Pueblo Cliff Dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument


A few days after our big Grand Canyon experience, we thought we would make the trip to do the Skywalk at Eagle Point.  (This major engineering marvel allows visitors to walk onto a glass bridge that extends 70 feet out over the rim of the Canyon.  Yes, you can look down to the bottom of the Canyon, which is more than 4,000 feet below.)

However, I flubbed on the planning.  Silly me thought the Skywalk was only an hour and a half away from our hotel in Flagstaff--not four hours away!  After mulling over the idea of traveling more than 8 hours in one day just to do a 10 minute walk on a glass bridge, I decided the long journey back and forth in the car was just not worth it.  What 8 year old wants to spend the majority of the day sitting in a car?  What fun is that?!

We decided to go to the hotel front desk to ask for other ideas.  As it turned out, there were a lot of sights to see right around Flagstaff--now the problem was choosing between them.  Since we were in the mood for hiking, and we had a beautiful, breezy, 77 degree day, we chose to go to the Walnut Canyon National Monument, which was only ten minutes away.  It sounded like a fun adventure but we didn't know just how fun it would be.

The Island Trail inside the park ended up being one of our favorite parts of our entire Arizona trip.  It was exhilarating to hike down steep canyon terrain looking for ancient cliff dwellings (from when it was inhabited from 1100 to 1250).   The views and scenery from our 185 vertical foot descent provided breathtaking memories that I won't soon forget.  It was amazing to see how people lived during these times--it was their version of today's highrise luxury apartments.

Of course, I was amazed by the scenery, the history, and the culture of the park, but I was also amazed by Lewie.  During this trip, I watched Little Lewie grow up right before my eyes.  The young boy I knew would have complained about the long hike, the strenuous trip back up the cliff, and the valuable time he's missing being away from the pool.  Not this Lewie.  This older version was a trooper.  He enjoyed taking pictures and admiring the scenery just as much as we did and only once did he note how difficult it was to climb back up to the visitor center.  He definitely turned into quite the travel companion on this trip.   I was one proud Mom!

Colorado River Rafting


Our Canyon adventure in Arizona took us to many majestic places--Ponderosa Pine Forests, canyon cliff dwellings, petroglyph sightings, red rock formations, and the wild desert brush.   A few days after exploring the Grand Canyon from the South Rim, we decided to view it from another angle--the Colorado River.  Instead of looking down, we would be looking up--a preferred view for anyone afraid of heights, especially me.

Our river rafting excursion began in Page, Arizona--a small town in northern Arizona near Utah. The town itself is very young.  Incorporated in 1975 (the year I was born), the town started as a housing camp for workers building the Glen Canyon Dam, which would create the Lake Powell Reservoir. Lake Powell today is known as this great recreation site where people camp and rent house boats, but it was created truly to store water and provide hydroelectric power for the southwestern states.

The Town of Page website really explains the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam:

The site near Manson Mesa and present-day Page was chosen to build Glen Canyon Dam for several reasons: the area forming the basin could contain an immense amount of water; the canyon walls and bedrock foundation were strong enough to support the high dam; and a large source of good sand and rock was available at nearby Wahweap Creek. The 700-foot wall of concrete was erected with almost ten million tons of concrete and seven years of extraordinary effort. It took 17 years for Lake Powell to reach "full pool."

Our rafting trip started at the base of the Glen Canyon Dam and would be a three and a half hour excursion down the river, just north of the Grand Canyon.  Little Lewie thought we were going white river rafting (which people do right inside the Grand Canyon).  To his dismay, our rafting trip was quiet and serene--a voyage meant to take in the sights and to learn about this history of the area.  (I told him that we could save the thrill rides for our next amusement park visit.)

Our driver and tour guide.

Another view of the Glen Canyon Dam and the bridge.
Little Lewie did end up having a great time.  We had a beautiful 85 degree day, and while there was very little breeze, we could cool ourselves off at any time simply by dipping our hats, hands, and feet into the COLD Colorado River.  (The river was a chilly 40 degrees!)

During the trip we learned about the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, we saw interesting rock formations, we talked about wildlife in the area, and we stopped to see authentic prehistoric petroglyphs or rock carvings.  (In full disclosure, I did get a little nausceous after eating my lunch and baking in the hot Arizona sun, but thankfully after 40 minutes of mindfully drinking water and dipping my hat into the Colorado River, I started to feel better and avoided heat exhaustion.)

This was my favorite rock formation; it's called "Monk Rock"

The river was an emerald color green.

"Smooth Rock"

A short hike to see the petroglyphs.

By the end of our trip, I think everyone was a little tired from the heat, but we all agreed it was an amazing experience, and one day, we want to come back to Lake Powell to rent a house boat.  The landscape truly took our breath away!  Don't you love how a trip makes you want to take another trip?

The Grand Canyon - Live and In-Person


I'm still visiting Arizona as we speak, but I have an hour to myself and couldn't pass up the time to begin writing about our trip to the Grand Canyon.  Last year I made it a goal to begin visiting all of our beautiful national parks; each year, I planned to visit a new park so that by the time Lewie turns 18, he will have seen at least ten of our national treasures.  I decided to start with the Grand Canyon because 1) it's been on my bucket list for a long time, 2) it's something Lewie would remember at age 8, and 3) it's only several hours away from family that moved here eight years ago.

We started our journey in Williams, Arizona--a small town that's famous for the Grand Canyon Railroad and Route 66.  We stayed at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and took the Grand Canyon Railway into the South Rim of the Canyon.  Before boarding the train, we were treated to a Wild West Show in Williams.  Then we went on a several hour train ride right into the Canyon.  When we arrived, a bus awaited us to provide an hour and a half motorcoach tour to scenic points along the South Rim.  From there, we checked into the Maswik Lodge where we stayed overnight in the park.

The Wild West Showdown

Watching the Williams, AZ "Wild West Show"

On the train to the Grand Canyon

While taking the train was an absolute highlight for Little Lewie, nothing beat the views of the Grand Canyon.  We took many beautiful pictures during the motorcoach tour, but the very next day, we took many more photos while hiking the "Rim Trail."   We have hundreds of photos of our excursion, especially since hubby, Little Lewie, and I each had our own cameras.  (Little Lewie took the most photos out of all of us.)  Here are some of my favorites:

I love this picture of Little Lewie gazing at the vastness of this marvel.

My husband was the most daring of them all--not afraid to get up close for the best picture.

Little Lewie taking one of MANY pictures.

An elk crossed our path as we hiked the "Rim Trail."  It was an amazing sight!

One of my favorite pics.
Of course, part of the Grand Canyon experience is learning more about its history.  We learned about how and why this amazing canyon formed (over millions of years ago).  We learned about the Native Americans (the Hopi) that inhabited the Canyon, and we learned about the very first hotel that was built in the Canyon in 1905, El Tovar, (a hotel that was considered one of the finest West of the Mississippi River).

So, to fully embrace history, we viewed the short documentary Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center (hosted by the National Park Service), we watched Native American performers dance at the Hopi House, and we had lunch at El Tovar.   Finally, Little Lewie and I spent several hours completing some National Park activities, so he could receive his Junior Ranger Certificate, Pin, and Badge.  I was so proud as he raised his right hand and cited the Junior Ranger Pledge; it was proof that he really did learn from his experience at the Grand Canyon instead of just observe.

Native American dancers at the Hopi House.

Lunch at El Tovar

The main room of El Tovar.  (There were tons of animal heads on display.)

El Tovar on the outside.

The Hopi House

Little Lewie taking the Junior Ranger Pledge.
Once our adventure at the Canyon ended, the Grand Canyon Railway took us back to the hotel in Williams, AZ.  It was a journey to remember and only the beginning of our Arizona travels...