Thursday 4/1/99

The Snow Sled Ride to Phoenix  

    Surprise!  April Fools!

    We could just about hear Mother Nature saying this as we opened the curtains to our Hotel room in Flagstaff and saw 6 to 8 inches of SNOW on the cars.   What a rude awakening.  The weather forecast had called for a light dusting, but we got 8 inches of light dusting.

Snow! More Snow!

    We decided to get right on the road and see if we could get south enough to get out of the snow, but we sat on I-40 for over an hour and ended up driving back down I-40 in the breakdown lane due to a major accident on I-40.  We returned to the hotel room, where Jeff, the very helpful person behind the counter, was letting everyone know that the Police were now requiring chains on all highways within ten miles of Flagstaff.

    We waited until about 11AM, then got in the car and headed out anyway.  The roads didn't look all that bad, and we figured our New Hampshire and Maine drivers licenses should get us out of any trouble with the Police if they noticed us without chains.  As it turned out, the roads were fine.  Once we got out of Flagstaff, the road was just wet and a bit slushy from time to time.  The only real problem was mild hydroplaning where there were ruts in the pavement (apparently from people driving on the highway with chains for so many years).

    Ironically, we saw 2 cars off the road during the drive.  Both of them had tried to drive too fast with chains on their tires and the chains had broken.   We were the only car on the road without chains, so we were able to maintain a safe speed of about 45 MPH.  Everyone else was limited to about 30-40 MPH due to the chains on their tires.

    Our first touring stop on the drive was the Montezuma Well.   This is a deep, secluded reservior lake that feeds a small river that runs by an indian ruin called Montezuma's Castle.  Since the wind had died down and it was only snowing at this point, we were able to walk around a little better and get a good look.

Montezuma's Well Montezuma's Well Path Snowball?  Not a good idea...

    The trail led us to the outlet where the water comes out of the Well and into the small river as well.  The black marks on the rock at the top of this picture and in the middle picture above are actually soot from the Indians setting fires in sheltered spots around the Well area.

Path from the Well to the Outlet

    As you can see, there was a lot less snow than in Flagstaff.   Strangely enough, the snow line was at a very specific altitude, and we were driving at almost that altitude for most of the day.  We would go up a couple hundred feet, and be in snow.  Then we would go back down a couple hundred feet and be in rain.  A very strange thing to us Northerners who are used to either snow or rain.

Snow around Montezuma's Well

    Just South of Montezuma's Well is an Indian ruin called Montezuma's Castle.  This is not a castle and has nothing to do with Montezuma, but apparently the early settlers who discovered it assumed it was an Aztec ruin and some kind of altar to Montezuma.  In reality, this was a Sinaguan farming village.  It was chosen by the Sinagua because of the reliable source of water running nearby, fed by Montezuma's Well.

Montezuma's Castle Montezuma's Castle Montezuma's Castle

    The rest of the drive to Phoenix was uneventful, if snowy at times.  We had supper at a mexican restaurant called Macayos right near the Hotel and settled down for the night.

    The following morning, we visited the Phoenix Museum of Art for a couple of hours, then caught our plane back to the Thawed Northland.

<Return to the Grand Canyon Vacation Main Page>