I love to travel. By now we all know that this is a given. The beauty that I have encountered around the world only fuels the excitement that I have to see and experience more. I know that there are still many landscapes and seascapes and waterways and beaches and mountains and valleys that will take my breath away.
But one thing that I tend to forget about in my globe-trotting is the beauty available to me right in my own back yard…the USA.
Having a job that requires me to travel throughout North America is such a blessing because it gives me a chance to see my very own country. The places that we hear about as children in America often get lost in the shuffle when searching for a beautiful, peaceful, breathtaking getaway.
A little while ago I had a chance to visit The Grand Canyon and the surrounding area. From Flagstaff, driving through the Coconino National Forest and ending with a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, all I could utter through my awe (and sometimes tear)-filled silence was “Really, God? Really?!?!” It’s a drive that I have chosen to take a few times since, because i’m always in wonder of how the land climbs and the terrain changes. I’ve taken the drive in snow and in heat and i’m always spell-bound by the beauty. This exploration has made the American Southwest one of my favorite parts of the country.
The excursion to the Grand Canyon began with an early morning drive from Flagstaff to the staging area for a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. The drive, which takes a little over an hour, is full of beauty as you see mountains in the distance, forests, canyons, and rock formations. This trip was made especially beautiful by the never-ending display of uninterrupted snow. Being form the mid-west, i’m quite familiar with snow. And snow at its most beautiful is an uninterrupted, white blanket. I arrived to the helipad with my travel companion and we stepped up into the copter and began our ascent into the sky, traveling over snow covered forest toward the Canyon in the distance. The most jaw-dropping moment is flying over the rim of the Canyon and seeing the ground literally drop over a mile to the Colorado River. Some portions were brown, some red, some had a yellowish tint and the top layers of the canyon were covered in snow. We were told that at the lowest point of the canyon it was probably around 80 degrees. Amazing! Winter on top, tropics on the bottom.
If you’ve never seen the Grand Canyon, it is a trip that is a necessity. And seeing it from above and within is…unimaginable. It’s truly one of the most overwhelming, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, humbling experiences i’ve ever had. It is so large that, from above and within you can’t see the entirety of it. It’s just that majestic!
The drive from The Grand Canyon back to Phoenix is full of wonder. Driving through the Coconino National Forest is, truly, like driving through a Bob Ross painting. Long, empty stretches of road with mountains towering in the distance. Miles of uninterrupted snow, covering tree branches and piled so high that you wonder how the tree or the snow or all hasn’t toppled over. And the sun, moving slowly through the sky playing hide and seek with canyons and evergreens and casting the perfect amount of light to make the entire scene seem like Heaven.
The highlight of the trip was a tiny roadside church that we stumbled upon. I won’t say much about it because I kind of enjoy that it’s a bit of a secret and a happy accident that we stumbled upon it. But if you’re ever driving through Flagstaff, know that it exists, and if you find it and decide to stop and venture inside, you’ll be overcome with gratitude that you did.
And you just might hear yourself mumble…
“Really, God? Really?!?!”