You could spend a whole year here and not see everything!

My advise…GO! Sooner than later! Anytime of the year! Just get in your car and GO! You’ll only regret it if you don’t!

TYFR,

Elise

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