Today has been our first real day of “cold”, waking up to frost on the car and a light covering of snow on the ground.
The road into the Grand Canyon National Park was lined with snow and a slight covering on the road. Not sure if it was ice, our progress was pretty cautious.
First stop was booking a helicopter flight over the Canyon, then driving to the rim of the Canyon for a ground level view. The temperature had remained below freezing into mid-morning, but it didn’t detract from the majesty of what is truly one of the wonders of the world. A dusting of snow on the Canyon added to the experience.
Our lunchtime helicopter flight was with 6 passengers and the pilot, and fortunately Jane and I scored two of the seats in the front. Unfortunately for Jane, seated between her and the pilot was a young Brazilian guy who spent the next 45 minutes reaching over her to take photos.
All passengers were wearing headphones with mic’s, so we could all hear each other. The pilot took us out across the forest for 5 minutes, and gave us warning when were about to fly over the rim into the Canyon proper. Through the headphones, you could hear the collective gasps and “wows” as the Canyon floor dropped away below us. It’s a cliche, but it really was breathtaking.
The next half hour was spent flying through the Canyon and, for Jane, avoiding the outstretched, photo-hungry, arms of her Brazilian neighbour. It was a fantastic way to view the Canyon, and we returned to the airport very chuffed with the experience.
Mister Brazil was not so pleased, as he complained to the ticket counter that he did not get the window seat that he requested. When he was told that the seating plan was dictated by the relative weight of the passengers, he shot me a disdainful look (he was quite lean … I got the window seat … viva my Harbison genes … )
Before our flight, the Rangers’ office informed us that the road we had intended to take out of the park was closed due to ice and fallen trees. The alternative route would have added a couple of hours to our trip and meant we would not have arrived in Monument Valley before sunset.
We checked at the airport whether it had re-opened, and received a tentative confirmation that it had. With fingers crossed and extreme caution, we chanced the shorter route and made it through relieved and unscathed.
The drive from the Canyon to Monument Valley over the border into Utah was through barren but dramatic landscape. We broke up the journey at an Indian Trading Post, which housed a wonderful gallery of Indian art and artifacts for sale, with prices to match the quality of the goods. The first broach Jane asked the price of was $1,300. Despite being tempted, we restrained ourselves.
Next door was the more tourist orientated shop, the size of department store with every curio you could imagine, from the tacky to the tasteful. With the impending deadline of sunset, I “encouraged” Jane out of the shop and back on the road.
We made it to Monument Valley, in the middle of the Navajo reservation, just on dusk. Monument Valley is real “Road Runner” country and the site of many Western / John Wayne movies. Everywhere you look, there are huge red rock formations jutting out of the valley floor.
We were informed that one of the bigger formations was used in the opening sequence of Mission Impossible 2, with Tom Cruise rock climbing up the sheer face. With no small degree of cynicism, the Navajo who told us this, advised that most of the scene was done with computer imaging.
This visit was one of the places we had both been most looking forward to, staying at The View Hotel, an eco-hotel run by Navajos, built on the edge of an escarpment, with every room looking down over the valley.
With light fading, we only got a small taste, but enough to whet our appetite for a day of exploring tomorrow.