Arizona, February-March 2016

Denise and I begin in Phoenix but quickly head to the high desert and its magnificent natural history.

Map of north-east Arizona.

Click on the map above to see a larger version.  (Google Maps)

We began by driving to Phoenix to attend an 80th birthday party.  Having visited family, we explored some of the sites around Phoenix, including Taliesen West and Casa Grande National Monument, and then began our driving tour of the high desert and red rock country of Northern Arizona.  See the map to the left to follow our route in North-East Arizona.

We headed first for Sedona for some good food and shopping, but were so put off by the aggressive and noisy construction there that we moved on to Flagstaff after one night.  Sedona has sold its soul to growth like most cities, and in fact, there are plans to build a nuclear power plant there.  What happened to the New Age City we once knew?  Flagstaff was more to our taste, and while there we visited the Lowell Observatory, famous for its discovery of Pluto in 1930.  From Flagstaff we also visited the Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments to the north off state highways 89 and 395.  

We then headed east on Interstate 40 to Chambers, visiting the Barringer Meteor Crater and the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert along the way.  Chambers was just a place to stop for the night before heading north to Kayenta and Navajo country, stopping to visit the historic Hubbell Trading Post near Ganado and the magnificent Canyon de Chelly outside Chinle.

We stayed four nights in Kayenta to use it as a base to visit the picturesque Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Mesa Verde National Park.  From Kayenta we headed west and drove to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, where we stayed at the Yavapai Lodge for a couple of nights.  Our timing was impeccable in that we arrived just as spring break began for Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon National Park began to fill up with students looking for some relief from their studies.  We've visited the Grand Canyon in considerably more crowded conditions during the spring and summer, so we had a good time nonetheless and enjoyed some crisp weather taking in the sights.

Map of north-east Arizona.

Click on the map above to see a larger version.  (Google Maps)

Finally we began the long drive home.  See map to the left.

First stop was the Hoover Dam, a magnificient piece of Depression Era engineering and spent the night in Henderson NV just outside of Las Vegas.  We wanted to take a scenic route home rather than return as we had started the trip, i.e. through Southern California and the Central Valley of California.  So we headed due west hoping we would find an open pass in the Sierra Nevada.

First step was to drive through Death Valley east to west, something we hadn't done before, to Lone Pine in the Owens Valley where we spent the night.  We got a bit of rain in Death Valley and drove through some snow flurries as we headed over the several passes in the "Basin and Range" terrain before descending into Owens Valley.  We woke up the next morning to the magnificent sight of the snow-covered Sierra Nevada Mountains and Mt. Whitney to the west and the Inyo Mountains to the East.  To our delight, California Highway 88 over Carson Pass was open and the weather was clear.  Therefore, on the final leg of our adventure, we drove up Interstate 395, through the Long Valley Caldera, past Mammoth Mountain, past Mono Lake and finally over Carson Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, just south of Lake Tahoe.  In Carson Pass we again encountered some gentle snow flurries before popping out into the Central Valley and the final stretch home.

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