Our first stop in Arizona was at the Petrified Forest National Park, in the northeast corner of the state. Our route through Arizona kind of made a giant W through the state, hitting Phoenix, Tuscon, then up to Sedona and back down and out through Phoenix into southwestern California. We had incredible weather for the entire two and a half weeks we spent in Arizona, with temperatures up to 85 during the day and only down to the 50s at night. It was glorious!!!
We begin at the Petrified Forest National Park which is a rather small N.P. and you can do it in a day, two if you want to do all the trails, which we did! Petrified Forest forest can be divided into two sections, the northern section called the Painted Forest and the southern section, where you can see and hike among the petrified logs left behind sixty some million years ago. Much of the northern trails of the Painted Desert were closed due to a large amount of rain in the past few weeks, so we had to enjoy the splendor of the colors on the mesas from vistas we could drive to. Our favorite trail was in the center of the park called the Blue Mesa Trail. The trail is a little over a mile long. You wind down through a mesa filled with blues, purple and gray hues and it’s simply gorgeous. It’s very desolate which only makes the mesa colors pop even more. We were able to do all four of the trails on the southern end of the park, where you are able to walk amid huge petrified tree logs. The colors of these “trees that turned into rocks” are beautiful, with oranges, blues, pinks, purples, and deep deep reds. The color variations come from the different minerals that were trapped inside the tree. We really enjoyed our time exploring this very unique place.
One of the best things to do in Arizona in the spring is attend some spring training games, and after almost 9 months without seeing a baseball game, we were excited to see the Cubs and White Sox play! We were able to see them twice, each playing at the other’s home park. The Cubs murdered the White Sox at both games, but it was all fun since none of these games even mattered. We were able to get some players autographs and seeing our teams play baseball again got rid of any homesickness we might have been experiencing.
We spent three days in the Phoenix area and stayed with an old friend from the West Chicago days, Becky Thuer. I was good friend’s with Becky’s little sister when I was a kid. From a previous blog post, you’ll know that we spent Thanksgiving with Becky’s Mom in North Carolina, who recommended staying with Becky when we were in town. Becky lives on several acres about forty minutes to the east of Phoenix where she has two horses, four goats, and over twenty chickens. Plus a wonderful boyfriend, Mark and his two lovely teenage daughters. Becky and I shared a lot of laughs and reminiscing about our old hometown and the girls were excellent babysitters and kept the kids entertained with lots of games and excitement. When you are away from everything familar to you and all your friends, days spent with people you know means so much. And we are so grateful to Becky and her family for hosting us for the weekend and making us feel like part of her wonderful family. We also learned that Micah is an excellent fieldhand, helping scoop horse poop, feeding goats and taking care of chickens. He fell in love with a chicken and spent almost a full day holding it. Wonders never cease!
After a few days in Phoenix we traveled south down to Tuscon, where we stayed at the nicest KOA ever. It felt like a Disney resort with two pools, a part, a bar, live music, etc. And with weather in the 80s every day, we made great use of the pool!! We spent two days hiking in Sagauro National Park, which borders Tuscon on both the east and west sides of the city. We were lucky enough to be there when the wild flowers began to bloom, and several hikes were made even more beautiful by the blooming wildflowers! And of course the cactus is why you come here. The size and sheer amount of cactus living here is what makes it a really special place. The cactus almost seem to have a personality to them, with the funky ways in which they bend and such. It’s a very humbling experience to be hiking around cacti that are over a hundred years old!
About an hour east of Tuscon is a beautiful, but less visited National Park, Chiricahua. We had two incredible hikes here. The first was through Echo Canyon where we were able to do a lot of rock climbing through the hoodoo like formations on the trail. Our second hike was up to Sugarloaf Mountain, where we were able to experience incredible views from the 7,000 feet elevation. This National Park is rather remote and to be honest, we hadn’t really heard of it before. It’s a shame more people don’t know about it as it is incredibly beautiful. We wish we had more time to explore here as we would have been able to do another day or two of hiking among these numerous trails. We will absolutely be coming back here.
The highlight of Arizona has to be the time we spent in Sedona. Sedona might be the prettiest town I’ve ever seen. Okay, Banff is up there. Sedona and Banff will have to fight it out for first place. The red rocks and cliffs of Sedona literally take your breath away. Everywhere you look there is something beautiful or awe-inspiring to look at. It’s an eye candy city. Plus there is a cute downtown, a few good breweries and restaurants, a lot of kayaking options and tons of State Parks and National Historic sites to tour. There are over two hundred trailheads just in Sedona proper. We did about five really good hikes that took us to different vista and viewpoints throughout the town. So we spent four days here and did about 1% of the hiking trails available to us! Plus, we didn’t even get to do any kayaking. So, we will absolutely be coming back to the town of Sedona again. And again. And probably again. Stunningly beautiful.
To be honest, most of Arizona is stunningly beautiful. It’s fun here. It’s hot too, which was great for March when we are used to rainy and cold weather.