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As I walked back to my room, a bit groggy from the hour, I noticed several people somewhat agitated and taking pictures. What was going on? Oh, an elk had decided to stop by for breakfast.
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Since I had to leave in the afternoon, I signed up for the four hour Desert Tour, which goes to about 7 different places. This is at the Yavapai Observation station. It was freezing cold still. Most of the tour consisted of a bunch of -- wait for it -- mentally challenged folks in their middle years. Hey, they get to see the Grand Canyon, too. The Grand Canyon is so vast and humbling that it left even the tour speechless, and swallowed up any annoyance from the able-bodied. All they could say (over and over) was stuff like "Wow, this is beautiful! Wow! This is what I  call beautiful."

There's actually a lodge at the bottom of the canyon called The Phantom Ranch, which is the only place to stay in the Canyon. You can only hike to it or take a mule ride down. I'd love to take the mule ride someday, but you have to make reservations 2 years in advance!

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Obligatory, "Look, mom! I'm at the Grand Canyon!" shot.

The tour took us to the Tusayan Ruins and Museum, the remains of a pueblo from 1100 AD or thereabouts. Man those Anasazi were pretty cool. I have never really been "in" to the Southwest or Indian Lore, but the idea of people living in the Canyon is amazing. There isn't any water on the South Rim, so they lived off of snow run off and going to the river until a few years of drought made them move away. I wondered why people would live in such an inhospitable place, but realized that they must have felt the same love of the beauty that anyone would feel. Just because survival was always an issue for them didn't mean they couldn't have the best view in the world.

Another stop, Moran Point, talked about how a Spanish expedition has been the first Europeans to see the Canyon, but they only lasted five days because there was no food or water. They had to turn back. I've often wondered what kind of desperation or resourcefulness helped mankind discover such things as the fact that wheat could be ground to make flour, or cocoa beans could make chocolate, or the pollen of one particular flower was the best spice (Saffron) but hearing this story made me realize that when you are starving in the wilderness, you'll try anything.

Tangential story: up at Seawall in Acadia in Maine, they tell the story of a shipwreck full of pilgrims who starved to death. They thought the lobsters crawling around were poison. Foolish people.
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This is the watchtower, a rather grander version of a Hopi structure designed by Mary Jane Colter, an architect who built most of the most interesting structures around the park. She was unusual for her time in that she believed in buildings that blended in with the surroundings. It was unbelievably cold and windy here, but you could go inside and have an amazing view.

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I wish this picture had come out! Inside the Watchtower, it was entirely decorated with Hopi and Anasazi designs and paintings...it was another trippy, surreal, unexpected vision.
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I forget the name of this mountain, but it's on the Indian Reservation on the North Rim.
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The tour ended, I grabbed a bite, and decided to set off for Phoenix. My flight was at 11 pm but I didn't want to take any chances, so I planned to leave at 2. I realized I had lost my iTrip!!! I searched every pocket in my backpack and purse to no avail then went back to the building I had stayed in. Luckily the maids were still cleaning, and a guy named Jerome had found my iTrip. Yay! My lucky day!

The drive back out, which I had done in the dark the night before, was as incredible as everything else. A two lane highway extending as far as the eye could see...just like a movie but I had never experienced it before. These are the San Francisco mountains just north of Flagstaff. The tallest. Mt. Humphreys, is 12,000 feet. It's a former volcano. As I got closer I could see clouds of snow blowing off he summit.

Just before I got to Mt. Humphreys, I passed one of the most amazing landscapes of the trip but I didn't stop to take pictures, damnit...it was a series of very round hills covered with needleless pine trees, kind of like giant pin cushions. There was a completely flat, even layer of snow on the ground, and the whole thing looked so ghostly and eerie...like something out of a fantasy novel.
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This is back in Sedona. Coming back, I was the first car in a line going downhill from Oak Creek Canyon, a series of steep hairpin turns that had my heart in my mouth. Plus everyone behind me was getting out of work and wanted me to speed up!

I had seen this little copse on the way up and had to stop to take a picture on the way back. I think it may be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It's too bad the sun wasn't shining, because the effect of the sunlight on the yellow cedars (or whatever those spiky things are) and the cliffs was astonishing.
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A little bit of the Sedona landscape.

I got to the airport at 7ish (The drive home took 4 1/2 hours despite all the picture taking stops). I hit the 17 just at sunset, and whereas in most places I've been the setting sun is a little red ball, not so in Arizona -- here it was huge, glowing white sphere that always seemed to be behind the rearview mirror. The one thing I had planned for the trip that I never got around to was buying some polarized driving lenses and how I wished I had. I would be going along at 80 mph bumper to bumper trying to pass some truck with the sun in my eyes. Yikes. Thank god for my music. I got into some kind of driving trance and just plowed on through.


Looking back on the missing iTrip, it dawned on me that I had fond everything else...except my cel phone.  Since I was two hundred miles away there wasn't much I could do until I got to the airport. Another search, No cel. Thoroughly disgusted, I called my mother collect so she could call the Lodge. No luck. Well, it was the best trip ever, but losing my BRAND NEW CEL PHONE sucked donkeys. In despair, I made one last look..of course I had put it in an inner pocket in my back pack. YAY! IT WAS THE BEST TRIP EVER AFTER ALL! Onto the redeye, where I slept soundly. Landed at 5:30. I took the subway home, so I didn't get to my apartment until 7ish.
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After dropping off my stuff and checking on Inky, I want out to vote, still wearing my down coat from the Grand Canyon.

Oh well, in the words of Moby...at least we tried.

Looking back on my trip, and looking through what has happened politically, I have to say I love America more than ever. The best part of America will always prevail in the long run. Or at least we have to believe in that, otherwise, what's the point? This is an amazing country, full of hope and beauty, and that will always be the real America to me.
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