Day 11, the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona

 A car in hand, with excitement awaiting us in Arizona, we decided to jump straight into a westward drive on I40. The drive in the beginning, as you are crossing the New Mexico stretch, isn’t too exciting (and I might have missed parts of it as I napped while Lukasz drove), but as we approached the Arizona side of things, the terrain gets a lot more interesting. 

Our first stop today was the Sunset Crater, where a volcano erupted a mere 1000 years ago, and you can see ash from it when you visit the location. Not just some ash, but the whole area is covered with ash from that eruption. A walk in one of the trails is a bizarre experience, as you aren’t walking on normal land, but just on ash from the volcano from the relatively new eruption a milieu ago! We walked across a couple of trails, soaking in the new terrain, while also getting a chance to appreciate the snow capped views of San Francisco mountain (unrelated to SF city) from the crater.

We were done with Sunset crater relatively early in the afternoon and we were still hungry for more on the day. After a quick pit stop at Cameron, AZ, we decided to enter the Grand Canyon National Park!

No amount of pictures and videos that you google about the Grand Canyon is ever going to prepare you for seeing it live. It is ginormous!! It overwhelms you when you finally get to see it. We entered the Southern Rim, which was nearest to where we were driving from, and the only one open for access as the Northern Rim is currently closed.

The way you see the Grand Canyon is to go to one point after another along the rim and see the canyon from a few different points. You might think the view gets repetitive, but it doesn’t. As the Canyon bends, each point offers its own unique view and personally, neither of us tired of the views as we went from one to another. 

We were clearly underdressed for the Grand Canyon. Either due to the altitude at Grand Canyon or the declining hours of the day, it started getting really cold, and while there was some light left to enjoy more of the park, we decided to call it a day so we can return tomorrow, hopefully with a layer or two of additional clothing. 

After having a nice Mexican dinner at Plaza Bonita in Tusayan Village, we drove to Wander Camp, Grand Canyon which is where we had booked a teepee to stay. From it is supposedly to be sufficient accommodation, but what we saw in reality was much harsher conditions. Without heating, on a cold night like this (expected to go to -10 C) we were expected to freeze off. With a bathroom that’s 50 meters away, if you need to take a leak, you have to weather the outdoors walking just to get there. To top it all, there is no latent supply of drinking water, though the camp operators were happy to give us a couple of small bottles of water to get us past the night. 

The conditions were harsh and for a minute I considered driving into flagstaff and finding ourselves a warmer place to nap, but after having secured the last propane heater available at the camp, we decided to brave it all. The heater helped, but not much. The conditions were still very very very cold in the deep night. Given the temperature, my body decided to react by needing more than a round of clearing the bladder, which in itself, made things worse, as I had to put on my shoes, and jacket and brave the outdoors to find the toilet. 

Food Tip: Veggie Fajitas at Plaza Bonita, Tusayan Arizona



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