6.15 am. I wake in Sedona, Arizona, USA, a small town 4,500 feet above sea-level and 120 miles north of the state capital, Phoenix. With snow forecast for tomorrow, it has to be today. I do my initial exercises in bed, swing into a sitting position and go through the next batch before I stumble up and shuffle to the curtains. I peek outside. It’s dark and the rocks across the gully, which I know are red, appear as black, irregular blocks. I finish my exercises and shower, its warmth elevating me nearer to functioning. I dress, layered up, grab my walking stick and backpack and open my hotel room door onto the deck. The December cold smacks me in the face. I hobble across the courtyard to the dining room, the fresh, freezing air ratcheting up my functionality. That, coupled with breakfast and medication, and I’m ready to give the day a go.
7.30 am. I head to the tour company next door. I’m allocated the passenger seat (an ‘advantage’ of having limited mobility) rendering me with the best view in the van. As we set off, the rocks change from dark to pinks and oranges in the early light. We start out north, winding up through the spectacular Oak Creek Canyon as the sun rises. We reach our first pit stop on the far side of Flagstaff and I tumble out of the van, grateful for the chance to move, de-stiffen and grab a coffee.
9.00 am. With snow on the ground, we continue our climb through ponderosa pine forests to the Colorado Plateau where the trees turn into stunted bushes surrounded by barren-ness. We stop at a trading post stuffed with Native America arts and crafts and where the bathroom has carved wooden bears for toilet roll holders. There’s a tee-pee outside which our guide informs us is for tourist benefit as they are not used in this part of the State. After we’ve reverted to type and taken our photographs, we travel on under a glorious blue sky.
10.30 am. We arrive at the Grand Canyon, 7,000 feet up, and drive to our first stop at the South Rim. We roll out of the van. The blue sky turns out to be deceptive; the temperature is striving to peek above freezing. But with, thankfully, hardly any wind, I limp to the rim. The high plateau lulls you into a false sense of security until suddenly it opens up into this chasm of vastness, cracking the earth into a smile. I feel giddy at the drop. It’s even more magnificent than I remember from my first (crowded) trip here, flying from Las Vegas one summer over ten years previously. The strata of rock, reds and yellows, is set off by the blue of the sky while the winter sun’s low angle gives the canyon a wonderful definition. There’s snow in the shadows as we continue along the rim to the Geological Museum which gives us more magnificent views – but in the warmth. I peer out of the window and glimpse the brown Colorado River snaking its way along the bottom of the Canyon and find it hard to comprehend that it’s this which has cut the ‘damage’.
11.30 am. We carry on to our next stop at Grand Canyon Village where I secure a table for lunch at Bright Angel Lodge. I’m flagging and I’m grateful to rest, re-tablet and re-fuel. I fill up on chips and a steak sandwich. Revived, I head to the rim and take some photographs. I sit and soak up the view, basking in the ‘we’ve made it above freezing’ sunshine, while others stand close to the edge for that all-important selfie.
1.00pm. I meet up with the rest of the party again at the van. We drive past the train, the mule yard and the ‘Beware of the Mountain Lion’ sign and arrive at Duck Rock, still looking like one despite having lost some of its mass to erosion. We carry on to Moran Point where some daring souls have clambered a little way down into the Canyon.
2.00 pm. The Watch Tower at the East Rim. It’s our last stop before we leave the park and journey back to Sedona via Little River Gorge and Navajo land. I hobble to the Canyon one last time. My ankles, in particular, are protesting and I know they’ll disrupt my sleep tonight. The temperature has dropped back below freezing but the sky is still blue, it’s two o’clock in the afternoon and there’s an all-but-full moon over the Grand Canyon. As I look out over its magnificence, I’m reminded that this is why I’ll always try to keep travelling and, hopefully, enjoy many more grand days out.