Why I Wanted to Go
Does anyone else remember this set of Disney books from their childhood? I think I can trace back my obsession with the National Parks to the America book, which was the first introduction I had to them. In retrospect, it seems clear that they were intended to make kids want to go to Disney World, but that’s not the effect they had on me. I’m pretty sure both that the reason the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone were at the top of my travel wishlist had a lot to do with these books.
Mike had been to Flagstaff many times and loves it. He’d also been to the Grand Canyon, but he had never hiked to the bottom. Since I didn’t think I was up to the Grand Canyon hike, we decided to split our time, with a few days in Flagstaff together and then going our separate ways at the Grand Canyon.
I usually do almost all of the travel planning, but this time Mike could give many recommendations, especially for restaurants. In the end, we did some things that were new for him, like the Wupatki National Monument and Petrified Forest National Park, and some things he had done before but i hadn’t, like the Meteor Crater and the Grand Canyon.
Another unique aspect of the trip was that we split up for part of it, and I ended up spending the time at the Grand Canyon by myself. Although I’m not opposed to the idea of traveling by myself, I haven’t done it much in the past. The only times I can think of were a few roadtrips to New England to do research for my dissertation. I wouldn’t mind doing solo trips in the future, if there is someplace I’d like to visit and Mike doesn’t want to go. I definitely identify as an introvert, so spending time alone doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t mind going places alone or even eating alone, as long as I have a book to read. I felt a little weird about having lunch by myself at El Tovar, since it is a fancier restaurant than the cafeteria where I ate most of the time, but it was something I really wanted to experience, and so I did it anyway and it turned out fine.
What I Would Do Differently
I would have brought a flashlight! We also forgot one at Yellowstone. If you will be walking around in a National Park at night, even just from the restaurant or grocery store to your hotel room, it helps to have a flashlight.
Since you go to the Grand Canyon expecting to be overwhelmed, I wasn’t sure if my reaction in real life would measure up, but it did. It also surprised me that there was a lot to do in the park. It doesn’t seem unusual for people just to drive out and look at it for a few hours and then leave, but I’m happy I stayed around for a few days. I never felt at a loss for something to do, and looking at the views never got old.
I hiked most of the rim trail, and it completely surprised me how after you get past the designated viewpoints, there are long stretches where there are no fences or guardrails, and nothing to stop you from tumbling over the edge. Another surprise on the rim trail: my first real-life sighting of a tarantula, but unfortunately I don’t have a picture to prove it. It was only when I described it to Mike’s guide and he told me what it was that I realized I should have taken a picture. At the time I was more focused on not stepping on it. I was also astounded to see people hiking down into the canyon with inappropriate footwear (think ballet flats) and no water, paying no heed to the many, many warning signs.
I didn’t have time to see the North Rim, but we are planning to make up for that by stopping in June.
This is the first time we flew on Southwest, and it was kind of stressful because at first we didn’t understand the lining up process, and we were worried about not getting seats together. I think if I were flying by myself, I wouldn’t mind flying with them again, but flying together, I prefer to have assigned seats. Everything else about the flights was fine.
I think my biggest disappointment was Sedona, because I had been expecting to like it more. Don’t get me wrong, the location is beautiful.
But other than the landscape and the views, I wasn’t very impressed with the town itself, which had a resorty, touristy feel. I much preferred Flagstaff, which has more of an outdoorsy, college town vibe. People always tout Sedona as being some kind of spiritual nexus, but I don’t consider myself a very spiritual person, so maybe that’s why we didn’t connect.
We did splurge and have dinner at Che-Ah-Chi, a restaurant at the Enchantment resort that Mike remembered fondly, and that was the best part of Sedona for me.
Best Parts of the Trip
The food! I love visiting the southwest for the food, and because it is easy to find vegetarian options.
The Grand Canyon at sunrise and sunset, which Mike urged me to do, and I would recommend to others. Set your alarm and grab your camera.
I also really enjoyed Petrified Forest National Park, which although it was not what I imagined as a kid, still turned out to be pretty cool.
Most Difficult Parts of the Trip
My trip wasn’t difficult at all, but the Grand Canyon hike ended up being much more physically demanding than Mike and Rob were expecting. But afterwards when we were back in Flagstaff, they were exhilarated and called it a life-changing experience.
Worst Parts of the Trip
This had nothing to do with the trip itself, but I had a lot of work stress right before leaving, and as a result it took a few days for me to get into the vacation spirit.
Mike wants to go back. As I mentioned, he loves Flagstaff, but he also wants to hike the Grand Canyon again, this time on a slightly easier trail and with more people. I think is one of his favorite areas of the world. We will be visiting the North Rim for an overnight stay in June, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up out there again in the future. I personally wouldn’t mind going back so I would have the chance to stay at El Tovar.