Part of the tradition we are trying to set along with Thanksgiving in Juarez is a mini-vacation in Arizona just before we head across the border. Last year we stuck close to Phoenix, visiting with our friends, the Rickeys, and family, the Andersons. This year we set our holiday plans to include both of those again as well as the Grand Canyon and Sedona.
What a trip! We flew in Saturday afternoon and were so lucky that we got to see every member of the Rickey family (Jeff, Debbie, Jon, Angela, Jacob, Joshua, Ali, Kyle, Maddie, and David!) over dinner at Jon and Angela’s. It was really special to be part of the gathering and to be able to introduce Sage to them all. We really enjoyed the time together through Saturday night and Sunday morning. Unfortunately, our time ended not in the way planned as Jon and Angela’s car was broken into and valuable items were stolen while we played at a park with the kids. (Definitely not as good as our plan to grab lunch at In and Out before hitting the road!) We left Jon and Angela with a Glendale police officer and them quickly making calls to credit card companies to alert them of the theft. Boo.
Our first stop from Phoenix was about 2.5 hours north in Flagstaff, which would be our home base for two nights. It’s pretty incredible to drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff as so much changes in such a short distance. We drove through desert and cacti and temperatures in the 60s to mountains and snow and temperatures in the 30s. We followed our noses from our hotel to the university district (Northern Arizona University seemed to be the lifeblood of Flagstaff), convinced that there had to be good, cheap food nearby. And there was! We found some delicious Mexican food that hit the spot. (Our personal rule–held loosely of course–when eating in Arizona: Eat as much authentic Mexican food as we can… and if there’s none to be found, go to In and Out or Pei Wei.)
Our Grand Canyon day started early as we wanted to make sure we had the most amount of daylight as we could in the park. Sage was sick with her first cold so we didn’t leave quite as early as planned, but we still managed to arrive mid-morning. The Grand Canyon is pretty amazing! It seemed so bizarre to me how you just drive and drive and there is really no sign of anything “grand” and then, all of a sudden, you’re standing at the edge of this massively deep canyon, almost without warning. Crazy.
It was plenty cold, which we had, thankfully, prepared for, but the sun was out and began warming us. We did our best to maximize our one day in the park, and taking into consideration a sick baby. After our walk to the rim and a few photos with hundreds of other people trying to get the same shot (SO glad we weren’t there in the summer, I’m sure it’s CRAZY with people!), we jumped a bus and ventured out on a trail down into the Canyon to “Ah-Ha Point”. The layers of the Canyon were incredible and just gorgeous–really, such a different view and beauty to hike into the Canyon versus standing on the rim. Truly stunning! We continued to marvel at the depth and color and layers and all that we don’t know about geology.
Hiking out we grabbed the bus again and headed the opposite direction to the end of the park road at Hermit’s Rest. There were many beautiful stops along the way. At the end of the trek we got out and enjoyed a cup of cocoa inside a really cool, old stone house. Once warmed up, we returned to one of the lookout points to take in the sunset. It wasn’t an epic sunset, but the scene was still certainly epic. We picked a spot where you could see the Colorado River and soaked in the last rays of the cold winter sun before it got really cold. Finally, back on the bus and back to our car and, eventually, back to Flagstaff (but not after some more Mexican food!).
The following morning we headed out of Flagstaff going southwest this time with a destination of Sedona. We weren’t really sure (beyond big rocks) what to expect, but had been told by a friend, and Phoenix-native, that it was a must see. Wowsers! This place was the perfect spot for us. Warm, blue sky, sunny, and serious hiking. We stopped at visitors info booth and got a list of hikes; decided rather than doing the “easy” hike the attendant had recommended (he spotted the baby and took us for “easy” kind of folks) and went straight to Bear Mountain–5 miles round trip, 1800 feet elevation gain. Not the hardest hike ever, but it was no 1.5 miles round trip on a flat grade either. We had to bust it out in order to get back to Phoenix in time to pick up John’s parents from the airport, but it was just what we needed and was so incredibly beautiful. Sure didn’t hurt that it was in the high 60s either! Sage was feeling better, it felt so good to be working hard in the sun, and the scenery was great. Ah…an awesome way to end our time outside of Phoenix (well, that and the barbeque pork sandwich we grabbed on the way out of town! Do I talk about food too much? ;-))
We made it to the Phoenix Airport just in time to meet John’s parents. The five of us headed to John’s sister’s home where the rest of our Juarez team was hanging out. The following morning all 15 of us packed the cars and drove to El Paso and then over the border! The rest of the trip can be read about in previous blog posts.