travel:: the Grand Canyon

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From Sedona, we drove up to the Grand Canyon National Park, which has been a longtime item on my bucket list. The 2.5 hour drive up to the park was really pretty, with a good bit of the first half being through the mountains. I don’t know what I expected, but I certainly didn’t think we’d be taking a drive through the forest in Arizona.

We aren’t incredibly outdoorsy people, so instead of staying several days to hike down to the bottom of the canyon and camp (and then hike back out!), we opted for a night at the historic El Tovar Hotel, positioned at the South Rim. You couldn’t get much closer to the rim unless you slept on the sidewalk. There are several lodges and cabins located in that area of the South Rim, but I really liked staying at El Tovar for our first time there. From the moment you step onto the large, rocking chair-filled front porch and enter through the wooden double doors into the lobby, you can feel the rustic, turn-of-the-century charm. The hotel was built in 1905, and I would bet that a lot of aspects haven’t changed since then. The rooms are somewhat small, but they’re well-equipped with modern amenities (even a Kuerig coffee maker) — and I loved the tile work in the bathroom.

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We arrived late in the afternoon and took a scenic drive out to Grandview Point (thanks to a suggestion from our Canadian friends in Sedona) to get our first glimpse of the canyon. It was so incredibly impressive — photos we’d seen just did no justice to how magnificent the sheer size is.

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Bright and early the next morning, we started our hike down the Bright Angel Trail, which was only about a quarter mile down from the hotel. Like I said… we’re not hikers. So going about 1.5 miles down into the canyon and 1.5 miles back out was PLENTY for us. Add in the high altitude, and we thought me might not make it out. I will say that it’s supposed to take twice as long coming back up, but we did it in equal time… so maybe we were going a bit faster on the way out than we should have. We must have looked tired, because there were several people who passed us and asked if we’d gone all the way to the bottom — HA!

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The trail itself, though, was quite peaceful. It was neat to just stop every so often and take in the grand view and how far we’d made it down. We decided afterward that we liked the hiking in Sedona better, but I’m so glad we did the GC.

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After cleaning up (we were COVERED in orange dust!) and checking out of the El Tovar, we hopped back in the car to make the 4 hour trek down to Scottsdale. Once out of the park, we came back by this bizarre little place called The Flintstones Bedrock City. It has been around for over 45 years and consists of a campground, diner, and theme park. Craig was just dying to check it out, so we took a chance on it and stopped for lunch. While the place was pretty deserted, the lunch was a nice little surprise. It was nothing fancy — burgers, hot dogs, and the like (all with Flintstones-themed names) — but it was well-made and much better than stopping at McDonald’s. We didn’t end up paying to go through the theme park, but I’m sure it would have brought back many fond memories of one of the best cartoon families there ever was.

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travel:: Sedona, AZ

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Craig and I took a trip out to Arizona last week in celebration of our 5-year wedding anniversary. We got married in June, but while researching our trip, I found that it would be well into the 100s by then, so we chose to go a couple months early. We flew into Phoenix and rented a car so we could road trip it to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Scottsdale for 6 days. I took way too many photos (surprise!), so I’ve broken the trip up into 3 posts.

We absolutely loved Arizona. The landscape must have changed a dozen times along our various drives, and I just couldn’t get over all those giant cacti! We met so many friendly people, hiked the most gorgeous trails, ate too many yummy things, sang along to approximately 1,000 songs on our drives through the desert and mountains, and I got to check not one, but two, items off my bucket list! It was the perfect way to ring in 5 years with my one and only. I hope you enjoy our road trip through Arizona!

First up, lunch at MacAlpine’s Restaurant & Soda Fountain in Phoenix. It’s a little time warp back to the 50s with a soda fountain featuring too many flavors to count. We sat at the counter and enjoyed lunch and shakes before hitting the road to Sedona.

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Our view from the Best Western Plus in Sedona — I could not get over that view! I’d highly recommend this hotel, especially for a short stay. 
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Pink Jeep Tours:: One of our favorite things we did! This was recommended by almost everyone we talked to who has been to Sedona, and they were right. It was the perfect way to get an up-close view of the Red Rocks without having to huff it through the mountains on foot. Our tour guide was awesome — just enough interesting info and funny jokes — and he was a very experienced driver, which is important when driving up and down 45-degree inclines and HUGE rocks. I would  have had that jeep upside down in no time. 
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The photo below is in memory of my cousin Stuart. He took a similar photo on a GA mountain not too long before his passing, and it perfectly captured the pure joy of his personality. While having a little photo shoot out on the Red Rocks, Craig had the sweet idea to pay homage to him with a reenactment of his “jumping” photo. Not so sure about mine, but I think Craig totally nailed it. 🙂
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We were up bright and early the next morning to hike Devil’s Bridge. Our neighbors recommended that trail, and it was another of our favorite activities. The views were unmatched, and the trail was really fun to hike. The drive into the trailhead, however, was not for the faint of heart. I was wishing we had that pink jeep from the day before…. and I’m surprised we didn’t completely break our rental suv in the process. Those “roads” are no joke! We even ended up picking up a nice older Canadian couple on the drive out from the trailhead because they’d accidentally walked the wrong way to their car. They in turn gave us their Grand Canyon Park pass, which saved us $25! Karma, people.
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The town of Sedona is so cute. It was a sort of random addition to the trip itinerary, but I’m so, so glad we visited. Nice people, lots of restaurants, great hiking, too many palm readers and “crystal” shops to count, and unparalleled views of the Red Rocks. It ended up being the surprise favorite for both of us!