Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Parks
Trip Start Apr 18, 2008
8Trip End Apr 26, 2008
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We sleep late and get up at about 7:30 am. Well, it seems late to us. I am constantly aware that even if I wake up early here, say 6 am, it is equivalent to 8 am back home. It's going to be hard enough going back to work as it is without increasing the jet lag factor.
My legs don't hurt as badly, but they're still too swollen to fit into jeans, so I put on my shorts and rain pants again. We pack up and check out. First stop is the grocery store to pick up some Starbuck's Frappucino in-a-bottle (I haven't had coffee in two days and I'm desperate), followed by breakfast in the Yavapai Lodge cafeteria. Then we decide to take a walk. After all, we've been at the Grand Canyon a couple of days now, and have seen practically nothing of it. So we take a walk along the Rim Trail.
Finally, I see some wildlife at the same time I am carrying a camera. Unfortunately, I had only brought along the cheap, 18mm to 55mm lens because I wanted the wide-angle (18mm) for the canyon and I wish that I'd brought the 300mm zoom.
So, to see one of only 150 birds is pretty darned amazing to me. I keep stopping people and pointing out the condors (who are circling up near the Bright Angel Lodge). Most people are unimpressed; they probably don't realize how rare the birds really are.
"Oh, you want to play stump the ranger?" she retorts, in a friendly way.
"Well, this shouldn't stump you. I saw a chipmunk back there and was wondering what kind it was."
"Yeah, we have chipmunks," she says.
"But what kind of chipmunk?" I ask. "It's clearly not an Eastern chipmunk, for example." These sorts of distinctions matter to me.
"You've stumped me," she says with a smile. "I'm kind of new, and I don't know what everything is yet."
We make it to Mather Point, the very first spot we stopped in the Grand Canyon. I wonder if the view will be as moving as the first time. Maybe there's something special about this particular spot. But no. I've become inured to the grandeur. This makes me sad.
We stop at the visitor's center for a few minutes, and catch the shuttle back to the Yavapai, where our car is parked. Before leaving, I have to get some pictures of the ravens. See, ravens are all over the place at the Grand Canyon, but particularly around garbage and outdoor eating venues. The picnic benches outside the grocery store usually have several ravens around, hoping to catch a dropped morsel from someone's sandwich. You aren't supposed to feed them, or any wild animal at the canyon (there are many, many signs telling you to keep the wild animals wild).
So, I take about a hundred pictures of some ravens on a picnic table and head back to the car, where Julie has been patiently waiting. Finally, it is time to leave the Grand Canyon.
We take the same route we took on the bus to the raft ride, 64 east along the canyon to 89. We get to 89 and several events converge. Julie wants to go into the official Navaho trading post. It's almost one pm and I am getting very hungry. And I have to pee. And my pants are feeling damp. I sneak a peek and discover that I've gotten my period. Back in Carefree, when I decided not to buy Depends, I also decided not to buy any "feminine protection," even though I knew there was a chance this could happen. I kick myself.
Luckily, right across the highway from the Navaho store are a grocery store and a gas station. I drag Julie away from the rugs and pots and zoom across the highway. There is a fascinating sight in front of the store: a Harley with a dog riding it. The dog is harnessed into a special leather covered box on the back seat.
"You've got to take a picture," Julie says.
"I'm too frazzled to deal with the camera right now," I retort and make a beeline for the grocery store. Once I've located the appropriate "product," I stop at the deli counter and see they have bean and cheese burritos, my favorite food. I order one and don't even wait for Julie. I just check out, put my burrito in my pocket, and head for the restroom.
Once I have the most important things taken care of, I saunter back to the dog on the Harley. She's on the ground now, with a bowl of water. Her owner is a grizzled old guy in full leather regalia. I ask him some questions and find out he's from Florida and has already been to southern California. He was on his way back to Florida when he saw the signs for the Grand Canyon and just had to stop by. He says the dog loves to ride.
At this point, I've got to start eating, and the dog is very interested in my burrito. I have to walk away to eat it safely. I hook up with Julie again and we decide to get some gas while we're there. I'm pumping when the motorcycle dog goes by, in her helmet and goggles, peering over her owner's shoulder. Too late to get the camera now. The shot of a lifetime, missed because I was too hungry, had to pee, and needed to keep my pants from being a ruined bloody mess.
It's about four pm and the sun is just starting to sink by the time we reach Sunset Crater, which is what I really want to see. It's a volcano that erupted in about 1065, and the land around it is really strange, even a thousand years later. The earth still looks covered in ash. There are piles of hardened lava. The trees grow at funny angles to the slopes. We walk the mile long trail and marvel at the landscape. I wish we'd been there earlier in the day because I'm starting to get cold wandering around. (More photos are above).
We are almost to Flagstaff when I realize we will need dinner, and I don't think the B&B (the Arizona Sled Dog Inn) is in an area with a lot of restaurants. So I call them and speak to Doug. He recommends Cafe Ole in downtown Flagstaff. We find it without too much trouble. The ambience is very artsy and eclectic. Lots of bright colors and found objects. The food is good too, and the margarita has alcohol in it. I give it an A-.
We pass a Starbuck's on the way to the Inn, and I make Julie drive us around the block so I can get a mocha for tomorrow. I don't usually buy Starbuck's, but an addict takes what she can get. I doubt there is a refrigerator in the room, so I ask the barrista how cold he thinks it will get tonight. He says into the 20's. I decide to use the car as my refrigerator.
It's getting dark when we get to the Inn, which is a cedar-sized, metal-roofed structure located far back from the road, nestled into a forest of Ponderosa pine (courtesy of Coconino National Forest). It gets its name from the ten retired sled dogs they house on the premises. I thought it would be too warm for sled dogs in Arizona, but when we get to the front door and look into a window well we see there is still snow.
Doug had gone home for the night. There's a note for us on the table which I let Julie read. I go out to get our bags, and am greeted by a fuzzy cat who wants into the Inn. Julie stops me just in time--the note warned that they don't let her in because guests might have allergies. Our room is small, and decorated in a bear theme. It's very cozy and we like it. When we go downstairs to move the car, I hear someone say, "hello?" I look around, thinking Doug was around after all. Then I see there is a covered cage against the wall. A parrot, who I later learn is named Oliver.
The whole Inn is done very nicely, with lots of wood, cathedral ceilings in the shared area, and a comfy looking deck. Of course, we have plans for the morrow and won't be able to hang around and enjoy the place. Our next stop is Sedona, which I'd heard is beautiful, and then... no other plans. Julie had insisted we wing it on the last day so we have nowhere to stay tomorrow night, and nothing in particular to do. I try to remain optimistic.
Where I stayed
Arizona Sled Dog Inn