Western Wonderland:
A New Take on the Old West in Flagstaff
By Barbara Barton Sloane

There are some wonderful destinations out there waiting to help you and your kids have the kind of vacation you’ll never forget. For a truly special destination, there’s nowhere else on earth even remotely like the American West. Edward Abby, a famous voice of the Western deserts, spoke of of a unique place with "huge vibrations of light, stillness and solitude." Welcome to Flagstaff, Arizona! www.flagstaffarizona.org .

Route 66 Runs Through It

Flagstaff nestles in the cool pines of Northern Arizona, 2 l/2 hours from Phoenix and 80 miles south of the Grand Canyon. This rather quirky name – Flagstaff – comes from a group that settled there in 1876 and raised a flag on the site. The name Flagstaff became prominently used from that time on.

America’s Mountain Garden

What to see first? The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a wondrous place to explore. Miles of Alpine meadows, Ponderosa Pine forests, and a chance to see plants characteristic of this 7,000 foot Colorado plateau elevation. Take a bird walk, listen to a concert, see wild birds of prey demonstrations, and make friends with a red-tailed hawk or a great horned owl! Check out www.thearb.org .

If you’re hankering for an authentic Old West experience, check out the Weatherford Hotel. Back when Arizona was a territory, John W. Weatherford opened this place to board visitors. Having just undergone 20 years of restoration, the Weatherford offers a chance to sample the flavor of Flagstaff’s pioneer beginnings. www.weatherfordhotel.com .

Gateway to Canyon Country

Page, Arizona is 120 miles from Flagstaff and an equal distance to the Grand Canyon. Local attractions include: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Colorado River Float Trip, Village Heritage Center, and a PGA Professional Golf Course. Two not-to-be-missed natural wonders include Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell, one of the cleanest, healthiest lakes in the country. www.pagelakepowelltourism.com .

As one enters Antelope Canyon , you are surrounded by sculpture set in stone ! It is at once awe-inspiring and just a wee bit frightening as you stand between narrow walls and look skyward at a sliver of blue. It is not recommended for the claustrophobic. This is a site run by the Navajo Nation, and they offer canyon tours where a Native American guide will explain the canyon’s cultural history. www.antelopecanyon.com .

Magical Mystery Tour

Lake Powell
is one of the largest lakes in the west. To give some idea of its size, the lake is 186 miles long, 3,700 feet deep, with 96 major side canyons. The shoreline, including all its meanderings through side canyons is actually greater in length than the California coastline.

Immediately, the canyons will take your breath away. Their colors shift according to the sun’s rising and setting: ochre, sienna, cream, mauve. At times they remind one of gigantic cathedrals, other times, Balzac sculptures. The lake’s colors alternate between icy blue with diamonds refracted by the sun to late afternoon teal turning to inky black. The Navajos believe Lake Powell must be treated with respect, that it’s a hallowed, spiritual place. You’ll feel that way, too.

These are the times every child and every parent looks forward to: gloriously long, warm, sunlit days of summer, where the family is together exploring new places, seeing new sights, hiking, swimming, picnicking or just lazing. When you come to the Great West of Arizona, these family memories will never be forgotten.


www.antelopecanyon.com - for general info on Antelope Canyon.
www.pagelakepowelltourism.com - for tourist info on Lake Powell.
www.weatherfordhotel.com - for reservations, info on the hotel.
www.thearb.org - for arboretum details.
www.flagstaffarizona.org - for general info on Flagstaff.

Barbara Barton Sloane lives in New York and contributed to last month’s issue with an article on  Park City, Utah.

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