Phoenix to Grand Canyon
Started off a little later this morning – we were exhausted after yesterday’s ordeal, so didn’t rush.
I think we were on the road by 10:30am, heading north from Phoenix up the I-17 interstate.
It wasn’t long before we started climbing up into the hills quite quickly, and some of the views were spectacular. We stopped at a couple of points along the way and took some photos. As we headed further north, we started seeing snow in the distance, and eventually as we climbed through 4000 feet (above sea level) and higher, we started seeing patches of snow on the side of the road. The road continued to climb, higher and higher, eventually we were past 5000 feet, and even higher, we started seeing a lot of snow – and then it was basically all snow.
Fortuantely, the roads were well cleared and very easy to drive on – so we just sat back and enjoyed the sights as we drove through – it was very pretty with everything covered in several feet of snow. We have never really seen serious snow before – just light dustings as we’ve passed through the Blue Mountains in winter back home … so it was quite exciting to see this much snow everywhere. Leanne was especially excited !
Eventually we pulled in to Flagstaff, stopped for a snack and a hot chocolate – it was interesting, a whole town covered in snow, sidewalks freshly shovelled, and snow ploughs still working on some side roads and store car parks. A new experience for us. The town looked just like a postcard with all the snow on the houses, the icicles dangling from eaves, the white covered trees and such.
The elevation of Flagstaff is listed in our Lonely Planet Guide as being 6900 feet. To put this into perspective, Australia’s tallest mountain is Mount Kosciusko at a mere 7328 feet – there were “hills” we passed near Flagstaff that soar up over 12500 feet, so Australia’s mountains just don’t cut it by international standards.
After our break, we drove out of Flagstaff and headed up the US-180 towards the Grand Canyon, and onto the SR-64. We dropped quite a long way, down below 5000 feet as we got closer to the Grand Canyon and the snow on the ground thinned quite significantly. However, as we got closer in to Tusayan (the township just outside of the National Park), the snow levels suddenly picked up again, and the roads even became a little icy – there was snow everywhere, even more than we had seen elsewhere.
The Camry we have been driving has an ambient temperature indicator on the dashboard, and we’ve been watching it with interest on our trip – as we got up into the mountains out of Phoenix, the temperatute dropped to around 6 degrees celcius, which we thought was pretty cold. But then when we hit the snow towards Flagstaff, the temperature dropped quickly below zero, and was at -2 degrees when we stopped in Flagstaff.
As we pulled in to Tusayan, where were are staying the next two nights, the temperature dropped to -5 degrees – we knew it was cold ! We found our hotel and pulled in to the driveway, which was covered in snow and ice. After unloading our luggage into our room, we decided to check out the town (I found a place selling lined waterproof jackets and good gloves at a decent price, two things we had already identified that I might need) … and then we drove in to the national park to see what we could see before it got too dark.
When we got out of the car at the first view point, it was snowing, the paths were very icy, and a breeze had come up, making it very very cold. I was very glad to have my new jacket (not especially warm, but it did keep my dry from the falling snow), and especially my gloves. Even still, we only lasted 5-10 minutes enjoying the view before it simply got too cold for us, and we headed back to the car to warm up. It started snowing quite heavily at this point anyway, and the views began to become obscured.
We drove back in to Tusayan (slowly, the roads had become icy with the dropping temperatures and snow), and stopped at the local Imax theatre to see their feature on the Grand Canyon, which was quite spectacular, and a good introduction to the history and features of the area. After the show, we found a local steakhouse to enjoy dinner before heading back to the hotel.
The sights of the snow covered town were so enticing that we decided to rug up a little and head out with the cameras to take some photos around the hotel. I’ll upload some of them to the gallery when I get a chance (so many photos, not enough time !!).
We have a full day here tomorrow, and we hope to have some reasonable weather during the day to make sightseeing effective and hopefully it will not be too cold to stay out and enjoy the views.