Thursday, October 31, 2013

On the Road: Winslow, AZ, to Las Vegas, NV

Today’s trip (October 15) is shorter than the one the day before, only 454 miles, but it is every bit as interesting, if not more so. Today we went from Winslow, Arizona, to Las Vegas, Nevada. However, we took a detour through the south rim section of Grand Canyon National Park. I’ll mention that detour briefly today, but focus on it more in a separate entry in my next post so that I can devote more space and more pictures to it.

We did not know until a couple of days before our trip if the Grand Canyon National Park would be open because of the government shutdown. However, the good state of Arizona decided to open the park just 2 days before we left home, picking up the cost of operating the park. 

Our route today is 454 miles. We opted to go through Laughlin rather than go straight to Las Vegas from Kingman.
So, we left Winslow shortly before 7:00 AM, following our old friend Interstate 40 west to Flagstaff.  The temperature was right at freezing as we loaded the car. Brrr! We weren’t ready for winter yet. Snow-capped Humphreys Peak, the highest peak in Arizona at 12,637 feet, sits just north of Flagstaff and guided us west. At Flagstaff, we exited, taking US 89 north so that we could loop through the south rim section of the park. A little over 40 miles north of Flagstaff, we turned west on Highway 64. Glimpses of side canyons were soon available, along with numerous Navaho jewelry stands. We passed from the Kaibab National Forest into the park, soon passing through the entrance gate. We followed this roadway west to the Visitor Center, then south where we rejoined I- 40 at Williams.

Williams, a community of just over 3,000, is the home of the Grand Canyon Railway, which carries passengers on a scenic trek to Grand Canyon Village in the park and back. The scenic town sits at an elevation of 6,800 in the foothills of Kaibab National Forest and is heavily visited by tourists. When you arrive in Williams from the west, it is quite refreshing to see tree-covered hills. Home to Bearizona, a wildlife drive-thru park, this little town is a place where I would like to spend a few days.

From Williams, we followed I-40 west through what I call high desert plateau country. After leaving Williams, the interstate gradually works its way out of the pine covered slopes onto lower elevation plains. This is grazing land, surprisingly well covered in grass with vast expanses from horizon to horizon. It’s good country.

From time to time, the interstate passes through rough, broken, rocky country. At Kingman, we briefly stopped for gas. Kingman is a busy, thriving town in western Arizona. We’ve always just passed through it, but one of these days we’ll take some time and drive through the town along old Route 66. 

From Kingman, we opted to go west through Bullhead City and Laughlin rather than follow US 93 directly to Las Vegas. From Kingman, Highway 68 goes straight west, gradually climbing into the Black Mountains, a north-south range that reaches a height of almost 5,500 feet. Upon reaching the pass, the road begins to descend, slowing twisting in serpentine fashion downwards towards the Colorado River, Bullhead City, and Laughlin. The casinos that line the river are always an impressive site, rising from the desert valley in a cluster along the clear waters of the river. We do enjoy Laughlin.

From Laughlin, we climb again, this time heading into the Newberry Mountains. I've documented this trip before; you can find it in "On the Road: Laughlin, NV, to Las Vegas, NV" (posted in March, 2013).

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