At first Arizona looked much the same as New Mexico, with the red and brown mesas and desert-like landscape. But slowly... so slowly that I almost didn't realize it... it began to change. Green became more prevalent. Trees became taller and more abundant. Vegetation began to cover the ground. The change, of course, coincided with the rise in altitude, as we ascended higher into the mountains of northern Arizona. It was such a gradual change that its subtlety was both surprising and calming. Again, it was just impossible to take a picture that really captured the beauty and majesty of the state, though not for lack of trying!
Below are two pictures from the drive across the northern part of the state. The first was taken as we began to see the mountains in the distance, but before we actually started to climb. We could see them so far ahead that they seemed nothing more than hills, but the closer we got (and it took a long time to actually get to them) the larger they became! The second picture is of an abandoned building along the side of the road that I thought had so much character. I had fun imagining what sort of life might've taken place there, back when the building was home to a family.
As I said, the ascent into the mountains was gradual, and just as I was in the middle of marveling at the scenery, Flagstaff burst into view. And burst is the exact word that describes how it happened. All of a sudden there was a city nestled into the side of the mountain. Hands down, Flagstaff was my favorite city on our vacation. I just loved the way the mountains soared up and framed the town. Everywhere we went, the mountains were in view, as if standing guard. When we pulled up to our hotel, I hoped that our room was on the backside so I could see the mountain. Thankfully, it was, and the picture below was taken from our hotel room window as the sun set that night in Flagstaff.
I hope there will be a time when I can return to Flagstaff and stay a while... soak up a bit more of the city's personality and charm. But we had places to go and things to see, so the next morning we loaded into the van and headed to the Grand Canyon National Park. None of us had ever seen the Grand Canyon before, so there was a buzz of excitement. The drive from Flagstaff takes just over an hour (longer if you get behind a paint truck!), and by mid-morning we'd entered the park, paid our fee, and were winding our way to the parking area for the main lookout point.
Hubby and I had goosebumps of anticipation as we walked up the path and through the tree line, anticipating our first glimpse. My stomach literally dropped into my feet. It is huge. Breathtaking. As far as you can see rocks, ravines, color. Endless reds and browns. I have no words to describe it adequately.
There is absolutely NO way to take a picture that shows everything. But here are a few that give you a tiny glimpse of how awe-inspiring it is.
The picture below was taken along a path as I looked back at the lookout point. If you look closely, the small things on the top of the rock in the foreground are people. Yes, those are regular sized humans. I included this picture to because the tiny people help show the sheer size and magnitude!
And here's Flagstaff again. On our return trip we stopped for gas, and I couldn't help but snap another picture of what I'd come to think of as "my mountain". I think sometimes we feel connected to a place without any explanation or logic. I felt that way about Flagstaff. I just sort of called to me on some invisible level.
I think as writers we're really tuned in to those instincts... those feelings that hum beneath the surface. Perhaps that's why the beauty of Flagstaff, Arizona wrapped itself around me. I've learned to pay attention to those feelings, because many times they are the seeds of inspiration and creativity. There's a part of me that feels alive even now, just looking at the picture of the mountain that looms above Flagstaff. That feeling can keep me going... keep me inspired... when other things in life drag me down. A place is a powerful thing, and I'm so grateful to have so many new ones in my inspiration bank!
Happy reading and writing!