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Old 12-30-2008, 11:33 AM   #21
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Everyone should see the Grand Canyon in person once in their lives, it's something that you just can't appreciate through pictures alone (Niagra Falls itself, not the town, is another). Last time I was at the Grand Canyon I took a helicopter tour, it's expensive, but I would recommend it highly. I am a firm believer in not denying myself great experiences in life (see sig below), although the expensive ones I only do once. I don't want to look back on my life one day wondering what this or that experience might have been like - and denied myself (the heli tour was $400 at the time). At any rate, you won't regret making the trip no matter what you decide, enjoy it.
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Old 12-30-2008, 01:32 PM   #22
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On the South Rim, there is also a nice trail/walk that goes along the west road toward's Hermit's rest. You don't have to travel very far to be away from the crowds and have a chance to experience the beauty in solitude. I believe there is also a free bus that runs near the route in the summer, so you can walk out and bus back for free.
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Old 12-30-2008, 02:17 PM   #23
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There is so much to see in that whole area. To get a good feel for what is there, you should get a copy of the "Indian Country Guide Map." (That link has a very lousy description and picture -- it is exactly like those State road maps that unfold in to this huge unwieldy thing that is impossible to refold -- but the price is right.) Best $3 or $4 you will ever spend

It includes the Grand Canyon and also large sections of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. The cover says it is:

A MAP PLUS: Information on points of interest, recreation, and annual events, plus backcountry and river rafting outfitters, tribal information and more.

Including: Arches NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Canyon de Chelly NM, Canyonlands NP, Capital Reef NP, Chaco Canyon NHP, Grand Canyon NP, Monument Valley NTP, and Zion NP.

On the other hand, for only $125 this sounds like an interesting resource.
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Old 01-02-2009, 12:43 PM   #24
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If you are in decent shape then consider hiking down and staying at least a couple nights at the Phantom Ranch. They have cabins and dorm style accommodations.

Folks with backpacking gear can stay at the campground and arrange to have just your meals at the ranch. The meals are served family style in a large dining room.

If you are into fishing, it used to be that National Parks don't require a state fishing license. At certain times of the year the trout fishing is pretty good. The rules about tackle may have changed but you used to be able to use anything except live bait. Now you might have to use barbless hooks, that seems to be the trend.

There are also several nice hikes at the bottom and you'll be away from the crowds at the top. Here's a link to get you started. Phantom Ranch / Bright Angel Day Hikes

The hike down is pretty easy but go slow if your knees are getting old. The hike out isn't too difficult as long as you start early and don't carry too much stuff. I always stash a few water bottles on the way down.

Another spot with good views of a spectacular canyon is Goosenecks State Park which is just a little West of Mexican Hat UT near the AZ border. You can drive right up the the edge of the canyon and camp if you want to. Use Google satellite view to get an idea of what the area looks like.

There is a good spot to eat in Monticello UT called MD Ranch Cookhouse. It's right on the main road. The folks in that town were extra friendly even though we were a bunch of smelly backpackers. This part of Utah is over 6000 feet elevation so you'll have warm days but chilly nights. It can get down below 40 even in June.

If you want to see some of Utah's famous arches but want to avoid the crowds there is a nice spot called Natural Bridges National Monument a few miles West of Blanding UT. There is a nice loop drive with lots of easy parking if you are inclined to stretch out your legs or take some pictures. If you take that side trip then you don't have to drive all the way back to Blanding, head south to Mexican Hat on 261.

A good spot for stretching out and a nice steak is the Cameron Trading Post. It's in Cameron AZ, about an hour North of Flagstaff at the intersection of 89 and 64. 64 is the back way into the Grand Canyon but the rules about driving at the canyon would be something you would need to check out. I know you aren't interested in tourist traps but there is also a large gift shop where you can see lots of good examples of Navaho and Hopi art and jewelry. My wife is pretty picky about jewelry but I was able to find a nice pair of earings with a SW flavor that she likes.

For a good view of the AZ Painted Desert, especially around sunset, about 20 miles South of Cameron turn West onto forest road 418. You'll know when you get close to the turnoff when there are old volcanic cinder cones on both sides of the road. Just drive a mile or two and stop for a view back to the East. This spot is one of the best to see exactly what the heck a painted desert is.

If you continue on the forest road another few miles it takes you to a spot called Lockett Meadow or The Inner Basin. In the winter I have walked this a few times so it probably isn't too far. Here you'll be in a flat area where you can see into the center of the San Francisco Mountains, at about 8500 feet with groves of aspen and ponderosa pine. Use google maps and click the "Terrain" tab to see the layout.

The Inner Basin is often visited by Native Americans. They come to the mountains to place prayer sticks, I think they are in honor of their ancestors. The sticks are 2 to 3 feet long and are decorated so you won't mistake them for an ordinary stick. I have seen them a few times and you're aren't supposed to mess with them, that would be like messing with a gravestone in a cemetary. Even if you aren't a religious person seeing some of these prayer sticks will be memorable.
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Old 01-02-2009, 07:17 PM   #25
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AZDreamer,

Great stuff. I love to poke around in backwoods Southwest, as you obviously do also. (Three days ago I was hiking in the snow in the Gila Wilderness north of Silver City, and also explored Truth or Consequences and Chloride, New Mexico.) Thanks for these tips, I've bookmarked this page and will absolutely visit some of your recommended sites and attractions.

Tom
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Old 01-02-2009, 11:42 PM   #26
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Hi TomInTucson:

I have never been to Silver City but have read it's a nice college town. I'll have to look that place up one of these days.

I'm not very familiar with the Tucson area. Are there some spots down there you are willing to talk about?

Henry
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Old 01-03-2009, 05:04 AM   #27
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Several have suggested Rocky Mtn. NP and I heartily agree. I've been there 4 times during different times of the year (not dead of winter, however.) While you are in the area, you would do well to spend a day at Estes Park Co. (essentially at the entrance to the park) and spend a night at the Stanley Hotel (The Movie THE SHINING was partially filmed at the hotel. Beautiful hotel and setting)

When you continue west out of Denver on I70, be sure to start that leg early in the AM so you get about 250 miles of Rocky Mtn. views. The route is roughly the same one the train takes through the mountains. A truly spectacular drive!

Snow can be problematic even into May or early as Sept., I think, depending on where you go. I got snowed on in Rocky Mtn. NP in Aug. although the only actual accumulation was at about 10K ft and was left over from previous year.

Have fun! Wish I could do this trip again before I expire. Only snow I ever enjoyed was in this neck of the Co. woods!

Of Course, YMMV
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Old 01-03-2009, 07:07 PM   #28
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Several have suggested Rocky Mtn. NP and I heartily agree. I've been there 4 times during different times of the year (not dead of winter, however.) While you are in the area, you would do well to spend a day at Estes Park Co. (essentially at the entrance to the park).....

When you continue west out of Denver on I70, be sure to start that leg early in the AM so you get about 250 miles of Rocky Mtn. views. The route is roughly the same one the train takes through the mountains. A truly spectacular drive!
Actually we made the I-70 run eastbound, on our way home from the southwest nat'l parks.....loved the mountain views! Thoroughly enjoyed our time at Rocky Mtn N.P., and also our time in Estes Park was great! While we were staying in Estes Park, we took a sightseeing tour driven by a retired local guide, from Estes Park, up to the Alpine Visitor's Center at 11,796'.....what a view!!! We let him do the driving and the talking...and we did the looking and the gawking!!! He stopped at every wide spot in the road for us to get out and take pictures and relax and enjoy the scenery!

It was the 7th, and last Nat'l Park that we visited on our journey that time. And though it was the last ones we visited, it certainly wasn't the least!!! It was really enjoyable, and we got to see a lot of wildlife...esp. elk...up close & personal. One huge elk buck walked right over to our van and stared through the windows at us....for about 10 minutes! Then he just meandered off on his way across the road, to meet up with the rest of his herd. Cool!
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Old 01-03-2009, 08:41 PM   #29
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We are hitting the Grand Canyon in April on our way to Texas. Probably stay a day or two. Looking to take a helicopter tour. Ive been there before but that big hole is just something to behold in person Besides its probably a good idea to see it again before we attempt fate dealing with fire ants,Ebola,hurricanes..etc etc in Texas
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:16 AM   #30
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We are hitting the Grand Canyon in April on our way to Texas. Probably stay a day or two. Looking to take a helicopter tour. Ive been there before but that big hole is just something to behold in person Besides its probably a good idea to see it again before we attempt fate dealing with fire ants,Ebola,hurricanes..etc etc in Texas
Dont forget Tornados and massive hail storms.
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Old 01-04-2009, 07:15 PM   #31
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I'm not very familiar with the Tucson area. Are there some spots down there you are willing to talk about?

Henry

Hi Henry,

Sorry for the delay in responding to your query. I'm all about southeastern Arizona, especially Santa Cruz and Cochise counties. I've pulled out my atlas, and will just let you google for specific directions.

When in Tucson, be sure to drive up the Catalina Highway to the top of Mt. Lemmon. In 40 minutes, you'll travel from forests of saguaro cactus through a wide range of climactic zones, finishing amongst tall pine forests at about 9200 feet. I was up there yesterday with a Burmese refugee family with whom I volunteer. I took them sledding- they had only seen snow in photographs. Very exciting. Yes, sledding, one hour from downtown Tucson.

Chiricahua National Monument is breathtakingly beautiful. Hike a little or a lot amongst the crazy rock formations. After visiting the monument, you can backtrack out and take a dirt road over the beautiful Chiricahua range, to Portal on the other side. Then to Rodeo, across the New Mexico border, not much there except a cool little diner.

Hike Sycamore Canyon, east of Nogales, until the trail dead-ends with a barbed wire fence crossing the canyon. That would be Mexico on the other side of the fence. Mind the narcotrafficers; a border patrol agent I bumped into, off-duty and hiking with his father-in-law, said that when he's off-duty and sees them, he just hides until they pass. Sage advice. I saw no one myself. (Careful, don't get "kidnapped or killed"!) I actually love poking around the border, there's no place like it on earth.

Wilcox has a wonderful diner, I think it's called the Cactus Rose. Funky and cool Rex Allen Museum. Pick your own apples about 10 miles north of town.

The Clifton open-pit copper mine is jaw-dropping. It's got its own particular beauty. From there drive north on the amazing Coronado Trail (yes, that nut Coronado came through here- made it all the way to Oklahoma! Can't imagine what the Apaches must have thought of those whacky Spaniards.)
The Trail takes you up through Hannigan Meadow (nice, reasonably-priced lodge and cabins) to Alpine and the Mogollan Rim.

Mammoth, Arizona has a charming little Mexican/American diner called Celeste's. Been open about a year, and doing well in a region devastated by the closing of the San Manuel mine. Globe is very cool. Nice old downtown, trendy but nice coffeehouse. There's a western wear store run by a gentleman rancher named Earl. He sells western clothing, and makes hand-tooled saddles in back. A real pleasure to meet. I'm an ultra-liberal city boy; Earl and I got along just fine.

The San Xavier Mission, in all its restored glory, is just down the road from Tucson. People rave about our Sonoran Desert Museum. It's nice I guess, but I prefer to just go to the desert. Plus, the desert is free!

I haven't yet been to the Titan Missile Museum, but I'm told it's to be recommended. The Pima Air Museum here in Tucson is great. Soviet MIGs and B-52s sitting right on the tarmac. Drive by 5,000 decommisioned military planes at the nearby "graveyard". Nothing like it.

Fabulous hiking in Aravaipa Canyon. Spectacular forests and views driving up Mt. Graham, near Safford, another cool Arizona town. Bisbee is a bit over-rated in my book, drowning in its own quaintness, but a restaurant called the Bisbee Breakfast Club puts on a good show. Grab your passport, drive south from Bisbee, and cross over to Naco, Sonora. It's supposed to be crawling with narcotraficantes, but I enjoyed an afternoon stroll down the very quiet thoroughfare. Again, don't get killed or kidnapped!!!

Yeah, Silver City, New Mexico and the lovely, restored Palace Hotel. Then north into the Gila Wilderness. Madera Canyon, south of Tucson, great hiking. Patagonia, Arizona for a taste of an Arizona ranching community.

I could go on and on. In fact, I have! Wishing fabulous road trips to one and all.

Tom
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Old 01-13-2009, 12:21 AM   #32
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About the panhandle of Texas, I am just repeating what I read here a year ago. "I thought I spent a week in Amarillo one day." My relative describes it as "Nothing but miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles."

Some don't miss places:
In Colorado, Ouray to Silverton to Durango is a whole day's drive due to the scenery.

Page Arizona for Lake Powell/Glen Canyon Dam, Antelope Canyon tour, is a day. Leaving Page, stop at the scenic overlook on the way to Lee's Ferry and Vermillion Cliffs. Starting uphill towards Jacob Lake, there is another scenic lookout. On the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, stop for the baked goods at the cafe in Jacob Lake. Spend a day at the North Rim.

This area has Ponderosa pine trees. Big tall ones with 3'' paired pine needles not like spruce and fir needles. On a warm day, on the sunny side of the big ones, the bark has a faint scent of vanilla or butterscotch.

On the way to Kanab Utah, stop at the scenic lookout to overlook the redrocks and both Bryce and Zion National Parks which each need a full day in the park.

To prep for this trip: Get AAA auto club maps for the Four Corners area (map named Indian Country) and their Southern Utah one. Get both Golden Books for Geology and Rocks. Read Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. Read some Tony Hillerman murder mystery books to learn more about the Navajo and Hopi Indian cultures. Boost your walking now to be able to explore the parks better.

An Abbey quote: It is the roughest, reddest, rockiest, ruggedest, hottest, driest, least developed, least inhabitated, most inhospitable, most Godforsaken corner of the Southwest. It is the best I've seen, so far.
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Old 01-15-2009, 08:12 PM   #33
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With "unlimited" time, I'd highly recommend taking a rafting trip down the Colorado through the canyon if it fits within your budget. It takes one full week on a motor powered raft, twice as long on an oared boat. My wife & I did a trip last year with an outfit called Canyoneers and we both thought it was the best trip we've ever taken, and we've had some pretty great trips. Seeing the canyon from top side is cool, but traveling down the river on stretches of both calm and treacherous water, watching the canyon change throughout the day and by the mile, and getting a chance to hike some of the fatastic side canyons is an experience like no other I've had. Highly recommended!!
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