I Ditched PA for Another Arizona Adventure

With February behind us, sunny and 65 meant no snow and mud skiing in the mountains of Southwestern PA. With warm temps and no snow, I made my way back for another Arizona adventure. And I must say, Christina Skis absolutely LOVES Arizona.

I had a conference in Scottsdale, and when there’s a work thing, there’s an adventure attached, because there’s no way I can fly home from across the country on a Friday. I need to go see the world on Saturday. You should try it sometime, if you should be so lucky.

Friday – Check Into Home Base: Sedona
The last time I was in Sedona, I arrived via I-17 to 179, the Red Rock Scenic Byway, and completely fell in love. The views were incredible, the pull-offs and trails were abundant, and I was hooked. To change it up this time, I drove in via 89A, straight into Uptown Sedona. This route does not showcase the jaw-dropping surroundings but as always, Sedona is beautiful. If you’re coming from the south, I recommend a drive in via 179 in the afternoon and be prepared to have your breath taken away. Check out this map for a better viewing of what I mean: Vortex Map of Sedona

Speaking of “vortexes,” Sedona is a vibrant holistic town, with people who believe in the spiritual energy of the earth, and that this place holds rare points where this is focused. You will believe it too, once you get there.

Sedona, Arizona, Sunset

Saturday – Drive to Your Adventure Destination: Page, AZ
It’s the Instagrammer’s trifecta: I drove 3 hours to see Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. I honestly regret taking more time off to drive further north into Utah’s National Parks, so please make note to not pass that up. Two more hours on the road, and I would have been there.

The drive north past Sedona into Flagstaff and continuing through 89N to Page is truly a delight. I went through red rocks to snow covered switchbacks to badlands to canyons and everything in between. It’s about an hour or less to Flagstaff and two more through to Page. Note – there’s no cactuses up this way.

I took a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon at 11:30 am. There are about 5 tour companies and they are all priced at about $60. The guide was great, gave the group tips for taking images on our cellphones, showed me some camera settings and even took pictures of us. During the right season the sunlight will burst through the cracks of the canyon displaying brilliant colors and interesting focal points. But even in the very beginning of the busy season, the place was crowded with tourists and it felt like a frenzy – walk in, take all the pictures you can and don’t stop snapping. The lower canyon was recommended to me as it’s less crowded and cheaper, about $25. Photography tours are also an option if you want the best times and a longer stay in the canyon.

Arizona Photography           Desert, Canyon, Arizona

I met a friendly solo tour-goer who recommended I take the quick drive to Lake Powell, about five minutes up the road. This lake in the middle of the desert is definitely a sight to see. Think, “if Mars had a lake.” Boat tours are available on the lake to Rainbow Bridge, which is a National Monument and one of the highest natural bridges in the US. Noted for next time.

Nature Photography AZ

There’s also a waterfall near here, Grand Falls, with written directions on Trip Advisor. During recent rain, the dust gets pushed through and the falls actually flow brown. But being a solo traveler and on native land, I didn’t know what to expect so I did not go.

Afterward, I parked at Horseshoe Bend and took the short trail to the canyon. It was pretty crowded with tourists and photographers, but I managed to army crawl my way to the edge for some absolutely beautiful views. I learned this at the Grand Canyon – I’m totally afraid of heights… or maybe just standing at the edge of a cliff (hence the army crawl). Worth it.

Landscape Photographt

I hit the road around 4 pm, determined to get back to Sedona before sunset to try and get some real shots with my camera, even though I was asking for a lot with it being February and trying to beat home to sunset. Unfortunately the drive back wasn’t as fast as the drive there, but I did manage to take a look at the Chapel of the Holy Cross by Frank Lloyd Wright before the sun went down, so I will chalk that one up as a win.

Red Rocks, Sedona, Church

Sunday – Bright and Early Goodbye: Phoenix
The two-hour drive south from Sedona is no less beautiful than the drive north. At this time of year, there’s more green than expected on the way to PHX and the landscape is dotted with those big, classic Seguaro cactuses.

It was a fast trip, packed with a lot of driving and schedules, and although I wouldn’t consider it a vacation, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for experience and growth. Arizona is one amazing state, and I am sure this won’t be the last time I visit it.

 

 

A Quick Arizona Escape

This trip explores the three National Parks in Arizona, from north to south and some nice national forests, canyons and scenic drives in AZ. I am sure there are many, many more to explore, and visiting Arizona again is not out of the question. The only thing of popular note we missed is visiting the Havasu Falls area, which I heard inquiring a permit for is extremely difficult anyway. That will be for another time.

Day 1 – I landed in Tucson early morning and hopped in a car filled with friends, veggie wraps and cupcakes. We drove towards the Grand Canyon via Sedona’s Red Rock Scenic Byway. Taking this short 7.5 mile byway is well worth the extra half-hour.

Sedona Red Rocks

Going the scenic way takes five and a half hours, no stops. But, we got out and hiked around for a quick bit, enjoying our first bits of AZ sunshine. It gets cold up north.  We got to the Grand Canyon with dwindling crowds, not to mention it was a Wednesday, and we stayed for a most awesome sunset. The whole thing absolutely breathtaking, never ending, and bigger than anything I’ve seen here.

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We stayed in Flagstaff for the night. It took little over an hour, but the hotels are probably cheaper – I never checked lodging pricing near the park, but the mountain-town feel of the hotels seem to be a tourist trap. Forgive me if I’m wrong.

Day 2 – Good morning! If you have an extra day and can successfully plan and get a camping permit for Havasu, go. It’s very close to the Grand Canyon. On our end, we picked through the complimentary breakfast and filled up our water bottles and bladders for the 3 hour drive to to Petrified Forest National Park. We followed Route 40 to the the north end, beginning at the Painted Forest Visitor’s Center.

Painted Desert, AZ

The drive is 26-miles of pristine road with perfect overlooks and paved trails. The most astounding thing is just how much the scenery changes. From red desert to rainbows of blue, the views are always different from each stop. Take the marked trails and explore what you wish, there are many.

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Blue Mesa, the beginnings of the Petrified Forest
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Crystal Forest, where the petrified wood shows off colors of Quartz.

I was pleasantly surprised. I did not think the petrified wood would spark my interest, but it was gorgeous! And to think the area used to be a lush rainforest for the dinosaurs. All in all, it took us to about mid day, choosing to hike only Blue Mesa and Crystal Forest, but stopping plenty of times. Time to drive south. We were pretty exhausted by the time we stopped in Show Low for food and gas, and I had to pull over on the drive home via Route 60 for the gorgeous views of Salt River Canyon – both to take pictures and to switch drivers. The elevation got me for the first time here.

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Straight out of Jurassic Park – definitely can see dinos here.

Finally, we land just south of Tucson, popular for Saguaro National Park and birding.

Day 4 – We visited some short, uphill hikes where I was pushed to my limits and realized I hated hiking without the shade of trees when the weather is 85+. With trees, hiking a mile up Ramsey Canyon’s steep switchbacks and a ton of birders at the base had me looking up and around and everywhere. Hamburg trail led to a beautiful overlook at 6,200′ and also had me stopping every hundred feet or so to catch my breath. Again with the elevation. Nearby, we made another stop at Corondo Cave Trail for a short half-mile hike to the open cave and had some fun exploring. Past that, we took the dirt mountain road to the Coronado National Memorial scenic overlook at 6,700′. Mexico was on the other side.

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Did I mention southern Arizona had wineries? It does. I drowned my sunburn with crisp whites late into the day.

Day 5 – There was a rest day shoved in there somewhere. My flight was in the late afternoon and that means I can fit in just one more park. I went to see what Arizona looks like in the movies – Saguaro. These suckers are HUGE! And old. This is a short and sweet 8-mile drive through some scenic views and quick hikes. Unfortunately, it put the nail in the coffin for my hate of hiking in the desert. I feel bad for it, like I should be more grateful, but would you really think someone who loves the snow would love the desert, too? It doesn’t mean it wasn’t beautiful… I just liked it more from the car, with AC blowing in my face.DSC_1470DSC_1445

That’s it, thats all. See more fun posts of wineries and rainbow wood on Instagram – @christina_skis and let me know what else I should have visited on my way! Maybe I’ll come back after Monsoon season.