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Tour of the Southwest
Phoenix, Tucson, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas
October 2004

Phoenix 1 Phoenix 2 Tucson Grand Canyon Hoover Dam
Las Vegas 1 Las Vegas 2 Las Vegas 3 Las Vegas 4

We hit the road, headed north through Phoenix again and on up the length of Arizona. More sand, scrub, rock and cactus, but as we neared our destination we began to climb up into barren hills, then higher still where cactus gave way to pine trees and the stifling heat turned into a cool breeze. I'd always thought of the Grand Canyon as something on the desert floor, but instead it's up on a mesa of sorts. We found our way to the park entrance on the south rim and checked in to our room, 1/4 of a cabin without A/C. I had been concerned, but we needed to save the cash and it was the cheapest easiest option. But the air in October up on the rim is pleasant, chilly even. We dropped our bags and walked down a short path and suddenly we're there.

No long bus ride across the park, no difficult hike up a mountain, no riding down a terrifying path on a donkey, it's just... there. "Goddamn, there's a big hole..." I can easily imagine the first human saying, setting eyes on the canyon. If you arrive from the north or south rim you don't get much of a warning. The terrain doesn't slowly become canyonesque, you're just all the sudden on the precipice of a vast chasm. And you get the distinct impression that you could hike a heck of a long way in either direction and never see the end of it.

We hiked around a bit. A couple of deer walked across the path directly in front of us, unimpressed by the tourists or the valley at which we gawked. The park is set up perfectly. Some of the hotels and cabins have views of the canyon, but for half the price you can stay a 3 minute walk away as we did. A trail meanders along the rim, complete with lookout points surrounded by guard rails. You can hop a free shuttle and ride for miles, stopping at different vistas along the way. More canyon pictures and pointless babble shortly.

In addition to the various accommodations, there are several restaurants and bars to chose from. We dined at the cheap cafeteria and met up with degenerates DC and BC. SW headed to bed early so the rest of us did a Grand Canyon bar tour, starting off with the sports bar next to the cafeteria. The presidential debates were on one TV, various other sporting events on the others. They have a couple of pool tables and video games, some good beer and a fair selection of booze.

 I was impressed already, but then we wandered on to the next camp and found a cozy bar tucked in the attic of a massive, rustic cabin, complete with live music. Sure, it was singer/songwriter acoustic stuff but I asked around and the park doesn't host a punk bar so we had to make due. Fortunately, the guy was pretty good and covered some great material. Unfortunately, I never caught the guy's name.
Next up, the snooty bar in the ritzy, recently renovated El Tovar hotel. The hotel overlooks the canyon, complete with plush carpets and climate control. The bar featured Fox News on the TV, waitresses in tuxedos, and a list of fruity drinks much like you'll find in any upscale hotel bar. We had one last drink for the road and stumbled back to our cabins in the dark with the aid of BC's tiny little keychain flashlight.

DC and BC had been at the canyon for a couple of days so they headed on to Vegas while we stuck around to catch some more sights.

Even using a big zoom lens, I could only barely make out a long train of donkey riders on their way down. From this height and distance, the moved like snails along the path. And that's not even the floor of the canyon...

We drove the route along the south rim, stopping at various points to catch even more spectacular views. So here's a couple of panoramic views I stitched together. Again, some versions of IE Explorer may automatically resize the image. Put the cursor over the image and hold it there for a second. An orange box will show up - that's a zoom tool. Click it see the image full size, then scroll across.

We climbed up in the watchtower, built to resemble Native American architecture from the area. They have a gift shop inside and a winding staircase up to the top floor. The interior of the tower is covered in pictographs and such. It's nicely done, though you can't help but wish it were the real thing.

Crows were circling overhead. They had been following us up and down the canyon. Back at our first view they were pestering a larger bird, which one lady claimed was a California Condor. The condors, if that's what they were, flew right over our heads. I didn't get my zoom lens on fast enough to catch them though, so all you get is this picture of the crows and the river below off in the distance.

We had to move on. I wish we'd had more time at the canyon, but we only had so much vacation time and more to do. A coyote crossed the road ahead of us, wishing us a safe trip as we left the park.

Phoenix 1 Phoenix 2 Tucson Grand Canyon Hoover Dam
Las Vegas 1 Las Vegas 2 Las Vegas 3 Las Vegas 4

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