Ghost Ranch to Grand Canyon to Las Vegas

An hour North of Santa Fe you find Ghost Ranch. 004 003This is place that captivated Georgia O’Keefe and led to her spending most of her time there, following the death of her husband. She initially lived in this little house and eventually managed to build another house at the end of the ranch. The area is like a bowl, surrounded by mountains and very beautiful. It now belongs to the Presbyterian Church and is staffed by volunteers. We arrived at dusk, initially visiting Abiqui lake – O’Keefe also had a house in Abiqui.021 017 013

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007We stayed in basic accommodation and were lucky to arrive a week before the place was due to be full of young students so were among only a few people there. The dining room, huge, was welcoming and the food was delicious. In the library, I met Sandra and Maureen. Maureen is a volunteer who runs the library and Sandra was visiting her. We ended up nattering and laughing for hours. Eventually, it turned out that 010Sandra (left in this photo with Mary-Jane, volunteer coordinator) had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and was making the most of the time she has left. After all, we all have limited time on this planet. Such a lovely lady.


011As we made our way from the library in the pitch black under a star-filled sky over to our very cold sleeping quarters (the heating wasn’t working but we hadn’t realised it!) , we came across four beautiful deer grazing on the sparse vegetation. Alfie was warmest that night – sleeping on the bed that I am carting around for him and with a blanket covering him.


008Breakfast was ‘biscuit and gravy’ which for a Brit sounds weird and disgusting. Sandra and Maureen had excitedly told me about it the night before. First, it is a scone, not a biscuit as we know it (And I had reminded my new friends the night before of Bill Bryson’s book ‘Notes from a small island’ where he hilariously describes the excitement we Brits feel about a cup of tea and ordinary biscuits) but a scone, and the ‘gravy’ is a white sauce. Supplemented with egg, chile beef and potatoes it was quite delicious – so I took a picture of it. I also snapped a pic of the very attractive cowboy who runs the horse-ranch.009


Very hot weather seems to be following me around – Alfie and I slowly walked around the main areas of the ranch but did not feel inclined to walk up to the peak. I understand why people decide to volunteer there as the peace and tranquillity draws you in.


025We set off in the late afternoon sun towards the Grand Canyon – a long drive away. The route we took went through Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations. In my idealistic way, I might have expected to see tipis but instead there were trailors and low-cost housing on sparse ground. Searching and not finding National Public Radio (the only radio station worth listening to – most of the others are religious channels anyway – not my cup of tea) I found a Navajo station with a mixture of western music and fascinating Indian chanting. 026 033The announcer was speaking a mixture of English and Navajo which was captivating to listen to. As the night wore on, I became tired and started to hallucinate as I drove – never a good look. So I stopped in a service station where we slept for a few hours in the car. We were an hour away from our destination.


Arriving at the Red Feather Inn in Tusayan at 9.30 (a recommendation from Sandra who explained that it is an Indian village consisting of several hotels and restaurants which has sprung up just outside the Canyon to help cater for the millions of tourists who visit the Grand Canyon every year) – the first motel I have stayed in – we were delighted to be able to check straight in to our room. 029 027After a nap, we were ready to go to the Information Centre and watch the half-hour historic recreation of the peoples of the Grand Canyon over the centuries at the Imax cinema – thrilling and interesting. At the Centre we bought the $30 entrance ticket to stick on the car (it lasts for 7 days) and drove through the booths into the Canyon – or rather the top of the Canyon. Four miles down the road we came to the Visitors Centre and took the shuttle bus to the West of the park, stopping off half way up to take in the view.038


I had imagined that I would be down in the Canyon looking up, but it was the reverse. There is a trail that can be taken by the very fit which is 12 miles down, 12 miles up. That will have to be for another day, as Alfie could not manage that. In fact, on the second day we were there, Alfie was sick, which really concerned me. Maria, my vet, had asked me if I really wanted to take him on such a journey but it is a journey I could not be taking without him. Nonetheless, I spent a couple of days worrying about him034

Returning to Tusayan, we went to the popular steak house. As ever, Alfie lay down on the floor – ever the perfect Service Dog.

On the way home, we slowed down to allow several female elks to cross the road – thus giving credence to all of the pictorial signs with elks that we kept seeing on the sides of the road.

The next morning, after a short walk in the nearby forest, we made our way back to the Canyon and this time walked the Southern Rim, returning to our car to then drive the 22 miles to the Tower on the East side040 041 044

On the way, we stopped off at the little Museum that shows the peoples who have lived in the Canyon.


At the tower we were in for a rare treat – a Hopi Indian who sang some beautiful songs, and then took us to the first floor of the tower to show us the paintings created by his grandfather in the 1920s, when the tower was built. I told him I had studied Hopi ear candling. He admitted that the Hopis use this but had never heard that we Westerners actually study it!


050 051 052 053On the way back, we stopped at several places to admire the view, and to allow Alfie to have his smell walks. I recently read that we think that dogs should want to undertake walks in the way we do – but in fact dogs like to take their time and sniff at their leisure, that is their idea of a good walk! I wonder what Alfie makes of all the smells he is encountering!

058 060 061We had a leisurely dinner at the hotel in the ‘village’ after visiting some of the shops and galleries and then went for a talk by one of the rangers. The park rangers we met are all lovely people, passionate about their jobs. He talked about using our different senses in the park.


People die in the Canyon every year, of causes such as suicide, heat exhaustion and stupidity. So many people cross the barriers to have photographs taken: some of them lose their footing… Last year 22 deaths were recorded. Some years it can be just 5. There is now a book which records the different ways that the 700 and counting deaths have occurred. Needless to say, I didn’t cross the barriers.  Michael, who is 98% blind kept wandering over near the edge. I am sure that people seeing us must have thought that I was very reckless with my ‘husband’, especially as I appeared to have his dog with me…

We saw coaches that had come from Las Vegas (a four-hour journey) at the Park. That was our next destination.064 065 066 067

On our way to Vegas we stopped off at the Hoover damn: a huge and ugly structure that generates an enormous amount of electricity. There was a sweet possee of young American football players having their photo taken, so I decided to join in.

080Our room at the Tuscan Suites and Casino was the best hotel room I have stayed in on this trip – huge, with 2 comfortable Queen beds, overlooking some lovely gardens, quiet and comprising a large glass-enclosed shower and separate bath.

The shower was just what I needed in order to give Alfie a much-needed shower. Poor mite patiently allowed me to wash him (both of us naked) and use the hair-driver provided.

068 071 075 077 078It appears that every hotel in Vegas has a casino. The casinos have restaurants nearby – and everyone can smoke in the casinos, which seems weird nowadays. I didn’t play in any of the casinos – it just isn’t my thing – but I wanted to experience Las Vegas just once in my life!

081 082 083 085 087 090 093 095 094 091We had two big walks around ‘The strip’ – an evening one and during the day. Two nights was sufficient to take in the atmosphere and visit the most notable hotels – The Venetian, the Belagio, New York New York, the Mirage and Nobu at Cesar’s Palace. It is a very egalitarian society inasmuch as most people dress down, whatever the hotel, so that anyone can just wander in and out of the hotels and casinos.


At Cesar’s Palace we visited one of the wedding chapels. At the Mirage the gardens and waterfalls were a great feature. The Belagio has a wonderful fountain and music feature. The Venetian has gondolas with singing gondoliers and an indoor St Marks Square with false sky.


I used the hotel swimming pool and Jacuzzi for the 3 days that we were there – as the weather was lovely it was a real treat.

On the way to Huntington Beach, we had to find another place to stop. So we chose Palm Springs.