In Photos: The Immeasureable Beauty of Grand Canyon West

Vast

Grand Canyon West, in all its glory

When it comes to traveling the cities, states, and countries on our vast planet, many do so for a multitude of reasons. You may travel to escape your reality at home. To become inspired. To learn something new. Or simply, to just see how a different community lives. I travel for all of these reasons, and often times find myself in the most fulfilling experiences abroad when they are not planned. This happened to me just recently when I visited Las Vegas.

Joshua Trees

Joshua Trees along the road

A group of ten family members, from both my generation and my parents’ generation, hopped on a plane to Sin City to celebrate a milestone birthday of one of our cousins. Plans were not solid in regards to what activities we would partake in whilst there, and for those that know me, no plans or general ideas of plans can give me a bit anxiety. I am all about maximizing my time when I visit different places.

Topography

A view from the tour bus

So we do the Vegas thing, right? Walk the strip, eat LOTS of food (that at points did not agree with our stomachs), find the best deals on those ridiculous giant frozen alcoholic cocktails you can drink in the street and consume them, catch a live show, breeze through the casinos, and get a little shopping in. We skipped the nightlife bit as my cousins Lauren, Ashley, and I were a bit jetlagged from the three-hour time difference, but we were able to hop on the High Roller, the worlds tallest observation wheel which soars 550 ft above the City of Las Vegas.

What Up Though?

Obligatory “Brooklyn we OUTCHEA” pose

On our last full day in Vegas, we took a little road trip to the Grand Canyon West. I had never been, and was super-excited to hit the road and get into nature. I love the topography of the desert as much as I love tropical zones, so viewing tons of mountains and Joshua Trees along the way was great for me. The total drive was just about two hours to the site, which is in Peach Springs, Arizona, on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Grand Canyon West is not located in the Grand Canyon National Park. The native Hualapai people run and manage all tours and vending on site, which was very important to me.

These Sandals were Made for Walking

These sandals were made for climbing

Once we arrived on the grounds, we noticed a chill in the air, despite the weather reading over 80 degrees. We parked the car and took a little walk to the Visitor’s Center. Lauren and I were unprepared for the chillier weather (Ashley’s a thug and was fine in her tank top), so our first stop once inside was to purchase sweatshirts to wear during our little excursion. I found this cool Grand Canyon West, Joshua Tree sweatshirt (seen below), and of course Lauren copied me, because that’s what cousins do, right?

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#ALifeInTheDayinLA: Respite in Nature at The Arboretum in Arcadia

Mountainscape

For the week of my birthday back in the end of July, I took a trip to the Los Angeles area to spend time with family, recharge, and basically get a taste of new scenery. For the majority of my twenty-eight prior years, I have always spent my birthday at home in Brooklyn, and felt this was a good time to hit up the West Coast. It was one of the few times in life where my trip was completely unplanned. I did plan in accordance with one of my aunts so we could be each other’s company for the week, but otherwise, I told myself “I just want to relax and not over-plan this time away”.

Cactus species and sculpture

As I was staying in Diamond Bar with my aunt and uncle, I did not really get a taste for the creative L.A. lifestyle, but I was exposed to something better; nature. My uncle, being pretty in tune with my love of photography and nature, offered to take the family The Arboretum during the week. Located in Arcadia approximately thirty minutes from where I was staying, the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden is a gem for nature lovers and those that just need a time out. The Arboretum is a 127-acre botanical garden and historical site jointly operated by the Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation and the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Picture in picture at Queen Anne Cottage

With camera in hand like the tourist I was, I walked slowly and snapped photos of the luscious flora and fauna before my eyes. The grounds are divided up by native region with free roaming wildlife; for example there are sections that feature collections of plants from Africa and Australia, as well as themed sections like the “Prehistoric Forest” and “Historic Circle”. Every plant on the grounds was clearly marked with a description tag for those that wanted a little more back story.

Color variations in an aloe species

As someone who is incredibly passionate about color, I was truly amazed by the color variations of some of the plants and flowers I saw during my walk. The greenest of green leaves, the most potent orange flower petals, and things I had never seen before, like a Eucalyptus tree that had a multi-color bark. I snapped away, adjusting my settings numerous times during my trip as the sun was beaming that day. It made me realize how therapeutic a walk outside can be, and how beautiful nature untouched is.

View from the cafe

We took a break to eat at the Peacock Cafe, and took seats at a table under a shady tree on the deck. I had a surprisingly tasty cheese burger & fries with an apple juice because, #stayhungry. When we looked up and around, we were surrounded by peacocks. I made it my job to collect as many feathers that fell off the birds as they moved around, and snapped photos quick and quietly, as to not disturb them.

Someone is posing for the camera

I was waiting for one of the birds to spread their feathers for a photo opp, and was extremely lucky to capture the photo above upon walking to the exit. Such a serendipitous ending to a lovely afternoon.

If you are ever in the L.A. county area and want to take a break from the hustle and bustle, definitely take a trip to The Arboretum. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for Seniors & Students, $4 for Children, and Free for children 4 and under. For more information, please visit their website. You won’t regret it!

*All photos by Andrea K. Castillo