What we like about Arizona

As we head back to Virginia, it’s time to reflect on the things we especially loved and recommend to others. Here’s our list (in no particular order):

Backpacking in the Painted Desert
Sleeping out under the stars in perfect silence
The ability to see weather a hundred miles away
Rare steaks cooked on mesquite by Karl
Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon
The Red Rocks of Sedona
The friendly, groovy people of Sedona
Petroglyphs in the middle of nowhere
Land protected for future generations
Free national parks pass for seniors
Reverence for Native American culture
Balloon ride in Sedona
Hiking in Sedona
Huge saguaro cactus in Tucson
Dawn for taking care of so many children with her nursing
Experiencing 45 degree weather the same week as 109 degree weather
Route 66 and the Wigwam Motel
Rain that’s appreciated
Very few mosquitos
Dark skies that reveal a thousand stars

Thanks for following our blog – we look forward to taking you with us on our next adventure!

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Sedona, parte tres – the best part!

Today’s the day! We were up before the sun, and waiting for Northern Light Balloon Expeditions to pick us up at 5:45am. There were six people for our balloon, named Puma, plus our pilot, Daniel, and three other balloons, also holding six passengers each. The balloon envelopes were rolled out, then filled with air.

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When the envelope was full, a blast of hot gas lifted it into vertical position. The balloon is eighty feet tall.

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We climbed aboard, and like the Wizard, we’re up, up and away! We got to see the sunrise from the air.

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We were up for one hour and eighteen minutes, cruising gently over the hills and desert. We saw some deer, and jackrabbits, while Daniel told us about the history of the area, where many Westerns were filmed back in the day.

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We landed in the desert, the chase truck found us, then the envelope was rolled up and the basket was rolled onto the truck.

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We drove back to join the other trucks, and all enjoyed a champagne toast, with strawberries and cream. The perfect end to a perfect morning!

Sedona, parte dos

Have I mentioned how much I love Jim? This man gave up a day of backpacking and camping and rearranged our itinerary so I could have another chance to take a balloon ride in Sedona! The first balloon company we had originally booked with was sold out, but luckily, the second company we called had an opening for two for tomorrow.

Today, we took to the hills to do some red rock hiking. First, we stopped at the visitor’s center to get a map, and Jim found his old friend Smoky T. Bear.

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We shared the Boynton Canyon trail with some four-legged hikers.

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All of a sudden, we heard thunder, and our beautiful afternoon turned grey.

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We made it back down the mountain ahead of the rain, and were happy for the cool breeze the storm brought with it.

On our way back, we found a Buddhist stupa, a monument for meditation. A peaceful way to end the day.
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Many Tribes, Heading South

For our last day at the Canyon, we got out early to see the sunrise, and were treated to a spectacular one. We walked the Rim in the opposite direction from yesterday’s walk, until it was time to check out of our lodge.

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Now it’s time to make our way back south, to catch our return flight out of Phoenix on Tuesday.
We stopped at several more Canyon overlooks as we left the area, and explored a tower built in the 1920s to give homage to the native Americans who once lived there.

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It was our day to learn about Indians. We spent some time looking at the Tusayan ruins, the Lokomi ruins, and the Wupatki ruins, all national monuments.

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We were on our way to Sunset Crater volcano, when the sky opened and the rain poured down. Then the hail clattered down, then some more rain. Here’s the hail:

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Thank you to the guardian spirit who gave us perfect weather for the Canyon!

The Grand Canyon

Well, here we are! After a series of quiet adventures, we’ve landed in an international Mecca for hikers, bikers, and photographers, cheek to jowl with 13 thousand of our closest friends (daily attendance). Within five minutes, I hear German, Japanese, French, Australian, and a bunch of languages I can’t discern. It feels like Disneyland, without the mouse.

As we were parking our car, we spied a commotion, that turned out to be an elk, destroying a small tree. We probably got too close.

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We are staying at Buckey Lodge, built in 1885, for two nights. The Lodge is part of Bright Angel Lodge, at the Bright Angel trail head.

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After a delicious dinner, a sunset stroll and a good night’s sleep, we got up early to walk 8 miles of the Rim Trail. I was afraid that we’d be walking with a crowd, but it turns out that most of the tourists do their sightseeing from a bus. Happy to say that we had the trail mostly to ourselves, the weather was perfect, and we had a fabulous day.

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Due to the elevation, trees don’t grow much taller than six feet, giving the landscape a very Zen garden feel.

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Yes, I do have 100 more pix, but you get the idea…

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We got our kicks on Route 66

I’m a’standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see…

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Today we crossed several items off the ol’ bucket list. We drove down historic Route 66 (historic because this section of it was renamed I40), to spend the night at the Wigwam Motel. Yes, dear friends, I requested to spend a night in a concrete wigwam from the 1950s, surrounded by old junked yet classic automobiles, in a double bed, with a window air conditioner and a TV that still shows Johnny Carson. What fun!

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On our way back to Flagstaff, we stopped at the Meteor Crater, for a guided tour of a very large hole in the ground, the best preserved specimen of an impact crater in the US. We stood at the rim and looked into a hole as deep as a 60 story building, that could hold 20 football fields. The funny thing is that it was not recognized as an impact crater until the government started nuclear testing in Nevada. Go figure.

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The Meteor Crater was a warm-up for our next even bigger adventure – the Grand Canyon!

Overnight in the Painted Desert

At the northern end of the park is the Painted Desert Inn, built by the CCC in the 1930s. It is the entrance point for our hike. We are backpacking in, for an overnight of wilderness camping. We will take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints.

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We promised to walk in at least a mile, and to camp out of view of the tourists. We hiked in about four miles, so we could get behind the first set of hills. It felt like walking on the moon. Here is our tent. It was 70 and sunny in the afternoon, but dropped to 50 overnight.

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Because of all the rain the day before, there were actual rivers we had to cross, and the ground was soft and spongy.

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In the morning, we walked to our heart’s content. It was totally quiet – no animals, no traffic, no other humans.

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Petrified and Painted

Tuesday dawned bright and sunny, with gorgeous clouds to remind us of yesterday’s rain.

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We’re on our way to the Petrified Forest, the next item on my bucket list.

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Mile after mile of ancient trees turned to agate, jasper, and all manner of beautiful stone. Unfortunately, many have been carried off by tourists, despite the Park Service entreaties to look but not touch.

The park is thirty miles of road, with turnouts and short hikes at every photo opportunity. There are even some petroglyphs, viewable from a distance (not as good as the ones Karl showed us).

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As we moved north, the Painted Desert came into view. These pics don’t begin to do justice to what we saw:

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Rainy Days and Mondays…

Well, the rain did not let up after we left Sedona, driving up through Oak Creek Canyon, so Jim made an executive decision and booked us a room in Flagstaff, on Historic Rte 66. Unfortunately, our GPS doesn’t know about historic routes, so we had a heckuva time finding it, but once there we were happy to be warm and dry (57 degrees today!). We keep hearing how unusual the weather is for this time of year.  Who knew they had monsoons?

So, instead of hiking into the desert and camping overnight, which Jim would have preferred, even in the pouring rain, we took a day trip to the Walnut Canyon national monument, where natives lived in cliff dwellings a thousand years ago. The canyon is gorgeous, and my pix don’t do it justice, but here are a few.

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Sedona

Three hours of driving north got us to Sedona, where the first item on my bucket list was to take a balloon ride over the canyon and see the sunrise. Unfortunately, the same rain that cooled the temperature also canceled tomorrow’s ride.đŸ˜¢

Sedona is a groovy town, where groovy people come to meditate at the vortices where the lay lines cross, practice yoga, and eat Indian food. Some people just come to admire the spectacular sights, and we saw several this evening.

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Then we ate some outstanding Indian food!

Monday morning dawned wet and overcast. After a delicious breakfast at the Coffee Pot, home of 101 omlettes, we ventured forth to see Bell Rock. The rain let up for an hour, and we walked from the trail head to the base of the Bell, but did not go up.

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Now, on to Flagstaff, looking for a break in the weather!