Posts Tagged 'Flagstaff'

Supermassive Red Hole

The Grand Canyon.

It’s not actually a Canyon, per se. It’s a really big network of gulches, gullies, and other things beginning with G that interweave into one spectacular, awesome entity.

I had arrived in Flagstaff at stupid o’ clock thanks to Greyhound running late again, and got up early. I stuffed myself with as much of the free breakfast as I could muster and then just barely caught the incredibly limited service out to the Canyon in the north. It doesn’t make much sense to me, but there are only two shuttle services running from Flagstaff, and they only run twice a day. I guess demand can’t be that high, for whatever reason.

I appeared to have kept up the phenomenon of bringing the British weather with me. A spate of cooler temperatures and rain has been following or preceding me across the south, for unknown reasons. Maybe it likes me. Anyway, it was an alpine 67F (19C) as we set off, and overcast. The forecast was 60% likelihood of rain and cloudy. I wanted to travel as light as possible, so I decided against taking my sun-tan lotion. This later bit me in the arse.

My traveling companions were an absolutely insufferable man in a fedora (side note: in Atlanta, I found a fedora that fitted me and actually really quite suited me, but as I was wondering whether to buy it or not, I suddenly realized: I would be the kind of person who wears a fedora), and two excitable Japanese chaps. We hit a gift store on the way that had free coffee (hooray!), where I bought a surprisingly tasteful pin thingy that goodness knows where it’ll go but it was sort of art deco and nice.

We moved north to the rim and I disembarked at a little place called Maswick Lodge. Making sure I arranged a seat back – because I didn’t fancy being stranded out there – I sat down with a map and looked at my options. However, my queries about hiking were met with an aghast response by the lady behind the desk. I was told in no uncertain words that I would probably die.

Okay, that’s not true, but it amounted to as much. I think it was a little overzealous of her in retrospect, but I decided that I’d do the rim walk first and then see what sort of mood I was in. After all, the place has claimed far more experienced hikers than I.

So anyway, I set out to the Canyon, half a mile north. One wonders what exactly the first people to see it thought, because I know what I thought doesn’t really have any way of translating to paper. It really is absolutely, ridiculously, farcically huge. And big. And big and huge. It’s almost in bad taste. I took a few hours to wander along the six or so miles of the edge, but I’m not going to attempt to describe it because I really can’t think of the words. You’ll have to sit tight until I post pictures later today.

About that suncream… I had forgotten that the Canyon fosters microclimates. Halfway through my walk, when I had passed the edge of the touristy nimbus at Mather’s Point and was strolling along with my shoes off and but lizards for company (except one man who came along the other way with – rather ingeniously – his dog carrying some of his stuff in special saddlebags slung over its back) when the sun came out, and came out pretty fiercely, like a weeaboo who’s just heard you badmouth Sailor Moon. There was no point trying to dodge it, so I am now sporting a rather fetching tincture of red. It’s already fading though, and it’s only a mild burn, so anyone hoping my face would peel off à la Indiana Jones… no dice, sorry.

Oh yes, and later there was a monsoon. I actually had to sort of wade through one area; I hope the hikers down in the canyon were okay. The timing of the rain meant that I wasn’t going to try tackling the steep and treacherous cliff routes, so I idled around in the visitor centre for an hour and then took the bus back home.

This morning I wandered around Flagstaff, which remains billed as a sort of South Park area – small, quiet, unpretentious and occasionally invaded by giant guinea pigs. People are pretty thin and athletic here – it must be all that mountain air (it’s so clean up here, it’s almost offensive to my city-loving lungs). There’s a sort of faded hippy vibe to the tiny downtown area, only four blocks in total. Maybe it’s all the Native American influence? I bought a really quite nice bear ornament that I am now wondering how to get home without breaking, got a haircut finally (there is a pale strip at the peak of my forehead where my hair blocked the sun, so now I look even dafter, hooray!), ate at a really quite fantastic pita place and then ambled back to the hostel. The last hour has been spent fixing my various affairs, and actually my time has juuuust expired.

So without further ado, I’m off to Vegas!

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Update #2: Flagstaff

You know, I was walking along today at the Grand Canyon, on the rim walk of the southern lip, and I was thinking: how the hell do I describe this?

Let me start where I left off. I traveled by bus from New Mexico to Flagstaff, Arizona. On the bus was the usual assortment of backpackers, crazies, and this time a nine-year-old black kid called Patrick.

Patrick liked Pokémon. Patrick liked Pokémon a great deal. We spoke at length about the merits of status effects, psychic types, how the safari zone sucked and how it was going to be super cool when he finally got a DS. He demonstrated to me how he really did want to catch them all, and I realized he was playing a game that I played before he was even born. We got on famously.

But Patrick also saddened me a bit too. He was a phenomenally bright kid, naturally braggadocio, quick to intuition and capable of understanding fairly complex things. But from time to time he would say things like, ‘I mean I act tough. ‘Cause I gotta act tough, ’cause if you don’t,’ he shook his head knowingly, ‘they gonna kick the shit outta you’. Later he was talking about how all life had value and that he didn’t like criminals. I said that sooner or later it always caught up with them, and he nodded thoughtfully and said, ‘especially gang bangers, they get the electric chair’, then an expressive buzzing sound. He then asked me if I liked Piloswine.

That’s a pretty old head for someone so young. It saddened me to hear him talk of people giving up on school at his age, and how he was held back a year because he just stopped caring and so did his teachers. You have to wonder whether this bright young kid, with such promise, is going to be properly served by his education.

I arrived at Flagstaff yesterday. It’s a pretty, peaceful mountain town with a deliciously cool climate after the pressure cookers of Texas and Louisiana. Pine trees dot the slopes of the rocky hills and there’s a generally quiet and rustic air to the streets. I’ll be looking more around it tomorrow, so I’ll expound then.

I want to talk about the Canyon, but like I said at the start, I just don’t think I have particularly adequate words. And I’m running out of time. So, that will have to wait until tomorrow when I shall post the collective efforts of my photography, hopefully to your liking.

Pictures paint a thousand words, but is that going to be enough?


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