"Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference."
– Virginia Satir
Hello from VIVA LAS VEGAS!!!
Yes, we are in Sin City for a few days and having a great time so far. But before I get to Vegas, let me finish our time in WIlliams, AZ.
As I mentioned in our last post, Williams Arizona is an adorable town just west of Flagstaff. It was an important stop on the old Route 66 and you can see from the pictures that we took, it still clings to this accomplishment. What a cute town and so touristy!! We had a nice time just wandering around town doing a little shopping. One store had a whole wall of hot sauces, some of which had 1,000,000 units on the Scoville scale (as a point of reference, one jalapeno is, on average, 5,000 units). We bought a collection of those for our grandsons who claim to be hot sauce aficionados. Yeah, we'll see. The town, itself, is home to about 3,000 people full-time but in the spring-fall months, the place gets packed. It is perfectly situated between the Grand Canyon and Sedona and near a ton of nice geological and scientific stuff like the Meteor Crater, Sunset Crater (which is the aftermath of a volcano), the Petrified Forest, Wupatki and Elden Pueblo Indian ruins, etc.
Speaking of Indian ruins, Steve and I visited Walnut Creek National Monument, which are 800 year old cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people. They were different from the Gila dwellings that we saw in New Mexico in that they were individual units and not a community of rooms. They also were built into what is called an "island" in the middle of the canyon and followed the canyon wall all the way around the island. I am not sure how these indians were able to get to these cliff dwellings - - they must have used a lot of ropes and ladders - - because the cliff faces are fairly straight down to the ground. As you can see from the pictures, we had to descend 240 steps to reach these dwellings, which was fine, until we had to make the journey back. You may be thinking that 240 steps is NBD (no big deal), but let me tell you, at 6900 feet the air is a bit thin and breathing is quite labored. It took us only 20 minutes to reach the caves but 40 to return to the visitor's center. I was breathing like I had just run a marathon or something! We were looking down at birds flying around 6500 feet, which was kind of funny.
We also visited Sedona while we were in the area. If you've never been there, I suggest a visit. It's one of the more "spiritual" places in the world - - and I put that word in quotes because this is the place where people come to have their auras read and to get crystals and visit vortexes. I don't know what any of that means, but it's a thriving business in this area. Anyway, we visited Red Rock State Park and did some hiking. What a view from the top of the trail we took. The pictures don't really capture the red of the rocks but man oh man, beauty abounded. The winter snows were melting and the river that runs through the park was over its banks, which was interesting to see as well. Even the drive from Williams to Sedona was breathtaking. We drove right past the Junipine Lodge where Terry, my mom and dad and I stayed when we came down here back in 1997. WOW that was a long time ago!
Our last adventure in Williams was a trip to Bearizona, which was a zoo that was part drive-thru and part walking. LOVED IT!!!!! We drove through the park and saw Rocky Mountain goats, burros, bison, Alaskan Tundra wolves and Arctic wolves, Dall sheep, Bighorn sheep (or "rock sheep" as I like to call them) and lastly black bears. When we went into the walking part of this zoo, we stopped in the gift shop to see the three bear cubs that were just born. They will be hanging out in their incubator for about a month and then taken to another pen until they are a year old. They will stay in the larger enclosure until they are 3 years old and then they are allowed to roam free in the drive-through part of the park. We saw lots of other cool animals while we were there and had a great time. My favorite, I have to say, was the peacock. What a gorgeous bird that is. The colors take my breath away.
Ok, that was all we did in Williams and again, if you are thinking of a place to come for a family vacation, give Williams a chance. It has a ton to offer and is an adorable little town. Besides all the things that I mentioned above, there is abundant hiking and fishing available as there are a number of lakes nearby. There is a golf course 2 miles from the city as well. Nice place to visit. Steve and I really enjoyed being there and plan to come back again.
Ok, off to Vegas. I must say the drive from Williams to Vegas was one of the most beautiful we have had on this journey. The landscape really changes and the mountains are spectacular. Our first night we cruised down the strip so Steve could see that (he's never been to Vegas) and then headed for Fremont Street. People-watching in Vegas could be an actual sport and we had a great time. We will walk the strip later this week so Steve can experience all the cool stuff like the pirate ships at Treasure Island, the talking statues at Caesars, the water fountains at the Bellagio, etc.
Our really big adventure was our trip to Death Valley. HOLY CRAP WAS THAT A MIND BLOWER. I think we were expecting a flat plain that was dry and sandy and Death Valley is anything but. It is mountainous (Telescope Mountain is 11,000+ feet) and the rocks are so colorful. The pictures cannot really capture the beauty that this park offers at all. You have to see it to believe it, trust me. Anyway, we visited Badwater which is the lowest point in the United States at 282 feet below sea level. That was cool because at the bottom is a salt lake that, when dry, leaves a crust of salt all over the land. Again, pictures do not do this justice at all but we tried to capture it for you. We also visited Devil's Golf Course which is an extension of the salt lake, only very rugged. In the spring and summer, the salt forms all kinds of crystaline shapes on the rocks that looks really cool. This park is so huge we could not possibly experience all of it in the one day that we had. I wish we were able to spend more time there because it really was quite spectacular.
Near Death Valley is Ash Meadows Wildlife Preserve which is an oasis in the middle of the Mojave Desert. There is a natural spring there that contains the endangered pup fish. This fish is found only here and at Devil's Hole. Nowhere else in the world. Speaking of Devil's Hole, this is an underground aquifer that is also located in the desert. The water in this hole is a constant 93 degrees all year round. USGS has been studying this aquifer for quite some time because, aside from the fact that it's in the middle of a desert, they have not been successful in their attempts to map the cavern. The deepest they have recorded is 500 feet and they know that it is not anywhere near the bottom. The really cool part of this hole is that when there is an earthquake anywhere in the world, the water in this hole is affected. Follow this link to a video that will talk about it more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y96KfyyzsWM. How cool is that?
Our last stop was to a ghost town called Rhyolite. It was founded in 1905 and dead by 1920 but in it's heydey, it was home to more than 3,000 people. What was really cool about this little town was that a bunch of artists from Belgium decided to make this place their personal canvasses. One artist, Albert Szukalski, made a sculpture of ghost-like characters called "The Last Supper". We loved that and some of the other artwork out there. But back to the town. The town was originally founded to mine Rhyolite and also gold. The speculators of the gold overstated the lode there, which is why the town was empty in 15 years. Most of the houses were moved to the nearby town of Beatty, but what is left was pretty cool. The bottle house was especially neat. It was built by Tom Kelly in 1905 and he used 30,000 bottles to do it. Pretty neat, huh?
Okay, that's it for now. We are headed to Rick's Restoration and the Neon Sign museum with our friends from Toledo - - Chris and Bob Perrine. We will talk to you soon. Take care and love you all so much.