Our wake-up call this morning was at an ungodly 5am but since we needed to have our bags packed and ready to be loaded onto the bus by 7am, it was a necessary evil. 5am…god help me. I usually wouldn’t be going to bed until 2am!

We left our packed bags in the vestibule of our room (so Adventures by Disney could pick them up and drive them to our next hotel) and met at the Meditation Room for breakfast. This morning’s buffet meal included scrambled eggs, cheese-seasoned breakfast potatoes, French toast, bacon, sausage, yogurt, cold cereal, a selection of pastries, bread and fruit.

After going back to the room to do some last-minute packing, we loaded onto the bus and drove about 15 minutes to our first stop of the day, Red Rock State Park, located in Sedona. We made a quick pit stop near the entrance of the park because there weren’t enough facilities for tour groups inside the park itself, then drove to the Visitors Center.

Pat was our volunteer naturalist who explained everything we saw while on our hike and she expertly pointed out the different trees, brush, flowers, animals and insects we came across. We hiked for about an hour or an hour and a half and, when we reached the top of the formation we has climbed, hiked back down. The views were just amazing.

Red Rock formation in the distance

Riparian: ..rih-PAIR-ee-uhn; ry-PAIR-ee-uhn.., adjective: Of or pertaining to the bank of a river or stream.

Hiking along…

We got some terrific views!

Joe and I

More great views

All of the guys

All of the ladies

House of Apache Fire used to be a residence. It was at the top of the hiking trail we climbed

Experimental ecology with wilderness poop!

Chris in front of the 150-175y/o Wedding Tree (he’s getting married on Oct. 25th)

After re-boarding the bus, we drove a short distance to a food and shopping village called Tlaquepaque. Lunch was on our own, so 6 of us shared a table at Oak Creek Brewery & Grill, a sandwich, salad and pizza place that makes its own beer. Joe had a bratwurst sandwich while I had a salad of turkey, ham, hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese, sprouts, grilled zucchini and squash. The food was good…nothing spectacular, but after dinner last night, ANYTHING would pale in comparison.

Oak Creek Pub as seen from the outside

After lunch we had about an hour for shopping until meeting back at the bus. Tlaqupaque is themed like a Mexican village and what weren’t restaurants were lots of one of a kind shops and artsy fartsy stores. Interesting to look at for a little while but overall not really our style or the things that we (read: “I”) liked were a little too pricey and/or we couldn’t figure out a place to put them.

Tlaquepaque

We were more interested in “How Sweet It Is,” the ice cream and candy shop Mike and Chris recommended because their ice cream was supposed to be fantastic (it was. Joe’s root beer float was good too) and they supposedly sold chocolate covered insects but as it turned out, they didn’t carry them anymore. I guess eating one of those is an adventure I won’t get to take after all (grin).

We loaded back onto the bus at 1:15pm and from that point on it was a 2 hour drive to the Grand Canyon, Chris and Mike pointed out various sites along the way, including Moss Slide, a bald eagle nest and driving a short distance down Route 66. They got a tentative list of who wanted to partake in which extracurricular activities tomorrow so they could make advanced reservations for us. They also kept us entertained by playing a Disney’s True Life Adventure DVD that was taped in the area in the early 1950’s but it was still a LONG ride and I think most of us snoozed for at least part of the trip.

It was a long, long long…

…long, long, long trip

We made a quick stop at our next home base, The Grand Hotel, to drop Mike off to get all of the luggage and rooms situated, while Chris and Tom gave us a special treat and brought us to the Grand Canyon for an hour or two, even though it wasn’t on our roster of events for today. Some of us had never seen the Grand Canyon and some of us had, but it didn’t matter…the first view is just amazingly breathtaking.

After an hour that went by entirely too quickly, we hopped back on the bus and back to the hotel. As soon as we stepped foot inside the lobby, a flood of memories came rushing back to me, since Joe and I, as well as his parents and Steve, had lunch in this hotel when we did a Las Vegas-to-Grand Canyon puddle jumper tour about 6 years ago. The lobby was beautifully done and our room, although definitely older, was clean and spacious. An added bonus of being on the top floor of the hotel was the cathedral ceiling and skylight in our room, which made it much more light and airy.

After taking time to unpack and rest for a little while, we met downstairs for our dinner buffet at the hotel’s restaurant, the Canyon Star Restaurant.

The meal included chicken breasts, beef brisket, ribs, beans, potatoes, corn bread (it was in season!), corn on the cob, potato salad and vanilla ice cream for dessert. The food was OK…not great, but it didn’t suck, either. The entertainment, on the other hand, wasn’t something we found to be super interesting. The singing cowboy was OK but the Native American singer/drummer and dancers, although very talented at what they did, kinda struck us more towards “pass the hat tourist entertainment,” which really isn’t our style. Not that they were bad; just not something we appreciated very much.

We were finished with dinner by 8ish and, with given a choice of seeing the Grand Canyon film at the local Imax or calling it an early night, we opted for the latter (with my influence…I’ve only gotten about 6 hours of sleep each night and would like to try to get a decent nights’ sleep tonight, especially with a 6:30am breakfast tomorrow morning). With thoughts of tomorrow’s evening of Grand Canyon-based activities, we settled in for the evening.

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