I know I might insult some people by saying this, but the Grand Canyon is overrated. I think I always suspected as much, which is why I’ve turned down opportunities to visit before. But since I’m here, I drive by. It just does not have the same beauty as the other canyons I’ve seen lately. Some people might appreciate the muted colors of Grand Canyon, but to me they are dull in comparison with Canyonland’s saturated red rock. But there are so many tourists here - even this early in the season. I feel claustrophobic as crowds push by to snap pictures. I just don’t understand why the Grand Canyon is so famous and popular. The size is pretty remarkable in terms of length and width, but I don’t consider it to be very beautiful. But here’s the obligatory picture:
That being said, there was one way of seeing the Grand Canyon that I was sorry I missed out on. It’s a place called Supai. You hike down the rim 10 miles to the Havasupai Indian Reservation, pay $50 to camp and then take day hikes around the valley floor where there are beautiful, blue-grey waterfalls. I’d seen a picture of this place in an REI vacations catalogue once. But this is the kind of thing that takes planning - which is not really possible for my road trip. I called them up, but of course, they were booked until August. I was so set on this place that no other option would do, so I left the Grand Canyon quickly. I might go back, if I can schedule a trip to Supai ahead of time.
As I made my way into the cities and suburbs of Arizona, I’m struck by how similar everything is to the central valley of California: the stucco strip malls, dry landscaping, even the same chains. Maybe it’s that familiarity, but the cities and towns have not been appealing tourist destinations for me. They’re either too touristy (Sedona and Tombstone) or too metro and full of shopping malls (Phoenix). The culture does make me want to start dressing like Stevie Nicks, but that’s about it.
But it's the beauty of the landscape that makes this part of the country so unique and beautiful. And this time of year all the cactus are in bloom. To take advantage of this I stop by Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. They’ve brought together desert plants from around the world and planted them together so densely that the area becomes something like an oasis in the desert. I take in the rich smell of the flowers and the sounds of the birds as I walk down the shaded paths.