Tag Archives: march

Spring Break in the Southwest

Amazing how time gets away from us. I swear we just came back from vacation but it turns out two months have gone by and I’m just now getting around to posting the photos.

I love vacation – a chance to get away from home, gain new experiences and have some fun. Our vacations usually involve visiting family and/or returning to our favorite places. This spring husband and I decided to do vacation a little differently, and go to a place where we wouldn’t know anyone and where neither one of us had ever been.

I’ve wanted to go to Las Vegas for years, but have consistently been told “you only need a day or two in Vegas.” That’s a pricey plane ticket for a day or two, so on the suggestion of a good friend, we took a look at the national parks in the area and were amazed to discover how many were withing driving distance of Las Vegas. Husband had been to Vegas for work, but hadn’t had the opportunity to venture outside of the city. So in March, for the first time since our honeymoon 10 years ago, we headed off on a vacation with no one to act as tour guide and only each other for company.

Our original plan was to fly into Vegas, rent a car, and then head to Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion Park and back to Vegas for a day on the Strip. In reality, we had missed two big details: (1) neither one of us is big on heights – I am particularly terrified – and (2) while it may be 70+ degrees in Vegas, when you get into the upper elevations in early March it’s still winter and there’s a lot of snow on the ground. And so we improvised, spending less time in a couple of the parks and adding in a couple of others at the recommendation of some very helpful park rangers.

Here’s the map of our trip. We put 1,800 miles on the rental car:

For more on each leg of our trip, click on the images below for photos and details of our adventures at each location:

Vacation Adventures: Las Vegas Strip

Our last day of vacation was spent exploring the Las Vegas Strip. We had just over 24 hours in the city and, thanks to picture-perfect weather, were able to make the most of it. We stayed at Treasure Island, visited dolphins and tigers at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden at the Mirage, had patisseries at the Paris, admired the Chihuly ceiling at the Bellagio and spent much of the day walking the Strip. We capped off the day seeing “Absinthe” and caught about 2 hours of sleep before heading to the airport and waving good-bye to Vegas.

Vacation Adventures: Zion Park

Zion was our final and favorite park on the list. We arrived from the east in the late evening, taking the long, crazy, curvy, narrow road through Zion with countless switchbacks and multiple tunnels through the mountains. It tested every nerve in me and I have no idea how husband safely navigated that road. (He, of course, thought the drive was fantastically fun.)

Upon checking into our hotel, we asked the man at front desk for hiking recommendations in Zion. He pulled out a brochure and map, asking us “Any one scared of heights?” (Yes!) before circling four trails on the map that we were not to miss. Bright and early the next morning, we headed into the park for a day of hiking that included all of the recommended trails, multiple waterfalls and totaled around 6 miles.

Vacation Adventures: The Grand Canyon

I’ve seen pictures and videos of the Grand Canyon. I’ve even looked down on it from an airplane en route to California. But nothing could have prepared me for walking up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. There are no words to accurately describe the magnitude and beauty of the canyon. We arrived in the evening in time to walk the rim trail and watch the sunset. The next morning we were back at the canyon early for a chilly sunrise, another walk and a drive around the South Rim with frequent stops to say “hi” to the mule deer wandering the park and take in the beauty of the Grand Canyon.

Vacation Adventures: Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam was the first stop on vacation. We went because we knew we’d be driving by it on the way from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and it seemed crazy to just zoom on by. It ended up being a multi-hour stop including taking the tour inside the dam. It had come highly recommended and really gives you a much better understanding of the magnitude of the dam and amazing amount of engineering that went into it.

Vacation Adventures: Upper Antelope Canyon

This one wasn’t on our list. We had no idea this slot canyon existed and still wouldn’t except for a wonderfully helpful woman named Joy who was working an information desk at the Grand Canyon. After an evening (sunset!) and morning (sunrise!) spent walking through the trials on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, we were getting a little stuck on what to do next. Since it was early March, several of the trails were closed due to snow. We didn’t have time for any of the multi-hour (and pricey) tours down into the bottom of the Grand Canyon – we had a 5 hour drive to our next hotel at Bryce Canyon ahead of us that day – so we stopped by the main lodge and asked Joy for her advice on what we should do next.

After verifying that we’d covered all open portions of the paved rim trail, and hearing our time table of the day, Joy explained that we’d already done everything we could on foot. She gave us a map of the driving route along the canyon and highlighted the best lookout points for us to not miss. Then she handed us a brochure for a guided tour of Upper Antelope Canyon. “This is on your way to Bryce Canyon. Promise you’ll do it.” We promised and called to reserve spots on their afternoon tour.

Located in Page, Arizona, you can’t drive to Upper Antelope Canyon. You have to join a tour and hop aboard one of these massive dune buggies:

antelope-canyon-01

These vehicles take you on a short but very jolting ride through sand dunes to the entrance of the canyon:

Entrance to Upper Antelope Canyon

Entrance to Upper Antelope Canyon

The outside doesn’t look like much, but the inside Upper Antelope Canyon is beautiful. There are lots of other tours going through at the same time, so it’s crowded, but you spend most of your time looking up, so it’s pretty easy to ignore the scores of other tourists.

Inside Upper Antelope Canyon:

Goldeneye on the Rogue

We’re a winter habitat area for common goldeneye, so they’ll be heading north soon. These ducks are so skittish, but I love sneaking up on them and watching them run across the water to take flight.

Rogue River at Rockford, Michigan.

Pretending it’s Spring

The cold and snow can’t seem to bow out and let spring take over, but butterflies have arrived in Grand Rapids. The annual Butterflies are Blooming exhibit at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is in full swing. Their tropical conservatory is full of these beautiful butterflies through April so we can make our own spring!

Looking for Spring

Hello? Spring? Are you around here some where?

Diving Merganser

A female common merganser diving in the Rogue River in search of crayfish. She didn’t seem to mind the icy water at all.

Rockford, Michigan.

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