Today is the big day (3/1/20) of our Grand Canyon road trip. It is Nancy’s birthday and we are doing a canyon fly over and river raft trip. Wake up time was 4:30 so we can be at Bright Angle lodge by 5:20. The tour includes breakfast and lunch so I was not happy when breakfast turned out to be a box with a little cup of OJ and a muffin.
Our group consisted of 13 people, 6 in on family, 2 couples and a gal plus her two daughters. We all had to check-in and give them our weight. That did not make some people happy! The plane was a twin otter and it can only hold so much.
Flying Over the Canyon
We all piled in, the plane warmed up and we were off. The canyon is incredible from the air at sunrise. The views where breathtaking. Also breathtaking was some of the bumps. It was a windy day so they said there might be a few bumps. Normally they don’t bother me but this was a small plane and we could see the pilots and out the front. We hit some big bumps with the plane heaving up. You could see the nose of the plane pointing up. I look down and we were over this very deep canyon with no visible place to land, only crash. This gave me and the others a few moments.
We landed a Page Arizona, which is not much. This is the base of the Glen Canyon dam and the beginning of Lake Powell. We all took pictures and waited in the ‘airport’ for a Navaho guide/driver to take us to Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon between two dry river beds. When it rains the water builds up on one side and comes roaring through the canyon to the other side. Flash floods are very dangerous but there were no clouds in the sky so we were safe.
The canyon is a photographer’s dream. In fact, it was discovered and made famous by a photographer in the 1980s. Our guide showed us where to take the best pictures and even asked for my phone and took some for me. They are the best ones but all are fantastic.
Next it was time for the river rafting. We were driven to the raft place and told to wait for about 45 minutes. That is one of the things I did not like about this tour. We waited for 45 minutes at the airport before the plane and now we waited another 45 minutes at the raft place with nothing to do but sit.
Raft on the Colorado River
The raft trip starts at the very base of the Glen Canyon Dam. As this is a security area and the TSA are in control just like in an airport. We did the metal detectors, no knifes, not even pocket knives! What could you possibly do too a massive dam with a pocket knife? The ‘security’ levels were just ridiculous. To me it seemed more like a jobs program.
We get on the tin and rubber motorized rafts at the base of the dam. The Dam is amazing. It is just a bit smaller that Hoover dam. Off we go down the Colorado river. It is very calm and flat in this area. The canyon walls around us are between 800 & 1,200 feet high. We eat our box lunch, which was not to bad. It was from Subway so that explains why it was good. Out guide was a personable young man. We stopped at a petroglyph site which was interesting. The water comes out of the base of the dam and so is about 40 degrees. The air temp was about 50 so no swimming today. Out guide said in the summer it is normally between 100 & 120 on the river. The 40-degree water would feel good on those days!
The raft trip lasted about four hours. We drifted at times and other times used the motor. The view of the canyon wall where most impressive. The river was so clear we could see the bottom fifteen to twenty feet down. We could see big rainbow trout. Because the dam releases cold water the river has become a great place for trout and trout fishing. We saw numerous fly fishermen along the way. Our raft trip ended at Lee’s Ferry where the raft trips through the Grand Canyon begin.
Bus Ride to Cameron Trading Post
We boarded a bus for our ride back to Grand Canyon Village. The bus was a full-size bus and there were only thirteen of us so we had plenty of room to spread out. Nancy and I picked the seats up front so we had a good view plus the driver was a very chatty gal who had lots of fun stories of the area. This was an unexpected bonus for our Grand Canyon road trip. The half way point was at Cameron Trading Post. The bus stopped there to give us a chance to stretch our legs and of course buy Indian stuff. The trading post was big and actually quite impressive.
Birthday Day Dinner
Dinner that night was Nancy’s birthday dinner at El Tovar. It was an excellent meal. Good service, good food and a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday and a great end to a day of incredible experiences. The final treat of the day was walking under a sky filled with stars with the moon light on the canyon walls.
Time to Go
Now it was time to hit the road and drive back to Santa Fe. We had a nice leisurely breakfast at El Tovar. This time of year, they are the only good place to eat at the rim. The one down side is that they too are doing work and the bathroom were unavailable. They did have port-a-poddies set up down some steps and outside.
We drove out of the park and into the town of Tusayan. On an impulse we stopped at the IMAX theater. The IMAX movie about John Wesley Powell’s boat ride through the Grand Canyon in 1876. Later in the film a powered ultralight flew around the canyon. Incredible views, you felt like you were in the boat and on the plane.
Next was a brief stop in Flagstaff, which seems like an interesting town, then drove on to the Petrified Forest. We had got a late start and it 4:00 so we looked around the gift shop then hit the road. Arrival in Gallup was just before sunset. Friends had told us we had to go to Jerry’s Café for the best southwest food in Gallup. It had been described kind of a dive and it was. At 4:45 it was packed so we knew the food would be good and it was. After a good meal we drove straight from Gallup to Santa Fe and home. Thus ended our Grand Canyon road trip. Now I’m back in Santa Fe and giving tours for Santa Fe Footprints.
I decided before my Tours of Santa Fe business picked up (this was on Feb 28, before the corona virus brought the tour business to a stand still) we should get out of town. A Grand Canyon road trip was just the ticket. I-25 being a north south route has some traffic but mostly cars so when we got on I-40 I was surprised at the heavy truck traffic. Trucks in front, back and beside me.
Arrival at the canyon
We arrived at the El Tovar a little after 5:00. El Tovar is the classic hotel right on the canyon rim. It is the first hotel built on the Grand Canyon and it was built by the Santa Fe railroad. As with all old Santa Fe railroad hotels it was managed by the Fred Harvey company. We could not get a room in the El Tovar but we did have a canyon view room in Kachina Lodge. Kachina is next to El Tovar and was built in the 60s. You check in at El Tovar and then try and I emphasize try to find a parking place. It was surprising that there is so little parking.
Grand Canyon Day 1
We got up a bit late on our first day at the Grand Canyon. This was a relaxing trip so we relaxed. We walked the short distance along the canyon rim trail to El Tovar for a nice breakfast to start the day. After breakfast we walked to the Verkamp’s Visitors Center for more information. The man in the center advised driving along the rim road (AZ-64) to the Desert View tower with stops along the way. Now on our Grand Canyon road trip we will see the canyon!
We got the car and headed out for our rim trail adventure. Out first stop was the main park Visitors center. It is a big facility with five parking lots. Very up to date unlike the Village where we are staying. Again, I was surprised at the crowds. This is the off season but the number of people there made us wonder what it is like during the high season. It must be difficult to even get close enough to see the canyon!
We walked out to Mathers point and the view was spectacular. Most of the people there were Asians, speaking Spanish or some strange European language. Occasionally we would hear English, but not often. Everywhere there are signs saying don’t feed the squirrels or any wild life. Of course a large group of Spanish speakers were feeding a squirrel! He was standing on his hind legs begging for food. Squirrel bites are the most common injury at the canyon. Maybe they need signs in all languages!
Desert View Tower
Desert view is a stone tower at the end of the rim road. It was designed by Mary Colter in 1932. It is a round stone tower 70 feet high and provides the highest viewing along the south rim. The interior is covered in fantastic Indian murals. The tower is designed to look like an ancient ruin. The climb up the inside with all the murals and lookout windows was one of the highlights of the trip. The Desert View tower is not to be missed.
Road to Hermits Rest
When we arrived back at the village we decided to continue the drive west to Hermits rest. This was the last day the road will be open to private cars. Starting on March 1st only shuttle busses will be on the road.
We started from Bright Angle lodge and drove along the road. The viewpoints were smaller but the canyon drop off were more dramatic. From several of the viewpoints you can see the Bright Angle trail leading down the canyon to the river and Phantom Ranch. One particular view point is called the Abyss. The walls go straight down in a dramatic fashion.
Ready for a steak and some brews
After a fantastic day along the canyon rim we were looking forward to a steak dinner. Also a few good cold brews. We were going to the Arizona Steak house at Bright Angle lodge but when we arrived it was closed! Remodeling don’t you know. Nothing on any of the websites about that. This is the time of year when they do a lot of work such as a remodel but they should tell people and not just let them find out when they try and go there!
Food at last !
So, we went to the Harvey Burger Café in Bright Angle lodge. What a complete disaster. The place was mobbed so we waited almost 45 minutes to get in. When we finally did we sat in an area that was supposed to be the bar. The bar was being remodeled so this was just a few tables plus a table with plus a table full of booze bottles. The service was terrible and the food mediocre at best. Not a good way to end a great day of our Grand Canyon road trip.
Quarantine! Yes, we all must but I could take no more. I had to get out and snowshoe. Walking and hiking were fine but I just had to do something different. The question was what? I have already written about the up side of Coronavirus. That blog was about discovering new walking trails around Santa Fe. The river trail is interesting and it has taken me to new areas of the city but I needed something else. That something else was snowshoeing.
I had received a pair of snowshoes for Christmas and they were still unused. I ski during the winter and was not sure when and where to try out these interesting gifts. Then the virus hit. Ski Santa Fe valiantly stayed open for a few days but finally gave in and announced the end of their season. A few days later a thought occurred to me. Now that you can no longer ski, why not get out and snowshoe. It seemed like the perfect solution.
Where to snowshoe?
The next question to be answered was where. The Valles Caldera is nice and flat but it is about an hour away. I was sure it still had snow but how much? Of course, I could look out my window and see that Ski Santa Fe had plenty of snow. Ski Santa Fe is was the obvious choice.
On the mountain
I reached the parking lot at about 10:00. No need to hurry. I was surprised by the number of cars in the lot. Being on the mountain was not a novel idea. There were quite a few people with skies. Other were just hiking with boots only. The bottom area was covered by about an inch of snow but I could see up the bunny slope and it looked good. I snowshoed my way up to Totemoff’s. Unfortunately, it was closed so no beer.
Top of the mountain Ma !!!
The question now was do I go back down or head on up. I was here to get out and snowshoe so it was head on up! It was up Thunderbird to Crossover and to the top of Tesuque! It was a hard slog but I made it! I took in the view and headed down. Snowshoeing down is much easier than up. Would I do it again? Yes! The snow still looks good so next time I will go all the way to the antennas.
Want to go snowshoeing? Contact Santa Fe Footprints.
In a strange turn of fate, I have discovered the upside of coronavirus. First of all, my tour business, Santa Fe Footprints, has been destroyed. At least for now. All bookings from March 14th through the end of April have been cancelled. One hardy group with a booking for May 1st is still hanging on. Hang in there guys!!! The dark night will pass! Morning will come! Easter may bring resurrection in more ways that one!
Start of the Upside
You may be saying; Bob I’m not quite seeing the upside. Once I accepted the situation I found I was sleeping like a rock. My mind had been full of tour issues. How to schedule the bus. New bookings for the historic walking tour. Arrange transportation for the shopping tour. What shops will the ladies enjoy most? Which trail is best for a group of hikers? Now all of those issues are gone. At least for now and hopefully not for long.
Now I must admit I am luckier than many. I will survive without the income from Santa Fe Footprints but it did provide a very nice supplement.
Now for the real upside. Being unable to just stay inside I have begun taking long walks. I have hiked and walked the city before but the coronavirus has given me time to discover much more of the city. It appears many others have been unable to stay inside and have taken to the trails. I pass many others, at a safe distance of course, on these trails.
The River Walk
One of the most enjoyable city trails that I have discovered is the El Comino Real Walking Trail. This is a paved trail along the Santa Fe River. The pavement is wide enough for good social distancing. Bikers are generally courteous and let you know they coming. I enjoy watching the big machines working in the river bed setting up dikes and falls to repair the damage from the thousand-year flood of a few years back.
I found the most enjoyable and surprising part of the trail was heading east from Ricardo Rd. Murals have been painted on the walls along the trail. They were painted by a youth group and they are incredible. I discovered John F Ray Griego Park with its moving Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A little further down the trail is Bicentennial Alto Park. A lovely place I plan to visit more even after the coronavirus is just a memory.
The coronavirus panic has caused much pain and loss but it has force me and I hope others to reconnect with the little pleasures of life. Remember, morning will come.
Calling all ski bums! The road trip from Santa Fe to Durango and Purgatory is a must. Do not take route 550. This is the route everyone from Albuquerque takes and it will get you there a bit faster. But the journey is a big part of a road trip and the 550 route does not offer much. So you may ask, what path should I take? Head north on 285, through Espanola, Abiquiu and Chama. Up over the continental divide and into Pagosa Springs. The road, the views and the mighty rockies make for an incredible journey. Head on over to Durango and you have arrived in a unique little western town.
On arriving in Durango you must stop at the historic Strater hotel and have lunch in the Diamond Bell. The waitress are dressed in period tight little corsets, fishnet stockings with a feather in their hair. Oh, and the food’s good too.
The drive to Purgatory ski area will continue the impressiveness of the road trip. Massive mountains rise up on both sides of the road. The Sangre De Christos around Santa Fe seem puny in comparison.
Now for the skiing.
Purgatory is a big ski area and I will be honest, I was a bit intimidated. I have skied many big areas but not for several years. This was my first road trip to Purgatory and I was totally unfamiliar with the mountain. But I gave it a go. The snow was hard packed which is not my favorite but you take what the mountain gives you. The sun came out, I was on the mountain and life was good.
Two hours of skiing and it was time to call it a day and find a good Durango brew pub. The Steamworks proved to be the perfect place. Good food and good beer. Just a short walk from the Stater down charming Main Street so no bothering with parking and driving back after sampling a variety of their excellent brews.
Full Ski Day.
The next day was a full ski day and the final day of the Durango road trip. The sun was out and the sky blue. A great ski day. The only down side was the hard packed snow. I had planned to ski all day but by 2:00 my legs were telling me ‘It’s time to call it a day’.
Back to Santa Fe.
The next day my Durango road trip came to an end. The drive back to Santa Fe was impressive as always. A herd of Pronghorn Antelope close to the road added an unexpected bonus to the incredible mountain scenery.
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When a friend asked if I would like to do a road trip to Death Valley this past January, how could I refuse.
This was the best time to experience Death Valley due to the temperatures. In the summer it is the hottest place in the USA. Temp should range from 38 to 65 so we had to bring warm and light clothes. We weren’t sure what to bring, but we are guys a pair of jeans, hiking pants, couple of shirts and warm jackets were all we needed. No need for four or five pairs of shoes !!
Off to Death Valley
We fly from Santa Fe to Las Vegas then our road trip begins as we drive toward Death Valley. The Nevada town of Pahrump was the last stop in Nevada before California and Death Valley. You just have to love a town called Pahrump!
We are in Death Valley. The lowest, hottest and driest place in the USA. This is truly a unique and odd place. I expected interesting scenery but I was taken aback by the incredible and uniqueness of the place. Only the pictures of the Artist Plate, The Devils Golf Course and Bad Water Basin can do Justus. They are in the slide show. It is a truly incredible place.
We had dinner at the Ranch Steak house which is quite the place. Lots of old west stuff on the walls. We were both a bit shocked at the prices. This is the only place for miles around and everything has to be shipped in but still, $48 for an ok steak. Well the beer was cold.
Day 2 in Death Valley
Today we started out on the Salt Marsh and it was cold. 30 some odd and windy. The little salt stream is supposed to have puppy fish. We saw none.
Next was the Keane Wonder Mine. A gold mine from the early 1900s. Fun to visit with an old mining engineer.
Then the Ubehebe crater. This is a volcano and the landscape is amazing. I was surprised that there were about 8 cars in the lot because we had seen none on the drive out. We hiked about half way around and up to Little Ubehebe. We had our lunch, PBJ sandwiches made in the morning, as we sat overlooking this amazing sight.
Next stop was Darwin falls, the only water in Death Valley. We hiked up to the falls, which are not big, maybe 12 to 15 feet but still nice. We found a photographer from Santa Fe there with a pro camera. His studio is in Santa Fe but I have not stopped in to see his work or the picture he took of the fall. On the way back, I wondered what happens to the river, stream actually. We followed it and eventually is just disappears into the sand.
Day 3 in Death Valley
The Mosaic Canyon trail leads up a canyon with many colored rock formations. A nice hike up a fairly flat canyon. We climb a bit then decided that it was late and well we didn’t want to climb the big rocks. One interesting thing is we kept running into the same groups of people at each stop. All nice folks and we all headed to the Mesquite Sand Dunes for a sunset docent tour.
The docent pointed out various tracks of the little critter that live on the dunes. Beatles, Kangaroo rats and other stuff. We saw a bug but no rats. We stayed until after sunset. With the setting sun the mountains become purple. Purple mountains, majesty.
Final Day in Death Valley
The final stop in Death Valley was the Golden Canyon trail. Again, we run into several groups from the day before. The trail leads up a canyon to the Red Rock Cathedral. Impressive sight. We got to the base and climb up a bit but decided we didn’t have time to go to the top. Also, it looked really hard. All the young kids did it so more power to them !!!!
An excellent road trip. It was colder than I had expected and I sort of would like to experience Death Valley in July when temperatures can reach 120 degrees. Then you would know you were in Death Valley !!!
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‘You take what the mountain give you! You must enjoy the experience’.That is a quote from a guest on one of my Santa Fe Footprints ski tours. The mountain was angry that day. The fog was thick and the wind was high. We did the lower mountain and it was not bad. As always, the runs at Ski Santa Fe are fun and can challenge you. I saw a small patch of blue sky and we decided to go up top. We rode the lift to Tesuque Peak. The view from the top is normally magnificent. Not today. The fog limited visibility to 20 feet. The wind blew me over. With skill and care we all made it down.
When I apologized for the mountain a guest set my mind at ease. This is skiing and you take what the mountain give and enjoy the experience.
I took guest up several days later and the mountain was much kinder. This day was what a Santa Fe ski experience normally is all about. No lift lines. Sunshine. 100 mile visibility. The mountain was still holding back. A bit of wind. I found the snow a bit hard. Not the normal white fluff that is Santa Fe’s calling card.
As I look out the window the snow is falling. The mountain is saying, ‘Come on! I got what you need!’
Don’t miss the Experience !!!!!
What to do after the great tours in Santa Fe
For those of you who have had a great time on one of the wonderful Santa Fe Footpirnts tours the question is what to do next? You have had a great experience, be it the Historic Walking tour, a Hiking tour, fun on the mountain with a Ski Santa Fe tour or a fascinating tour of a local Pueblo. You must experience the Sandia Tram. Most of you either arrived in New Mexico via the Albuquerque Sunport (ABQ) and or will leave the Land of Enchantment from that excellent airport. Please add a little time in you travel plans to take the ride on the Sandia Tram to the top of Sandia Peak. I recommend taking the tram just before sunset. You will not regret it.
My Sunset Ride on the Tram
This Sunday we did and Albuquerque afternoon. Part of this experience was checking out the new restaurant at the top of the Sandia Tram. The ride up the Tram is impressive no matter what time of day. To achieve the maximum experience you must do the sunset run. As the sun set the clouds turned pink and red. Venus was shining bright just above the silver crescent of the moon. The lights of Albuquerque began to twinkle. It was an Incredible sight !
The Ten 3
The sun set and the light came on. It was time for us to check out the new restaurant called Ten 3. The name Ten 3 refers to the altitude to Sandia Peak, 10,378 feet. I was impressed with the space. Fantastic views both north and south. The bar is very cool. I had a good local craft beer. We shared an appetizer board, which actually substituted for our dinner.
The twinkling Lights
The ride down was just as impressive because the lights of the city, the moon and the stars were shining bright. Let me conclude that either before of after you take your memorable tour with Santa Fe Footprints, you must experience the Sandia Tram.
Farolito Walk on Canyon Road on Christmas Eve.
Christmas in Santa Fe is one of my most favorite times of the year. Christmas in Santa Fe is magical. The trees in the plaza are filled with beautiful lights of many colors. There are free performances in the Cathedral by such groups as the Apprentices of the Santa Fe Opera. The famous Desert Chorale performs and numerous locations around town. Loretto Chapel, home of the miracle stairway, has a Christmas concert on Christmas Eve.
On of the most beloved events is the Christmas Eve walk up Canyon Road. The road is lined with farolitos. Not the plastic ones with electric lights but real ones. Paper bags with sand in the bottom and a candle burning in the middle. Many of the art galleries are open with bond fires out front with hot refreshments.
Of course, there is the shopping. Shopping in Santa Fe is unequaled. But, Christmas in Santa Fe is magical and for the reasons above and many more it should not be missed.
When you need to take a day off from the fantastic skiing or the incredible shopping, consider a tour of this historic city. Click here for more information about a great Historic Walking Tour.
A glowing path with glowing trees. Experience the magic at the Santa Fe Garden.
The Glow in the Santa Fe Botanical Garden is one of the many excellent reasons to visit Santa Fe during the Christmas season. This is an event I look forward to every year.
You have finished shopping or skiing and are thinking what to do before dinner. I always advise my tour guest to make a late dinner reservation. A late reservation in Santa Fe is between 7:30 and 8:30. Why do that, I’m asked? Because, I say, there is nothing quite like the Glow in the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. The night will be cool and crisp. The lights on the plants and the art work are breath taking. Don’t forget to look up at nature’s light show as the stars fill the heavens.
Did you say cold? Yes it will be cool, we don’t say cold in Santa Fe, but part of the price of admission is hot food, hot chocolate, hot cider and many varieties of wine. All of that will definitely take the cill off.
Oh, did I mention the free music? New performers every night.
The Garden glow is each weekend, Friday to Sunday, through out December. Don’t miss it !!
Click this link for more details, Garden Glow.
When you need to take a day off from the fantastic skiing or the incredible shopping, consider a tour of this historic city. Click here for more information about a great Historic Walking Tour.