Ten Days in Arizona - Part I
Story and Photos By Dana Benner
It was a long flight from New Hampshire to Arizona. What brought me to the Grand Canyon State was two-fold. First, I was on assignment from another publication and second, I am always on a quest for more information on Native American and natural history. Back east many people feel that Arizona is just the Grand Canyon, but I was soon to find out there was so much more.
Arriving in Flagstaff I picked up my bag, jumped in the rental car and headed the 30 miles or so west to Williams, which is known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon”, as was to be my base of operations for the next few days. I settled into my room and relaxed. The next day I was heading to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon by train, so I stayed in my room, fixed a dinner of Paleo Meals to Go, poured over maps, packed my gear and collected my thoughts. As much as I have traveled throughout the United States, this was my first trip to Arizona and I had no idea what to expect the next day.
I got up early. Just couldn’t sleep; the anticipation was more than I could take. I walked outside and though it was only June it was already pretty warm. Realizing that it would only get warmer I dressed accordingly. A UPF shirt, shorts, hiking boots and a hat were my attire for the day. UPF, which stands for Ultraviolet Protective Fabric, is just another layer of protection from the damaging effects of the sun. I grabbed my pack and made my way to the Grand Canyon Railway, the train which was going to be my ride to the Grand Canyon. Whenever I venture out my pack always goes with me. In this pack is a map of the area, a compass, first-aid kit, some meat snacks and some organic snack bars. Above all, I carried water, water and more water, which I carried in multiple collapsible water flasks. The pack also held my rain jacket (I know, but you just never know) and my camera gear.
It took a few hours for the train to arrive at the Grand Canyon, much slower than if I took the rental car, but my thoughts were that this way of travel was much more relaxing and better for the environment. I had a couple plans of what I would do once we arrived and once we did I watched what the other passengers were doing and I did just the opposite. My goal was to explore and learn about the flora and fauna of the area and that did not involve following the crowd. The more people that are around, the less you will see. Ideally I would have liked to hike down into the canyon, but there just wasn’t enough time. After all, I was “working”.
The further away I got from people the more the landscape came to life. Birds fluttered in the trees, lizards sunned themselves on rocks and Black-tailed jack rabbits could be seen in the brush. I even saw a condor soaring upon the thermals over the canyon. I watched for bears, elk and deer. I knew they were there as their sign was everywhere, but I never did see any. All too soon it was time to make my way back to the train for the ride back to Williams. It was very hot and I went through all of my water, so I re-filled my water flasks before getting back onto the train.
When the train pulled into Williams I was hot, dusty, thirsty and tired. About two blocks from the railroad station is historic Rte. 66. No shortage of places to get a cold one there, but it is also a place with plenty of visitors. I just wanted to get a cold one to wash away the dust, relax and review my notes. Like at the Grand Canyon, I watched the direction most people were going and I went the opposite way. That is when I found South Rims Wine and Beer Garage. It sounded interesting and wasn’t crowded so I stopped in. Greeting me as I walked in the door was a 1970 GTO. I knew right then and there that I was in the right place. The fact that they specialize in local Arizona beer was just the icing on the cake. The staff was great so I sat back and ordered a beer.
After enjoying a nice cold Oak Creek beer, just enough to wash the dust out of my throat, I made my way back to my hotel room. I still needed to get my gear ready as I was heading south the next morning. Next stop Prescott.
Once again I was up early, loaded the car and jumped on Rte. 89, heading south towards Prescott. The few hours that I was on the road were pretty uneventful except for a small herd of pronghorns in a field. It was pretty cool to see those pronghorns, but with no place to safely pull off, I kept on driving.
Prescott was going to be my home away from home for the next four days and it was from here where I would do most of my exploration. Over the next few days I would be taking a train through Verde Canyon; visiting a rodeo; four wheeling through the Prescott national Forest and exploring the mountains outside of Sedona. It was going to be a busy few days so I needed to get my rest, review maps and plan things.
Click here for Part II
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Dana Benner has been writing about the outdoors and Native history for 30 years with his work appearing in many regional and national publications.
Pictures from the Trip
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