The Painted Desert looks kind of like like prehistoric scenery - you can really imagine what it must have been like when dinosaurs roamed the land...
We kept driving, and the colors of the land quickly began changing from reds and browns to blues and grays (or is it "greys"?). We got out and took the Blue Mesa trail down into a canyon, where we got a good look at the blue-tinted mountains, as well as our first good look at some petrified wood.
They teach about petrified wood in school, but it's hard to imagine it unless you actually see and touch it. Some of it looks just like giant logs, wood-grain and all, but some of it has been completely replaced by brightly-colored gems and minerals. All of it is rock-solid.
After a long walk through the Crystal Forest trail (to see the petrified wood up close), we had to decide whether or not to camp for the night. Despite some ominous clouds and drizzles early on in the day, the park rangers eased our concerns, and we hiked a mile down into the Painted Desert to set up camp.
We were all alone in the middle of the Arizona desert, and it felt absolutely amazing. We cooked a delicious dinner (by "cooked," we mean "boiled water and added it to the freeze-dried camping food pouches we brought with us," but it was delicious nonetheless), and had one of the best nights of sleep on our trip.
The thing about camping in the desert is that going to sleep at night is very pleasant (cool weather, nice breeze), but waking up to the desert sun can be pretty rough. By 7am, it was nearly unbearable in our tent. We packed up, and proceeded to do one of the most grueling uphill hikes either of us has ever done. To reward ourselves for such a great feat, we stopped in Winslow, Arizona for breakfast. Next stop? The Grand Canyon.
Getting to the Grand Canyon was tough - Adam's GPS ("Alice") took us on a scenic drive up there (sometimes she gets a little confused...), but we ended up seeing a part of Arizona we didn't even know existed: the Kaibab Forest.
Trees? In Arizona? Who knew?! And not just a few trees - a whole forest! We finally made it up to the Grand Canyon, and believe us... it's big.
It's hard to describe how big it actually is, even in pictures, but all it took was one look and we both finally understood. Unfortunately for us, we happened to visit during peak Grand Canyon visiting time, and the parking lot/canyon viewpoints felt more like the zoo than a national park. Once we'd had our fill of grand-ness (and canyon-osity), we continued our trip west.
We stopped for supper in Seligman, Arizona, which happens to be "the birthplace of Route 66." Emily has been trying to drive on Route 66 since we left Atlanta, so she was very excited to find out where we were. We ate at the Roadkill Cafe (located on the site of the old O.K. Saloon), and had a cool photo shoot around some of the historic buildings and sites in Seligman (including an old Route 66 jailhouse)
forn-i-a. For our entire trip through the desert, we had been told it was "monsoon season," but aside from a few little rain showers, we hadn't seen an actual monsoon. Luckily, Arizona treated us to one right before we got to the border. It started with some dark clouds and lightning, and quickly became a total downpour. Check out this video - watch the visibility level after the lightning strikes.
To all the worried mothers reading, this is also the point that we pulled onto the shoulder and waited for the storm to pass.
After that, it was a smooth trip into California. We spent the night in Bakersfield and drove down to San Diego this morning. We got a beautiful day at the beach, and are heading to bed looking forward to another one tomorrow!