I went to Arizona for 10 days to do a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon. The hike was four days, but I gave myself a few days to acclimatise at the beginning and a few at the end to explore. I took the slow route to Flagstaff, where I'd be picked up for the hike, and after the hike, I hit Sedona to see what all the fuss was about.
It was, as usual, a spectacular trip.
I took the roundabout route from Phoenix, and drove a beautiful drive down the Apache Trail, the old stagecoach trail that ran through the Superstition Mountains, named after the Apache Indians who originally used it. Most of it is unpaved, but that’s the best part.
After a while, I hit Globe. There wasn't too much going on on a Sunday, but the antique shop was open so I bought an old ice-cream scoop. It's incredibly sturdy and will last a long time. I hope.
From Globe, I drove up to Holbrook, where I spent a night, and then to Winslow, for some Route 66 goodness and to take it easy with The Eagles.
From Winslow, I took State Route 87 up to Second Mesa, and then State Route 264 towards Tuba City, and finally, US Route 89 up to Page. Page is one of my favourite places. It’s a small town, but has lots of offer, from excellent burgers (at Slackers), to stunning canyons. This set is on the way to Page, Horseshoe Bend, Cameron Trading Post, and the drive to Flagstaff.
I only spent a few hours in Page, and heading back to Flagstaff, I ran into the first of many stunning monsoon rainstorms. I didn’t notice the rainbow here until I got back home.
After a day in Flagstaff, spent relaxing, I was ready for the hike. I was picked up at 7am, by Mike from Just Roughin' It. Together with three others, we set out on the drive to the North Rim.
It was an experience I’ll never forget. The peace, the beauty and the incredibly humbling grandeur of the canyon left us all speechless for the vast majority of the hike, and when we did talk, more often than not it was of the canyon.
I saw the Milky Way for the first time as I sat in the darkness at the very bottom of the Grand Canyon – a sight I'd be longing for for years. I never thought I'd finally witness it from such a perfect place.
The hike was long and hard, but rightly so. It had to be: any easier and I'd have felt cheated – and I would have felt that I had cheated the canyon. It's not meant to be easy. You need to earn your experience.
I was elated but deeply sad to emerge at the South Rim, and once dropped off back at my motel, I sunk on to the bed, at a loss for what to do with myself. It had only been four days, but being back in normal life felt wrong.
It was my first Grand Canyon hike, but it absolutely not be my last. I think about going back almost every single day.
Crossing the mighty Colorado early in the morning.
Close to the top.
Sad to leave this big old hole in the ground.
After a night back in Flagstaff, I drove to Sedona once up the next day (after a hearty breakfast!). I explored Sedona and did some small hikes nearby. It's such a beautiful place – the two drive throughs I had done had left me wondering what everyone was on about, and I was finally realising.
That evening, I went up to the Airport Mesa to watch the sunset. It was a cloudy evening, but the clouds did their thing and I wasn’t disappointed.
Sometimes it pays to look behind you.
The following day I took a couple of tours. One didn't really show much of Sedona, but the other, a drive to Submarine Rock, was superb. Thanks to a storm brewing in the distance, the views were quite spectacular.
The day after, I left. I'll be back.