January 9-13, 2020 - During a recent Christmas holiday visit to his house, my brother Michael floated an idea for what would be our second guy’s trip with dad and his two boys (us) in January 2020. Continuing a tradition started with a spectacular trip to Moab, Canyonlands, and Arches in 2019, this “part 2” trip promises to pack the same punch of awesomeness by taking us through three states, from Phoenix to Sedona, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Zion, Valley of Fire and ending up in Las Vegas.
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Day one (Thursday)
Landed in Phoenix about the same time as Mike, we picked up the rental and ran a few errands while waiting for dad’s flight which was scheduled to land a few hours later. Picked up dad curbside and headed to Scottsdale for dinner with dad's cousin’s son Steve L. and his wife who live in Scottsdale. Following a nice dinner and conversation at Roaring Fork restaurant, we headed off on a late drive north on the deserted highway through a windy snowstorm to Sedona. Despite the weather and difficult drive, our arrival into the Sedona area quickly rewarded us with peek a boo view of the snow-dusted peaks and red rock formations through broken clouds, silhouetted against the dark night sky illuminated by the light of the full moon. Checked in to the Hyatt Residence Club at about 10:30pm.
Day two (Friday)
We woke to a cold thirteen-degree morning with clear blue skies and fresh snow dusting the ground and trees around Sedona. I ventured solo out into the cold morning for a few sunrise photos then back to gather up the rest of the crew for a few more photos along Mystic trail and at the Church of the Red Rocks before continuing our journey North. Driving from Sedona through the fresh snow-covered landscape was beautiful. We passed through the canyon and forests of snow flocked trees, with deeper snow piling on the landscape as we climbed the switchbacks up the pass and into Flagstaff. Up to about a foot of new snow overnight blanketed the landscape leading into flagstaff where we stopped for breakfast at Over Easy.
Next, we continued our drive turning onto state route 64 toward Tusayan, located just outside the Grand Canyon Park entrance. Arriving on schedule at Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours for a much anticipated early afternoon tour over the Grand Canyon. The helicopter perspective of the Canyon depths, walls and plateaus were truly amazing. Views unattainable from the land based view points along the or during the hike to the bottom. The flight took us from the Tusayan Airport at the south rim, over the canyon North/East to the North rim then South/West back over the canyon back to the airport. The views from the air were amazing especially with the fresh dusting of snow overnight and the clear blue skies that greeted us today. An amazing experience and a great way to see the wonders of the Grand Canyon. After the flight, we entered the park and stopped at Yavapai point for sunset photos of the canyon from the rim. Gets cold quickly around here once the sun disappears but as we were departing we were greeted by a bright wolf moon rising over the rim of the snow-dusted canyon so we stayed longer to view this spectacular sight. Checked into the Yavapai Lodge and grabbed dinner at the Yavapai Tavern before a last late-night look at the moon-lit canyon around El Tovar.
Day three (Saturday)
Another clear brisk morning we set out today for one last look at the canyon starting from El Tovar and the Bright Angel trail-head, then driving east along the canyon rim. We stopped at the Desert View Watchtower for our last views of the Canyon on our journey.
Through the desert landscape we headed out of the park, east on 64 then north on 89 toward Page and Lake Powell enjoying more amazing geology and desert plane views along the way. Stopping at Horseshoe Bend for a short hike from the parking lot to the rim of the Colorado river carved canyon for great views of this geological marvel. Continuing to Page Az. near Lake Powell we stopped at State 48 to catch the 49ers win over Minnesota. Following the 49er win, we were off to the nearby shores of Lake Powell for a few sunset and moon-rise photos over the lake. Checked in to the Hyatt Place hotel in Page, grabbed a light dinner and cocktail before calling it a night.
Day four (Sunday)
After a hearty breakfast at the Ranch House in Page, we headed west today on 89 passing through Kanab and more amazing geology and desert plane views along the way, to Zion National Park through the east entrance off of Hwy 9. Entering the park to changing and increasingly more spectacular views, we stopped to watch a herd of mountain goats feeding in the brush and maneuvering along the adjacent red sandstone hillside. Stopped for a short hike up the Canyon View trail to amazing views below of the canyon, mountains and switchback drive below.
Back from the hike, we continued our drive through Mount Carmel tunnel then up the scenic drive lined with massive walls of red stone on both sides of the canyon, winding along the Virgin River that flows through the tree-lined valley floor. At the end of the scenic drive we hiked the Riverside Walk trail beginning at the Temple of Sinawava along the river through the narrowing cliff-lined canyon toward the Narrows. We stopped at the end of the trail, but you can opt to rent gear in Springdale and hike farther up, in the river where the canyon walls continue to narrow. Staying in Springdale tonight at the Springhill Suites, dinner nearby at Jacks's Sports Grill to watch the Seahawks/Packers game.
Day five (Monday)
Morning souvenir stop at the Zion National park visitors center before heading out of the park through St George where we stopped at Waffle Love for breakfast before heading toward Las Vegas. Following more scenic desert and canyon lands we exit Interstate 15 at Moapa onto to state route 169 toward Valley of Fire State Park. We journeyed through the Valley of Fire State Park, stopping at the park entrance to view Elephant rock then continuing to Fire Wave trail-head for a hike around the rocks and formations of colorful sandstone carved over millions of years by the harsh wind and rain driven water flows.
Continuing our drive through the park and exiting via hwy 167 to Interstate 15 on our way to Las Vegas. In Las Vegas for the last night on our journey we stayed at the Cosmopolitan on the strip, Mike has been generous enough to use his points earned from business travel for our hotel stays on the trip. Tonight, his status and points put us in huge suites for the night with wrap-around balconies overlooking the Las Vegas strip. For dinner tonight we headed over to the Park MGM and Eataly for a nice Dinner and Wine at Manzo Enoteca, Digestives at the bar and fresh Cannoli at I Cannoli. Nothing like good food and drink to celebrate another successful trip for the boys.
Dad and I flew out early Tuesday afternoon, Mike drove the rental back to Phoenix.
Another great time hanging out with Dad and Mike, countless memories and spectacular experiences only made greater by the company of these two. Priceless journeys and time well spent. Mike did a great job planning and mapping out this and our previous trip together, can’t thank him enough for that.
We discussed coming up with a name to brand our journeys instead of the generic “guy’s" trip Mike came up with “Bondiamo” a play on our last name and the Italian word for let’s go, “Andiamo”. I think that’s going to stick…
Bondiamo 1 - Moab the first
Bondiamo 2 – the big ditch and other desert stuff
and our next operation; Bondiamo 3 – this time with trees.
Can’t wait for the sequel!