Monument Valley was high on my list of priorities for this trip. In fact, I had booked a room at The View Hotel about 5 months before I came – they fill up quick. It completely and utterly overwhelmed me. How anyone could possibly suggest it's nothing but awe-inspiring is beyond me. If you haven't been, go. Spend a night, do the hikes and the drive, and for God's sake, get up to watch the sun rise.
I spent around 3 hours doing the loop by car in the valley, after spending around the same amount of time doing the hike around the west Mitten. The silence and the heat on the valley floor is both comforting and crushing.
I was lucky enough to see a rainbow one evening, and hiked up the short path to get a shot of it seemingly stretching across the entire valley.
I left after two nights, sad to go, but so indescribably happy to have been there. I took the backroads out and around to Four Corners National Park, and passed about 4 cars for the entire 4 hour drive. It was as if I had Arizona to myself, and it was complete and utter bliss.
It was my 4th trip to Arizona, and I had decided on going to the Grand Canyon's North Rim for the first time. I drove through Prescott and Jerome, and then took forest roads (many of which were completely washed out) to reach Flagstaff. From there I headed across Navajo Bridge and across the Kaibab Plateau. The smell of pine was thick in the air, and after climbing up and up and up, I eventually arrived at the rim. It was exquisitely peaceful and of course, beautiful.
If you've only ever been to the South Rim, go north next time. It won't disappoint. If you've never been, skip the South Rim and go north. You'll see so much more of the state that way, and get a far more intimate experience of the canyon.
I'd visited Horseshoe Bend last year for the first time and had promised myself to see it from the river, so was very excited about heading down the Colorado and doing just that. It was chilly, silent and incredibly beautiful. For around 3 hours we slowly drifted down the river, stopping to admire the sheer walls and clear water, and just be. As we floated around the bend, I looked up to the viewpoint I stood at last year, and would stand at again the next day. It's impossible to comprehend the scale – a feeling I was to experience again and again in Arizona.
After spending the morning rafting, we went to Lake Powell for some canoeing. We glided across the lake, paddled up small inlets, and climbed rocks which we then jumped off. The next day I spent the morning swimming around close to Glen Dam. It's funny to think, as you splash around in the cool water, that below you is almost 1000 foot of canyon. Standing on the dam, looking one side to the lake, and the other to the Colorado far below, it's strange to think it's really the same thing. But there it is.
I visited the very old Hubble Trading Post before heading on to the Petrified Forest and the sublime Canyon de Chelly.
Fast approaching the end of my trip, I swung in to New Mexico to revisit White Sands. A stop at Tombstone, Pima Air and Space Museum, and then the powerful Casa Grande. Nothing left but to make my flight.