Sunday Mirror



started to rise. Identifiab­le landmarks were a race track and a reservoir supplying water to the city via aqueducts.

Wildlife was in short supply, although we did see a solitary donkey and there were probably some coyote and jackrabbit­s out there somewhere.

Our basket rose to more than 6,000ft and we covered about eight miles before our pilot Jon skilfully guided us down. There was a little bump and that was it, and the successful flight was toasted with a glass of bubbly.

After such an early start a good place to eat was Matt’s Big Breakfast in Glendale, where those with a hearty appetite can dig into biscuits and gravy or a Big Papa Burrito. I failed to finish a mountain of griddle cakes.

Next, we headed north to the Verde Valley, where the temperatur­e drops a few degrees and there is a bit more of a breeze.

Alcantara Vineyard offers a Water to Wine experience, involving kayaking along the Verde River and a tasting at a Tuscan farmhouse. In the evening, at Cottonwood, tuck into seriously good steaks and seafood at Nic’s Italian Steak and Crab House. On to Flagstaff, at 7,000ft elevation, the base camp for visits to the Grand Canyon National Park, which offers a multitude of outdoor adventures.

In the winter this lofty town, which has a wide range of restaurant­s and eight award-winning craft breweries and is surrounded by a pine forest, can get large dumps of snow and attracts skiers from around the world, while at other times of the year visitors come for its hiking and biking trails.

You can learn about its rich lunar legacy at Lowell Observator­y. A large chunk of meteorite landed about 35 miles away around 50,000 years ago and made a crater the size of a passenger jet, which has been used to prepare astronauts for moon landings.

The observator­y is also home to a telescope made in 1896 which was used to help map the lunar surface and is where Pluto was discovered in 1930.

Back on planet Earth, there are a number of ways to see the Grand Canyon. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, it is carved out by the Colorado River. Stretching for 277 miles, it was created about five to six million years ago and can be seen from space. On average it is 10 miles wide

with the widest part 15 miles, and has a depth of 5,000ft.

For the brave, there are zip wires and a glass-bottomed Skywalk, but the most spectacula­r way to see it is by helicopter.

Flights depart from Tusayan, where we boarded our six passenger chopper. With a rock soundtrack playing, the pilot initially skirted the canyon, passing over the Kaibab Forest, before finally flying over the deepest and widest part, passing from the South to North rim, allowing us to take in really special views and to appreciate its scale and majesty.

Visitors can also see the canyon by hiking, on mule or horseback, river-rafting the rapids or on a Wild Hummer Jeep Tour where a guide will take you to off-the-beatentrac­k spots and tell you about people who have lived there and some of its flora and fauna.

Another way of taking in the scenery, at a more sedate pace, is on a leisurely two-hour Grand

Canyon train journey to Williams, a pleasant mountain town with a train depot, which is on Route 66.

Carrying on down the Mother Road, the Grand Canyon Caverns offer a chance to visit the largest dry cavern in the US, reached by a lift and still containing rations in barrels stored there during the Cold War when it was anticipate­d it could be used as a nuclear shelter.

There has been the occasional marriage ceremony held here. It is said to be haunted and has been classed as one of the 10 most unusual places to sleep in.

Further down Route 66 is the town of Seligman, where Angel Delgadillo fought to preserve the route as a historic highway when it was threatened with becoming just a backwater after traffic dramatical­ly dropped when a faster route opened in 1978.

Known as the Guardian

Angel of Route 66,

Delgadillo became a media star and is still going strong at the age of 95. And you might still find him at his barber’s, which has since become a souvenir shop.

Another slice of America’s past can be found in Prescott, at an elevation of 5,200ft among pine forests. It is Arizona’s original Territoria­l Capital and home to the world’s oldest rodeo.

Whiskey Row features The Palace, the state’s oldest frontier saloon. In the 1870s, Wyatt and Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday were patrons before moving to Tombstone and the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

For another Wild West experience there are dude ranches and we stayed at Kay El Bar in Wickenburg, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and just over an hour’s drive from Phoenix .

Chow time is announced by a bell and I channelled my inner Wyatt Earp, shooting at targets with a rifle and a pistol before taking a morning horse ride in the desert hills.

Thankfully, there were no roaming bands of train-robbing desperados...

Channellin­g my inner Wyatt Earp, I shot targets before taking a horse ride

 ?? ?? HIT TRACK Grand Canyon Railway
HIT TRACK Grand Canyon Railway
 ?? ?? LUSH BEAUTY Escape the sand and cacti on Verde River
LUSH BEAUTY Escape the sand and cacti on Verde River
 ?? ?? FULL-ON Enjoy huge portions at Matt’s Big Breakfast
FULL-ON Enjoy huge portions at Matt’s Big Breakfast
 ?? ?? STATE STUNNER Schnebly Hill in Sedona
STATE STUNNER Schnebly Hill in Sedona
 ?? ?? LUNAR LEGACY Lowell Observator­y
LUNAR LEGACY Lowell Observator­y

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