Sunday Mirror

Rocks star

Ross McCarthy is dazzled by the Grand Canyon’s majesty

-

As a train took us away from the Grand Canyon on a leisurely journey through the desert, it had been a serene ride. We chatted with a group of Americans in the comfy carriage, drank fizz, nibbled at a buffet and listened to a woman with a guitar playing country songs.

But as we neared our destinatio­n the peace was shattered by the sight of a masked bandit on a horse firing a gun in the air.

And then our carriage was invaded by a gang of armed desperados, recently broken out of jail, who had come to “rob” the

passengers, pursued by a sheriff. Which just went to prove, as our Uber driver in Phoenix said, ‘‘There is more to Arizona than just sand and cacti.’’

Train robbers aside, it certainly is a desert state, where temperatur­es can rise in the summer over 100F (38C). It has more than 300 days of sunshine, while on average there is only six-and-a-half inches of rain a year.

And yes it has a lot of desert, but there is a lot more going for this Southweste­rn state, about a third of which is Native American reservatio­n, and it is all about enjoying the great outdoors and marvelling at the jewel in its crown: the Grand Canyon. If you fly into its capital Phoenix, a great way of getting a feel of this rugged place, studded with bush and cacti, is by hot air balloon.

However you might have to give up a bit of sleep. It was a 4am departure from my hotel, the Renaissanc­e Glendale Hotel & Spa, to head to Rainbow Ryders. From there we rode out into the desert where my tour group briefly stopped so that a helium balloon could be released to gauge the wind direction.

Feeling a little like storm chasers, we set off again to find a good spot to get the balloons inflated. A brief health and safety talk and then up we went – and at the same time the sun

 ?? ?? HOT SPOT Get a bird’s eye view on a hot air balloon ride
PRAISING ARIZONA The Grand Canyon is a natural
wonder
HOT SPOT Get a bird’s eye view on a hot air balloon ride PRAISING ARIZONA The Grand Canyon is a natural wonder

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom