Sunday, December 12, 2010

Route 66 Journal - Day 6

5:57 a.m.
Welcome to Arizona
It was hard to find rest at the busy welcome center. Well-traveled, even at night, Interstate 40 offered little opportunity to sleep. People were constantly passing by, slamming car doors, and making noise. Even worse, lying on the payload bay of my truck made me feel as if I had put myself on display, quite different from the secluded lot of the small gas station from last night. Even though I knew I had not gotten enough sleep, I could not bear the though of staying any longer. I packed up my stuff and hit the road.

6:33 a.m.
Chief Yellow Horse Trading Post
The tall, sand-colored cliffs bordering the interstate on the northern side gave place to a number of Native American stores, similar to the trading posts of Oklahoma. They looked very interesting, and I would have loved to go inside them to look around. Unfortunately, however, due to the early hour, they were all closed.

7:23 a.m.
Thanks to the confusion caused by the different time zones, I reached the Petrified Forest National Park a half hour before it would open. On the other hand, my early arrival gave me enough time to refresh, something I did not feel like doing at the filthy rest stop earlier. I followed a park employee through the gates and used the restrooms in peace, before the crowd would get there.

9:32 a.m.

Desert Scenery
My journey through the park took me to many interesting attractions: various rock formations, breathtaking desert scenery, ancient pueblo rock carvings, and of course, an army of petrified trees, some of which were extremely well preserved. At places, the ground was literally covered with small shards of fossils, and I had to show real strength of mind to resist the urge to take one. On the other hand, I could not feel but a tiny bit disappointed because petrified trees took up only a small section of the park. They were still impressive; I just expected a bit more.

Further pictures: #1#2#3#4#5.

11:21 a.m.

Wigwam Motel, Holbrook
In Holbrook, I found one of the few surviving Wigwam Motels, world famous attractions of the Mother Road. It was a great feeling to stumble onto such an interesting and distinguished site. The owner even put vintage cars next to every wigwam, I guess, trying to increase the historic feel of the place. As cool as it was, however, I could not help but wondered how much they charged for the small, and quite frankly uncomfortable-looking, little “rooms.”

12:20 p.m.

I stopped at Winslow and took a much needed nap. Despite the climbing temperature, I actually woke up feeling rested—definitely getting better at sleeping in public places.

2:00 p.m.

I reached Flagstaff, a nice little city in the middle of Arizona, surrounded by lush hills. It acted as the main hub for all the attractions in the area, including the Grand Canyon. If one can believe the brochures, the town had a lot to offer for travelers. Thanks to the excessive heat, however, I did not feel like leaving the comfort of my air-conditioned vehicle. Instead, I decided to leave and try to reach the Grand Canyon before sunset. Therefore, after getting gas at a local station (which was getting ridiculously expensive), I immediately headed North.

5:47 p.m.

Echo Cliffs
I missed my turn and somehow ended up on the road crossing the eastern part of the Navajo Nation. Despite the long hours and the large amount of gas wasted, however, my detour was not a total loss. The panorama along the road was truly spectacular; the nearby Echo Hills appeared to be glowing in the reddish light of the descending sun. Unfortunately, I had not had much time to waste if I wanted to make it to the Grand Canyon before sunset.

Further pictures: #1#2.

7:24 p.m.

Navajo Lookout
Not long before reaching the Grand Canyon, I noticed an enormous chasm in the middle of the desert, probably an early section of the main rift. Right beside it, the Navajo tribe operated a trading post/lookout that offered a truly spectacular view, a nice prelude of what was to come—not that anything can prepare a person for the moment of first laying eyes on the Grand Canyon...

8:13 p.m.

At Desert View Lookout
I got to the Grand Canyon just in time for the sunset. My timely arrival, however, was not the only stroke of luck for that day. Thanks to the relatively late hour, instead of a park ranger, I was only welcomed by a hand-written sign at the gate: “Drive through and enjoy your visit.” Thanking my good fortune, I excitedly pulled into the jam-packed parking lot and hurried to the rim.

As I said earlier, nothing can prepare a person for the first view of the Grand Canyon. When the cliffs emerged from behind the vegetation, I just stood there, unable to move. While looking at one of the world’s most spectacular natural phenomenon, J. B. Priestley famous saying entered my mind:

“There is of course no sense at all in trying to describe the Grand Canyon.
Those who have not seen it will not believe any possible description.
Those who have seen it know that it cannot be described...”

Clouds after Sunset
Priestley’s words could not be any truer. There is no possible way of describing the Grand Canyon. Looking at the vast valley in front of me, I felt like an insignificant ant. The chasm descended several thousand feet deep and spread through miles, eventually emerging with the sky at a great distance. The sun painted the cliffs red, while the shadows of clouds made the scenery look like an abstract painting. I wondered if there is a more beautiful place on the face of the Earth; Mother Nature had truly done a terrific job when she created the Grand Canyon.

I sat down on the edge and just enjoyed the view until the sun slowly disappeared.

9:18 p.m.

I stayed at the rim until there was almost not enough light to see. I knew that finding an empty spot in the nearby campground was virtually impossible in the midst of the tourist season; therefore, I wanted to take in as much of the breathtaking panorama as I could before I would need to say goodbye to it. Nevertheless, despite the terrible odds, I decided to try my luck with the campground, during which Fortuna once again smiled at me: there was one(!) campsite remaining unoccupied. I immediately took it.

10:32 p.m.

After paying the twelve dollars camping fee at the machine and setting up my tent, I went back to the rim, hoping that I could, once again, take a look at the Milky Way. It would have been awesome to see it spreading over the Grand Canyon. But apparently I had enough luck for one day; the sky was cloudy, and the stars remained hidden. I did notice, however, that I was the only one at the rim and could not help but wonder if there was some kind of curfew after sunset unknown to me. There were no rails at the edge after all, making it easy to fall in the dark.

That night, sleep had a hard time finding me. The closeness of the Grand Canyon had a weird, strangely electrifying effect on me.

Distance covered on the sixth day 

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