oak creek + grand canyon

My right arm was feeling heavy. THAT is why it took me entirely too long to even start a new entry. The perils of hiking up trails with steep climbs, using a stick, when you live in the lowlands. Also all the driving.

(Long delay.)

OK, I bought a new mechanical keyboard and an ergonomic mouse. Then I still had to get medication for muscle inflammation in my lower right arm. After that, I had to finish an academic piece due on the first Friday in August. In the interim, so very much changed around me, making the trip of this summer seem like a distant whirlwind of a dream. I was eating indoors, not all of the time but almost every day, and not worrying about it! People did not freak me out. The news wasn’t filled with stories of infection, death, and childish outrage over masks. Imagine.

In any case, here are happier times from Day 2 of my second trip out to the southwest in the past year, this one to northern sections of Arizona and New Mexico. This day in a visit to the Grand Canyon, my first ever, and before that an early morning hike in a ridiculously beautiful trail in the Coconino National Forest near Sedona AZ.


The latter was the West Fork of Oak Creek Creek Trail, which I hopped up at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, June 9 to head out to while still at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook AZ, about two hours away. I was hoping to get to the trail by 7. And I made it with about 8 minutes or so to spare. And when I got there, it was still a tad chilly, leaving me to keep my gloves on. It was also uncrowded, which thrilled and surprised me a bit, while also leading me to think that Grand Canyon National Park was not going to be as uncrowded as everyone and every website said it might. So parking that afternoon would likely not be much of an issue, was my thought, basing my hunch on how much more crowded parts of Zion were early even amid what was then a seeming height of the pandemic. (I was correct!)

I thought I might be able to visit Sedona, but did not have time once finishing this nearly 7-mile long trail through Oak Creek Cayon. I’d seen this trail in guides, however, and thought it looked like it could provide enough of a red rocks experience, while also being more green-and-shade-intensive than what I was seeing of trails around the city proper. It ended up being the perfect choice, I think, practically idyllic. The only thing you can’t experience in these photos is having to walk over a creek about eight times when carrying a camera over your neck, and carrying a hiking pole. Also the wondering of, How much longer to the end? Then the occasionally swatting of bugs and such. Also the questions I kept asking myself, such as, Should I take the 97th photo, or what?

I made it back to Flagstaff around 11:15-ish, stopping for lunch there at a little bakery and coffee place on Historic Route 66, the appropriately named (for me at least) Eat ‘n’ Run Route 66 Cafe. Super-friendly staff, one server mega-charming, OK food but great coffee. Then it was up to the Grand Canyon, which I entered from the eastern side, instead of the more heavily trafficked southern entrance. The first stop: Desert View, right after the Grand Canyon becomes the Grand Canyon, as opposed to the river gorge you could see on the way in.

This was a pretty crowded stop, but not unmanageable or overwhelming. I still got to see a father walking ahead of me be jerk-ey to his children, a la answering “No!” to every question they had, including, “Daddy can we get some ice cream?” In my head, I was thinking, in all caps, just like this: THEY’RE AT THE GRAND CANYON, LET THEM HAVE ICE CREAM!

It took me a half-hour to get to Grand Canyon Village from there, where I’d be staying the night, the historic El Tovar Hotel (built just prior to the park’s opening, by the Fred Harvey Company and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway (now the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe), a duo that shall come up in a later post. I couldn’t get a parking place at my hotel, but drove right up to an open spot a block away. I soon checked in, checked my dinner reservation, looked out my window at fellow tourists and the canyon’s edge for a bit, then took a nap. Then it was time for dinner at 5:30 p.m., the only time I could get within my range. (There, I heard a kid telling his family trivia about rats, his favorite numbers, and “high-end” Mandarin classes.)

My dinner was followed by a trip back out to the Desert View area for the Golden Hour. I’d done my research here, and wasn’t disappointed. No giant crowds.

Desert View, Grand Canyon National Park

That was it! Well, except for the drive back. I left after sunset, but I could see a bit of blue sky all the way to Grand Canyon Village, where I finally saw completely dark skies. There were plenty of spaces in the El Tovar lot. (I saw so much ragging on the South Rim area, before and after my visit, for crowds and parking problems. I experienced no big problems.) The drive through the park was strangely beautiful. I listened to Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives’ “Way Out West” as an accompaniment. The drive will stick with me for a while, like so many this time.