It’s a Grand Canyon

There was not a cloud in the sky today as we gazed over the rim of Grand Canyon.

It’s impossible to capture the vastness of the Grand Canyon with a simple photo. However, that has never stopped me from trying! Wandering the Rim Trail, we worked up an appetite and soon found refreshments in the El Tovar Hotel restaurant (be sure to ask for a table with a view). We wandered through the Hopi House (below right), built in 1904. The gift shop showcases Native American arts and crafts.

As we headed back to the parking lot, were reminded of our last trip to the Grand Canyon 13 years ago. Our sons were all well into their teenage years, and we wanted one last family adventure before they all headed off in different directions. The 2-day mule ride down to Phantom Ranch for the night, while not easy, remains a grand family memory.

We posed for a family photo on our 2006 mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
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Walnut Canyon National Monument

It is thought that cliff dwellings of Walnut Canyon were abandoned in 1250, having been lived in just over 100 years.

The grandeur of the Walnut Canyon cliff dwellings is hard to capture in a small photo. Hoping for a better look, we held tight to the railing and started down the dizzying 185-foot, 240-step pathway to reach the Island Trail.

The “island” refers to the large rock and hill that stands behind it which jut out into the middle of the canyon (photo above right). The trail encircles the two outcroppings, passing within feet of multiple ruins. Across the expanse of the canyon are numerous other dwellings, all once inhabited by the Sinagua people.

We hadn’t intended on visiting Walnut Canyon, although several people had told us it was well worth the trip…and it was. If climbing down and up the trail is not your thing, or if you’re bothered by heights, the view from the rim is pretty spectacular too.

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Chasing the Hogs

We enjoyed clear blue skies as we set off on the last big hike of our Sedona stay.

Early Saturday morning was the perfect time to search for Sedona Hogs we’d read about…a group of trails, linked together (called the Hogs) that would lead us up and over the backside of one of the large red rock outcroppings.

The Hog Heaven view was pretty spectacular, but we still had more climbing to do.

After winding our way up along the forested Hogwash trail, we reached an intersection that had us scrambling up a section of rocks to join the Hog Heaven section of our hike.

Reg steps out…High on the Hog.

The high point of the trail, aptly named High on the Hog, opened onto a expanse of massive dome-shaped rocks offering a never ending view of the valley below. As we continued on, looping our way back to the parking lot, our peaceful morning was interrupted by a string of people and convoy of jeeps parading toward us from the opposite direction. Time to leave the Hogs behind us!

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Hidden Treasures

Today our adventure took us well off the beaten path.

We bounced down six long miles on a dirt road today, determined to visit the Palatki Heritage Site, one of the two largest cliff dwelling sites found among the red rocks in the Sedona, Arizona area.

After a short walk up through the trees to the bottom of the cliff, we reached the ruins of the ancient Sinagua people who lived in the area from 1150 – 1300 A.D. A ranger was on hand to explain a little bit of what is known about the lives of cliff dwellers.

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A Teacup and a Chimney

The day began on the Teacup Trail.
Our plan was to reach the Thunder Mountain Trail which would lead us around Chimney Rock and up to a viewpoint.
We managed to reach the base of the chimney.

While the trail up to the base of the chimney stack was well-worn and doable, it wasn’t easy. We later realized that what we scrambled up was an informal (not on the map) trail and not the recommended viewpoint we had been searching for. However, the view we had was pretty darn good!

Looking out over Sedona and beyond to the Red Rock Scenic Byway.
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Lost in the Granite Dells

The Granite Dells spill into Watson Lake reservoir.

Several folks insisted the great hiking through unusual rock formations (know as Granite Dells) just outside the city of Prescott, Arizona was not to be missed. We packed our lunch, filled our water bottles and set off over the hill to see what all the fuss was about.

We began our walk along the Peavine Trail.
A network of trails wrapped around, through and sometimes over the unusually shaped Granite Dells.

These granite boulders were formed 1.4 billion years ago, slowly exposed and shaped by erosion and weathering. Wandering through this geologic wonderland is like entering another world.

We loved the walking, but finding a shady spot for lunch wasn’t easy.
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A View From The Top

The Brins Mesa Trail led us on a 500 foot climb.
A chiseled red rock stairway appeared.
After 1.5 miles of climbing, we reached Brins Mesa and a 360 degree view. First, we looked back at where we’d come from. That’s the town of Sedona in the distance.
Then we turned around to view the landscape well beyond our trail.

We followed the Soldiers Pass trail, dropping down to connect with the Jordan trail and then Cibola Pass, leading us back to the parking lot. Above are some of the spectacular sites we saw. Although we got an early start, the trail down was crowded enough to be just a little frustrating in spots. Our advice: Set your alarm if you have to…the earlier start, the better!

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The Strawberry Schoolhouse

The Strawberry Schoolhouse teaches us about the past.

Located high above the Verde Valley in the community of Strawberry, Arizona, stands the little one-room Strawberry Schoolhouse. Built in 1885 out of pine logs, it was added to the National register of Historic Places in 2005, and remains one of the oldest standing schoolhouses in the state.

A notice on the schoolhouse door informed us that tours could be arranged by appointment.
The locked door didn’t stop us from peeking in the windows.
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Clarkdale’s Copper Collection

The Arizona Copper Art Museum contains a jaw-dropping collection of copper pieces.
The museum is located in the old Clarkdale high school building, built in 1928.

The little community of Clarkdale owes its existence to the copper mining industry. It was a true company town, founded in 1912 by William A. Clark, owner of Arizona’s largest copper mine. Although the good old days of the copper mining industry are long gone, the Arizona Copper Art Museum continues to celebrate the very thing that put Clarkdale on the map. Housing over 5,000 pieces of copper art from the 1500s to present day, it certainly exceeded our expectations! The old high school has quite an interesting history of its own. This is a not-to-be-missed treat!

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Boynton Canyon Vistas

A short path off the main trail led to a vista point.

We normally prefer circular hikes that allow us to avoid retracing our steps, but there was only one way out of Boynton Canyon…at least only one safe way out. We followed the dusty red trail in until it dropped us down into the forest, beneath a cover of evergreens. Climbing began toward the end of the trail where we scrambled up a narrow channel of boulders, emerging onto a large, smooth rock outcropping, scattered with handful of other determined hikers enjoying the view.

A lunch spot with a gorgeous view greeted us at the trails end.

I try to remember to stop and look up every so often when hiking rather than carefully watching where I put my every footstep. The views were on our return trip were incredibly rewarding.

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