Monday, April 21, 2008

Northern Arizona's variety of landscapes

I missed yesterday, but I did have time to fix the Flagstaff and Oak Creek area set of pictures, which show how varied northern Arizona can be.

Hanne was really tired the day after all the hikes and climbing the red rocks, so I got to drive for a change, on the kind of roads I love - curving and hilly in the start, and wide open spaces afterwards.

Leaving Sedona, we took 89A north along Oak Creek, through the large ponderosa pine forest and up to an altitude of about 7000 ft, where there were still many patches of snow around, and it was quite chilly! There was a rest area at the top, after the road did a lot of switch backs to get there. You can see them in some of the pictures. There was also a market for local native American products - baskets, pottery and jewelry, but we weren't tempted.

In Flagstaff we drove north through town (on Rt 66, which also runs through Upland!) We missed a turn, so we ended up in the old town part of Flagstaff, which was fun. Then we turned onto US 180, the back (but more direct) route to the Grand Canyon. In Flagstaff we started getting views of the beautifully snow-capped San Francisco Mountain Range. We must have driven through a pass, which was up to our highest altitude at about 8045 ft, and we drove past a sign to Arizona's Snow Bowl, the skiing area, which I expect still has enough snow.

After that the road became straight as an arrow, first going through the Ponderosa forest with large clearings every once in a while, where there were homes and businesses, including a ranch that evidently had white buffaloe behind a very high fence. We weren't tempted there either (Hanne was sleeping beside me.)

After a while the ponderosas thinned out at we were driving on what we wanted to call "prairie" or maybe "range," but I saw called the "grassy desert," which is a pretty apt name, when you look closer to the picture. There were occasional buildings - trailers and small homes, but no ranch houses, barns or even cattle. There were signs to watch for things like antelope, but we didn't see them either. Just wide open spaces, with the mountains to the south and the Grand Canyon and a slight butte to the north. It was so windy, that sometimes it was hard to keep up to the speedlimit, while once it just took of and pushed me up above 80 mph without my noticing it!

We arrived at the Grand Hotel in the village of Tusayan about noon, and did some mostly driving exploration that afternoon. But that will be in the next entry.

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