On our drive north, we drove almost straight to the Grand Canyon without stopping much. We did grab lunch at Ikea. Anna also picked out a few new toys to snuggle with on the drive up. She picked out a cute dog and a blue blanket. Blue is her current color of choice, everything should be blue. We passed through a variety of terrain on this last leg of the trip. We got a feel for what a mesa is as we drove north and even passed into pine tree populated areas as we got to higher elevations, complete with snow. Our hotel at the Grand Canyon had a heated indoor pool, so Anna got some more water time after her afternoon-long nap during our drive. She even slept through the refueling.
Monday morning we went straight to the national park. I carried Anna around the park for most of it. We ran into a few elk at the first overlook we came too, they were so tiny! But the view into the canyon was unbelievable. Oh, just a 4,000 foot drop down to the riverbed, no big deal. And it didn’t end, as far as you can see it goes east and west just being its hole-in-the-ground self. The weirdest thing to me was that from 50 feet away from the rim you wouldn’t even know it was there. The short trees were tall and thick enough to obscure your view. This enormous national treasure is hidden in its own park because it extends down instead of up like every other place we visit like waterfalls, mountains, redwood trees. Anna enjoyed the little geological museum we found until she bumped her head, then she liked it even more because her tears got her both a tissue and a sticker. But leaving the park was torture. She apparently loved that little museum, and our walk. And the prospect of returning to the car was unimaginable.
Jacob drove us the scenic route down to Flagstaff where we stayed the night. I sang songs to Anna in the back and we talked about the trees and snow we saw. Someone, in the middle of nowhere built snowfamilies all along the road. Every 100 feet or so we saw another group of snowmen. Oh the amusements of northern Arizona. Anna and I napped all afternoon once we got to our hotel and Jacob made our plans for the evening.
We visited the Lowell Observatory after nightfall. We got to look through three telescopes, each a different size. We saw Jupiter, which was gorgeous. We also looked at the Orion nebula and saw that what looked like one star was really several. It was fun chatting with the volunteers and checking out the old sketches of and equipment used to discover Pluto. It was a chilly night but a great stop!
On our last full day in Arizona we took the scenic route back to Phoenix. We drove through the Red Rock area of Arizona which was amazing. Jacob got mad at me because I kept missing the viewpoint stops. But the scenery was lovely, I tried to be brave as we descended 1,000 feet around the twisting curves of a single valley. Jacob drove us safely and we had a nice drive. We stopped at a few sites of native American dwellings made over 700 years ago, Tuzigoot National Monument and Montezuma Castle National Monument. Do you think your house will be around in 700 years?
The first was an impressive village of connected dwellings built with stone. The “before” picture of the hill looked like any of the hills surrounding the monument, oh hey here is some dirt. And then they dug out this beautiful town, just amazing. We walked around for a bit, even climbing steep steps to the top. But it was very very windy there! I told Jacob we have to get Anna to start grinding our grains with stones, here is her first lesson.
The Montezuma Castle National Monument was impressive for quite a different reason. This large dwelling was built into the side of a cliff! Anna really enjoyed walking around, the wind had died down and we happily strolled along the paths for a while. Anna, in her typical fashion, gathered leaves. She tried to explain this to Jacob by telling him that she had “many leaves.” Jacob said that that should be her indian name, Anna Many Leaves. I think it fits.
We also stopped at one last National Monument, Agua Fria. We drove into it only to find out it is really just a free campsite with nothing inside, or, protected grounds. The monument was quite large when we pulled it up on the map, and the roads were really bumpy.
We made it back to town in time to unload the car and head out to meet up with an old friend for dinner. Joey Novak, Jacob’s old roommate and co-worker, and his lovely wife met up with us for dinner. The boys chatted about computers and their “jobs” all evening. They both run their own companies so they were comparing notes and laughing about old times too.
We were worried our early flight out might be cancelled because the entire day the middle of the country had shut down their airports. But the night must’ve given enough time to clean it all up because we were completely on time to Chicago. We did have an extended layover because of a delayed flight somewhere else but we didn’t mind. It switched our afternoon from “run to the next flight, they’re already boarding!” (30 min) to “oh, well, let’s sit down and eat a sandwich” (1.5 hours). Anna and Jacob both slept the entire flight to Connecticut. We were so happy to be home. Anna ran around and found every single toy she had been missing for a week. She loved bringing her little backpack along for our trip but it didn’t hold nearly enough toys.